The software trainer and the young congressional aide who will go head-to-head Tuesday in the Republican primary for the District 30 Senate race both say education is among the most important issues in their campaigns and want their party to have a place in the district's leadership.
Nora Criss-McIntire Keenan of Cape St. Claire and Andy Smarick of Arnold are vying to challenge longtime Democratic legislator John C. Astle, who is unopposed in the primary. The election winner will represent the district that stretches along the western shore of the bay from the lower Broadneck Peninsula in the north to Franklin Manor on the Bay at the southern end.
The district includes Annapolis, Highland Beach, Mayo, Galesville, Shady Side, West River and other communities.
Keenan, a software training coordinator at an Owings Mills pharmaceutical company, also lists transportation and victims' rights among her issues of concern. Smarick, a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, the 1st District Republican, says the environment and budget concerns are his important campaign issues.
Both candidates say the more than 70,000 voters in the district - where Democrats outnumber Republicans by fewer than 3,000 and the three incumbent delegates also are Democrats - are ready for a change to Republican representation.
"We have been shut out by the Democrats in our district, and we need a voice in Annapolis," Keenan said.
Keenan, a 38-year-old political novice, said she would bring to Annapolis her customer service experience as a longtime technology help desk manager.
"I feel that the constituents of the district are my customers," she said. "I don't answer to the Republican Party or the people around me, I answer to my constituents."
A graduate of South River High School, Keenan said she has taken and taught computer classes at Anne Arundel Community College. Last year, she volunteered with Annapolis' Republican Central Committee during the city elections.
Smarick, 26, has been working for Gilchrest on education, environment and tax issues since earning his master's degree in public management from the University of Maryland, College Park a year ago. He also has a bachelor's degree in government and politics from the university. He was deputy campaign manager for Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary's failed re-election bid in 1998, and has worked in the General Assembly for the Washington County delegation and for Eastern Shore Del. Mary Roe Walkup.
Smarick said he is running for the Senate because he feels Astle "is just not doing the job."
"I can't trust John Astle to fight hard for the things I care about and my district cares about," he said. "I have the experience to do this. ... I really want to do what's best for my district."
Smarick called the state's projected $1 billion shortfall "unacceptable." He also said the environment is important to him.
"We have to make sure we do everything we can to help the bay," he said.
Both Smarick and Keenan criticized the county's delegation for not fighting harder for more education funding from the state.
"I want Anne Arundel County to be able to keep more of its dollars for education," Smarick said, noting that the county receives 65 cents back from the state for every education dollar paid by its taxpayers.
Keenan takes a similar view, and added: "We need to start holding the Board of Education accountable for how they spend our money."
Keenan, who said she won the endorsement of Marylanders for Better Transportation, said she supports the plan for an Inter-County Connector from Montgomery to Prince George's County and thinks that, overall, the state needs to do better transportation planning. She also believes victims should have the chance to be heard more during plea bargaining, bail hearings and other court proceedings.