Growth is race's focus

Rural, suburban-area candidates debate development, BRAC plans

District 33

Maryland Votes 2006

11 Days Until Nov. 7

October 27, 2006|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,Sun reporter

Whether on Lothian farmland, Deale waterfront or the busy suburbs of Severna Park and Crofton, growth is the "It" issue in the House District 33A and 33B races.

In the scenic south, the goal is to block growth - such as the proposed Target shopping plaza - even if some people think they're blocking progress.

In the north and west, facing traffic woes and the expansion of Fort Meade, they're debating how to manage the coming changes - especially when it comes to housing, schools and transportation.

The rural-suburban divide is why Maryland lawmakers split District 33, reserving two House of Delegates seats for the upper portion and one for the less populous southern portion.

In 33A, Del. Tony McConkey is running for re-election against fellow Republican James King and two Democrats, Paul Rudolph and Patricia Weathersbee. In 33B, Democratic environmental activist Mike Shay is challenging one-term Republican Del. Robert Costa, a career county firefighter.

Costa, 49, of Deale criticized his opponent as too narrowly focused on preventing large development projects. During his term, he said, two school and nine road construction projects in the county were approved.

Six of Costa's bills passed the legislature this year, including laws that require assisted-living facilities to have backup generators in case of a disaster (like 2003's Tropical Storm Isabel) and allow people with developmental disabilities to qualify for a tax credit and home improvement grants so they can stay in their homes after their parents die.

"I have a record as an incumbent, not a partisan," Costa said. "This is not a single-issue legislature. We have to deal with taxes, health care and the environment. You've got to represent everyone equally, including seniors and veterans."

Acknowledging the groundswell of opposition to the proposed Target in Wayson's Corner, he said the ball's in the county's court, not the state's. But he added he's urged representatives of the State Highway Administration and Department of the Environment to be thorough in their reviews of the project.

A moderate, Costa said the Maryland Farm Bureau endorsed him. He has raised nearly $25,000, according to campaign finance reports filed this week with the state Board of Elections.

He and Shay are single fathers. The legislator jokingly called his opponent one of his "high-maintenance constituents."

Shay, 56, an independent contractor and carpenter who lives in Churchton, has fought to preserve public lands and prevent "big box" retail projects from encroaching on South County.

As one of the founders of the grassroots group South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development , he spoke of its success in stopping Safeway from building a grocery store in Deale in the late 1990s, a battle that went all the way to the State House. He also praised the group for saving 500 acres of Franklin Point wetlands from becoming the site of a major housing development.

"My work is about empowering communities so they are sustainable," Shay said. "Unchecked growth pollutes our bay. And our communities need to keep the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker in the rural countryside."

The "Keep South County Rural" message is also broadcast on WRYR, 97.5 FM, the low-power radio station he helped launch with SACRED.

His campaign has raised about $23,000, he said.

In District 33A, McConkey is the sole incumbent; fellow Republican Del. David G. Boschert didn't run for re-election to pursue a bid this fall for county executive. He lost in September's primary.

The 42-year-old real estate broker was sued this week by a Pasadena woman for foreclosure rescue fraud after he tried to evict her.

"I feel I did everything correctly, and I have 50 pieces of notarized paper to show for it," he said. "Circumstances and documents support my version of events. Anybody can say anything about anyone in a filing."

Earlier in his career, McConkey agreed to be disbarred from the practice of law after a failed land deal in the 1980s. He was also charged twice with battery, charges which were later dropped.

He's since said that the past is behind him, and at a candidates' debate on Tuesday stressed that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. needs more party support in the General Assembly. Ehrlich failed to secure passage of his signature slots bill to legalize gambling in some venues, and also faced veto overrides in several showdowns with the Democrat-majority House and Senate.

"Democrats have taken us in the wrong direction under Gov. Ehrlich," McConkey said. "We need more conservative-minded people. ... I'm proud to say I voted every time against new taxes."

The Severna Park resident, married with one young son, said he is concerned with "illegal aliens and overcrowded schools." His stance on other social issues also leans right, and he has won the backing of the National Rifle Association and anti-abortion groups.

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