Balto. County covered, Senate candidates vow

September 08, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,sun reporter

The District 5 state Senate race pits a four-term Republican against a political newcomer - both based in Carroll County - who maintain they can represent the thousands of Baltimore County residents who share the legislative jurisdiction because the counties face similar issues.

Incumbent Larry E. Haines and his challenger in the Republican primary, party activist Michelle Jefferson, pointed to residential growth, farmland preservation and crowded schools as examples of shared concerns.

The result of statewide redistricting in 2002, District 5 - formerly contained entirely in Carroll - stretches across portions of Baltimore County that lie north of Reisterstown and Cockeysville. The Baltimore County part is called District 5B; the Carroll section, 5A.

Because no Democratic candidates have filed to run for the seat, the top vote-getter in Tuesday's Republican primary will represent the district for the next four years.

Haines is facing his first challenger since the 1994 election, when he took 64 percent of the vote.

Jefferson, 44, of Westminster, owns a business that expedites building permits through county and state agencies. She is president of the Central Carroll Republican Club and former chairwoman of Carroll's Republican Central Committee.

She said she is committed to providing equal representation for the approximately 32,000 voters in Baltimore County's portion of the district.

"My job is to make sure those parts of the district are well-represented. I will not show favoritism," she said. "Baltimore County is facing many of the same issues as Carroll County."

For instance, she said, voters in both counties worry about residential growth and crowded schools. "Change has to happen, but it has to be well-thought-out and well-planned, and it must include community input," said Jefferson, who added that she plans door-to-door campaigning this weekend in Loveton Farms in Baltimore County.

If elected, she said, she plans to focus on Baltimore County's open-space needs by seeking "creative ways to put farmland into the agricultural preservation program." She said she would work to strengthen local control of educational decisions. She also said she would seek funding for schools, roads and other public facilities.

Haines, 68, has led Carroll County's legislative delegation for 12 years. The former dairy farmer, who became a real estate broker, has owned Westminster-based Haines Realty since 1972. He says his opposition to higher fees on home sales and his support of property tax breaks for homeowners are consistent with his opposition to higher taxes and government fees in general.

If re-elected, Haines said, he would continue to champion farmland preservation. He said he supports increasing the district's tax base through economic development and improving transportation infrastructure. He supported Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s increase in vehicle registration fees. But he said he opposes increasing the state's motor fuel tax. He said his primary objective is to maintain open communications with his constituency.

"When people call me, I respond," he said, adding, "I get around, and I know what's going on" in Baltimore County.

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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