Large field in 30th District

11 candidates entered in Tuesday's primary for House of Delegates

Maryland votes 2006

September 06, 2006|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

The decision of state Del. Herb McMillan to run for the state Senate has created an open seat in House District 30 that has drawn the interest of, among others, a former school board president and outgoing County Council member.

But two of the six Republican candidates in the three-seat district say they're running to oust another incumbent, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat who has led the opposition to many of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s first-term initiatives.

But before any candidates can take on Busch - or slide into an empty seat - they'll need to win their party's nomination in Tuesday's primary.

"The big question is whether or not Mike Busch is going to keep his job," said Andy Smarick, a Republican, who at 30 is the youngest candidate in the race. "People are extremely frustrated with him."

Busch, an Anne Arundel County parks official, stands by his 19-year record. Also seeking re-election is Democrat Virginia P. Clagett.

Five Democrats and six Republicans are vying in their parties' respective primaries to represent District 30, which includes Annapolis, the Broadneck Peninsula and part of South County. The top three vote-getters in each primary will advance to the November ballot, where the name of David Whitley of the Constitution Party will also appear. Each voter can pick three candidates.

Like all of the Republicans running, Smarick has never held elected office. Smarick, however, said his familiarity with the legislative process differentiates him from his fellow Republicans. He has worked for U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, the Maryland Republican, and as an aide in the state legislature.

"This is not something that is brand new. I'll be able to hit the ground running," said Smarick, who serves as chief of staff to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a $7 million nonprofit group based in Washington that supports public policy to "expand public school options."

Smarick stressed fiscal responsibility, education, the environment and health care as priorities.

`Bad legislation'

Mike Collins, a Naval Academy graduate who ran four years go, said he doesn't believe the current legislators are providing good representation. "Virginia Clagett is a wonderful woman who has had no legislative accomplishments in the last 12 years," said Collins, 44. "Mike Busch has been pushing bad legislation."

Collins' campaign four years ago was interrupted when he was called into active military duty.

Now retired from the military, Collins works as a homeland security analyst for the Maryland transportation department.

He stressed public safety and training for first responders as a priority. He also complained that with regard to public schools, Anne Arundel County is a "donor county" - taxpayers, he said, send excess funds to poorer schools in the state.

Ron Elfenbein, assistant director of the emergency room at Harbor Hospital, brings a background in health care to the race.

He has worked with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, to develop a four-pronged plan that he says would involve tort reform, changes to how juries consider malpractice suits, an overhaul of the insurance industry and changes to psychiatric care. The plan, he says, would drive down insurance costs, and would require that people carry a certain amount of health insurance.

"What people don't understand is that you're already paying for people who are uninsured," said Elfenbein, 32.

Elfenbein also mentioned Chesapeake Bay restoration and cracking down on illegal immigration as key issues. A political newcomer, Elfenbein had $96,700 in his campaign account as of mid-August - more than any other Republican in the race.

Ron George, 53, an Annapolis jewelry store owner, had $75,000 on hand, giving him the second largest campaign treasury of the Republicans.

Like other candidates, George expressed concern about government waste. He wants to create an independent Government Accountability Office, similar to the federal agency. He supports eliminating the inheritance tax - a tax that he said can devastate small business owners.

George said he supports teaching intelligent design in high schools. "Intelligent design is another point of view. One theory is that there is a big bang theory. It is OK to teach different theories."

Nancy Almgren, 58, the only woman actively campaigning on the Republican side, also ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2002.

Financial experience

Almgren, a retired investment adviser, promoted her experience with financial markets.

In addition, when her children were in public schools, she said she worked to bring school uniforms to the county. "Attila the Mom was my nickname," she said. Two county schools switched to uniforms this fall.

Now she serves on various boards including the Chrysalis House, a home for women who are recovering from addiction.

Les Belcher, a contractor, is stressing his conservative positions.

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