Voters see variety among hopefuls for 21st District seats


Voters in the western Anne Arundel County communities of Maryland City and Russett, as well as parts of Odenton and Jessup, went from having no interest in the District 21 House race three months ago to having to choose from among nine candidates in Tuesday's primary.

That's because the Maryland Court of Appeals' redrawn map reshaped the district in June. Though still mostly in Prince George's County, it now includes 24,000 Anne Arundel County residents.

Seven Democrats are vying in Tuesday's primary for three spots on the November ballot.

The crowded field includes three incumbent delegates running as a slate: Barbara A. Frush, Pauline H. Menes and Brian R. Moe.

Also jockeying for a place on the Democratic ticket are longtime community activists Jeanne Mignon and Angie Como, criminal justice specialist Rex C. Smith and political activist Christopher P. Keene.

Republican candidates Kevin L. Bruening and Bernadette Shettle are unopposed and will automatically advance.

The candidates, most of whom are from Prince George's County, have struck traditional Democratic themes.

Como, 58, a longtime Laurel resident and classroom teacher for more than 27 years, has made education a top platform issue of her campaign.

"I know education better than anybody else does in the legislature right now," she said. "No one can say they have the type of in-depth knowledge I have."

The fifth-grade teacher at Brock Bridge Elementary School also lists senior issues and fiscal soundness as top priorities.

Smith, 63, president of the American Justice Institute in Laurel, listed public safety, the elderly, education and transportation as his primary issues.

Although this is his first run for public office, Smith said his work as a consultant and lobbyist for juvenile programs and as director of the former Department of Juvenile Services has afforded him ample experience with the legislative process.

"I'm no novice to the process of getting bills passed," he said.

Menes, who gave her age as "over 65," was first elected to the General Assembly in 1966.

"There are times when I'm tired, but that's true with any job," she said. "It's invigorating. I love it."

Menes said she is proud of her history of her work on consumer protection and domestic issues such as child-support legislation.

Frush, 57, in her eighth year as a delegate, said she has worked hard to keep tobacco out of the hands of children. She also named animal rights and seniors issues as top priorities.

"I think I've done a good job," she said. "My constituents seem to be pleased."

The third incumbent, Moe, 40, was first appointed to his post; he was then elected in 1998. The Laurel resident said he typically takes on issues dealing with consumers.

A career firefighter in Howard County for 20 years, Moe said public safety also ranks high on his agenda.

"I feel like I'm making a difference, and as long as I feel this way, I hope to stay on as a delegate."

Newcomers Mignon and Keene are the only two District 21 House candidates who live in Anne Arundel County.

Keene, 32, of Russett, said he "threw a hat in the ring to make sure western Anne Arundel County got its issues out there."

A Navy veteran and systems engineer for a defense contractor, Keene pointed out that he had worked on political campaigns in college and has a political science degree. He said law enforcement issues would top his agenda if elected.

Keene said he thinks the existing slate of Democrats is too heavily sided on Prince George's County issues.

"I'm a new voice for a new district," he said.

Mignon, property manager and community activist from Russett, could not be reached for comment last week.

Since the district includes the Laurel Park racetrack, candidates have taken a position on whether slot machines should be legalized.

Smith and Como said they would vote in favor of slots. Moe and Frush said they would like to see Maryland residents decide; both would like the issue to go to voter referendum.

Keene said he would not consider legalizing slots until funds generated by the Maryland lottery went straight to the education budget.

Menes said she is "not in favor of slots at all," calling it an inappropriate source of revenue.

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