Incumbent locked in tough race

Maryland Votes 2006

7 Days until Election Day

October 31, 2006|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

His opponents have included community activists, a veteran incumbent councilman and a former three-term state delegate, but he's always ended up on top.

Now Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina says he's in one of the toughest races of his career. In the most closely watched contest in the county this year, the Democratic incumbent is seeking an unprecedented fifth term on the council - with former Councilman Wayne M. Skinner standing in his way.

"Perry Hall is littered with bodies of those who run against Vince Gardina," said David S. Marks, a Perry Hall Republican and Skinner supporter. "He is an extremely intelligent, tenacious and very tough opponent."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section yesterday gave an incomplete description of the political background of Republican Baltimore County Council candidate Wayne M. Skinner. In addition to being elected to the council in 1998 and serving on the Democratic Central Committee, he ran unsuccessfully for County Council in 1986.

Gardina and Skinner are vying to represent the council's 5th District, which stretches from Towson through Perry Hall to the eastern edge of the county.

Gardina won four years ago in the district, which when redrawn pitted him against Skinner, who had served a term in what had been a neighboring district. Skinner lost to former Del. James F. Ports Jr. in the Republican primary, and Gardina eked out a victory over Ports in the general election.

This year's race has focused on school crowding and development, as the northeast area continues to see some of the most rapid growth in the county.

Skinner, 52, deputy director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, said it is time for a change.

He faulted the government for not buying land for a new school before the growth took place. "It's irresponsible planning," he said.

He said he would propose legislation to impose building moratoriums near all schools that exceed their state-rated capacity and keep them in place until new schools were built.

Skinner, who served on the Democratic Central Committee in the 1980s before switching parties, describes himself as a moderate Republican.

Skinner grew up in the county and has long been an activist in his neighborhood of Loch Raven Village. In his first try at public office, he won the council seat vacated by Douglas B. Riley in 1998.

Skinner said that while campaigning this year he has been told repeatedly that people are frustrated with the county's development process, which he said is "skewed toward developers."

He proposes creating a government office whose employees would explain to residents the various approval steps and how communities can participate in planning. He said he would also work to move government meetings to evening hours to make it easier for residents to attend. And he would work to cut back on the practice of allowing developers to give the county money in lieu of open-space requirements.

"There are a lot of Democrats with Skinner signs in their yard," he said. "I don't play party politics. It's `Get the job done.'"

Marks, the incoming president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, called Skinner a "down-to-earth" consensus builder. "He truly hates negative politics," Marks said. "I think he embodies the best in public service."

Gardina, 51, was first elected to the council in 1990, after defeating veteran incumbent Norman W. Lauenstein in the Democratic primary. He is a former county police officer and environmental engineer who teaches science at Baltimore Lutheran School.

Gardina said he wants to see through several projects, including the construction of a new northeast elementary school, and, he hopes, the planning of a new high school.

He is known as something of a maverick on the consensus-driven council, sometimes putting forth proposals that draw questions from his colleagues, particularly on school crowding. In the past year, he has publicly criticized the school board for refusing to redraw district boundaries to even out school enrollments.

"Some elected officials, whether it be council people or some others, are more comfortable being in the position and trying not to create waves," said Gardina, who defeated community activist Kathy Reiner Martin in the Democratic primary. "I look at it as a responsibility given to me by people to be aggressive on issues."

Mike Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said that Gardina knows what can and can't get done and doesn't "sugarcoat" things.

"I think sometimes he comes off as smug about things, and I think that hurts him sometimes," Ertel said. "I think people interpret that as he doesn't care about their problems, but I know he does. Sometimes when you've been working for 15 years as a councilman, you know what you're up against."

Gardina said he wants to expand a program that requires landlords to register residential rental properties with the county and subject them to inspection.

He said he also wants to help usher in the redevelopment of the downtown area of Towson.

5th District candidates


Vincent J. Gardina





Perry Hall


Bachelor's degree in geography and environmental planning, University of Maryland Baltimore County; bachelor's degree in computer science, University of Baltimore; master's in environmental engineering, Johns Hopkins University.


Science teacher at Baltimore Lutheran School; adjunct professor at Towson University.

Political experience:

Elected to council in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002.


Wayne M. Skinner





Loch Raven Village


Associate's degree in criminal justice, Essex Community College; bachelor's degree in general studies, Towson University; master's degree in public administration, University of Baltimore.


Deputy director, state Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Political experience:

Elected to Democratic Central Committee in 1982, elected to council in 1998.

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