Slutzky says his work is not done, but challengers say it's their time

District E

Maryland Votes 2006

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

Three Republicans and a late-entry Democrat are vying for the County Council seat in District E, which includes the corridor between Bel Air and Aberdeen and is in the crosshairs of development pressure.

"We don't want to become a blur between Bel Air and Aberdeen," said Republican Glenn B. Spatz. "I strongly oppose the rampant growth, particularly in the Churchville area."

The action in this primary is on the Republican side, with a field comprising incumbent Richard Slutzky, vice president of the seven-member County Council, a retired high school teacher and a well-known former coach; Spatz, a homebuilding sales representative; and Melvin J. Wehrman Jr., a career firefighter.

The lone candidate on the Democrat side is Leonard Wheeler, a 67-year-old retired educator who most recently taught at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and who jumped into the race at the filing deadline.

Slutzky has lined Route 22 with campaign signs and has hung hundreds of fliers on doorknobs throughout neighborhoods in the district.

"I have business I need to finish and business I need to initiate," said Slutzky, 63.

He is also waving at cars at busy intersections - an activity he finds onerous but vital to his campaign.

"You have to get your name out there and your message," he said. "If people see you, they can put a face to your name and maybe identify with your message."

An Aberdeen resident, Slutzky is concerned with the impact the nationwide military base realignment, known as BRAC, will have on the city and the areas surrounding Aberdeen Proving Ground. The base expansion is expected to bring about 10,000 jobs to Harford County.

"The council is at the epicenter of the planning process," Slutzky said. "We have to take another look at comprehensive rezoning and plan and prepare for BRAC. We have to balance development so that this becomes a positive situation for everyone."

County planners worked for months on a countywide rezoning before seeking council approval. The council added several amendments that County Executive David R. Craig found unacceptable. His veto of the measure has effectively stalled rezoning petitions.

"All that time and energy, and it failed at the 11th hour," Spatz said.

Spatz, 41, envisions a council that is more conservative in spending and planning. He also is campaigning door to door and expects to mail out more than 500 letters, personally signing and addressing each one.

"People are concerned that they are not being heard," he said.

Wehrman, a 40-year-old lieutenant in the Baltimore Fire Department and a volunteer firefighter in the county, said dissatisfaction with the county government propelled him into politics.

"I don't like what is going on in Harford County, and I can make a difference," he said. "Development is out of control. There is no suitable infrastructure, and we are short-handed on services."

Wehrman favors redevelopment of older neighborhoods.

"There is a good housing market out there for older homes, instead of development raping the land we have," he said.

Both of Slutzky's opponents said that running against a popular incumbent makes their campaigns more difficult. Spatz said he agrees with Slutzky on many issues but that they differ on growth.

"We can't close the door on development, but we need smart growth," Spatz said.

Aberdeen is grappling with a contentious annexation that could add more than 500 acres to the city. As the result of a petition drive, the proposal will go to referendum this year.

"Appropriate development is the number one concern across the county," Slutzky said. "Everyone is concerned with the amount of growth the county can sustain. Opinions run the full gamut from growth wherever to not another house in Harford County. The council has to balance the challenges."

Slutzky is not the only candidate who can point to years of public service, Wehrman said. Between his job and his volunteering, the firefighter has little time for campaigning or fundraisers.

"I hope people connect to my long public service," Wehrman said. "I am a simple man with a simple plan. Emergency services is really what I know, but I may just get to know politics now."

The winner of the Sept. 12 Republican primary will face Wheeler in November. Because he was a late addition to the race, he is working hard to create interest in the general election.

"I have no opposition in the primary, but the real opposition in this election is apathy," Wheeler said. "I am trying to create interest in the election and name recognition for myself."

He is stressing years of service to his community and a strong desire for change.

"We have concrete and asphalt creeping across our grasslands," Wheeler said. "People have worked hard to have a good life here. They have interests and they should be listened to. Growth will occur inevitably. We can all work to save our quality of life."

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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