2 in GOP taking aim at Guthrie

Republicans hope to win lone County Council seat held by Democrat

November 06, 2005|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

Harford Republicans are deploying a full-court press for control of the County Council.

With the election almost a year away, Paula R. Mullis, president of Harford County Republican Women, announced her intention this week to run for the council seat occupied by Dion F. Guthrie, the lone Democrat on the council. She will compete in the primary with at least one other candidate, Christopher J. Biggs, an Edgewood activist and aide to Republican state Sen. Nancy Jacobs.

In a news release, Mullis called for better school programs and strong police involvement in the Joppa/Edgewood area. She also said the council needs to address the "negative impact of the growing illegal immigration problem and its cost to taxpayers."

Guthrie defeated a 12-year Republican incumbent in 2002 by a slim margin. His challengers for the coming race both hold high-profile positions within the county.

"I guess they want the council to be all-Republican," Guthrie said. "I'm the only Democrat, so I guess they want to take a shot at me."

Only four counties in Maryland have governing bodies comprised solely of representatives of one political party: The Prince George's County Council features nine Democrats; the other three - Washington, Garrett and Carroll - have smaller, all-Republican boards.

"We're certainly looking at the spot that Paula [Mullis] and Chris Biggs are running for," said the county's Republican Central Committee chairman, William J. Christoforo. "They're both strong candidates, and this county is trending toward Republican. I think they have a good chance."

In 2002, Guthrie overtook council member Susan B. Heselton by 130 votes - the election's closest race. But as of Sept. 30, Guthrie's district, District A, features nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans - a margin of 11,000 to 6,300.

Guthrie said his experience and strong initiatives would make him a better representative. He introduced the adequate public facilities ordinance, designed to control school crowding, and he said he has received support from members of both parties.

"I'm happy about that. I think it shows I reach out to everybody, not just Democrats," he said.

He appears to enjoy strong support from his own party. His re-election kickoff fundraiser last weekend, held at the home of a Republican friend, featured U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes; Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger; and Peter O'Malley, the younger brother and top political adviser to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Republican County Councilwoman Cecilia M. Stepp - who was also in attendance at Guthrie's fundraiser - is not seeking re-election, nor is Council Vice President Lance C. Miller. Miller's district in the rural northern part of the county is heavily Republican. But Stepp's district, which includes Havre de Grace, would seem to be an area of potential growth for Democrats.

Mullis, who could not be reached Friday, graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx, N.Y., and majored in Spanish and business at Hunter College in New York City.

She came to Joppa in 1974 and has been involved in the community through the PTA and business and community growth initiatives. In addition to her role with the Harford County Republican Women, she is program chairwoman for the Maryland Federation of Republican Women.

According to state campaign finance records, she contributed more than $400 to state and county Republican groups in 2004, as well as $40 to Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a talk-show host on WCBM radio in Baltimore. He was one of the lead sponsors of a series of bills last year seeking to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving driver's licenses or paying reduced in-state university tuition rates, among other things.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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