In Carroll's District 5A, Democrats take on Republican incumbents

Petry, Wack campaign for delegate seats

October 06, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The possibility that the two Republican incumbents might sail unopposed through the campaign for the House of Delegates seats representing much of central Carroll County propelled Robert P. Wack into politics.

The Westminster Democrat has launched what he calls a bipartisan battle to unseat one or the other of his GOP opponents.

"Voting without choices becomes an empty exercise," said Wack, 41, a pediatrician and father of three. "When nobody challenged the incumbents, I felt that I had to. And I saw a need for more effective representation."

Wack, the director of inpatient pediatrics at Carroll County General Hospital, has no intention of abandoning his career in medicine. The job gives him the flexibility he would need to attend to legislative duties, he said. He has put together a bipartisan campaign committee and raised about $11,000.

To capture one of District 5A's two seats, Wack would have to be one of the top two vote-getters among his Democratic rival, Kimberly J. Petry, two-term incumbent Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale and Del. Carmen Amedori, who is seeking her second term. The district includes Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester, and stretches from the Baltimore County line in Finksburg to southern Pennsylvania.

Of its nearly 40,000 registered voters, 23,156 are Republican. The last Democrat to serve the area was Ellen Willis Miller, who was appointed to fill Richard N. Dixon's seat when he became state treasurer in 1996. Miller lost the seat in the 1998 election.

Opportunity for change

Wack said he hopes that people no longer vote strictly along party lines. His candidacy offers voters an opportunity for change, he said.

"Each one of our delegates is not respected in Annapolis for various reasons, and they can't produce," Wack said. "They ... are more interested in making a statement than in solving our district's problems."

Petry, 26, a former marketing executive who is now a stay-at-home mother, entered the delegate race for similar reasons.

"The leadership is just not there," Petry said. "Our delegates are just not taking the ball and running with it. So few of their bills are passed. I want to be the driving force that gets Carroll County its fair share of tax dollars -- something these delegates are not doing."

As the county delegation's newest legislator, Amedori said, she kept careful accounts. Carroll County's share of state money increased every year of her term and in every category, including $22.6 million received this year for various public facilities, she said.

"Look at the new arts center that just opened at the community college," she said. "It cost $13.5 million, and most of that came from the state. We are getting our fair share."

Wack uses figures to bolster his argument about funding. He said he would continue to hammer at these issues until the election Nov. 5.

"Carroll is eighth in population in the state and the fifth-fastest growth county, but last year we were 12th in per capita state funding," he said. "Garrett has one-fifth of our population and received $10 million from the state, more than half of the $18 million Carroll got."

He feels that the county's all-Republican delegation often bogs down over differences with the Democratic leadership.

"You have to focus on possible solutions," he said. "There is always a way to make it work, but it takes flexibility, creativity and persistence."

In his post at the hospital, Wack said, he meets families from throughout the county. "In the process of taking care of their children, I hear their concerns," he said.

The most difficult task for the 2003 legislature will be the budget, Wack said. With a $1.7 billion deficit looming, "the biggest challenge will be keeping what we've got," he said. The county delegation must push for the Hampstead bypass, more classrooms and better pay for teachers, he said.

Wack said he is the ideal candidate to work with whoever is the next governor: "If Ehrlich wins, he will need a conservative Democrat to help him in the legislature," he said. "If Townsend wins, I can be the Democratic liaison for Carroll County."

Forums scheduled

Wack and Petry will participate in at least three forums this month and continue the debate with their Republican opponents.

Also, Petry is going door to door, but she has not collected any campaign money. "Anyone should be able to get elected, regardless of how much money they have," she said. "The campaign should be about issues, not advertising. Voters are responsible for finding out about who they are electing."

Wack said he is "doing all the usual campaign stuff" to get his name before voters. He is emphasizing the need for change: "This election is about taking charge of the future and picking leaders with different ideas."

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