GOP panels pick Kittleman for Senate seat

Approval of late legislator's son for vacancy unanimous

`It's bittersweet,' he says

4 show interest in filling his District 5 council post

Howard County

September 30, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman was unanimously chosen by the Howard and Carroll Republican central committees last night to replace his late father in the Maryland Senate - an act that unofficially opened competition for his County Council seat.

"Frankly, I wish I wasn't driving here tonight," Kittleman told the group after the vote in a Columbia office building.

"It's bittersweet," he said later, referring to the circumstance - the death Sept. 11 of his father, Robert H. Kittleman.

The councilman, a West Friendship Republican who represents western Howard county, was the only candidate for the Senate seat.

He told Carroll members he is somewhat familiar with their issues in the third of the district that covers part of south Carroll County, saying, for example that "my gut feeling" would be not to support a transfer tax increase there.

If Kittleman is named by the governor, his vacant District 5 council seat would be the sixth elected office occupied by a Republican that would change hands by appointment in Howard since early 2002.

To gain the seat, a candidate must be approved by a majority of the nine county GOP central committee members.

Four people have declared an interest - including former three-term council member Charles Feaga, 71, and Councilman Kittleman's special assistant, William A. Theis Jr., 45. However more also might be exploring the option.

Gregory Fox, 37, a GOP candidate for County Council in 1998, and Steven H. Adler, 51, the Republican nominee for county executive in 2002, are the other candidates, and Anthony C. Wisniewski, a member of the central committee, might be interested.

"We anticipate there's going to be a number of people interested," said Howard M. Rensin, Howard County Republican committee chairman.

Theis, Adler and Feaga attended last night's meeting.

Feaga faces a complex situation that might discourage him from seeking the seat, he said, because of a county law that could preclude him from running to serve a full term in 2006.

The county created a three-term limit for council members in 1990, after Feaga had served one term.

He served from 1986 through 1998. But the law says that if he is appointed to fill a vacancy before half of Allan Kittleman's term is over in December, he cannot run in 2006, according to Ruth Fahrmeier, assistant county solicitor.

The council debated this year - and rejected - a charter change that would have made the three-term limit apply only to serving consecutive terms.

Kittleman said he tentatively plans to resign Oct. 20, meaning that under county law, a replacement must be approved by the County Council within 30 days. That would leave a few weeks more than half of the four-year term remaining to serve.

If Kittleman's resignation is delayed, however, Feaga could still qualify to run to retain the seat in 2006.

Feaga said his long council experience makes him most qualified to fill the council opening.

"I think maybe western Howard County needs some depth and experience to work into the office," he said.

"I have a reputation for getting along with both [political] parties," he added.

Adler faces a different obstacle, because his Clarksville home is in District 4, not 5, where he would need to live to serve as its council member. But Adler, the managing partner of Savage Mill, said he would be willing to move if he is chosen for the post.

Although not experienced in County Council operations, Adler stressed his service in various county groups, including the Economic Development Authority, and on the boards of the YMCA, and the Horizon and Columbia foundations.

"I'm a pretty involved and confident person," he said.

Theis, who lives in Mount Hebron, said he is unusually qualified because of his five years in the administration of a former county executive, Charles I. "Chuck" Ecker, and his six years working for Allan Kittleman.

"It behooves them [Republicans] to have an experienced person in office who knows the issues in District 5. All of the policies Allan and Chris [Councilman Christopher J. Merdon] have worked on, I have been an integral part of," he said.

Kittleman said he is backing Theis.

"If you want someone to hit the ground running, Bill is the best one to do that," Kittleman said.

Fox, a Fulton resident who works for Constellation Energy, ran for the District 4 seat against Democrat Mary C. Lorsung in 1998, but lost with 42 percent of the vote. Redistricting after the 2000 census placed his home in District 5.

"I think I can serve the county well, as well as provide a good face for the Republican party," Fox said.

"I'm not worried about coming up to speed. I'm a quick study," he said.

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