Wagner roast has choice of beef, political goodwill


If you had a problem with government yesterday, Kurtz's Pleasure Beach in Pasadena was the place to be.

Ticked off about taxes?

State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein was standing by the entrance, jawing about this year's returns.

Traffic tie-ups upset you?

You could have talked to Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer. He was over near the waterfront.

If crime was your concern, you could have approached Police Chief Robert Russell or Anne Arundel County Sheriff Robert Peppersack. Both were about somewhere.

In all, 2,000 people came out to Kurtz's family-owned picnic grounds and catering hall for state Sen. Michael J. Wagner's 12th annual bull and oyster roast.

The roast has become something of a political cornerstone in North County, attracting hundreds of politicians, political gadflies, political hopefuls and others with perhaps a little more sanity.

"It's really an effort to keep the organization together, share in the camaraderie, show some strength and let people have a good time while they're doing it," said Thomas Riggin, head of the county liquor board and coordinator of the event.

The day's sun-filled skies and mild temperatures didn't hurt either, he said.

Friends, fans and lobbyists shelled out $25 for the beer, the food and the company. There was music, prizes and karaoke.

Each year, organizers try to do something different, such as offering hot-air balloon demonstrations or boat rides. This year there were personalized buttons, with guests photographed and then getting their photos laminated on buttons.

Year to year, Mr. Riggin said, the strategy seems to work: Senator Wagner, a Democrat, has run unopposed in the last two elections in Arundel's District 32.

"Mike always does it up right," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a 31st District Democrat and a longtime political ally, as he scanned the throngs near the entrance gate. "He must be doing something right. Every year he gets good weather."

The guest list had its share of those who've had their own political buttons, including former County Executive Joseph Alton and most of the county's state senators, delegates and County Council members.

Understandably, much of the talk was of things political. This spring's casual complaints to a state senator can be fodder for next winter's legislative session, said the host.

"Before this is over, I'll have heard from 50 people about their concerns, and that's what it's all about. This is where you make your contacts," said Mr. Wagner, a state legislator since 1975 who owns Michael's Eighth Avenue banquet hall. "It keeps you in touch with the community."

The event will raise about $20,000 for the his war chest, Mr. Wagner said.

That too operates as both a show of strength and a community connection.

Each year, the campaign donates funds to area Little Leagues, drum majorette groups and a range of civic groups in the senator's district, which includes the Ferndale, Linthicum and Glen Burnie areas.

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