With seven candidates vying for three seats in the House of Delegates, there isn't much disagreement about issues in the diverse communities in the newly redrawn 7th District.
Education, public safety, prescription drugs, Smart Growth, economic development, the state budget deficit and holding the line on taxes are recurring themes among the three Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian running in the Nov. 5 general election. But they offer a variety of opinions about the solutions.
The 7th District reaches from Essex and Middle River on Baltimore County's east side to Cockeysville in the north and into the suburbs of Bel Air in Harford County.
Del. Nancy Hubers, 71, a Democrat from Bowleys Quarters and the only incumbent, said her focus is on education, including the state's new Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act, which will change formulas for determining funding for public education.
Elected in 1998 from the 6th District, Hubers also wants to expand the state prescription drug program for seniors and believes her legislative experience will help her do that.
"I will be a voice for my district and for my counties," she said.
Democrat Randy Cogar, 56, of Middle River believes the state should provide incentives for businesses to locate there because the infrastructure is in place. Cogar says the issue in eastern Baltimore County is revitalization; in the north county, Smart Growth; and in Harford County, land planning.
Cogar, owner of a printing company and a member of the Baltimore County Planning Board, wants to create an advisory board to give residents a say in their government.
"I am a good candidate for this community," he said. "I have been involved here for more than 20 years."
Democrat Donna M. Felling, 52, of Glen Arm said the No. 1 issue is the anticipated $1.7 billion state budget deficit. She opposes new taxes and says some programs should be cut to help balance the budget.
Felling, a nurse, represented the old 8th District from 1986 to 1990. She thinks residents are concerned about their communities, schools and affordable health care.
"We need to send people to Annapolis who can handle the kind of changes that need to be made," she said.
Republican Richard K. Impallaria, 39, of Essex thinks revamping the educational system to provide more vocational-technical schools is a key issue in the district. Impallaria, who has lived in Baltimore and Harford counties, said students who are not planning to go to college should be able to take vocational and technical courses so they can prepare for the working world.
"It's time for a change to Annapolis," he said. "We don't need `yes' men in Annapolis."
Republican J.B. Jennings, 28, of Phoenix sees the key issues in the 7th District as urban sprawl in Harford County, agricultural land preservation, education and the revitalization of eastern Baltimore County.
Jennings, who owns a feed store, has never run for office, but worked for more than two years in Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s district office. Jennings believes legislators need to meet with their constituents and favors monthly town hall meetings.
"I can work with Bob Ehrlich," the GOP gubernatorial candidate, Jennings said. "We have to be able to work together in Annapolis."
Republican Pat McDonough, 59, of Middlesex opposes tax increases as a way to close the budget deficit. Legislators need to find ways to make the government more efficient, he said.
McDonough, a radio talk show host and president of a nonprofit youth organization, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1978 as a Democrat. He changed parties in 1986. McDonough believes public safety is a growing issue because of drugs and the crime rate.
"There are some serious issues that will be bubbling up right after the election," he said. "Experience will make the difference."
Libertarian Michael F. Linder, 41, of Abingdon said he wants to offer voters a choice in the election that they don't normally have. He believes the key issue is the state budget deficit.
A newcomer to politics, Linder said he wants smaller government, lower taxes and fewer regulations. "I have been telling people that we are poorly served by the parties that are in office," he said.