Anne Arundel County

Election 2002

October 22, 2002

The Sun continues its endorsements for the Nov. 5 election with Anne Arundel and Howard county local government races.

MONEY, SCHOOLS and development dominate the agenda in the races for Anne Arundel County executive and seven County Council seats. Voters should embrace both familiar and fresh faces to keep the county on track for the next four years.

County executive: Republican challenger Phillip D. Bissett has interesting ideas about abating what he describes as unwieldy development and reforming school programs rather than focusing on renovation of buildings. He would institute a three-month moratorium on building permits and boost communication between the county's land use and economic development offices. But his possession of a permit to carry a concealed weapon and his insistence that he could forgo security guards because of it come across as loopy bravado.

Incumbent Janet S. Owens has run a tight financial ship made tighter by the county's tax cap, has a strong record on preserving open space and has built up a strong head of steam on making the area around Baltimore-Washington International Airport a light industrial center. She gets the nod, though the new council should be made up of members who will serve as more of a check on her power.

District 1: Democratic incumbent Pamela G. Beidle is the superior candidate for this north county district, which includes the airport, Glen Burnie and Arundel Mills. She has been a strong proponent for development in the BWI corridor, would look to expansion of user fees rather than tax increases to fatten county coffers, and would like to see critical areas laws enforced more vigilantly. Ms. Beidle also has been strong on the constituent services end: She worked to get an addition built to North County High School and campaigned to get massage parlors closed.

District 2: Voters don't have an easy choice in this north county district.

Incumbent Democrat Daniel Klosterman has been strong on constituent services, standing at the forefront of the push for school renovations and campaigning for an aquatics center in Millersville. But the vice chairman's brushes with the county Ethics Commission were troubling, and he has failed to question Ms. Owens on much of anything.

Republican Edward Middlebrooks, a judicial nominee awaiting appointment, has run a campaign focused on returning integrity to the seat. But his party-switching is a mystery (he's a former Democratic Central Committee member) and his personal financial troubles (in 1995, he filed for bankruptcy) suggest some instability on his part.

Mr. Middlebrooks gets the nod, based on his likely independence from Ms. Owens.

District 3: Incumbent A. Shirley Murphy is a strong representative for the district, which includes Pasadena and Marley Neck - a strong voice for development in the BWI business district, realistic budget priorities given the tax cap and the need to protect open space.

But Republican challenger Ron Dillon Jr. is an energetic, young voice in the election, with strong ideas about controlling growth, preserving open space and holding schools financially accountable. He might also help establish a more independent voice for the council.

District 4: Bill D. Burlison, the Democratic incumbent and chairman of the council, has not established himself as a voice independent of Ms. Owens', and has not led the council to be the check on her policies that it should be. Community groups also complain that he has not been attentive to their needs.

But he gets the nod, because Republican challenger Michael Malone has failed to articulate an acceptable alternative agenda. He flatly opposes raising the county's tax cap and, amazingly, does not support development of a public transportation plan for the county.

District 5: Both candidates bring considerable community experience to this race. Both have respectable ideas about financial matters, education, the environment and development.

But Republican Cathleen M. Vitale is the better candidate by a narrow margin - largely because of her concern for the county's transportation problems, which Democrat George Maloney does not even list among his major campaign issues.

District 6: Incumbent Democrat Barbara Samorajczyk has done a fine job in this district, and has shown a willingness to literally stand alone on the council for issues she cares about.

District 7: Republican Edward R. Reilly, a first-time challenger, has been attending council meetings for months to learn how it works.

He gets the nod over Democrat Bill Rinehart, whose strong backing by Ms. Owens means he would likely do little to strengthen an independent council voice.

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