Kittleman seeks late father's seat

GOP council member applies to finish out state Senate term

Ends quest to be county executive

Howard County

September 24, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman said he has made the difficult decision to seek his late father's seat in the state Senate.

Kittleman's father, state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, battled leukemia most of the year and died Sept. 11. Despite his illness, the 78-year-old senator was expected to continue his term this winter in what would have been his 22nd year in the General Assembly.

The 9th District is heavily Republican and covers western Howard County and a portion of southern Carroll. In 2002, Kittleman had no Democratic challengers for the Senate seat.

Allan Kittleman's decision surprised some observers who thought he would continue his quest to be county executive in two years.

"It's probably the best thing for my family, in that being in the state Senate is less of a strain on my family than being county executive. If 10 years from now I want to run for executive, my children would be older," said the 45-year-old Kittleman, whose children range from 5 to 12 years old.

Deferring a decision while he mourned his father enabled him to be comfortable with the choice, he said.

If the move to the Senate is confirmed by a scheduled Republican state central committee vote Wednesday night, it would leave Kittleman's western County Council seat vacant and set up a potential battle for county executive in 2006 between two other council members - Republican Christopher J. Merdon and Democrat Guy Guzzone.

Merdon said he will withdraw his name from the list of Senate candidates.

"This was a better fit for both of us," Merdon said, refusing to say he will run for executive but repeating his stand that the county's top job is the only one he is considering.

Del. Gail H. Bates, another western county Republican, also might withdraw, though she declined to comment yesterday, saying she hadn't spoken to Kittleman. One other person, Donald Sealing II of Sykesville, has submitted a resume for the Senate position.

Howard M. Rensin, the county GOP leader, said Merdon would make a formidable candidate for county executive.

"Chris has one of those rare abilities to be very, very knowledgeable in information technology and still be able to deal with people in an ordinary basis," Rensin said.

County Republicans have been eager to avoid a primary fight like the nasty one in 1998 between then-County Council members Charles Feaga and Dennis R. Schrader. County executive James N. Robey, an underdog Democrat, beat Schrader in the general election.

Feaga said Merdon probably would have more success with county Democrats, making him a better candidate in a general election than Kittleman.

County Democrats said they were surprised Kittleman changed political course, but said it would make little difference who the Republican candidate is in the race for county executive.

"Ultimately, it will come down to what philosophy the community wants to accept," Guzzone said, pointing out that Kittleman and Merdon have voted together on almost every council issue.

"If I decide to run, it's because I think it's the right thing for me to do," said Guzzone, the council chairman.

Robey also expressed surprise, but said he could understand Kittleman's decision.

"The job of executive is hugely demanding because of the evenings and weekends you sacrifice," Robey said.

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