No free ride this year in a pair of campaigns

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

March 26, 2006|By LARRY CARSON

West Columbia Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Democrat, and Republican state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman cruised to re-election four years ago, so secure in their respective party strongholds that no one bothered to challenge them.

Things have changed.

Despite her cozy single-member District 12B, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, Bobo has an opponent this year: Chris Feldwick, 34, a Clary's Forest resident and first-time candidate who manages a jewelry store at The Mall in Columbia.

Feldwick said he was disturbed by Bobo's free ride to a new term four years ago.

"I was actually upset in the voting booth that she was unopposed," he said.

Feldwick, who is married to a county teacher and is the father of a 3-year-old, said he believes that Bobo is not friendly enough to business.

"I don't like her record on business," he said. "It's the worst record in the district."

Bobo said she does not accept the anti-business label, noting her vote against electricity deregulation in 1999 as an example of a stand that might be seen as anti-business by some, but not by others.

"I thought it would be bad for consumers, and now here we are," she said, referring to predictions of a 72 percent rate increase in July.

Feldwick said he has been knocking on doors every Sunday and has had some interesting reactions. He said they have ranged from a man who slammed the door in his face when Feldwick said he was a Republican, to others who want to talk for 30 minutes. Feldwick said he is a moderate who favors gay rights and is pro-abortion rights.

"I'm not expecting, realistically, to win," he said, but he believes that the incumbent might have become complacent without an opponent and could be ripe for an upset.

Bobo rejects that assessment, as the annual General Assembly session moves toward conclusion.

"I'm going full-throttle down here," she said. "I'll be out campaigning."

In the western Howard and southern Carroll County district in which Allan H. Kittleman is filling the term of his father, who died in 2004, voter registration isn't so lopsided. About 45 percent of the voters in District 9 are Republicans, and they have a 6,000-voter edge over the district's Democrats.

But Rich Corkran, 59, of Ellicott City, a 37-year teacher now at Hammond High School, said he is planning to challenge Kittleman, a former county councilman who was appointed to the term after Robert Kittleman's death.

Corkran, who calls himself an education activist as a former PTA president and Howard County Education Association worker, is planning his first try for public office because he believes voters in District 9 should have a choice.

"I think there's a constituency out there that Allan Kittleman doesn't represent," he said. "The Democratic message needs to get out in District 9, even to moderate Republicans and independent voters.

"The overriding issue to me is there's just too much confrontational politics going on in Annapolis, and Allan Kittleman is part of that."

Corkran, married and the father of two adult children, said he knows the chances of his winning are slim, but he hopes to help a Democrat replace Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"Nobody is entitled to an unopposed election," Kittleman said. "I welcome him to the race."

And the senator said he is not taking anything for granted, even though Corkran is a novice.

No separate Web site

County Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon has decided not to pursue a separate Web site for the County Council, although he still wants more prominent display of council news on the government's home page.

Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican who is running for county executive, complained at a council meeting March 13 that the council is getting short shrift compared with display of the county executive's activities on the county Web site. He was particularly upset that Robey's veto of a Republican-sponsored assessment-cap bill was reported on the Web site, while the council's earlier approval of the bill was not.

Robey, a Democrat running for state Senate, and Victoria Goodman, the county communications director, said the council has full control over its Web pages and the executive's news releases are routinely displayed.

That didn't placate Merdon.

"You have to dig several layers deep to find information on the County Council," Merdon said. "I would like to have it more prominently displayed on the home page."

Goodman said she has been working on changes to the page, noting that a series of subject tabs now appears at the top of the screen. More changes to give the council more display will be explored, said council administrator Sheila Tolliver.

Wine-taste fundraiser

Harry M. Dunbar is hoping wine will be more of a draw than music.

Dunbar, a Democrat running for county executive, has scheduled his second fundraiser for March 31 -- a $20-a-ticket wine tasting at a Town Center real estate office.

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