2 first-time candidates seek council seat in 3rd District

Democrat Terrasa, Republican Thewes say partisan vote unlikely

Maryland Votes 2006

October 15, 2006|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,sun reporter

With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans nearly 2-1, and strong backing from a popular incumbent, Democrat Jen Terrasa enjoys some enviable advantages in her quest to succeed Guy Guzzone on the Howard County Council.

But Terrasa, 37, a lawyer without any political experience, isn't overconfident.

"It's a moderate district with a highly intelligent population. I don't think they're just going to vote party line," Terrasa said.

Republican Donna Thewes, 47, another first-time candidate, is betting on that.

An outgoing community activist with 18 years of work in county schools as a police-community liaison and an all-around advocate for North Laurel, where residents often complain they feel neglected by government, Thewes is running hard. She's a political moderate who says she is not interested in partisan agendas.

"I've knocked on more than 8,000 doors in over a year," Thewes said. "We're about issues and voting for the candidate," not a political party.

"I want to talk drainage, sidewalks, making sure you can get home to spend time with your kids. Do you really think I've got George W. [Bush] on my speed dial? I never met the man," she said.

She added: "I don't have any interest to promote the Republican agenda. I'm running on 18 years of working for this community."

The district elected Republican Dennis R. Schrader to the council in 1994, and his wife, Sandra B. Schrader, is the Republican state senator for the area.

"We won our campaigns by door-to-door work and being involved in the community," Dennis Schrader said. "Donna's running a terrific campaign. She helped me from the very beginning on the U.S. 1 revitalization effort. The good news is it's an open slot," referring to the fact that eight-year incumbent Democrat Guy Guzzone is running for the House of Delegates this year.

Redistricting in 2001 shifted the boundary lines slightly northward, adding more strong Democratic precincts in east Columbia north of Route 32, while dropping a few less predictable ones farther south. The district covers the county's southeastern corner, including Owen Brown, Kings Contrivance, North Laurel, Savage and Guilford.

"The district has gotten more Democratic," Guzzone said. But he agreed that the election is not about political party.

"We're focusing on the quality of life in this community - making sure this community continues to be a success," he said about local Democrats.

Both candidates said there's no mystery about the top concerns of voters: traffic congestion and development.

"Trying to get around on Route 32 or [U.S.] Route 29. Traffic is a huge issue," Thewes said.

She also said that property taxes are a hot issue. "What [homeowners] bring up overwhelmingly is their property tax," Thewes said. Even with Howard's 5 percent cap on assessment growth each year, middle-income families in the southeastern county are struggling to meet higher costs for energy, health care, food, day care and taxes, she said.

"Their pay hasn't gone up. Everything else is going up, and businesses are scaling back on benefits. People are struggling to make ends meet," she said.

Terrasa, who has been endorsed by unions representing county teachers, police and firefighters, said she's encountered interest in infill development - the placing of large homes on small, leftover lots.

She said people worry about losing grassy areas near their homes to infill. "They want somebody watching out for them."

The county needs to look at regulations on infill, she said.

But the big issue, she agreed, is traffic.

"People are endlessly concerned about traffic," Terrasa said.

At a recent North Laurel Community Association forum at Murray Hill Middle School, both women talked about local concerns - a possible indoor community swimming pool at the new North Laurel Park, the need for more police officers, sidewalks and covered bus shelters.

Terrasa said affordable housing shouldn't be concentrated along U.S. 1.

Thewes said the North Laurel area has been neglected by county government for years and the federal base realignment process, called BRAC, could bring with it "a lot of scary things," especially more traffic. "You have to look at roads," she said. U.S. 1 "can't handle the traffic it has now."

Terrasa, a lawyer and law school instructor, is a former homeowners association president, Kings Contrivance Village Board member and member of the county planning board. She grew up in Howard County, graduating from Oakland Mills High school.

"I have a lot of experience in the county but not a lot of experience in politics," said the mother of three young children.

Thewes substitutes in county schools and worked for more than three years as a police-community liaison in North Laurel. She has three children, age 18 to 21, and now has more time for community activities.

"I never planned to run for elective office," she said, but she considered it when she realized Guzzone, who she said did a good job, was leaving the post.

For her part, Terrasa said running for office has been a new but enjoyable experience.

"It's like the first year of law school - a whole new language," she said.


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.