5 Democrats compete in District 13

There are 3 available nominations in the coming primary

choosing proves a challenge

Maryland Votes 2006

August 27, 2006|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,sun reporter

When three-term Del. Frank S. Turner knocked on their door, retirees Irene and Jim MacDonald agreed to put a Guzzone-Pendergrass-Turner campaign sign on the lawn of their 33-year home in Columbia. They did the same thing when Del. Neil F. Quinter showed up with his sign.

The MacDonalds, who live on the high-traffic corner of Tamar Drive and Old Montgomery Road, are one of a handful of families with lawn signs advertising four candidates for the three available Democratic nominations to the Maryland House of Delegates from Howard County's District 13.

The popularity of the four elected officials is creating a problem for about 11,000 Democrats likely to vote in the Sept. 12 primary in the district, which covers the southeastern county, Fulton, east Columbia and parts of Elkridge. Nina Basu, 25, a self-described progressive, also is running.

Even some public employee unions are having trouble choosing among the four. County teachers union President Ann DeLacy said her group tried to endorse Guy Guzzone, Shane E. Pendergrass, Turner and Quinter but was prevented from including Guzzone by state union rules. The county police union endorsed all four.

The situation was created when the 44-year-old Quinter, a one-term incumbent delegate, announced he was running for Congress, but then changed his mind and decided to run for his old seat. Before Quinter changed his mind, Guzzone, 42, had declared his campaign for Quinter's seat. Neither would back down.

And although the battle appears to be between Quinter, a lawyer and former assistant attorney general, and Guzzone, a two-term county councilman, the outcome is uncertain for all the candidates.

"I don't know what's going to happen. Any one of us could lose," said Quinter.

Republicans have no primary contest in the district.

Turner, 59, a Morgan State University professor, three-term delegate Pendergrass, 56, and Guzzone are part of the Team 13 ticket that is headed by County Executive James N. Robey, who is running for state Senate.

Quinter claimed that wherever his signs appear with those of other candidates, "I win the ties. If they have my sign up, that means they support me," speculating that people who put up the team signs might only support one or two of the three members.

Pendergrass disputed that assessment.

"As people begin to focus after Labor Day, I think people will understand and recognize the team," Pendergrass said. "People in this county care and pay attention."

Guzzone said a few yard signs won't make much difference.

Other factors could come into play, however.

Turner's name comes last alphabetically, which could be a disadvantage if Democrats already have voted for three people before reaching his name.

"I think there's a lot of confusion," Turner said, though he said he's not concerned about being last on the ballot, because "I'm always last on the ballot."

He's stressing his pro-environment voting record, his ability as an appropriations committee member to help get money for school construction and for Howard Community College, and his 1999 vote opposing the BGE rate deregulation.

Pendergrass, an expert in health legislation, is not big on door knocking or sign waving, but she has a loyal following.

"I've knocked on a few hundred doors," she said -- a contrast to candidates who brag about knocking on thousands of doors. Despite that, the former County Council member's vote totals led all other candidates in the 2002 general election -- the first after District 13 was created.

Guzzone is running on his County Council record of supporting education, county services and the redevelopment of U.S. 1.

At a candidates' forum Aug. 15, Guzzone mentioned his support for the renovation of 31 schools, full-day kindergarten, class-size reductions in early grades, library funding, and new parks and industry in North Laurel. His priorities if elected are to introduce a tax credit for energy efficiency -- especially for solar heating -- and to expand Head Start programs.

Quinter, a strong supporter of tougher laws on sexual crimes, also stressed his support for full-day kindergarten and criticized plans for redevelopment of downtown Columbia as "very overblown. We don't need a bunch of 20-story office buildings to make it look like Bethesda."

His priorities if re-elected are enactment of a new assault weapons ban and tying minimum wage levels to inflation to make wage changes automatic.

Guzzone and the three incumbents have a huge lead on Basu in fundraising, but the young novice said her volunteers and her energy will overcome a lack of big money. She will "touch" 95 percent of likely primary voters by Sept. 12, she said.

Basu, a Long Reach village board member who grew up in Columbia and attended McDonogh School in Owings Mills, said her campaign is about ideas and issues, not politics.

And although the established Democrats look at her as "a candidate for the future," as Turner put it, Basu is undeterred.

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