Schrader is caught in middle of BGE issue

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

June 25, 2006|By LARRY CARSON

The complex, politically flavored fight over how much BGE customers should pay starting Saturday and over what period they should pay it has left Howard County state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader of two minds.

A moderate Republican from majority-Democratic District 13 covering the southeastern county, Schrader voted with General Assembly Democrats to approve a rate-relief plan in special session.

But after listening to hours of testimony at GOP Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s public hearing last week, she said she would back a gubernatorial veto, and she did exactly that Friday.

"I don't like the bill. There's a lot of flaws to the bill. I don't feel [that] firing the Public Service Commission is the way to go, but it was going to give some rate relief. Something is better than nothing," Schrader explained her reasoning for voting for the bill.

Still, said Schrader, "after listening to six hours of testimony that people are angry about the whole situation - about not having an option to opt out. ... They feel they're subsidizing BGE," she said about the average $2.19-a- month, 10-year fee that Ehrlich's supporters say is interest but that Democrats say is not.

"I'm still trying to figure out the whole piece," Schrader said, adding that the monthly fee could go as high as $7.

Despite all she has learned from the hearing, Schrader said, she is not sure that she would have voted differently on the bill, and said she had not been pressured on the veto issue.

"I did what I thought was the right thing to do," she said, adding, "Now, I'm thinking there's right and there's wrong in everybody's perception of this," not to mention all the political posturing. "Now it's like the Hatfields and the McCoys," she lamented.

Republican Del. Warren E. Miller defends Schrader, arguing that voting for the bill but then saying she would back a veto is not inconsistent.

"They're two different votes," he said. One is on policy and the other is defending the governor's rights.

Del. Shane E. Pendergrass, a Democrat from Schrader's district, said Schrader's change of heart makes her think of popular summer footwear - flip-flops.

"We've got to play the hand we've got. This is the best bill," she said about the legislature's offering.

Union backing

Although some Republicans feel that union endorsements don't help GOP primary candidates running in western Howard's legislative District 9A, Melissa Ridgely Covolesky is happy her bid for a seat in the House of Delegates has been endorsed by the Howard County Education Association.

"I think it shows that the union is willing to work bipartisan and that I'm bringing something new to the table," she said. "I do think it will help."

Covolesky is the only Republican that the union, which represents 5,500 county teachers and school employees, endorsed for the General Assembly. The union chose to back one of its own - career county teacher and Democrat Rich Corkran - for the District 9 state Senate seat over incumbent State Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican.

Union President Ann DeLacy said incumbent District 9A Dels. Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller, both Republicans, had only an 11 percent voting record on issues the group tracks.

"We were very, very impressed with her," DeLacy said of Covolesky. "She's a native Howard countian, a product of Howard schools, she's not in favor of [private school] vouchers and she doesn't vote just on party lines."

Bates and Miller felt differently.

"It doesn't surprise me," and it won't have a real political effect, Bates said of the endorsement. "I guess it proves that no good deed goes unpunished. Warren and I both voted, and I co-sponsored the [teachers] pension bill, their top priority."

Miller said, "Big labor is messing with us."

The union endorsed Democrats for every other Howard seat, based mainly on state party rules that require automatic endorsement of any incumbent with better than an 80 percent voting record on state and local union issues.

That created an awkward situation in District 13, where the local union initially endorsed all three incumbent delegates - and County Councilman Guy Guzzone, a fourth Democrat running for one of the three House of Delegates seats. State party rules forced the group to endorse only the three incumbents, but DeLacy said her group did not want to slight Guzzone.

"We wanted to send a message that all four people are really good," DeLacy said of Guzzone and Dels. Pendergrass, Frank S. Turner and Neil F. Quinter.

The group also endorsed County Executive James N. Robey for state Senate in that district over the incumbent, Schrader. Robey, Pendergrass, Turner and Guzzone are running together on a ticket.

"We really appreciate all the support we received from Guy Guzzone all those years as a county councilman," the union president said.

Guzzone said he appreciates that the local union leaders were willing to speak up for him despite the rules denying him a formal endorsement.

"I really was thrilled," he said.

Quinter said he is happy to get the formal nod.

"There's no doubt that this helps my campaign," he said, stressing his support for all--day kindergarten.

In District 12, covering parts of west Columbia and Elkridge, the union also endorsed State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, and Dels. Elizabeth Bobo, Steven J. DeBoy Sr., and James E. Malone Jr., all Democrats.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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