Crowd jams 6th District contest

Candidates press points on education, immigration, health, gas plant

Maryland Votes 2006

Primary Tuesday

September 08, 2006|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

Richard W. Metzgar got his three minutes.

But in the crowded race to represent Dundalk in the House of Delegates, a dozen candidates vying for the three seats had a hard time succinctly describing their stands on topics such as education and crime at a political forum this week in Dundalk.

And Metzgar, an associate pastor at an eastern Baltimore County church, said he had another disadvantage: "It's really difficult for a preacher."

Incumbents Joseph "Sonny" Minnick, Mike Weir Jr., and John Olszewski Jr. have five challengers in the Democratic primary, including Jacob J. Mohorovic Jr., a former delegate hoping to make a political comeback. There are four candidates in the Republican primary in the 6th District, which also includes most of Essex and part of Rosedale.

Mohorovic, 56, who works for the state Department of Business and Economic Development, served in the House from 1995 to 2003. He lost his seat in 2002 to Weir.

"My whole campaign has been about experience in government," said Mohorovic, who said the revitalization efforts in the district have been too slow.

Diane DeCarlo, a former state senator and delegate, dropped out of the race but is supporting Eric Washington, a 42-year-old recruiter for the Community College of Baltimore County, in his first bid for elected office.

Washington, whose wife is from Turners Station, said he's running to improve education in the district, where his three children attend public schools. He is proposing a comprehensive mentorship program.

Jane Brooks, a former staffer for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. when he was a congressman, is making her fourth attempt at elected office. Brooks, 55, of Dundalk, lost in her campaigns for Congress two years ago, and for House of Delegates in 1998 and 2002. She left the Republican Party and became a Democrat in October.

She said she's especially concerned about education, affordable health care, local jobs and too many benefits being given to illegal immigrants.

Also running in the Democratic primary are Ron Schaeffer, a 56-year-old attorney from Dundalk, and Russ Mirabile, a 59-year-old property manager from Essex.

Schaeffer, active in youth sports, calls the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal on Sparrows Point "the greatest threat to our community" and said, if elected, he would work to ensure education money gets to the classrooms.

Mirabile, who co-owns the Liberty Mobile Home Park in Essex and is active in several civic groups, is making his fourth run for elected office, having unsuccessfully run for state Senate in 1994 and the House of Delegates in 1998 and 2002. He said he would work to improve schools without money from slots.

Minnick, a 73-year-old Navy veteran who runs a Dundalk restaurant with his brother, is seeking a fifth term. He said he wants to lower closing costs associated with buying a home, lower college tuition and continue to work on such issues as tax relief for seniors and teacher retention.

Weir, a 58-year-old county firefighter, is seeking a second term, he said, to continue working on environmental issues and ensuring counties adhere to their long-range development plans.

Olszewski, a high school teacher and son of a county councilman, is seeking his first elected term. He was appointed to fill the seat of longtime Del. John S. Arnick, who left to work on the Maryland State Board of Appeals, and who died in June.

At 23, Olszewski was sworn in before the General Assembly convened a special summer session. But he said he was proud to co-sponsor legislation to extend supervision of sex offenders and to have voted for the plan to defer the BGE utility rate increase. He said educational reforms are among his priorities.

In the Republican primary, Paul M. Blitz, 53, a teacher at a private high school, Steve Dishon, a 53-year-old sales manager, and Metzgar are running as a ticket.

Dishon, a Dundalk native who has been active in numerous civic and business groups, said he would work to bring more jobs to the area and to fight the LNG proposal. He also said he thinks more mentoring programs would improve schools.

Metzgar, a 52-year-old car dealership manager and associate pastor at the Essex Church of God, said he decided to make his first run for office after a General Assembly session he said included "a lot of rhetoric, but not a lot of substance." He said he would work to improve teacher retirement benefits and to help seniors.

Blitz, who is a first sergeant in the Army Reserves at Fort Meade, said he thinks the area could attract technology firms that would replace lost industrial and manufacturing companies. Blitz, of Essex, unsuccessfully ran for a House seat in 1998 and 2002.

Also running in the Republican primary is Steven C. Brown, 43, of Sparrows Point.

An unaffiliated candidate, John Scott, a 23-year-old brewery apprentice from Dundalk who recently finished six years of service in the Army Reserves, plans to run in the general election.

State Sen. Norman R. Stone, a lawyer from Edgemere who has been in office for 44 years, is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Stone, who turns 71 today, will face Bill "Kush" Kushernick, a 55-year-old mechanic from Essex, in the general election.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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