New district, old foes in race for House seat

Development issues among top concerns in north Balto. County

October 16, 2002|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Four years ago, Democrat Stephen C. Kirsch faced off against incumbent Dels. A. Wade Kach and Martha S. Klima, both Republicans, for the two House of Delegates seats in District 9A and finished third by more than 7,000 votes.

Since then, the northern Baltimore County district has been redrawn, renamed 5B and refashioned into a single-seat district. But Kirsch has returned to try to unseat Kach, and this time, he said, his chances of winning are better than ever. "I started campaigning in May 1998 and I haven't stopped at all," said Kirsch, a Baltimore lawyer who lives in Phoenix.

Kirsch estimates he has knocked on at least half of the doors at the 10,000 households in the district. In addition, the candidate said he has attended community forums on such issues as public safety, education and prescription drugs for the elderly.

District 5B extends north from Hunt Valley to the Pennsylvania line and west to Carroll County, and encompasses the northern and most rural section of Baltimore County.

Preserving the rural nature of the area is a big issue in the north county, according to Kach, who lives in Cockeysville and has served in the House of Delegates since 1975.

"People are concerned about overdevelopment," said Kach, 55, a retired math teacher and former auditor for the Baltimore County public schools. "As a member of the legislature, what I will continue to do is to fight for funding for state programs that give landowners in northern Baltimore County the option of selling development rights and saving green space. The county has the ultimate decision-making power regarding zoning and development; however, the state does play a role in this issue."

Leadership concerns

Kirsch's main issue is what he deems the lack of integrity in leadership. "Too many politicians are just concerned with getting re-elected," he said. "By tapping into dissatisfaction people have with leadership, I have a chance of winning this election."

Both candidates agree that ensuring adequate water supplies is also a major issue in the district, a rapidly growing area where many homeowners are on wells, Kirsch and Kach said.

"We have to make a decision," said Kirsch. "If we want to have wells 20, 30, 40 years from now, we can't build a house on every single acre."

Kirsch has been endorsed by the Maryland State Teachers Association, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the Baltimore County Firefighters Union and the Sierra Club.

Kach has been endorsed by Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a former GOP gubernatorial nominee and state delegate.

If elected, Kirsch wants to address alcoholism and drug abuse in the district by giving people treatment on demand, regardless of their ability to pay. He'd also like to increase the number of recreational programs available to children and teen-agers.

Kach, who has pledged that he will not support any tax increases to balance the state budget, said he favors setting budget priorities. Public safety should be the state's highest priority for spending, he said. Education comes next.

"We're blessed in northern Baltimore County with some of the best schools in the state," Kach said. "We want to make sure we keep our quality."

Independent candidate

Also running is independent William T. Newton, 50, a Reisterstown carpenter. Newton unsuccessfully sought a seat in the House of Delegates in 1998.

Like Kirsch, he feels strongly about integrity in government. Like Kach, Newton wants to curb development. Yet he knows winning the House seat is a long shot, at least this year.

"I don't have a shot of winning," Newton said. "My point generally is, eventually there will come a time when I'm a contender. Because I'm an independent, sooner or later I will be in a position where they have to recognize me."

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