This time, Gladden takes it easy

Uncontested re-election bid contrasts with '02 Senate nail-biter over powerful Hoffman

Maryland Votes 2006

September 07, 2006|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,Sun reporter

Four years ago, then-Del. Lisa A. Gladden, fresh off her first term in office, took on one of the state's most daunting political stalwarts in a nail-biter of a campaign.

In the end, the novice bested the veteran, who was forced to run in foreign territory after redistricting significantly reshaped the Northwest Baltimore district. Gladden had grabbed the seat of General Assembly power broker Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman.

Now Gladden is defending her position - in a race as effortless as the other was grueling.

The only other name on the ballot for Senate is that of Leonard Kerpelman, the lawyer who tried a 1963 Supreme Court case that resulted in the outlawing of prayer in public schools. Kerpelman says he filed to run for the seat but decided to withdraw after realizing he would be running against Gladden, with whom he did not intend to compete. However, he acted too late to remove his name, so it must remain on the ballot.

Though thrilled with the change of pace for this campaign, Gladden said she has worked hard for the luxury.

Since her victory in 2002, just after her district was changed to include portions of North and Northwest Baltimore, where she was an unknown, Gladden said she has put in a lot of effort making sure her constituents, new and old, know her name and what she is about.

"I worked extremely hard to prove my worth to constituents who I did not represent in 1998," the senator said. "I wanted to earn their trust and their confidence."

While Gladden's re-election is all but a slam-dunk, victory is hardly guaranteed for the three delegates running as a team on her ticket.

In the Democratic primary, they have competition from former Del. Wendell F. Phillips and Kevin Hargrave, a state corrections official.

Republican Tony Asa, who is also running for a House of Delegates seat, will face the winners of the Democratic primary in November.

Karen M. Ferguson, another on the ballot seeking a delegate's seat, has not appeared at campaign events with the other candidates and had not opened a campaign account by the end off the last reporting period. Ferguson could not be reached for comment for this article.

Gladden argues that as much potential as any of these challengers might have, the district is better off keeping incumbents who work well together and know their way around Annapolis.

"Is it worth taking any of us off the tasks we've already forged for ourselves these past four years?" Gladden asked. "At this point, I don't think it's worth the risk."

Running again with Gladden are Jill P. Carter, attempting to win her second term in the House, veteran Nathaniel T. Oaks and Samuel I. Rosenberg, a longtime delegate with influence in Annapolis who struggled in 2002 to win a seat in the redrawn 41st.

Aaron Meisner, a Mount Washington anti-slots activist and a political observer, said he believes the district would be best served by re-electing the incumbents.

"Of course, in this cycle, having been around could be an obstacle. There's an anti-incumbent sentiment out there," Meisner said.

Charles W. Griffin, president of the West Arlington Improvement Association, is also telling his neighbors to choose the incumbents.

"They have been very good in the providing of constituent services," Griffin said. "They're the ones I'm going to recommend.

Meisner and Griffin say Rosenberg stands out as the delegate who had the most impressive last term, and the one whose re-election seems most in jeopardy.

Rosenberg, first elected to the House of Delegates in 1983, came close to losing his last election to Phillips, squeaking by with a margin of about 250 votes. But this year, he made headlines by leading the successful push to obtain state money for stem cell research. "No issue I've worked on in 24 years has touched more lives," Rosenberg says.

Added Meisner: "You can't underestimate the importance of that legislation."

In addition to the stem cell debate, Rosenberg said, he has pitched in when his constituents needed him on everything from bus problems to development concerns for a 148-year-old Fairmount mansion.

"You can't win an election in three months. You need to stay visible and be concerned about neighborhood issues all the time," Rosenberg said.

Of the challengers, political observers say Phillips, who is short on cash but boasts large reserves of name recognition, could give the incumbents a run for their money.

Phillips, a Coppin State community affairs officer who used to work for the Department of Juvenile Services, has built a platform around reforming state services for at-risk youth and young offenders. "They seem to languish year after year, no matter who's in office," said Phillips, whose namesake father also served in the House of Delegates.

The recent spate of officers killed at state corrections facilities prompted Hargrave to run for office. He said he hopes to fight for safer institutions and better training for officers.

Carter, who during her first term was outspoken on the issue of illegal arrests in Baltimore, said that if re-elected she would continue to be an independent thinker.

Incumbent Nathaniel T. Oaks did not returns calls from The Sun.

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