Democratic mailer riles GOP hopeful in Assembly race

House Of Delegates

Maryland Votes 2006

October 29, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

A largely subdued race for the two House of Delegates seats representing northern Harford ignited last week, as a female candidate accused her male opponent at a candidates night in Jarrettsville of being a "chauvinist."

The accusation stemmed from a mailing sent out by Democrat Craig DeRan, which had a picture of a tiara and displayed vapid phrases sometimes uttered by contestants in a beauty pageant.

"Donna Stifler talks about issues we can all agree on," it reads. "If you are competing in a beauty pageant, those are great answers. If you want to represent the 30,000 families in this district, these are not enough."

Stifler immediately posted a message on her Web site calling the mailer "the most chauvinistic, derogatory mail piece I have ever seen," and rallied supporters to attend the Jarrettsville Community Council candidates night Wednesday. She blasted DeRan during her turn to speak.

"His campaign sent out a mailing denigrating my abilities based solely on the fact that I am a woman," she told the crowd. "I resent your tactics and your attitude towards women."

DeRan largely ignored her remarks, introducing himself and his platform. He said Stifler "had nothing to say."

Afterward, he said that Stifler was misinterpreting the mailing, which he said was intended to focus on the quality of her public comments, not her gender. He said that his 12-person campaign committee features nine women, who approved and developed the mailer.

"People have asked me why they should vote for me instead of my opponents," he said. "We have to distinguish ourselves from one another."

Joining Stifler in criticizing the mailing were Republican Del. Barry Glassman and Republican Central Committee Chairman Michael A. Geppi, who called it sexist.

"You're not going to get negative mailers from Barry Glassman," Glassman told the crowd. "You can't say you're a church elder ... and then spend $60,000 to tear people down."

For Stifler, the general election was supposed to be a breeze compared with the Republican primary, where she defeated a 20-year Harford politician, Del. Joanne S. Parrott. She spent almost all of her campaign cash, while DeRan, the only Democratic candidate in a three-person race, held on to the balance of his $60,000 in contributions.

Democrats also have criticized Stifler for her testimony at the trial of a neighbor accused with sexually assaulting a child. Stifler, whose top campaign issue has been tougher penalties for child sex offenders, said she did not believe the accusations were true and that the defendant was never convicted of a sex offense.

(The man entered an Alford plea to charges of assault in August.)

Clerk of court race

Another dicey race has been for clerk of court, typically a low-key contest. Democrat Gloria Barnhardt repeatedly has charged that incumbent James J. Reilly, a Republican, spends too much time as a teacher at Harford Community College.

This week, Barnhardt provided The Sun with invoices from the college that show Reilly has taught 52 courses during courthouse hours since 2003. She also produced the state article on courts and judicial proceedings, which states that "a clerk shall devote his full working time to the duties of the clerk's office."

Reilly said Barnhardt was a reluctant candidate who is smearing him. He said while some of the courses take him out of the courthouse during the day, he takes care of court functions on the weekends and after hours.

The invoices, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Reilly was paid between $25 and $29 per hour for the courses.

District 34A race

Del. Sheryl Davis Kohl, a Republican representing District 34A, was scheduled to get a boost to her campaign yesterday with a visit from Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich. Kim Wagner, a member of the Republican Central Committee, said Ehrlich was set to visit Joppa and go door to door with Kohl.

According to a report in the Maryland Gazette, Kohl's seat is one of five Republican seats in the House that Democrats consider vulnerable. Three of them - including Kohl's - are held by an incumbent who was appointed.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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