Del. Bobo throws support behind Klein over incumbent Sigaty

Downtown Columbia redevelopment becoming major issue in race

August 19, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Democrat Alan Klein received some significant support Tuesday as Del. Elizabeth Bobo formally endorsed his primary challenge to incumbent Mary Kay Sigaty for a seat on the Howard County Council.

The Sept. 14 primary contest in West Columbia's District 4 race is the latest fallout from the County Council's February approval of new zoning to allow the three-decade redevelopment of downtown Columbia, which Bobo represents in the Maryland House of Delegates.

The announcement, made to reporters over iced tea on the quiet deck of Bobo's Columbia home, formalized the support she acknowledged she'd been giving Klein all along. But the former county executive and four-term state lawmaker said she wanted to wait for Klein's campaign to get rolling and to see "how it caught on."

"It has caught on very well," Bobo said. "He's picking up a lot of votes and volunteers." She hopes her public acknowledgment of the support she's quietly been providing his campaign will "give him an additional boost" in the final four weeks until the primary election.

Klein, who sat by Bobo's side as she spoke, said the announcement was "wonderful. We've been working closely together," he said. "There's nobody else's support I was more eager for."

Sigaty said later that the move came as no surprise to her. "I think it was very clear she was helping Alan all along," she said.

Sigaty was endorsed by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and by several legislators from District 13, including state Sen. James N. Robey, himself a former county executive, and Dels. Frank Turner, Shane Pendergrasas and Guy Guzzone. Guzzone is a former County Council member.

Bobo said her action was not personal, and Turner said it would not likely create a rift among Democrats in the general election. "I'm not upset," Turner said. "I just think Mary Kay Sigaty is a better candidate. You're not going to agree on everything," he added, saying that he knows and likes Alan Klein too.

Ulman agreed that after the primary, "we'll come together."

Bobo said the disagreement over the rezoning unanimously approved by the council is what caused her to support Klein, though both he and Bobo strongly supported Sigaty in 2006, when Sigaty won her first term in office.

She said the plan that the council approved was too developer-friendly and lacked enough specific guarantees for the public, like the exact site for a new school if one is needed, sites for other public facilities, provisions for a possible new interchange with U.S. 29, and guarantees for low-income housing and funds for infrastructure costs like parking garages.

Bobo said that although she has no vote on zoning, decisions made on the downtown Columbia plan would reverberate countywide and in Annapolis when it comes to state financing of road projects, schools and other items.

"Although it can be called the Columbia downtown development, it's a microcosm of everything the council does," because it involves decisions on land use, transportation, schools, environmental protection, housing and more, Bobo said.

Sigaty said the council accepted the elected school board's judgment that it is too soon to designate a specific school site, or to make detailed plans for a new highway interchange. The approved, heavily amended plan contains guarantees, she said, that the full 5,500 units of proposed housing won't be built if traffic exceeds preset levels, or if infrastructure isn't available when needed. A fiscal impact study predicted added revenues for the county.

"It's much too early for it [the interchange] to be on the county's list of priorities," Sigaty said,

In campaign finance reports due Tuesday, Klein reported raising $9,218 since starting his effort. He had $7,322 on hand. Sigaty reported raising $23,060 since January and having $29,528 on hand.

Bobo said she and Klein may occasionally campaign together, but she didn't plan on giving him money from her $60,113 on hand. Bobo also has a primary election opponent in John Bailey, who reported having $338 on hand after raising $3,840 since January.

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