Doubt, optimism on trail

In District 31, candidates of both parties confident of sweeping race for House seats

Maryland Votes 2006

4 Days Until Election Day

November 03, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

As Election Day draws near and candidates knock on doors, wave signs and speak at forums, both Republican and Democratic candidates in District 31 say they are optimistic that their party will sweep the district.

But the race could go either way in the majority-Democrat but conservative-leaning district, which covers the northeast portion of the county south to the Magothy River.

Currently, the district is represented in the House of Delegates by Democratic Del. Joan A. Cadden and Republican Del. Donald H. Dwyer, both of whom are running for re-election. The third seat was vacated by Del. John R. Leopold, the Republican candidate for county executive.

"I'm getting a good feeling that we could pick up a seat," Cadden said. "Our goal, of course, is a sweep."

"I truly believe we're going to gain all three" seats, Dwyer said.

The other candidates are: Republicans Steve Schuh and Nicholaus Kipke, and Democrats Thomas Fleckenstein and Craig Reynolds.

Schuh, a financial adviser to health care companies, leads the pack in fundraising. He has collected nearly $221,000 throughout his campaign. He is followed by Cadden, with $155,134; Dwyer, with nearly $131,000; Fleckenstein, with $96,000; Kipke, with $55,000; and Reynolds, with $18,000.

Candidates from both parties have pledged to work to end the partisan bickering in Annapolis and work with others if elected. Dwyer, however, has not made that promise.

"I'm not willing to pretend it's not partisan because it is partisan," he said. "Everyone wants to talk about how to work with the other side, but I've been there for four years getting kicked in the teeth. I'm simply willing to call a spade a spade."

Elected in 2002, Dywer, 48, has earned a reputation for being an outspoken, and sometimes abrasive, advocate for conservative issues. The Glen Burnie lawmaker has unsuccessfully fought for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and the easing of requirements to carry a handgun. None of the legislation he has sponsored in the last four years has been passed by the legislature.

Dwyer, who is executive director of the Institute on the Constitution, said that if re-elected, he would continue to fight for those two issues as well as reintroduce bills to deny illegal immigrants driver's licenses and in-state tuition to Maryland colleges.

"One thing I've learned is persistence is the key to success," he said. "I know the legislation I sponsor is the right thing to do for the citizens of Maryland."

Republican Party mailings have targeted Cadden, 64, as a "tax and spend liberal," a label she rejects.

"I'm very disappointed that my opponents have tried to severely distort my voting record," Cadden, a Brooklyn Park beautician, said. "I'm running on my record of achievement and leadership."

A four-term incumbent, Cadden is the only Anne Arundel County legislator on the House capital budget subcommittee. She also sits on panels that oversee the Chesapeake Bay watershed, pensions and juvenile justice. Among her successes, she counts securing funding for school construction and renovations and championing waterway improvements and land preservation.

"Education is my top priority," she said.

None of the challengers has held elected office, though this is the third time that Fleckenstein, an attorney and former county prosecutor, has run for delegate.

This time, though, Fleckenstein, 35, of Pasadena, said he is hoping that the predicted surge for Democrats nationwide will play a role in this race.

Fleckenstein defines his "bread and butter" campaign as talking about issues that most affect residents of the district -- property tax rates, rising utility bills and controlling and planning for growth and development.

"I'm campaigning on common-sense values. I represent the issues that matter to the families of this district," he said.

Although Republicans across the county have been campaigning on combating illegal immigration, few Democrats are taking up the issue. But according to Fleckenstein, state legislators have a role to play.

"Clearly, we have to deal with enforcing and strengthening the laws we have against illegal immigration," he said. "It's an important issue to constituents, but not the most important issue."

But Schuh, 46, of Gibson Island, said the subject is among the top concerns he hears from voters, along with taxes and values. He said he's been campaigning on a return to "traditional American values" -- which, he said, includes defining marriage as between a man and a woman and opposing abortion and embryonic stem cell research. He said that his interaction with voters leads him to believe that his views are in line with the ideals of those who live in the district.

Schuh, the top fundraiser who placed first among five Republicans in the September primary, shares some priorities with Dwyer but said that he would work in a collaborative manner.

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