2 political novices vie for 2nd District County Council seat


Democrat James "Ed" DeGrange Sr. is handing out refrigerator magnets as he campaigns for the 2nd District County Council seat. Arthur C. Emge, his Republican opponent, is handing out business cards.

Mr. DeGrange, whose family name hangs in huge block letters on the front of a hardware store where his opponent sometimes shops, is part of a large, well-organized ticket. Mr. Emge is TC organizing groups of his friends to go door to door. He has been outspent by Mr. DeGrange by a ratio of about 50-to-1.

But Mr. Emge believes he can win. His no-frills campaign demonstrates the kind of councilman he can be, he said, one who gets the job done without parting with a lot of money.

And Mr. DeGrange says magnets and money aside, he wants to do the best for his community.

Both candidates are mounting their first political races, both have business backgrounds and histories of community service.

Mr. DeGrange, 45, is vice president of his family's lumber company and has been a Maryland State Lottery commissioner since 1991, reviewing contracts and procedures. He also has been on the board of directors of Glen Burnie Mutual Savings Bank since 1984.

He has served in the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, the Rotary Club of Glen Burnie, and on the boards of Take Back Our Street Inc., the Salvation Army and the North Arundel Hospital Foundation.

Mr. Emge, 55, is the vice president and general manager of Cox Creek Refining Co. in Baltimore. He has worked in several areas in heavy industry, including production schedules, environmental compliance, safety and personnel.

He has volunteered with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and worked as a lay evangelist. But his heart has been in the Harundale-Oakwood Park Civic Association, trying to stretch its $15,000 budget to provide neighborhood services in the 21 years he has been president.

The men differ on what will best serve the district, which includes most of Glen Burnie and Harundale and parts of Old Mill and Severn.

Mr. DeGrange wants the county to offer incentives for a developer to build on the 5.6-acre Superblock, the largest parcel in downtown Glen Burnie's Urban Renewal District.

If the county helps by providing infrastructure, the resulting development could yield millions of tax dollars, he said. But if it is allowed to remain empty, the renewal project "can be turned around again with all the bars," he said.

Mr. Emge disagrees. He says there is no incentive to develop it: "For the present time, pave it, put trees, create a farmers market."

Mr. DeGrange favors the extension of light rail, but is not wedded to a particular route unless it would by-pass Glen Burnie.

Mr. Emge said the proposed route along the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail should be off-limits.

Both want county officials to reconsider the decision to build a new jail on Ordnance Road. Mr. DeGrange said he wants to see the existing jail outside Annapolis renovated and a work-release center placed in Crownsville. But Mr. Emge said that if the new jail must be in North County, Ordnance Road is "probably the best place for it."

Mr. Emge, who says the county should do more to attract business to broaden its tax base, also says county government should reward communities that help themselves. For example, the county should give communities that have volunteer neighborhood patrols a small gasoline reimbursement to pass along to the people who are driving.

Both men said the county should offer more assistance to older communities, where curbs are crumbling and streets need to be repaved. Mr. DeGrange has by far outspent his opponent, according to the last finance reports, filed nearly two months ago. The only money in Mr. Emge's campaign coffer is his own, a $754 loan, and he spent it all. Mr. DeGrange spent $37,032 of the $51,326 he has raised.

"I'm on a low budget," Mr. Emge conceded. "We did not want to go out and ask people for money or hold a lot of fund-raisers. We felt we could run a good race anyway and come out ahead."

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