No TV commercials. No radio ads. No Kennedys.
The District 15 State Delegates contest is a low-profile, local race, and the challenge for the six candidates vying for three seats is to find a way to distinguish themselves to voters.
Just one of the three incumbents is seeking reelection, two-term Del. Jean Cryor (R), with an obvious advantage.
“This is a defining moment,” Cryor said, in light of the budget crisis facing the state. “There’s nothing like experience. I do know the questions to ask.”
The remaining five candidates include four attorneys, Democrats Brian Feldman and Kathleen Dumais and Republicans Bill Askinazi and Mary Kane. The sixth candidate, John Young (D) is a physician. All three Democrats are first-time candidates, while Askinazi ran unsuccessfully for Delegate four years ago and Mary Kane lost her bid for the Republican nomination for County Council to Howie Denis two years ago by 138 votes.
In previous election years, a few hundred votes have often been all that have separated the number three candidate from the number four candidate. The top three go to Annapolis.
The district, with 10 percent more Democrats than Republicans, has been represented by one Democrat and three Republicans (Sen. Jean Roesser (R), Cryor (R), Del. Richard La Vay (R) and Del. Mark Shriver (D)).
First-time candidate, and Democrat, Brian Feldman thinks that might change.
“We have a nationally important congressional race, that will stimulate good turnout. That’s good in a more Democratic district,” Feldman said. “People will be thinking more along party lines than in the past couple of elections.”
The Republican candidates might not be helped by the Republican candidate for Governor, Robert Erlich, because of coverage of his views on gun laws.
“I have voted for every gun control measure that ever came up for a vote,” Cryor said. She predicted that if elected, Erlich would have a lot more important things to do than try to repeal gun laws, especially since those efforts would certainly be rebuffed by the General Assembly.
“The Montgomery County voter is educated enough to see through the hyperbole,” said Bill Askinazi, a Republican candidate in District 15. “I think Bob Erlich will be a good governor. We won’t see a backslide on gun laws.”
Cryor, the one incumbent, has the easiest job in terms of distinguishing herself from the field. In her eight years in office, she’s maintained an active public schedule, making her a recognizable name and face in the district. She served on the Thornton Commission, and earned a share of the credit for bringing greatly increased school funding home to Montgomery County from the state.
Now Cryor has been tapped to serve on the new commission on fiscal structure, which will pay a key role as the General Assembly grapples to balance a budget with a $2 billion hole.
“Security costs began to roar just as you’re hit with a declining economy in the country,” Cryor said. “The call for services will be higher.”
“We can pick up some savings in efficiencies,” Cryor said. “The budget grew by 60 percent in eight years. There’s stuff in there.”
Cryor looks forward to the coming session. “We have short-term problems and long-term challenges,” she said.
Four of the six candidates are attorneys. Aside from Cryor, John Young is the only other non-lawyer in the race. Young’s campaign slogan: “Put a Doctor in the House.”
A physician, Young would join only two other physicians in the General Assembly. Since more than 30 percent of the legislation considered in Annapolis is health-care related, Young says it only makes sense to have more medical expertise in the General Assembly.
Young is also the only minority in the race.
“I am the one with the easiest time defining myself,” Young said. “I represent two underserved communities.”
Part of his strategy has included stepping up relationships with both physician and Asian associations.
“We’re headed into a health care crisis,” Young said. “Insurance costs are up, more people are uninsured, copay costs are up, employers are offering less benefits.”
Young calls for more information for consumers of medical services, holding HMOs accountable for patient care, reducing the cost of prescription drugs and reducing paperwork so physicians can spend more time with patients.
Given the money mess in Annapolis that awaits the winners of this contest, being a tax lawyer and a CPA would be an asset, says Brian Feldman, who would in fact be the only person who is both a lawyer and CPA in the House.
“My experience will be an asset for this district and for the state,” Feldman said. “It’s important to send people from this district with a track record of successful advocacy.”
His years at the Department of Justice prove just such a track record, Feldman says, demonstrating skills that would allow him to persuade other legislators in Annapolis to be supportive of issues critical to Montgomery County.
Feldman, a Potomac resident, has two children at Beverly Farms Elementary.
Kathleen Dumais, a family law attorney, says she wants to serve in the General Assembly because that is where many of the problems she sees every day must be addressed. She grapples with the problems of divorce, health care, child care and juvenile justice with her clients.
“I am someone who has been working in Montgomery County with families,” Dumais said. “In my practice, I am in a unique position to understand the problems families here face.”
Her experience sorting out complex financial issues for families, and as a former teacher, are also things which set her apart, Dumais said.
The three Democrats, Dumais, Feldman and Young, will send out several mailers as a team, and are handing out flyers that tout the three delegate candidates along with Rob Garagiola, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Jean Roesser (R-15) for State Senate.
“From a group perspective, the Democratic team will have three mailings showing us as a team,” said Dumais. “The mailings will show the three of us and how that works together as a team.”
Their skills, experience and areas of expertise complement each other, she said, with her experience in family law, Feldman’s as a tax lawyer and CPA and Young’s as a physician.
“I have always been for the InterCounty Connector,” said Mary Kane, explaining one of the issues that sets her candidacy apart. “It’s not like I decided to switch in mid-stream.”
Her role as parent of school-aged children also gives her a special perspective, Kane said. “I believe in drug education for parents,” Kane said. “We do a great job teaching kids. But drugs have changed a lot since you and I were kids. It’s not just the schools' job.”
Kane, whose children attend Catholic schools, said she would work to get parents more involved in schools. Feldman, Young and Askinazi have children in public schools in Potomac as well.
After losing his bid for a delegate seat in 1998, Bill Askinazi counts his campaign as five years long. In that time, “I’ve invested in community day to day with my civic work and my legal work,” he said. “I’m passionate about certain issues.”
Askinazi has served as pro-bono counsel to a variety of groups including Circle of Hope Therapeutic Riding. His firm has also worked extensively on a class-action lawsuit concerning auto safety.
Campaigning around the county, Askinazi says people upcounty are feeling the tremendous impact of the drought. While education and transportation are major issues, people all over the district are expressing an increased need for a sense of security, he said.
“Sept. 11 changed the community forever,” he said. "And the events of the last two weeks have left families struggling with how to instill a sense of security and keep their children safe."