GOP candidates eyeing seats in Anne Arundel

Anne Arundel County Republicans are taking aim at Democratic incumbents in the coming election as part of an effort to regain control of local government and delve into classroom problems and long-range planning.

At the top of a growing list of GOP candidates is Tom Angelis, who formalized his run for county executive last week by registering his campaign committee with the state. He says he is suited for the job because he spent 19 months as the county's director of recreation and parks in the late 1990s.


"I will be the next county executive," Angelis said during an interview last week with his wife and campaign manager, Kristine, who is principal of St. Andrew's United Methodist Day School in Edgewater.

Although he is still forming his platform, Angelis, 55, seems to be focusing on experience - lessons he's learned working as a police officer, salesman and teacher.


Angelis, a Davidsonville resident, is likely to face at least one challenger in the September primary. Former state Del. Phillip D. Bissett of Edgewater is set to announce his candidacy at the end of the week.

Bissett, 45, who is director of legislative affairs for Guardian Interlock Systems Inc., a manufacturer of devices that prevent drunken drivers from starting their cars, has been holding fund-raisers and sharpening his campaign agenda. He resigned from the county's liquor board in December in preparation for his campaign.

Bissett and Angelis are eager to debate school reform and long-range planning issues with County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Democrat. In 1998, she defeated County Executive John G. Gary, a Republican whose combative personality alienated some voters.

Angelis, a teacher in the Baltimore public schools who is working toward a master's degree in education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said he is well-versed in the problems facing students and teachers.

Bissett is focused on long-range planning. He has said he believes that county officials should be more fiscally conservative to better prepare for economic downturns.

Owens, a South County native who lives in Millersville, has been quietly going about her campaign duties. She attended a private fund-raiser two weeks ago and will attend a bull roast at the Stoney Creek Democratic Club in Pasadena next weekend.

Republicans are sure that either Bissett or Angelis can unseat Owens, who has been criticized for land-use and budget decisions. Last year, she vacillated on a contentious plan to build a Safeway in Deale. She also opted not to support an increase in the property tax rate, an action that would have raised $6.8 million this year alone. Critics say the county could have used that money.

Republicans believe that Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a GOP gubernatorial candidate, will bring more voters than usual to the polls.


"He is such an attractive candidate," said Clerk of the Court Robert P. Duckworth, a Republican who has also toyed with running for executive. "If he can raise all the boats, we have a good shot of taking the county executive down."

But Terry R. Gilleland, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee, said candidates shouldn't bank on riding Ehrlich's coattails into office: "I have seen it before," he said. "People will say, 'I am part of the Bush team' or the 'Clinton team,' but candidates still need to know the issues."

In the race for county executive, Gilleland is betting that some county Democrats might be swayed by the conservative fiscal policies offered by a GOP candidate. By Gilleland's count, the county has 123,000 Democrats and 104,000 Republicans.

"Even though the Democrats outnumber us, we have a conservative base within the Democratic Party that tends to vote for like-minded candidates, and those tend to be Republicans," he said.

Republicans believe that several council members might be susceptible to defeat.

"We need a group that can work together," said Gilleland, adding that the council's fractious nature and public rows have motivated some Republicans to run for office.


Republican Ronald C. Dillon Jr., an accountant from Pasadena, has announced his candidacy in the 3rd District. He could face Councilwoman Shirley Murphy, a Democrat, in the November general election.

Michael E. Malone, an attorney from Gambrills, is expected to formally announce his candidacy April 20 for the 4th District seat. He could run against Council Chairman Bill D. Burlison, an Odenton attorney, who faces at least two challengers in the Democratic primary.

Republicans Edward R. Reilly and David Wayson have made their campaigns official in the 7th District. Council member John J. Klocko III, a Crofton attorney, has served two terms, the most allowed under term limits.