Guthrie courted for Senate

Councilman confirms that Democrats want him to challenge Jacobs this fall

County Politics


County Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, one of the few Democratic officials in Harford, is being wooed by state party leaders to run in the fall election against two-term Republican state Sen. Nancy Jacobs.

Guthrie has been approached in recent months to compete against Jacobs in District 34A, which includes parts of Harford and Cecil counties. The courting includes the promise of a substantial campaign treasury, political insiders from both parties said.

The move seems designed to strengthen ties with unions, which have been bolstered in the past 18 months with passage in the General Assembly of the so-called Wal-Mart bill and improvements in teacher pensions. Guthrie's victory in the 2002 election - his first run for elected office - was heralded as a victory by unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, for which he is a consultant.

Jacobs angered unions in 1997 when she was the lead sponsor of a failed "right to work" bill in the House of Delegates, though she has worked in recent years to mend the relationship.

With the election six months away, she took to the streets last week to wave election signs in Joppatowne - which is part of the area Guthrie represents on the County Council.

Reached Friday, Jacobs questioned the potential union financing of a Guthrie candidacy.

"I don't think the people of Harford would like to know that the election is being paid for by a special interest," Jacobs said. "I know the people of Cecil would not."

Guthrie, who confirmed that he was approached in recent months about running, criticized Jacobs as a "rubber stamp" for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"My special interests are the Harford County citizens, and if our delegation and senators would take that attitude, they wouldn't have to worry about anybody running against them," he said.

Del. Mary-Dulany James, a Democrat who was mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in 2002, also is said to be in the mix. James said she hasn't ruled out a candidacy, but added she that is happy with her role in the House.

The executive director of the state Democratic Party, Derek Walker, said Guthrie and James are viable candidates.

"I think we will have a great opportunity up there. There are a lot of new voters we can bring to the table," Walker said.

While acknowledging that Jacobs' district has been a GOP stronghold, Walker said the governor's record on the environment, growth and land sales has "irritated" residents.

In 2002, Guthrie defeated Republican council member Susan B. Heselton by 130 votes. It was the county's closest race, despite Guthrie running in a district made up of nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

During his first term on the council, a seven-member body that includes six Republicans, Guthrie has been an outspoken politician. One of his key initiatives was an adequate public facilities ordinance to help control school crowding.

Jacobs eked out a victory to claim a Senate seat in 1998, winning by 142 votes after a tabulation of absentee ballots. But she trounced Democrat Arthur H. Helton Jr. by 20 percent in 2002. In the past legislative session, she sought laws restricting eminent domain and spoke out against a stem cell research bill.

Sun reporter Phillip McGowan contributed to this article.

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