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Races get off to early start Incumbents and their challengers seek votes; 'Almost have to start early'; Newcomers substitute effort for money


With the filing deadline two months away, candidates are stepping forward to run for open seats on the Anne Arundel County Council and in the House delegation, and to try to unseat incumbents, from the county executive to state senator.

In these early days of the campaign -- primaries are four months away -- a number of candidates have been jockeying for position by switching political parties.

And first-time campaigners are joining other challengers in making the rounds of civic associations, political clubs and fund-raisers.

"A lot of these posts are entry-level elected offices," said state Sen. Robert R. Neall, a District 33 Republican.

With no name recognition, he said, "the only things you have are time, hard work and money. You almost have to start early."

Incumbents are busy too.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," said District 31 Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who plans to announce her bid for re-election tonight.

"I've already started knocking on some doors."

County executive

The race for county executive has been under way for months, and a second Democrat, Janet Owens of Millersville, is expected to formally announce her candidacy tomorrow.

Ownes, a former Orphans Court judge who farms family land in South County, is proceeding despite the cold shoulder she said she is getting from some Democratic leaders, who last month stood behind Councilwoman Diane R. Evans as she announced her switch from the Republican Party to the Democrats.

"I think they certainly hoped I wouldn't run," said Owens, who is wary of Evans and others announcing their defection from the Republicans. "It's either a friendly takeover or a hostile takeover" of the party, she said.

Campaigning against incumbent John G. Gary's formidable campaign fund will be a major challenge, but Owens said that Gary, a Republican and fellow Millersville resident, is not unbeatable.

"I think John Gary has a penchant for shooting himself in the foot," Owens said. "I think there is a great deal of distrust and concern about the way government is run."

County Council

Democrats George Bachman of Linthicum Heights and Evans of Arnold must step down because of the two-term limit, and Democratic Councilman James DeGrange is seeking a Senate seat.

In the heavily Democratic North County District 1, Democrats George M. Wagner of Glen Burnie, chief operating officer of the family-owned restaurant supply business H. M. Wagner & Sons Inc., and Pam Beidle, a Nationwide Insurance agent and Linthicum resident, are mounting their first campaigns for elected office.

In District 2, at least two Republicans are looking to fill DeGrange's seat. Gregory A. Harthausen Sr. of Millersville, owner of a heating and air conditioning business and a Millersville resident, began his first run for office in October.

Former Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack is also running for the seat, despite what some might view as a political black eye. In November, Pepersack and his former undersheriff were ordered to pay $31,000 to a deputy for sexual harassment and gender discrimination in a judgment ordered in a 1995 lawsuit filed by the deputy.

Pepersack, 56, of Glen Burnie said the jury's decision in federal court shouldn't hurt his chances with voters.

"I've got 31 years of leadership experience behind me," said Pepersack, who has been working part time in law enforcement consulting after losing the 1994 election to Democrat George F. Johnson IV.

On the Democratic side in District 2, Patrick M. Smith, 34, of Severn is among those looking to replace DeGrange. Smith, a lawyer and vice chairman of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee, is running against Dan Klosterman, 54, a Millersville resident and certified public accountant who ran for the seat in 1990 and came in eighth in the Democratic primary. Klosterman, a former assistant county auditor and former member of the county's spending affordability committee, said he is more organized and experienced this time.

Several candidates are seeking Evans' seat in District 5, which ,, includes Severna Park, Arnold and areas east of Annapolis. First-time Democratic candidate Tara Frame, 28, an Arnold resident and lawyer, is looking to win back Democrats who have voted Republican in recent elections. Republicans Cliff R. Roop, a Severna Park resident and owner of a Shell service station near the National Security Agency, and Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park resident and lawyer, have also filed for the seat.

In Annapolis, another former Republican, Barbara Samorajczyk, joined Evans this week in switching to the Democratic Party. Samorajczyk, a lawyer and Annapolis Neck activist in her first campaign for office, is up against incumbent Councilman William C. Mulford II.

State House

The field in District 33, which includes West County and much of South County, is growing quickly with candidates seeking the House seat that will be vacated by Marsh G. Perry. Perry, the only Democrat in the district's State House delegation for four years, is stepping down after 11 years as delegate.

In District 33, unlike in geographically smaller districts, name recognition in one community is not enough to win, Neall said.

"There are some large, well-organized, sophisticated communities in the district," he said. "You just can't say, 'I was citizen of the year from such and such community.' You've got to do well pretty much everywhere."

Crofton residents crowd the field. Sheila Schneider, executive director of the Crofton Chamber of Commerce; Gayle Powell, a contractor with the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program; and Marcia Richard, chairman of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee, have all filed. All are Democrats and Crofton residents. Republican Crofton resident Gugy Irving has also filed.

David G. Boschert of Millersville is in his first campaign as a Republican after leaving the Democratic Party in 1995. Boschert, who had to leave his seat on the County Council under the term-limit in 1994 and lost his bid for District 33 delegate that year, said he waited until after the election to leave the party. He is up against former Police Chief Bob Russell, a Millersville hTC resident also running as a Republican.

Incumbent Del. Janet Greenip, a Republican, has filed for re-election.

Political observers on both sides expect an interesting race, but not a close one, for the Senate seat in District 32, where DeGrange is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks.

DeGrange succeeded Middlebrooks on the council in 1994 when Middlebrooks left the Republican Party to run for the Senate as a Democrat.

Middlebrooks is likely to draw voters from both parties, and DeGrange has comparable name recognition, said William Turc Sr., former chairman of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee.

"I think that's going to be the most interesting Senate race in the county," he said.

In the same district, Victor A. Sulin of Severn, an attorney in the County Law Office, wants to regain the House of Delegates seat he lost in 1994. He is joined by Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus, who represented the district from 1993 to 1994 and unsuccessfully challenged Gary in 1994.

Betty Ann O'Neill, former longtime chief of staff of the House Ways and Means Committee, is seeking to return to the State House as a delegate from District 32. The Maryland City resident is running as a Republican.

In District 31, at least three first-time Democratic candidates want to unseat Republican Dels. John R. Leopold and Victoria L. Schade. They are: Jacqueline Boone Allsup, a Glen Burnie resident and assistant director of nursing at Crownsville Hospital Center; Glen Burnie activist and teaching assistant Mary Rosso; and Assistant State's Attorney Thomas J. Fleckenstein of Pasadena.

In District 30, which includes Annapolis, Republicans M. Theresa DeGraff, former Annapolis alderwoman and alternative sentencing coordinator for the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, and Edward J. Turner, an Arnold resident and executive director of the nonprofit Easton Business Management Authority, have filed. They are seeking to unseat Democratic Dels. Michael E. Busch and Virginia P. Clagett.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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