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GOP strives to make gains in 30th District

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Anne Arundel County's District 30 House delegation includes one of the most powerful delegates in the state, a longtime county representative and a first-term delegate who has spent decades working for the U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, Democratic Dels. Michael E. Busch, Virginia P. Clagett and C. Richard D'Amato will vie with a longtime teacher for their party's three spots in the general election. Meanwhile, four Republicans - including the party's nominee for Annapolis mayor last year - are facing off for the GOP's three spots. The district stretches along the western shore of the Chesapeake 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.

The district changed little when political boundaries were redrawn, though the GOP lost a predominantly Republican precinct to another district.

But Republicans - who want to recapture at least the seat they lost in 1998 when D'Amato defeated Phillip D. Bissett - say voters would be better served by a district delegation that includes members of the minority party, too. In District 30, which has about 70,000 registered voters, Democrats outnumber Republicans by fewer than 3,000.

"I think the people of this district are moderately conservative, and I believe [the incumbents] have supported an agenda that is not," said Republican candidate Herbert H. McMillan, a former Annapolis alderman who lost to Democrat Ellen O. Moyer in the city's mayoral contest last year.

McMillan, 44, a Naval Academy graduate, commander in the Navy Reserves and an American Airlines pilot, is stressing fiscal issues.

"Government should do all that is necessary, but only what is necessary," McMillan said. "We have a lot of fat in government right now."

McMillan said he favors switching to an elected county school board and starting a pilot program for private school vouchers.

Other Republican candidates are Naval Academy graduate Michael Collins, retired stockbroker Nancy Almgren and mortgage banker Dave Lubrano.

Collins, 40, of Cape St. Claire, is editor of Shipmate, the Naval Academy's Alumni Association publication. A lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve, Collins says his experience overseeing environmental compliance and workers' safety for 29 ships and two industrial facilities in the mid-1990s for the Navy would serve him well in the legislature.

"When I talk on the stump about environmental compliance, I can say I actually did this," Collins said.

He wants the state to help modernize sewage treatment facilities to improve the health of the bay. He also wants an elected county school board, faults judges for not enforcing mandatory minimum jail terms and wants to bring more fiscal discipline to the state government.

Almgren, 54, was a stockbroker for 24 years. She served on the Annapolis Republican Central Committee for one term in the early 1980s and, while vice president of the county schools' Citizen Advisory Committee in 1996 and 1997, led the push for the short-lived school uniform program in some elementary schools.

Almgren said she wants to allow schools to make uniforms mandatory and favors the use of national standardized tests. She says she wants to find solutions to the area's transportation problems, including synchronizing stoplights and, like Collins, wants to modernize wastewater treatment plants. As a stockbroker, she said, she is familiar with economic issues and is comfortable doing the research necessary to find solutions.

"They need someone like me because I can help make a difference and I can work with everybody," Almgren said.

Lubrano, 34, is an economist and mortgage banker for First Pacific Financial in Millersville. In March, he changed his last name from Lubrani to reflect his grandfather's original name when he immigrated here from Italy, he said.

In 1994, he ran unsuccessfully for a House of Delegates seat in Baltimore County; he then served on the Republican Central Committee there.

Lubrano is running for delegate "because you need somebody there who is going to watch the economic effect of legislation," he said.

He wants to expand hunting rights, eliminate the hotel tax, cut state spending and reduce the size of government by privatizing jobs and requiring early retirements for some employees.

In the Democratic primary, Shirley May Little, 53, an English teacher at Annapolis High, is challenging the incumbents. Little, who holds a doctorate in education, ran unsuccessfully for Baltimore County Council in the mid-1970s. She has been active in state and county teachers' associations and the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

"I realize politics is new for me, but I am interested and I think I can do a good job," she said.

As a teacher and a Boys and Girls Club volunteer, Little said she has experience working with disadvantaged communities. She wants to preserve more green space, work to create more affordable housing in the Annapolis area and push for higher certification standards for teachers.

Little faces an uphill battle against the well-financed District 30 incumbents.

Busch, 55, of Annapolis, has served in the legislature since 1986. As chairman of the House Economic Matters committee he is the only county representative to lead a legislative standing committee and has been viewed as the likely successor to House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. Busch is credited with shaping health care policy in the state. He recently led the opposition to the conversion of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield from nonprofit to for-profit status.

Busch, a former history teacher who works for the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, said education and the creation of more parks and recreational facilities in the district are important to him.

"I'd like to think, in the 16 years I have been there, that I have tried to build consensus to try to solve problems - that is what you are there for," Busch said.

Clagett, 59, of West River, served for 20 years on the County Council, including eight years as chairwoman, before her election as delegate in 1994.

A member of the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, Clagett said the issues closest to her heart are Rural Legacy, Smart Growth and the environment.

"I feel I have been consistently on the first line of defense for the environment," Clagett said. "I also try to show you can have sustainable growth as well as environmental health."

She has successfully pushed bills creating task forces to look into campaign finances and to study the effect of the gasoline additive MTBE in ground water. She has fought unsuccessfully to make more low-income senior citizens eligible for property tax breaks but helped win passage of a measure to allow them to recoup back taxes if they did not realize they were eligible for tax breaks.

D'Amato, 59, of Bay Ridge, is a retired captain in the Naval Reserve and a Vietnam War veteran. Until his retirement in 1998, D'Amato worked on Capitol Hill, including 18 years with Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. D'Amato, an attorney with a master's degree in international economics and politics, runs a private consulting business and is chairman of Congress' United States-China Security Review Commission.

D'Amato helped lead the fight against the Site 104 dredge dumping proposal and helped establish scholarships for teachers.

He has helped establish research programs on underwater grasses and blue crabs. A member of the Appropriations Committee, he wants to resubmit legislation that would overhaul the state pension system and to study ways to regulate assisted living facilities.

"What I give [voters] is some practical experience and a track record of solving problems," he said.

David M. Gross, a Green Party candidate, is also running for delegate and will be on the November general election ballot.

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