O'Malley, Duncan for smoking ban, pretty much


May 21, 2006|By LARRY CARSON

As the Howard County Council approaches yet another vote on a public smoking ban, the two gubernatorial candidates vying for the Democratic nomination say they favor the idea, though they have contradictory positions.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley opposes a local ban for the city, but he said he is not opposed to a statewide law.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan signed a local ban into law in his county and supported local ban bills in Baltimore City and Howard County, but said he won't support a statewide law until enough local jurisdictions enact them to create what he called a "critical mass" - or until the General Assembly approves one.

O'Malley, in Columbia on Tuesday for a political reception sponsored by former County Councilman C. Vernon Gray at a lakefront restaurant, appears to have changed his stance.

The mayor has consistently opposed a local ban in Baltimore for fear it would hurt businesses. On Tuesday, he stuck to that position, but he added, "It seems like the science is on the side of doing it."

Asked if he would back a statewide ban - which has failed four years in a row in the General Assembly - O'Malley said, "I'm not quite there yet, but I'm leaning hard that way."

County Councilman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat running for county executive and a big O'Malley backer, is co-sponsor of the current Howard smoking-ban bill, which is due for a vote June 5.

Meanwhile, Duncan, who held a campaign picnic Thursday evening at the Circle D farm in Glenwood, seems equally conflicted.

Duncan opposed a ban in Montgomery when it was proposed in 1999 but supported a 2003 bill and signed it into law. He became convinced, he said, after watching bans enacted in New York, Delaware and California, that businesses would not suffer, and a later economic survey argues just that.

But Duncan does not support a statewide ban for now.

"Before any statewide ban happens, you need critical mass across the state," he told The Sun in December.

Prince George's, Montgomery and Talbot counties in Maryland have enacted smoking bans, and Washington also has imposed one.

Early endorsements

The Howard County Education Association has issued the year's first political endorsements, choosing Ulman as its pick for county executive and endorsing four Democrats and a Republican for the County Council.

"It's tremendously important," Ulman said. "There are so many teachers in this county who have made a difference in my life."

Ann DeLacy, president of the teachers union, said Ulman was chosen because of "the steadfast support he has exhibited toward the education budget and the funding of educators' salary increases."

She said Republican candidate, Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon also is held in high regard by the teachers.

"Chris is a nice young man and a good person, but we looked at what happened when there was a budget shortfall," she said.

That was three years ago, when Ulman and the other council Democrats backed a 30 percent increase in the local income tax proposed by County Executive James N. Robey, while Merdon proposed budget cuts instead.

Merdon was philosophical about the endorsement.

"The teachers union has historically supported Democratic candidates, and this endorsement is in keeping with that tradition," he said.

The big surprise came in the teachers' choice for council District 4, covering west Columbia and Fulton, where the 4,500-member union chose Joshua Feldmark over Mary Kay Sigaty, a sitting school board member. Both are Democrats.

"We endorsed [Sigaty] when she ran for school board," DeLacy said. "We think she's doing a good job on the school board. Josh Feldmark shares our vision and goals."

"I feel great about it. It really means a lot," Feldmark said.

Sigaty, who is in the midst of a four-year board term, said she was "mystified" by the union's choice, which she said was "short-sighted."

The union also endorsed Democrats Courtney Watson in District 1, Calvin Ball in District 2, and Jennifer Terrasa in District 3.

The only Republican on the teachers' list is county Police Chief Wayne Livesay, who is running for the District 5 council seat, covering the western county. Livesay will retire as chief effective May 31. Republicans Greg Fox and Jim Adams also are seeking the nomination for that seat, as is Democrat Don Dunn.

DeLacy said Livesay "is terrific."

"He's not partisan, and he understands the union," she said.

Republican Del. Warren E. Miller suggested that a teachers' union endorsement might hurt Livesay in a western county GOP primary, but that's not the way Livesay sees it.

"To me it's not just about unions, it's about educating our kids," the police chief said.

Challenging sheriff

Yet another incumbent is being challenged.

County Sheriff Charles M. Cave, 68, will face a potentially strong Democratic primary opponent in police union President James F. Fitzgerald, 59, a 34--year veteran of the force who said he will remain an officer and union leader while running for office.

"I think I've done very good for the men and women of the Police Department," the five-term union president said. "I will win. Chuck's been there 16 years, and he's out of fresh ideas."

Fitzgerald said he would improve pay and benefits for the deputies.

Cave disagreed with Fitzgerald's assessment.

"I feel confident that I and my staff have plenty of new ideas to continue to make this the good sheriff's office it is," the sheriff said.


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