Democrats see shifting demographics

Ninth District

October 29, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,sun reporter

Democrats Rich Corkran and David Osmundson hope their idealism and energy will put them in the Maryland General Assembly, but the numbers in District 9 could tell another story.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in District 9, which shares a portion of the state Senate district with Carroll County.

Corkran is running for state Senate, and Osmundson is eyeing a seat in the House of Delegates.

"I'm optimistic, otherwise I would have dropped out," said Corkran, a 59-year-old high school teacher from Ellicott City.

County Democratic leaders believe the demographics of the historically Republican district have changed, helped in large part by one of its biggest issues - growth.

"As we are seeing, the demographics are changing, and while it is still largely Republican, you are getting a lot of people there who are of a different persuasion. ... They are coming in, and they are not wearing an `R'," said county Democratic Party Chairman Michael McPherson, who also is banking on the increasing number of independent voters.

In a district in which growth, transportation and schools are considered key issues among candidates, Corkran is running against incumbent Allan H. Kittleman.

An attorney, Kittleman is married with four children and lives in West Friendship. Unopposed in last month's primary, he was appointed to the Senate in October 2004 to fill the vacancy of his late father, Robert Kittleman. Allan Kittleman previously served six years on the Howard County Council.

Kittleman believes his understanding of county issues, political experience and the nurturing of his father make him the ideal candidate.

Corkran, who is married with two children and lives in Ellicott City, is a political newcomer. He decided to run for state Senate because he said Kittleman is not representing all of District 9.

"He's still with the [Howard County Council] District 5, and he thinks that's it. But it's more than that in the [legislative] district," Corkran said.

Kittleman defended his tenure as a state legislator. "I have responded to my constituents wherever they live," he said. "There are always a few people upset, no matter what you do."

Kittleman said he would like to continue tackling issues of school funding, growth and transportation.

"Looking at Route 32, we need to make improvements on that. ... We need to focus on transportation and making our state roads improved for safety and congestion," he said.

Kittleman credits part of his success to the district Republicans in the house - Dels. Warren E. Miller and Gail H. Bates.

"They complement each other very well," said Brian Harlin, Howard County's GOP chairman. "They work together to get things done. If one can't get it done, the other one can."

Kittleman said he supported legislation that fought eminent-domain tussles, backed by his fellow Republicans in the district.

"Government should not take private property and give to another private entity for better economic development. I was a Republican leader in the Senate on that issue," Kittleman said.

Kittleman recently took a charitable stance that, according to some, made him a political Santa Claus. He released more than half of his $95,000 campaign purse to help fund other Republican candidates.

"I believed I should help the candidates that are doing a good job," Kittleman said.

Corkran, who acknowledged that his campaign funding does not compare to that of his opponent, says he is "the lightly funded novice" who wants to give voters an option on Election Day.

"In a democracy, there should always be a choice," he said.

Corkran said that as a state senator he would tackle funding for older schools, lower the cost of higher education and bring fiscal responsibility to Annapolis.

Osmundson, of Sykesville, is hoping to snatch a seat from Bates or Miller. Osmundson said that if elected he would give his delegate's salary of $43,000 to charity.

A 65-year-old retired National Security Agency employee, Osmundson agrees with the Republican incumbents that Route 32 should be widened to make the heavily traveled road safer.

But he blames past policymakers for not taking action on the issue earlier.

"What should have happened 30 years ago was to look at increasing [commuter] trains in the area so we could have development in Howard County and not create overcrowded roads," he said.

Osmundson, who is married, is not a political novice. In 1995, he ran unsuccessfully for the 6th District congressional seat.

Bates, 60, married with two sons, said her job as a certified public accountant gives her the knowledge to tackle financial issues such as tax cuts for seniors, which is being discussed in Howard County.

"Seniors are the people who tend to volunteer, and they don't demand a lot in services. So why not give them a benefit for living here," said the West Friendship resident.

Bates said she considers education, the funding and safety of roads, and congestion and lack of parking on Ellicott City's Main Street important issues.

"We need a bond bill for a parking garage for Ellicott City," she said. "It's a wonderful part of Howard County, but it's landlocked. Some of the businesses in Ellicott City are not happy about that, and they understand the need for a parking lot."

Miller, 42, who is married with two children, was appointed to the state delegation in March 2003. Since then, the Woodbine resident said he has been active in education issues and partnering with district Republicans.

Miller said he wants to tackle the issues of overcrowding on state roads, tax relief for Howard County seniors and Kittleman's efforts to restrict eminent domain.

"I support Kittleman on that issue. We don't want the county government taking private property and then giving it away for private use," he said.

Sun reporter Laura McCandlish contributed to this article.

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