Columbia resident Mark R. Riso, a lobbyist for a mining association in Washington, says he wants to be a "foot soldier" for county residents in the Maryland House of Delegates.
"I meet with people every day who talk about ideology, but at the delegate level, you need people to serve as foot soldiers, to go out and talk to people," said Mr. Riso, 32, a Republican newcomer to Howard County politics, in announcing his plans to run in District 14B in 1994. "It's being done some, but it needs to be done a whole lot more."
Mr. Riso said he believes legislators should make a concerted effort to involve the public, rather than waiting for citizens to approach them. Putting in time on legislation is just part of the job, he said.
"At this level, you need high energy, high enthusiasm and aggressiveness. I believe I provide those," said Mr. Riso.
He plans to follow through by contacting PTA groups in the district to see what their concerns are. "Those are organizations I'm going to wed myself to," he said.
Under the state redistricting map, which takes effect for the 1994 election, only one of two incumbents lives in District 14B, which will include part of west Columbia, much of Ellicott City, all of western Howard and a piece of Montgomery County. However, challenges to the state plan are pending in federal court.
Del. Robert H. Kittleman, a Republican representative from District 14B since 1983, lives in the redrawn district and said he intends to run for re-election.
Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Columbia resident who has represented the district since 1987, doesn't live within its redrawn boundaries. He said he's considering running for re-election in District 14B or for the Senate
District 12, pending the court decision.
"It's very difficult to make a decision until I know how the lines are finally drawn," said Mr. Flanagan. "Right now, a movement of a couple hundred yards would affect where I am."
If no changes are made to the state's redistricting map, Mr. Flanagan said he would consider moving to a residence in District 14B to continue representing the district.
County Republican and Democratic party leaders said no other challengers have announced plans to run in District 14B.
Mr. Riso will emphasize two issues in his campaign that he says residents in his community care about most -- improving education and cracking down on crime.
He said he would "fight hard" to channel more state money toward education and would work with PTAs to provide programs they feel are important.
Too much "wasteful government spending" is taking place, Mr. Riso
said, and taxes are "way too high." He said he would investigate "inefficiencies" in state government and education and work toward lowering taxes and increasing spending for school programs deemed most valuable. "It all works into one grand scheme," he said.
Mr. Riso said he wants the state to become tougher on criminals and advocates abolishing the parole system for violent criminals who commit premeditated crimes and for certain repeat offenders.
"I'm not saying I don't believe in rehabilitation, but at some point you've got to think of the citizens first," he said.
Mr. Riso said he doesn't know how to deal with jail overcrowding or rehabilitating criminals for re-entry into society, but would focus first on locking up dangerous offenders "for a long time."
Mr. Riso has yet to form a campaign committee or to register as a candidate. He estimates he'll need to raise between $15,000 and $30,000 to run a campaign.
In his first stab at local politics, Mr. Riso came in third in Hickory Ridge village's election for Columbia Council in April.
Mr. Riso said he has learned how the legislative process works and gained experience during his eight years on Capitol Hill, the last three working as government affairs manager with the American Mining Congress. From 1985 to 1990, he worked on the legislative staffs of three congressmen.
His responsibilities with the trade association include representing mining and energy interests and offering technical assistance to legislators, working with industry leaders and coalitions to determine goals and developing strategies on legislation affecting the industry.
Mr. Riso, who grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., lives with his wife, Barbara, and sons, Anthony, 2, and Nicholas, two months.
He has lived in Columbia for seven years.
He said he'd be just as willing to work on local problems -- such as
providing street lighting or improving safety for school children walking to bus stops -- as statewide issues.
"It doesn't hurt to get people involved on the state level," he said. "I don't see why everyone can't get involved regardless of jurisdiction."