Rivals adjust to redrawn 5th District

Gardina, Ports prepared to spend $100,000 in race

October 10, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Three-term incumbent Democratic County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina has long been a proponent of revitalizing the county's east side, even though he did not support condemnation powers included in Senate Bill 509, County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's contentious legislation that was rejected by county voters.

His Republican challenger, Del. James F. Ports Jr., scored his political points with county voters by opposing S.B. 509 and by debating Ruppersberger about the bill.

Those stances might not help them much in their race for the County Council seat in the redrawn 5th District, which doesn't include much of the easternmost side of the county. Towson, Perry Hall, Parkville and Carney form the bulk of the district.

So, Gardina is seeking support from Towson voters and others he has never represented. Ports, who served three terms in the Maryland House of Delegates, is asking voters to support him at the county level.

"I think people recognize me as the guy who fought City Hall and won -- a voice for the people," said Ports. "The 509 issue transcended across the county. It wasn't just a property-grab issue. I think they saw me as a the guy who spoke up, spoke out for the people."

Gardina, who supported the S.B. 509 revitalization plan but not the part that would have made it easier for the county to condemn land for redevelopment, said, "I miss the Essex and Middle River areas. But most of the issues are the same. They're just in different communities. I've met a lot of great people in Towson, Parkville and Carney I hadn't met before."

Both candidates survived contested primaries in the district, with Gardina beating a local parks director and Ports winning the Republican primary over County Council incumbent Wayne M. Skinner.

Gardina, 46, an environmental engineer, said revitalizing neighborhoods, controlling development and crime and attracting new businesses to the county remain his priorities.

"My platform is the same as it was in the primary," he said. "But I've found, from talking to people, which communities need to be targeted."

Ports identified constituent services, open space and the likely county budget problems stemming from the state's deficit as the top issues facing the district and the county.

"I'm already getting calls: `Can you help here? Can you help there?' That's a huge part of the job," said Ports, a 43-year-old account executive with Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

The candidates say they are prepared to spend, altogether, more than $100,000 before Nov. 5 to battle each other for the seat. "It's an expensive race," said Gardina.

And both men are going door to door and are sending mailings to individual voters, one of the costlier ways of targeting a campaign message.

Gardina and Ports are scheduled to debate at 7 tonight at a candidate forum sponsored by the Greater Parkville Community Council at Morningside House Assisted Living, 8800 Old Harford Road.

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