Veteran GOP delegate vies with Democratic newcomer for Senate

Klima emphasizes status as outsider

Brochin says he can bridge both parties

October 30, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

In the race for Maryland Senate in the Towson-based 42nd District, the Republican is burnishing her credentials as an outsider and the Democrat emphasizing his ability to work within Annapolis' power structure to advocate for his constituents.

That's hardly unusual in Maryland, where Democrats rule the legislature. What's strange is that in this district the Republican is the 20-year Annapolis veteran, and the Democrat is the one running for office for the first time.

Del. Martha S. Klima, the Republican, has represented much of the district since 1983. She is centering her campaign around what she sees as fiscal recklessness in the Democrat-controlled state government while emphasizing her close ties to Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Republican nominee for governor.

"I have a lot of experience in the whole budget arena," Klima said. "I know how difficult it is to make priority decisions between items like the mental health system and environmental conservation programs."

James Brochin, the Democrat, said he is a fiscal conservative who wants to reduce class sizes and protect the environment. Moreover, he said he, unlike Klima, would be able to work with either Ehrlich or the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend..

"I think this district is looking for an independent voice," Brochin said. "They want somebody who will tell Kathleen Kennedy Townsend or Bob Ehrlich when they are right or wrong."

While Klima refers to herself and the delegates on her ticket as "The Bob Team," as in "Ehrlich," Brochin has refused to endorse either candidate for governor, a move that has drawn anger from some Democrats and snickers from Republicans.

In recent weeks, Brochin has sought to make the case that Klima is "a right-wing ideologue who refuses to work across the aisle," listing areas in which he, Townsend and Ehrlich hold a different view than she does.

Brochin says he supports slot machines at race tracks to help balance the budget, the Thornton Commission plan to raise education funding, the state's Smart Growth policies and legal abortions.

Ehrlich holds the same positions, as does Townsend on all of those except slots.

"Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has called the Thornton Commission the most important thing we can do. Bob Ehrlich has called Thornton a civil rights issue," Brochin said. "How can we not fund it?"

In response, Klima has said she thought it was irresponsible for the legislature to pass Thornton while the state budget is in disarray. Moreover, she said Baltimore County got relatively little benefit from it.

She said slots will probably happen "but not on my vote," and that Smart Growth should be handled on the local level.

In public appearances, Klima tends not to criticize Brochin directly but instead sets her sights on the Democratic establishment in Annapolis, saying it has ignored "human needs" such as drug treatment and help for the mentally and physically handicapped while pouring money into land preservation and other programs.

"It's called overspending," Klima said. "Who did it? The Democrats did it, that's who did it. We were warned two years ago that we were facing a $1 billion structural problem in the baseline budget, and we ignored it."

Klima said she voted against the last two state budgets for that reason.

Klima, 64, of Timonium, is a mother of three. In the House, she has served on the Appropriations Committee, focusing on the capital budget and health and human resources.

Brochin, 38, of Hampton, is a father of one. He has never run for office before but worked as a legislative aide to Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller and ran American Joe Miedusiewski's 1994 gubernatorial campaign.

The race has not been entirely polite. A group of 35 current and former state senators and senate candidates, led by Miller, sent out a brochure this week calling Klima's education record "rotten to the core."

Klima, for her part, has printed a newspaper-style eight-page brochure, about a page and a half of which is devoted to criticism of Brochin.

The brochure calls Brochin a "faux conservative" who would be beholden to liberals and says he has exaggerated his accomplishments and professional history.

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