Professor to jump into politics, again

May 28, 2006|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

So beloved by his students is Harford Community College political science professor Avery Ward that he has his own fan club on the popular Web site Myspace.com. The group's 28 members list reasons why his tempered teaching style and hobbies - among them, beekeeping and motorcycle riding - make him their favorite teacher.

In political circles, Ward, 61, is better known for his sharp mind and golden touch when it comes to local campaigns. This week, he agreed to jump back into the fray as the campaign manager for Republican Del. Joanne S. Parrott's re-election bid.

"I think he's what I would call a very docile spin doctor," said County Councilman Lance C. Miller, a Republican who studied under Ward and brought him in as his campaign manager in 1998. "Avery's got a soft sense of humor, a steady, quiet demeanor about himself, but he does a very good job."

Ward's first campaign was in 1974, when William H. Amoss, then a middle-age auctioneer who had taken one of his classes, sought the younger professor's help running for the House of Delegates. With Ward's help, Amoss became a Democratic fixture in the House and state Senate until his death in 1997.

The Churchville resident led all six of Amoss' campaigns, and he later found success again with Miller, who was 29 at the time and had no political experience.

That makes Ward 7-for-7 in campaigns he's steered, though he said he's never taken a penny for his work. He calls it "community service."

"I teach my students that the essence of democracy is participation," he said at his cramped Bel Air Hall office, which is lined with political texts. "If I'm not supporting that, it's all hollow."

With Parrott comes a challenge. Though this year marks her 20th in politics, the one-time County Council president has long ridden her community service work to the polls, not her campaign coffers. As of late January - the last filing period for campaign finance records - Parrott had $3,600 on hand.

Her opponents in the Republican primary for the two-seat district, however, are more well-heeled. Del. Barry Glassman, also a former council member, is the chairman of the county delegation and had $18,700 as of January, with a large annual fundraiser scheduled for next month.

Newcomer Donna Stifler, a 41-year-old teacher from Forest Hill, has more than $26,600 and picked up an endorsement last weekend from the Maryland Republican Assembly. Her list of contributors - she started raising money in 2003 - include Public Service Commissioner Charles R. Boutin, County Executive David R. Craig and school board member Lee Merrell.

Stifler noted that in the past legislative session, Parrott was not the lead sponsor on any bills, in a session where more than 770 bills were passed. Parrott even voted against one of her own proposals - a sex-offender bill she co-sponsored.

But Ward, the son of a dairy farmer, said there's more to legislating than how many bills a candidate introduces.

"Some people feel we have too many laws, and so that may not be a detriment," said Ward. "What's important is the person's voting record and what they have done in terms of constituent service."

Parrott figures to shine in that regard. There's nary a county event that Parrott doesn't grace with her colorful stuffed parrot and white convertible.

"I pride myself on constituent service," said Parrott, taking a break from a patriotically themed program at North Bend Elementary on Thursday. "Helping to resolve a situation and directing them to get the kind of resolve that a citizen wants - that's what it's all about."

Yet with limited funds, Ward acknowledges he'll have to revise some of his strategies, such as the frequency of direct mailings, which can cost as much as $7,000 to send to area Republicans. Still, money can't buy the name recognition Parrott has, Ward said.

"Joanne has what I think is an essential ingredient - she is connected with this community and comes to this role with a service mentality and a lot of energy," he said.

Parrott's campaign will not be her first collaboration with Ward. Parrott said she has invited Ward's students to work for her as interns since her County Council days, and she hosts his classes in Annapolis for field trips to the State House.

In addition to Amoss and Miller, Ward's students have included Craig's chief of staff, Aaron N. Tomarchio, state board of public works liaison Paul Magness, and two candidates for Miller's open District D seat - Jason C. Gallion and Chad Shrodes.

"He was the reason I went to law school, and that got me into politics. It all came from him," said Council President candidate Aaron Kazi, who said he was an engineering major until getting "the political bug" from taking Ward's class.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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