Anne Arundel County

Election 2002

October 25, 2002

Today The Sun continues its Nov. 5 general election endorsements with General Assembly races in Districts 30, 31, 32, 33, 33A and 33B.

ANNE ARUNDEL County possesses neither the political clout of some jurisdictions nor the overwhelming needs of others. The task, then, for county lawmakers may well be limited to defending programs rather than initiating new ones. The goal: to ensure the county doesn't lose education dollars, momentum on land preservation and funding for necessary projects. Experience may count for more in this election, given Maryland's fiscal crisis, but incumbents have to share some of the responsibility for the state deficit.

District 30: In the Senate race, Andy Smarick, a Republican congressional staffer, is well-spoken, energetic and critical of "free-spending" politicians. This is his first run for office, and it shouldn't be his last. But at 26 he lacks the seasoning of veteran lawmaker John C. Astle. An ex-Marine and emergency services helicopter pilot who served three terms in the House of Delegates before moving up to the state Senate in 1995, Mr. Astle merits re-election. But after nearly 20 years in Annapolis, he should dispense with his modest stance and compete aggressively for the vacant chairmanship of the Finance Committee. A leadership post would serve the county's interests.

In the House of Delegates race, incumbent Democrats Michael E. Busch, Virginia P. Clagett and Dick D'Amato have performed admirably for their constituents. Mr. Busch's leadership role makes him a standout for the county and the state.

District 31: Philip C. Jimeno, a civic activist in Brooklyn Park, went to the General Assembly 24 years ago to make sure aging, mostly working-class communities in north Anne Arundel had a strong voice. After two terms in the House and four full terms in the Senate, he's seen his efforts pay off. Thanks to state aid he secured, old neighborhoods have been revitalized, boarded-up shopping centers have been reopened and green spaces have been preserved. What's more, he's earned himself a place in Democratic leadership councils. He is being challenged by Republican David K. Kyle of Pasadena, a warehouseman for Mack Trucks. Mr. Kyle wants to find ways to improve the public school system, other than spending more money on it. But he doesn't come to the job with any particular expertise or background in such a specialized area. Mr. Jimeno is the obvious choice in this contest.

Incumbent Democratic Dels. Joan Cadden of Brooklyn Park and Mary Rosso of Glen Burnie have pursued their legislative duties with the same diligence they exhibited as civic activists. Thomas J. Fleckenstein, a county prosecutor in his second bid for a legislative seat, would bring criminal justice experience to the delegation. But his abiding interest in serving in the legislature can't be compared to Republican Del. John R. Leopold's tireless efforts to deliver for his constituents.

District 32: Incumbent Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., a Glen Burnie Democrat and former county councilman, remains committed to securing dollars to upgrade Anne Arundel schools and opposing a high-speed maglev train to Washington that could pass through north county. He gets the nod over Republican party leader Terry R. Gilleland.

For the House of Delegates, voters should return to office incumbent Democrats Mary Ann Love of Glen Burnie and Theodore Sophocleus of Linthicum, both forthright and competent. Democrat Victor A. Sulin is trying again to return to the seat he held from 1990 to 1994. But incumbent Republican Del. James E. Rzepkowski is popular and bested Mr. Sulin in the 1998 general election by more than 2,000 votes. Mr. Rzepkowski has struggled to get his voice heard and legislation passed; he should be better equipped now to accomplish his goals.

District 33: Perhaps the most contested -- and keenly watched -- race in the county, Republican Del. Janet Greenip is fighting to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Robert R. Neall, an 18-year veteran of the legislature. Mrs. Greenip, a popular two-term delegate from Crofton who supports school reforms and consistently opposes tax increases, believes the district deserves a more conservative voice. But she has taken on one of the most respected legislators in Annapolis whose expertise in budget and fiscal matters she can't match. Most recently, Mr. Neall, of Davidsonville, fought to restrict bonuses for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield executives seeking to privatize the nonprofit health insurer. In these tough economic times, neither the state nor the county can afford to lose Mr. Neall.

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