Primary challenger offers a conservative approach


In a state legislative district that was considered a Democratic stronghold in the 1980s, Lisbon-area resident John B. Clark offers proof that Republicans have turned the tables.

Republican Dels. Robert L. Flanagan and Robert H. Kittleman have become entrenched incumbents, Mr. Clark contends, and he says his conservative thinking is more in tune with west county voters.

Using the campaign motto "John Is Different," Mr. Clark, 62, last week launched his challenge for one of the district's two delegate seats in the Sept. 13 Republican primary.

Only one Democrat, Lyndon LaRouche supporter Bushrod Hopkins, has filed for the District 14B seat, which covers western Howard County, most of Ellicott City and part of Montgomery County.

Mr. Clark, a 62-year-old insurance broker and retired Defense Department technical adviser, has made crime, education and strengthening the family priorities on his agendas, and has accused incumbents of not doing enough about them.

"There's an intertwining of all these things, and I just don't feel that the General Assembly and the Howard delegation have really wrestled with these issues effectively," Mr. Clark said.

He attributes his entry into the county's political arena in part to getting no action out of the county delegation when he proposed legislation that would impose mandatory penalties for use or possession of a firearm in a crime.

Mr. Clark said his approach deals with gun control much better than the ban on "assault pistols" passed this year, which he called a token bill that did little to stop gun violence. The bill did set a precedent, he said, that is "only a step along the way to the total banning of firearms."

Del. Flanagan said the impression that the delegation was uncaring about his proposal comes from Mr. Clark being unfamiliar with the process.

"The purpose of the delegation is to vote on local bills," Mr. Flanagan said. "The delegation does not act as a body either supporting or opposing statewide bills, so the comment by Mr. Clark really indicates that he doesn't understand the process."

"If he had asked me, I would have told him to come down and testify before the Judiciary Committee," Mr. Flanagan said.

Mr. Kittleman added that the idea was not new, having been proposed annually by House Minority Leader Ellen Sauerbrey.

Mr. Clark also said he believes the government needs to examine social policies that provide "incentive to do things that are destructive to families." As an example, he cited rules that strip families of welfare benefits when the father lives in the home or if a member of the household gets a job.

If elected, Mr. Clark said he will work for a two-term limit on all members of the General Assembly, to put them on a par with the term-limited governor's job.

He said he will limit himself to two terms, "whether or not the law is passed. I'm not going to be a hypocrite like some others."

Mr. Kittleman, who proposed a constitutional amendment limiting delegates and senators to three terms, now is running for a fourth term.

"If everybody that wants term limits decides to get out, we're never going to get them," Mr. Kittleman said.

On the issue of abortion, Mr. Clark said he considers abortions to be murder. The only exception he could morally support is when the mother's life could be saved by the loss of a fetus.

In announcing his candidacy, Mr. Clark said he was encouraged by the General Assembly's passage of a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from desecration, but was "saddened to note that the 14B incumbents did not support this resolution."

Mr. Flanagan and Mr. Kittleman said they consider resolutions to the U.S. Congress to be a waste. Mr. Kittleman said he opposed the resolution "because I really don't want to fill the prisons up with those people. I think we've got too many nonviolent people in prisons right now."

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