Even David S. Hantman's mother acknowledges he'll have a tough time winning his first bid for elected office.
And Sue Ellen Hantman should know. The prosecutor and former Democratic Central Committee chairwoman has run and lost two races for delegate, in 1982 and 1986, and she lost a bid for county executive in 1994.
This year, her son, David, 28, is taking over the family business of running against the odds. This afternoon at the River Hill Community Association meeting room, the Columbia Democrat formally kicks off his candidacy for the state Senate in District 14 against popular two-term incumbent Republican Christopher J. McCabe.
"He's bit off a major project, but he's a determined kid, too," Sue Ellen Hantman said.
Though young, David Hantman has handled a couple of challenging assignments. A Fordham Law School graduate, he was most recently chief counsel to Sen. Robert Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat, on Capitol Hill. In 1994, he helped start a company, which he later left, that specialized in trademark protection on the Internet.
But winning District 14 -- which includes Ellicott City, western Howard and northeast Montgomery County -- will prove a far tougher assignment.
Hantman knows his problem is that people in the district like McCabe. They proved it by giving him nearly 55 percent of the vote in 1994 race against a well-financed Democratic opponent.
"It's always tough to unseat an incumbent, but [McCabe] hasn't really done much for the district, and it's really a Democratic district, even if some of the voters don't realize that," Hantman said.
He figures that if he can convince people that McCabe doesn't share their views, maybe some will switch their votes. Hantman, who advocates abortion rights and gun control, said McCabe is too conservative, even for the conservative district.
"I let the voters decide whether I'm too conservative or not, and so far I've been successful," said McCabe, of Ellicott City.
Hantman has launched a campaign against McCabe on ethics, an issue some consider one of McCabe's strengths. In January, Hantman wrote a letter to The Sun objecting to McCabe's vote in the General Assembly against expelling embattled former state Sen. Larry Young.
"His vote was seriously misguided," Hantman wrote. "It sent the wrong signal to those of us who wish our representatives to take their oath of office far more seriously than did Mr. Young."
McCabe said he took the allegations against Young quite seriously but felt the expulsion vote came too quickly.
He also noted that he doesn't accept political action committee contributions, and has pushed for ethics reforms such as limiting PAC contributions to legislators and limiting the gifts and meals lobbyists can buy for legislators.
Hantman said McCabe won handily in 1994 in part because "the tax message" worked for him. This time, he said, voters have seen a Democratic-controlled General Assembly and a Democratic governor give them an income tax cut -- one Hantman supports.
"I just don't think the Republicans can use that against us this year," he said. "It's the Democrats who've gotten us there."
The question is whether one of those Democrats in the General Assembly will finally be a Hantman.
"This is the first time in 20 years that I have not run for something," said Sue Ellen Hantman. "And I consider it that Dave has taken over getting the Hantman name on the ballot this time."
Pub Date: 5/17/98