Youth and experience square off in 32nd District

3 from each party vie for House of Delegates

October 23, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

In his race for a seat in the House of Delegates, David P. Starr has his work cut out for him.

The 22-year-old Sears mechanic is running against three well-known Democrats: incumbents Mary Ann Love and Theodore J. Sophocleus, and former delegate and longtime county employee Victor A. Sulin.

The Republicans in the race also are well-known: Del. James E. Rzepkowski has represented the 32nd District for eight years, while Robert G. Pepersack Sr. was a county sheriff.

Starr has raised less than $1,000 and has received no endorsements - he refused to accept any. His campaign workers are high school friends, and headquarters is his parents' home in Linthicum.

Yet he beat two more-seasoned candidates in September's Republican primary, as well as another 22-year-old running for the first time. And he's confident that voters will choose him as one of the three delegates to represent the 32nd District next month.

"They have their political backgrounds, but I look at those as a thorn on them," Starr said of his competitors. "I am new, I'm fresh, I'm only in this because I want to make a difference."

Starr said he entered the race mainly to try to fix what he considers a poor graduation rate from the county schools. He said he's attuned to the needs of the district - a vast suburban area that includes Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Glen Burnie and Fort Meade.

If he prevails, he would not be the first twenty-something to win in the district. Rzepkowski, now 31 and seeking a third term, won his seat when he was 23.

Rzepkowski, an insurance representative, said his priorities include fixing the budget, reforming education, and stopping maglev, the high-speed train proposed to connect Baltimore and Washington.

Rzepkowski has been one of the most vigorous opponents of the train, which is expected to cost $3.8 billion. Maryland would contribute $500 million, and the Federal Railroad Administration would provide $950 million, with private funds making up the balance. The FRA will decide next year whether Maryland or Pittsburgh will get the right to begin the project.

In addition to meeting with neighbors, Rzepkowski also went to Congress and met with Rep. Don Young of Alaska, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to try to stop federal funding for the project.

Sophocleus said he served on the maglev task force so his community could have a voice in the train's routes. Several proposed routes that were unacceptable to the community are no longer being considered. Sophocleus predicted the entire project will be scuttled.

A former pharmacist, the 63-year-old Linthicum Heights resident works as an administrator in the state's attorney's office and has introduced bills to increase victims' rights and to promote better health care.

Love, who leads the Anne Arundel delegation, said she and Sophocleus have worked together on many issues.

Even though the landscape has changed because of redistricting, Love, 62, said many voters already are familiar with her efforts to build an aquatics center in Glen Burnie and to rein in movers who attempted to hold customers' belongings hostage for more money.

Love, of Glen Burnie, said she's most proud that the delegation brought $75 million back to the county to repair more than 40 schools during the past four years.

"I've managed to make friends in mostly all of the district," said Love, the deputy majority whip, who serves on the House Economic Matters Committee. "We have to remember we are working for the people of Anne Arundel County, not just the party."

Joining Love and Sophocleus on the Democratic ticket is Sulin, who held the seat from 1990 until 1994. A 60-year-old attorney, Sulin also had a long career in county government, most recently serving as head of the cable television office.

In addition to thwarting maglev, Sulin said his long-term goals include improving transportation, preserving land and promoting high technology.

"We managed to pull the state out of a crisis much like the one we're in now," Sulin said. "We did a lot of cutting."

Pepersack, 61, also is making another run at elected office. He served as Anne Arundel County sheriff from 1990 to 1994.

When Pepersack was sheriff, critics complained that he overspent his budget and conducted illegal criminal checks of prospective tenants at his rental properties.

He was never charged in the incident and maintains the accusations were a political assault aimed at removing him from office. Pepersack pledged to fix the budget and curb spending if elected.

According the most recent campaign finance filings, as of Aug. 30 the candidates had raised these amounts:

Love, $82,598.

Rzepkowski, $73,324.

Sophocleus, $58,445.

Sulin, $25,912.

Pepersack, $3,145.

Starr, $100.

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