Republicans voters in the 30th District will choose between a well-financed, longtime political activist with connections to the Reagan administration and a lawyer campaigning on a shoestring when they vote for their state Senate nominee in the Sept. 13 primary.
Mary M. Rose, clerk of the court for Anne Arundel County, is facing Robert J. O'Neill, who heads a financial consulting firm and a board games manufacturing and distribution company. The winner will confront Democrat John C. Astle, a former delegate who is running unopposed for his party's nomination to the seat being vacated by Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad.
Mrs. Rose, 48, who lives in Bay Ridge, south of Annapolis, upset veteran Democrat H. Erle Schafer as part of a slate of Republicans elected in 1990. She began making waves her first day on the job by demanding that three senior clerks either resign or be fired.
Although the clerks protested, they left and eventually dropped their civil rights complaints. Mrs. Rose, who has been active in the GOP for 24 years, offers the incident as proof that she can make tough decisions and stick by them.
Mrs. Rose was co-chairwoman in 1980 of Ronald Reagan's Anne Arundel presidential campaign and was appointed to a number of administrative positions during the Reagan presidency, including director of White House personnel and deputy undersecretary for management in the U.S. Department of Education.
In the mid-1980s, she was aligned with a conservative group of Republicans that vied for control of the state party.
She was the chairwoman of the county's Republican Central Committee in 1990 and was given an award for helping to strengthen the party.
In this campaign, Mrs. Rose is emphasizing the need for government to make priorities for its spending.
"Money is the power behind every issue," she said.
As clerk of the court, she supervises a staff of 88 employees and a budget of $3.5 million.
When she took over, she said, the department was operating in the red and the backlog of cases had piled up.
She said she has found ways to cut costs and has been able to return a budget surplus of more than $1.3 million to the state treasury during her tenure.
She promised that if elected, she would scrutinize the budgets of government agencies and ask officials to account for their spending.
She faults the state for relying on taxes and gambling to balance the budget and says she would focus on business development instead.
Mrs. Rose is one of the best-financed candidates running for the General Assembly this year. She has raised more than $41,000 and spent nearly $32,000, campaign disclosure forms show.
By contrast, Mr. O'Neill had spent $500 of his own money to pay for cable television advertising and had only $50 left in the bank, according to his last campaign financing report.
Mr. O'Neill, who lives on Broadview Drive, has been a county resident for 13 years.
He is a lawyer who specializes in commercial and domestic law. He also is chairman of the Alacrity Corp., a financial consulting firm, and is the head of Hammerhead Enterprises, a board game manufacturer and distributor.
Mr. O'Neill said he decided to run for office because the seat was open and he thought he could make a contribution.
"I'm a pro-business candidate and individual-rights candidate," he said.
He opposes the state's efforts to outlaw smoking in the workplace, supports the building of the $160 million, 78-600 seat Redskins stadium in Laurel and favors the creation of a government board to review the impact legislation would have on business.
Mr. O'Neill said he supports tougher sentencing for repeat offenders and violent criminals who use guns.
Aside from their backgrounds, the clearest difference between Mr. O'Neill and Mrs. Rose is their views on abortion. Mr. O'Neill favors abortion rights, Mrs. Rose opposes abortion.
Although neither candidate considers abortion an issue in the campaign, their contest is one of three Senate races being monitored by Planned Parenthood of Maryland.
Officials with Planned Parenthood say they are concerned that the election of anti-abortion candidates could lead to a curtailing of abortion rights in the state and hamper efforts to win Medicaid funding of abortions.
Mrs. Rose said she has no intention of trying to curtail abortion if elected.
"I'd like to prioritize my efforts in preventing the unwanted pregnancies to begin with," she said.
Mrs. Rose says she already is focusing her attention on the general election, questioning Mr. Astle's leadership and accomplishments during his 12 years in the House of Delegates.
rTC Mr. Astle easily won his last three elections and has long been considered a favorite to replace Mr. Winegrad. A Vietnam veteran, Mr. Astle is a colonel in the Marine Reserves and flies MedEvac helicopters for Washington Hospital System.
"What has he done to show he can be a leader?" she asked. "He's a very nice man, but is he the man for the job?"