GOP underdog ensures choice in 4th District

Thies knows odds long against Democrat Oliver

October 09, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Kenneth N. Oliver, the early favorite to become Baltimore County's first African-American councilman, combined organization, key endorsements and campaign cash to eke out a victory in the Democratic primary, but he still faces a general election challenge from a persistent underdog, Republican Gail M. Thies.

The primaries in the 4th District, which includes Woodlawn, Randallstown, Granite and parts of Owings Mills, sparked an extensive discussion of issues in the community, including poor schools, excessive traffic and low-quality development that many in the area feel have been ignored by the county for years. The general election promises a continuation of that discussion.

Thies, 48, a substitute teacher and music instructor from the Larchmont neighborhood who is a newcomer to Maryland politics, said she would work for greater communication between the county government and communities and for a stronger public-private partnership to improve Liberty Road. "Actions being taken by the government body too often are going on without the consent of the people because the people can't get to the meetings," Thies said.

Oliver, 58, of Randallstown, senior vice president at the Development Credit Fund, said he is focusing on the same things he did in the primary: education, development, traffic and crime. To improve education, he said he would lobby to give the county executive the power to hire the superintendent and appoint members of the school board.

Oliver said he believes the district has suffered from overdevelopment, so he said he would talk to the planning board about placing a moratorium on new construction until the area's infrastructure needs are met.

Both candidates support the extension of Owings Mills Boulevard to Liberty Road.

The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so the general election is not likely to prove difficult for Oliver. He got more than 4,500 votes in a six-way primary, while Thies, who was unchallenged for the Republican nomination, mustered 1,200.

"I'm still running hard," Oliver said.

Thies said she knows she faces long odds but feels she is connecting well with voters. "Of course, I am like Don Quixote in the literary sense. However, I think people deserve a choice at election time," she said. "They can vote for who they want, but it has to be a choice for the people."

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