Two-term Del. Bobby A. Zirkin says he is seeking higher office to continue his efforts to reform the state's juvenile justice system. Physician Scott Rifkin says he has a plan to reduce health care costs that includes the creation of a statewide surgeon general's office.
As they run for a seat in the state Senate, Zirkin and Rifkin have been campaigning for months to get their messages out in what is perhaps the most hard-fought race this year in Baltimore County.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions on the 11th Legislative District misstated the experience of Jason A. Frank, a candidate for House of Delegates. Frank currently serves as an assistant attorney for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.
The Sun regrets the errors.
At a Pikesville sandwich shop recently, Zirkin laid out campaign mailings by Rifkin. One points out that developers are helping Zirkin's campaign, and another talks of high electricity rates and "Zirkin's deregulation boondoggle," adding, "We're hurtin' cause of Zirkin!"
Another says Zirkin supports a plan that would put violent criminals and sex offenders in neighborhoods -- something that Zirkin adamantly denies.
"I've never seen a campaign as nasty and negative at this level," Zirkin said.
Rifkin said he has refrained from making personal attacks against Zirkin, instead sticking to the delegate's stances on issues.
"Everything's been factual," Rifkin said. "It's been Mr. Zirkin's strategy that any time we brought up an issue, instead of responding to the issue, he would cry foul."
For the first time in 20 years, the ballot for the 11th District state Senate seat will not include state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, who is running for Congress.
Tuesday's primary between Zirkin and Rifkin will determine who will face Jeffrey S. Yablon, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary, in the general election.
Zirkin, a 35-year-old Pikesville lawyer, said this week that he wants to seize the chance to fill a seat that had been held for so long by an incumbent.
He said the state's troubled juvenile justice system should be restructured, primarily by moving away from large group homes in urban areas to smaller facilities in "wilderness" settings. He said the restructuring would save the state money for "education, mentoring, tutoring, mental health, drug treatment."
"Juvenile justice gets at the root of criminal behavior," he said. "And our state is just a disaster."
He said he wants to address identity theft through legislation that would require credit card companies to inform customers whenever they have reason to believe that personal information might have been leaked.
Zirkin has been accused of failing to properly account for office space rented by his campaign from a partnership that includes a prominent developer. He has denied any wrongdoing, saying he paid what might seem to be relatively low rent because the office was unfinished, with wiring hanging out of the ceiling, unfinished walls and no heating and air conditioning.
Rifkin, who is making his first run for elected office, is a partner in Mid-Atlantic Healthcare, which serves senior citizens in Maryland, Delaware and Tennessee. He has also helped start a number of health care companies, including Doctors Health System, a venture in the 1990s that aimed to give individual physicians more control over how to spend Medicare dollars. The company eventually went bankrupt.
Having practiced medicine for more than two decades, he said, he has seen how much money is wasted in health care.
"We spend more money on health care than any other country in the world and yet we don't get our money's worth," said Rifkin, 47, of Owings Mills.
Most people, for example, do not have predetermined medical directives, leaving emergency rooms no option but to provide costly care that may be against their wishes, he said.
He said Maryland should have a surgeon general who would "promote healthy lifestyles, preventive health care, the concept of advance directives," such as wills.
To address the nursing shortage, he would push for nursing programs at the state's colleges.
"There's been a tendency to equate great health care with beautiful buildings," Rifkin said. "We need to staff hospitals."
In the district's House of Delegates race, incumbent Dels. Jon S. Cardin and Dan K. Morhaim are among more than a dozen candidates running in the Democratic primary. The others include: Zhanna Anapolsky-Maydanich, an Owings Mills lawyer; Sharon H. Bloom, an Owings Mills resident and formerly Morhaim's legislative director; Jason A. Frank, a Lutherville lawyer and former assistant county attorney; Ivan Goldstein, an Owings Mills business owner and volunteer firefighter; and Julian Earl Jones Jr., a Woodstock resident and a fire official in Anne Arundel.
Also running in the Democratic primary are: Stephen A. Knable, a Pikesville resident and former legislative correspondent for Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin; V. Michael Koyfman, a Pikesville resident and business owner; Theodore Levin, a Pikesville lawyer and former longtime delegate; Noel Levy, a Pikesville community activist and sales representative for a construction company; Dana Stein, a Pikesville resident and executive director of a nonprofit civic group; and Rick Yaffe, an Owings Mills business owner and volunteer firefighter.
The top three vote-getters in the primary will move on to the general election.
Patrick T. Abbondandolo of Owings Mills and Patrick V. Dyer of Timonium are the only candidates on the Republican primary ballot, and Dave Goldsmith of Woodstock will run in the general election as a Green Party candidate.