Growth Gets Attention

Republicans, Democrats have contested primaries

District F

Maryland Votes 2006

August 27, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

The race for the District F seat on the County Council has drawn a former council president, the mayor of Havre de Grace and its one-time city manager, a small-business owner and a military contractor.

In this district, which includes Havre de Grace and much of the U.S. 40 corridor, the Democrats have a race, too.

Dr. Gunther Hirsch, a retired physician who lost the council presidency in a countywide election four years ago, faces Mary Ann Lisanti, who has twice served on the Democratic Central Committee.

The loss did not deter Hirsch. At 80, the man who was elected to two terms as mayor of Havre de Grace is making another run, saying he "was never disinvolved from politics. I just waited for the next cycle."

He lost his seat in a Republican sweep in the county, but he said he does not expect the groundswell to be as strong this year.

Lisanti, 38, a former Havre de Grace city manager who is now director of a nonprofit heritage tourism organization, said Republican dominance in the county has prompted many candidates to change parties.

"It takes courage to speak your commitments," Lisanti said. "You won't see me changing parties. I believe the electorate is nonpartisan. The belief that one party has all the answers is just rhetoric. In campaigning, I don't see Democrats and Republicans. I see people concerned about issues."

John P. Correri Jr., 54, the city's current mayor, switched parties a year ago. He is running in the Republican primary against Marian Bollinger and Fred Silva, both newcomers to politics.

"I am a moderate, middle-of-the-roader who just got tired of getting run over," Correri said of the switch. "It's like starting over."

Correri, whose more than 25 years service to his hometown has earned him a spot in the Maryland Municipal League's Hall of Fame, has twice run unsuccessfully for the state legislature. Councilwoman Cecelia M. Stepp's decision not to seek a third term gave Correri the chance to try for higher office, he said.

"My base has always been here in Havre de Grace," he said. "With the incumbent stepping down, I thought I would take a shot. I can represent this district as a whole. Obviously, it is much larger than the city, but the greatest thing I have learned in city government is how to work with people."

Bollinger, 48, owner of a graphic-arts company in the city, said change is needed, even critical. Her business acumen and experience could play a pivotal role in that change, she said.

"Harford County is a serious business and should be treated and run as one," she said. "The business clients are the constituents who put you in office."

She said she would boost economic development by expanding Harford's tourism potential.

"We have wonderful resources and so much to do, but we need better marketing," she said.

Silva, 54, a Perryman resident and defense contractor, is also campaigning for change.

"The government is less and less responsible and it's time for me to step in," Silva said. "This county is growing too fast and too many people are falling on the wayside. It is just not managed well."

All five candidates called growth the overriding campaign issue.

"Every four years, growth is dominant," Hirsch said. "There is a good reason. All other situations stem from it. The influx of people creates more demands."

Bollinger and Silva contend that the county is not pursuing the goals in its master plan, which directs growth to existing communities within what officials have dubbed the development envelope.

"The county is bending the rules it has set forth and pushing the envelope out," Silva said.

Bollinger said, "The master plan is there for a reason. Growth is out of control because the county is not following it."

Correri wants solid numbers on BRAC, which is expected to bring as many as 10,000 new jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground. He advocates growth that protects green areas.

"We have to try redevelopment especially on the Route 40 corridor," he said.

Lisanti has made a career of solving growth problems, she said.

"We are at a pivotal time with BRAC and its impact," she said. "Legislatively, we can fix these issues. I really believe the public is begging for honest, new leadership."

The candidates, even those who, like Hirsch and Correri, are well known, are posting signs, waving at traffic and meeting with constituents in the city and in Abingdon, Riverside, Perryman and Creswell.

"I have been here 50 years, but there are so many newcomers, you have to get your name around," Hirsch said.

Correri, with 25 years on the City Council and two stints as mayor, is walking the neighborhoods.

"I am getting my name out there, hoping to get through round one," he said.

Lisanti, the youngest candidate, appears to have the most stamina. She was one of the last speakers at a forum last week that went well past 1 a.m. Then, she dealt with a family emergency at a hospital in Baltimore. She had no time to rest before she was waving to cars at Route 543 and Interstate 95 at 6 a.m., and she stayed there for nearly three hours.

"I get a lot of strength from people," she said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

For previously published articles previewing races in other County Council districts, visit www.baltimoresun.com/search/

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