Republicans energized to fill Jimeno seat in 31st

But GOP lacks `top tier' contender, senator says

September 06, 2006|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,sun reporter

Republicans set sights on Jimeno's post - again In one of the most closely watched legislative races of the year, five Republicans and two Democrats in District 31 are vying to replace state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno.

The five-term Democrat's announcement in April that he would not seek re-election energized the GOP, which is eager to whittle down the veto-proof majority held by Democrats in the General Assembly. And District 31 is an inviting target: Voters there supported Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by a 2-1 margin in 2002.

But the race has failed to attract the political heavyweights that some initially expected, including any of the three District 31 incumbents in the House of Delegates. What emerged is a crowded field of candidates with limited political experience.

"They don't have a top-tier candidate," Jimeno said of Republicans. "They've targeted this seat for 16 years. People had the impression that the state Republican Party was going to come into the 31st District and select their state senator. But nobody's going to dictate who serves in the state Senate."

More than 100,000 people live in the district, which includes Pasadena, Brooklyn Park, Glen Burnie and parts of Severna Park. Ballots will be cast in Tuesday's primary and Nov. 7 in the general election.

The Republican contenders include Thomas R. Gardner, 44, director of information technology for the state Motor Vehicle Association; Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, 63, who owns a building, construction and development consulting business; Mike Jacobs, 40, part-owner of an industrial repair machine shop; Charles "Casey" Robison, 76, a retired assistant foreman and union representative with Bethlehem Steel Co.; and Bryan Simonaire, 43, a computer systems engineer with Northrup Grumman.

Gardner and Robison live in Glen Burnie, and Holland, Jacobs and Simonaire live in Pasadena.

The two Democrats are Walter J. Shandrowsky, 57, a retired manufacturer's representative who was also a state delegate from 1979 to 1982; and Matthew McBride, 35, a senior policy analyst at the American Medical Director's Association. Both men live in Pasadena.

Although McBride is a former legislative aide of Jimeno, the senator is strongly endorsing Shandrowsky.

Neither candidate is especially well-funded. As of Aug. 8, Shandrowsky had raised $6,600 and had $3,493 on hand, although the money included a $4,000 loan, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections Web site. McBride has raised $1,330 and has $406 on hand.

Shandrowsky said he would concentrate much of the fund-raising after the primary election.

He felt now is the best time to run for the Senate seat he has wanted since he left the General Assembly 24 years ago, and he promised to look at rising electricity costs and the potential fallout of a liquefied natural gas plant that could be put in the district.

"The first thing [voters] can expect from me is a continuation of the moderation and voice of reason we've gotten from Phil Jimeno," he said. "The past four years have been marked by contentious partisanship and harsh rhetoric. Things have not been discussed on their merits, but have instead been decided by the party membership of the sponsor."

McBride said he knows how to do the job best because he has worked for Republicans and Democrats in the legislature and has lived in the district all his life.

He said he would focus on infrastructure, transportation, education and taxation issues, "issues that are important to myself, my friends and my neighbors."

"The district is basically a couple of peninsulas and there's no real land left to build on," he said. "So far, we have not improved the infrastructure to keep up with all the building. So the consequence of this is that traffic has been building up and backing up, and it's not the same place it was 10 years ago."

Simonaire is far and away the most well-funded candidate among Republicans, with more than $94,000 on hand, most of which came from a personal loan of $80,100, according to his Aug. 8 filing with the state.

Gardner and Robison are largely self-financed as well. Gardner has raised almost $15,000 and has about $14,500 on hand and Robison has raised $3,658 with about $3,837 on hand, although his campaign has more than $17,000 in outstanding loans. Jacobs is the only Republican candidate without campaign debt, according to the Board of Elections Web site, and he has raised $23,477 and has $19,338 on hand.

Gardner said his experience as a state employee and in politics - he served two terms on the Republican State Central Committee in District 31 and as vice chairman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Party - as well as his military past as a test pilot of Black Hawk helicopters will help him make a difference.

The main issue of the race will be "fiscal responsibility," and Gardner promised not to raise taxes on any hard-working family. He also pledged to pursue tighter restrictions against illegal immigrants.

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