Ex-union leader takes on Harris in Senate race

Former teachers group chief Foerster raises stem cells as issue

Maryland Votes 2006

6 Days Until Election Day

November 01, 2006|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris isn't just facing a Democratic challenger with name recognition and financial support.

On this Sunday afternoon, he's competing against the Ravens. As he makes his rounds with his daughters, knocking on the doors of Cockeysville voters, Harris keeps his interruption of the tackles and touchdowns to less than 30 seconds.

"At this point, it's about getting out the vote," he says.

But it's also a chance to see how well he and other Republicans are faring against Democratic candidates in the 7th District, which stretches from Middle River to Cockeysville and includes parts of Harford County, and where Democrats have only a slight edge in voter registration. Harris' challenge comes from Pat Foerster, the former president of the Maryland State Teachers Association.

In late spring, with her time as union president nearing an end because of term limits, Foerster, a 66-year-old former special-education teacher, decided to run for elected office, she said.

"I came to realize that I had some skills at getting things done, developing common-sense solutions and creating momentum," said Foerster. "I want to be in a place where I can continue to work on the welfare of children."

If elected, Foerster, a divorced mother of four with 11 grandchildren, said she'd also work to boost the local economy and improve the district's infrastructure, such as roads.

"We need to get serious about mass transit," she said, adding that she favors giving more incentives to companies that allow employees to telecommute.

She has also been out knocking on doors.

Foerster said she had watched Harris from the state Senate's galley over the years and has been puzzled by some of his stances. But, she said, "The one that really got me was his filibuster against [embryonic] stem cell research.

"It caught my eye. It caught my heart," she said.

Harris, a Johns Hopkins obstetrics anesthesiologist and one of the few physicians in the General Assembly, said he has seen no research that concludes embryonic stem cell research would work. "The promise is really in adult and umbilical cord stem cell research," said Harris. "The science is pretty complex."

Harris, a father of five, said he will work to reduce school overcrowding. And he said that if elected, he would make sure that transportation projects, such as the widening of Interstate 95, are completed.

But, he said, "I feel Marylanders are taxed enough."

Harris also said he favors a constitutional amendment to "protect marriage between a man and a woman."

Harris won his seat with 61 percent of the vote in 1998, defeating a former parole officer, and he defeated then-Sen. Diane DeCarlo four years ago with 58 percent of the vote in a redrawn district.

Foerster had $42,000 on hand, according to the most recent campaign filings. While that might be a respectable amount for a first-time candidate, it is a fraction of Harris' account. He had $334,000 to spend in the waning days of the campaign, according to the financial reports.

But Harris is accusing Foerster of violating state campaign laws that allow political action committees and slates to spend what they want in a race, as long as the expenditures are "uncoordinated," meaning the candidate isn't involved.

For example, Harris estimates that the Democratic leadership has spent more than $100,000 for five mailings critical of him.

Foerster denies violating any law, saying she has no knowledge of such mailings. But, she said, she's not surprised that Harris' voting record is under attack. "People care our students are in overcrowded schools. They care about stem cell research," she said.

Harris is also criticizing Foerster's decision not to debate him on the radio this week.

Foerster said she was game to debate several weeks ago. At this point, Foerster said, the events she has planned in the final days of her campaign are more important than a debate.

In the House race, Dels. Richard K. Impallaria and J.B. Jennings are seeking second terms, while Del. Patrick L. McDonough, who served in the House from 1979 to 1983 and was elected again in 2002, seeks a third term.

The Democratic challengers are Linda W. Hart, a 63-year-old courts employee from Middle River; Rebecca L. Nelson, a 45-year-old media specialist from Middle River; and Jack Sturgill, a 57-year-old Glen Arm lawyer.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

7th DISTRICT CANDIDATES

State Senate

Democrat

Name:

Pat Foerster

Age:

66

Address:

Cockeysville

Education:

Central Michigan University, 1961; masters in special education, Loyola College, 1973

Occupation:

Former special-education teacher and former president of the Maryland State Teachers Association

Political experience:

Served as president of the teachers union for six years, served as vice president for seven years, served as delegate to Democratic National Convention twice.

Name:

Andrew P. Harris

Republican

Age:

49

Address:

Cockeysville

Education:

Johns Hopkins University, 1977; master's, 1995; medical degree, 1980

Occupation:

Obstetrics anesthesiologist

Political experience:

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