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Gladden faces Park Heights activist in city's 41st District

State Sen. Lisa Gladden says her re-election campaign is about unfinished business.

The Baltimore Democrat championed repeal of the death penalty in Maryland. She cheered the state's recognition of same-sex marriage. She watched as the General Assembly passed tougher gun controls and voters affirmed in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants.

But as she looks around her Northwest Baltimore District, she still sees troubled schools, crumbling infrastructure and poverty. Her prescriptions: more affordable housing, investment in water lines and an increase in the minimum wage now — not over four years.

"It's about effectively completing what I wanted to start," said Gladden, a 49-year-old public defender seeking a fourth term in the Senate. "It's about stuff that we still want to accomplish and get completed."

Standing in her way is Will Hanna, a 43-year-old Army veteran and community activist who says change has not come quickly enough to the 41st District.

Hanna, president and CEO of the New Park Heights Community Development Corp., notes that the area has enjoyed dedicated funding since the 1970s from Pimlico Race Course, supplemented now by revenues from slot machines, but remains largely impoverished.

"There has not been enough emphasis placed on the needs of the people who need it the most," Hanna said. "Particularly in some areas, like Park Heights, Edmondson Village, we just have not seen that. … I decided, along with my wife, we were going to go after where the change needed to come from. There needed to be some leadership in the district."

Hanna, who has a marketing business, has lent his campaign $51,000 for the June 24 Democratic primary. At last report, he still had $43,000 on hand. Gladden was running a deficit of $39,000.

On Friday, a county attorney in Texas accused Hanna of stealing his car there six years ago. Guadalupe County Attorney David Willborn told The Baltimore Sun that Hanna borrowed his 1994 Jaguar Vanden Plas and then attempted to buy it. But Hanna's check for $5,000 bounced, Willborn said, and he never returned the car or paid for it.

Hanna blamed a misunderstanding. He said the car was purchased by his company, the Hanna Marketing Group, and he knew nothing of a bounced check until Willborn contacted him two months ago. He said he would make restitution to Willborn "swiftly and appropriately." Willborn said Hanna has promised restitution before.

Among the unfinished business Gladden sees is the minimum wage. The General Assembly agreed this year to raise the hourly rate in Maryland from $7.25 to $10.10 over four years. Gladden says it should be $10.10 now.

"I just think we should move forward and quickly," she said. "We need to make sure families have enough money to put breakfast on the table. And you can't do that in 2065, or whatever the year is. I know that the business community wants us to slow-walk the issue. But we can't do that."

Hanna agrees on raising the minimum wage. He speaks also of introducing legislation that would protect homeowners from losing their homes over utility bills, that would impose caps on the amounts utilities can charge, and that would cap the amount local jurisdictions can assess in property taxes.

Hanna says he served as an intelligence analyst in the Army. Working on projects for Iraq, Kuwait and Somalia, he says, he learned to gauge the 20 functional specialties that all cities need.

"I understand what the needs are," he said. "If I can do it for other countries overseas, I can do it for my own neighborhood. We don't have people shooting at us. We just have to make sure we have the right leadership in place."

Gladden speaks of creating a plan to repair aging infrastructure in Baltimore and other communities, modeled on the $1 billion city schools plan approved by the General Assembly last year.

"I know there's a way to do it," she said. "We can do an infrastructure revitalization for the entire state, but more importantly for the older communities like Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County that have been around a while and just don't have the funds to fix what we have."

But Gladden is concerned about the city's waning influence in Annapolis as it loses a senator to redistricting. She's looking to the community to fill the gap.

"Because our delegation is getting smaller, we need to create the 'seventh senator' in Baltimore," she said. "We want the seventh senator — who would be the community who comes to Annapolis, who testifies, who calls us. ... I really believe if we fight for Baltimore in the next session, and if we fight in all ways we can ... I think we'd get a better city."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

twitter.com/matthewhaybrown

The candidates

Lisa Gladden

Age: 49

Job: Public defender; three-term state senator

Family: Single

Will Hanna

Age: 43

Job: President and CEO, New Park Heights Community Development Corp.

Family: Married, five children, three grandchildren

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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