Three young Republicans new to politics are challenging Democratic incumbents with a combined 37 years of service in the House of Delegates in District 16, which includes Bethesda and parts of Potomac.
Republicans Robert Dyer III, Mike Monroe and Angela Markelonis are fighting for an upset victory over current incumbents Bill Bronrott, Marilyn Goldwater and Susan Lee in the strongly Democratic district.
As of Oct. 1, there were 39,455 registered Democrats in District 16, compared with 17,011 registered Republicans, according to Board of Elections data – or, about 23 Democrats for every 10 Republicans.
District 16 has a slightly more Democratic registration than Montgomery County at large, which had nearly 22 Democrats for every 10 Republicans as of Oct. 1. The last Republican elected to a state office in District 16 was Howie Denis, who was state senator from 1977 to 1995, prior to an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. (Denis is currently running for reelection in District 1 for the County Council, which also represents Bethesda and Potomac.)
District 16 includes Bethesda, parts of Potomac, Cabin John, Friendship Heights, Somerset, Drummond, Oakmont, Glen Echo, Grosvenor and North Bethesda. All six candidates are from Bethesda.
THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES, who range in age from 27 to 35, are aggressively trying to unseat Goldwater, 79, a political veteran who has served as delegate in District 16 for 24 years. Goldwater finished third behind Bronrott and Lee in the primary election, and she beat Democratic challenger Reggie Oldak by less than three percentage points.
The Republican candidates were quick to point out that Goldwater missed 18 days of the 90-day legislative session earlier this year because of illness.
“Marilyn Goldwater is the weakest candidate because of her high number of absences in the last session,” said Dyer. “With all the critical issues before us, we cannot afford to have only two active delegates in the next four years.”
Goldwater said she was out because of bronchitis.
“I think when you look at the days I missed, one has to look at the number of voting sessions,” she said. “I was there most of those days at least for part of the day, and I never missed a voting session.”
Bronrott pointed out that 1,280 votes separated Goldwater from Oldak. He emphasized that he, Lee and Goldwater all made the list of the top 15 vote-getters among delegate candidates in the state.
<bt>The Republican challengers asserted that they would be more fiscally responsible than the Democratic incumbents.
“There’s a lot of waste and inefficiency in our government,” said Markelonis, a public accountant. “As a taxpayer, I really don’t like having to pay for that waste.”
Dyer criticized what he considers the “misplaced priorities” of the current District 16 delegation. He complained that middle school music programs were cut while “our current delegates were trying to draft a bill to give another million dollars to developers at Strathmore [Hall].” He also criticized the school system for spending “$82,000 fighting in court over the flyer issue because they didn’t have a lawsuit-proof policy.” (A religious group sued the school system in 2001 because it would not distribute announcements about its after-school Bible programs.)
“In addition to making sure we get more money coming back in relation to our tremendous taxes that we pay for Montgomery County, I want to make sure we’re getting more money for education, and I want to make sure that money is going directly to what we intended it to be spent on,” said Dyer.
The Democratic incumbents bristled at the Republicans’ critique of alleged fiscal irresponsibility.
“That’s a broad charge and I’d like to know what they mean by that,” said Lee. “I think we have prioritized where we do our spending, on things like education, healthcare, the transportation system and making sure we have a clean environment.”
“I think we’ve been very accountable, taking into consideration not only community needs but also the costs and how we can best afford to get services and programs to the people who most need them,” she said. “Obviously costs are going up, like the cost of groceries goes up, but I feel we’re doing a good job.”
<bt>The Republican candidates tend to support consideration of a Techway, or second bridge across the Potomac River, while the Democratic candidates tended to oppose it. Supporters say a second crossing would alleviate traffic on I-495 and I-270, while detractors lambast the environmental consequences of a six-lane highway and argue that a Techway would increase sprawl, not lessen it.
Dyer said he supports a second Potomac River crossing as long as it does not cross River Road in Potomac.
“We need a second crossing for Homeland Security reasons, specifically to help evacuate the Washington area in the event of a terrorist attack,” said Dyer.
Markelonis said she thinks a second bridge across the Potomac is a good idea, though she’s not sure whether it should be go into Potomac or Montgomery County.
On the other hand, Democrats Lee and Bronrott strongly oppose a Techway.
“I don’t think it’s the answer right now – it might cause more sprawl and it would take away homes from people who live around that area and cause a lot of disruption to the local environment,” she said. “I think we should be devoting more funding to mass transportation to get more cars off the road.”
Bronrott said the Techway could endanger the Agricultural Reserve, and that it would mainly benefit Virginians in Loudoun County.
“I understand that Loudoun County and our neighbors across the Potomac River have far less stringent controls on growth and as a result, their sprawl has put them in a terrible position in respect to traffic congestion,” he said. “If it’s just an effort to help Northern Virginia break its traffic gridlock, then we absolutely shouldn’t do it. We shouldn’t do anything that would disturb our Agricultural Reserve.”
Goldwater and Monroe said they are currently undecided on the Techway issue.
<sh>Stem cell research
<bt>Citing ethical concerns, Republicans in the race oppose stem cell research or support it only with caveats.
“I oppose the destruction of frozen embryos for stem cell research because I believe the embryos are human beings and that they should not be destroyed,” said Dyer. “I would oppose the creation of embryos for research in any way that we have legal ability.”
Dyer said that the fertility industry is “due for legislative review.” However, he said that until stem cell research can be stopped legislatively, he has mixed feelings about whether the embryos that will be destroyed anyway should be used medically.
All three Democrats support stem cell research.
Goldwater said that her background in nursing makes biomedical research a high priority in her campaign platform.
As a nurse I believe that we need all kinds of research, and I think we do need stem cell research,” she said. “Everything that is new brings some controversy as well as turmoil and challenge, and that’s what we have to deal with. I would hate to see research stopped.”
<bt>The Fair Share Healthcare Act, also known as the Wal-Mart law, is another wedge issue in the delegate race. The bill required companies with more than 10,000 employees in Maryland to spend 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits, or donate that amount to state health programs. Wal-Mart was the only company in Maryland that would have been affected by the legislation. The law was overturned in July by a federal district court because it violated a 32-year-old federal law permitting multi-state employers to maintain uniform administration of health and welfare plans across the country.
All three Republicans oppose the intent of the bill, while all three Democrats support it.
“I think we need to look at it from the realistic perspective that Wal-Mart is a large business that provides a lot of jobs to our state as well as low-cost products for our consumers,” said Markelonis.
Monroe said that attracting large businesses should be the priority.
“I think we need to encourage businesses to come to Maryland and make it easy for them to do business,” said Monroe. “There should be an obligation for employers to make benefits and opportunities readily available for employees, but in the end we need to prioritize to keep businesses thriving in Maryland.”
Goldwater and the other Democrats disagreed.
“I think everybody ought to have health insurance, and major companies like Wal-Mart have responsibility to the people that work for them,” said Goldwater. “I would think they’d want their employees to be healthy and have access to care before they become acutely ill. It doesn’t do Wal-Mart any good as an employer to have people who are not healthy.”
<sh>Slot Machines at Racetracks
<bt>The Republican candidates in the delegate race favor allowing slot machines in racetracks with a portion of the revenues going to fund initiatives like education, healthcare and transportation.
“I do support that,” said Markelonis. “I think we need to be a little more creative in bringing revenue into our state so our taxpayers can get a little bit of relief.”
“I would put slot machines at racetracks… if it’s something that is done in a respectable manner that’s not done to just draw in suckers, but something that’s done to enhance going to a racetrack or a day out with your family,” said Monroe.
All three Democrats oppose what they said would be state-sponsored gambling. Bronrott said he is concerned it would bring increased bankruptcy among people addicted to gambling, as well as increased drug and alcohol addiction and prostitution.
“I have been very firmly against Governor Ehrlich’s efforts to force slot machines on the people of the state of Maryland,” said Bronrott. “I think it is a terrible way to raise revenues. … I support the equestrian industry and the horse race industry in Maryland but I think that slot machines are a very dangerous slippery slope for us to venture into.”
Lee agreed, saying increased gambling in Maryland would be “a burden on the criminal justice system” and “an instable revenue source” with “too many bad side effects.”
<b>Del. William A. Bronrott (D)</b>
Education: B.A. and M.A., Department of Communication, University of Maryland, College Park; Montgomery Blair High School.
EXPERIENCE: Delegate, Maryland General Assembly (1999-present); Press Secretary, Congressman Michael D. Barnes (D-Montgomery County) 1979-1987; President, Bronrott Communications, 1987-present
ENDORSEMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Maryland League of Conservation Voters; Maryland State and Metro D.C. AFL-CIO; Maryland State Teachers Association; Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; Montgomery County Education Association; Service Employees International Union Local 500; UFCW Local 1994 Municipal & County Government Employees Organization
OCCUPATION: president of a public relations consulting firm
FAMILY: married to Alberta Rains
LIVES IN: Bethesda
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: $44,016 in contributions and $31,597 in expenditures since the last election; reported cash balance of $25,223 as of Sept. 1
TOP THREE ISSUES: environmental/energy policies; transportation/Smart Growth; education
LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS: legislation on drunk driving, underage drinking and pedestrian safety; sponsor of the 2003 Maryland Energy Efficiency Standards Act; supports the Healthy Maryland Initiative in order to tax cigarettes to raise money for health insurance
<b>Robert F. Dyer III (R)</b>
EDUCATION: BA, History, Cum Laude, University of Maryland at College Park; AA, Montgomery College; Our Lady of Good Counsel High School
OCCUPATION: administrative assistant
FAMILY: Father Robert Dyer (running for state senate in district 16) and brother Scott Dyer (running for County Council in district 2)
LIVES IN: Bethesda
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: no campaign finance data available at the Maryland Voter Information Clearinghouse (http://mdelections.umbc.edu)
TOP THREE ISSUES: transportation, affordable housing, healthcare
PROPOSALS: express bus service from Potomac Village to downtown Bethesda; more efforts on tort reform and medical malpractice legislation
<b>Del. Marilyn Goldwater (D)</b>
EDUCATION: R.N., Mt. Sinai School of Nursing
EXPERIENCE: 24 years in Maryland House of Delegates
ENDORSEMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Montgomery County Education Association; Maryland State Teachers Association; Montgomery County Medical Society; Maryland Nurses Association; UFCW Local 1994 Montgomery County Government Employees Organization; Maryland State & D.C. AFL-CIO; Service Employees International Union Local 500
OCCUPATION: retired nurse
FAMILY: Married with two children
LIVES IN: Bethesda
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: $17,481 in contributions and $22,571 in expenditures since the last election; $30,000 from district 16 slate account; cash balance of $12,979 as of Sept. 1
TOP THREE ISSUES: transportation, balanced budget, healthcare
LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS: legislation on healthcare access, quality and cost; instrumental in legislation allowing women to stay in the hospital 48 hours after giving birth
<b>Del. Susan C. Lee (D)</b>
EDUCATION: BA, University of Maryland; JD, School of Law, University of San Francisco
EXPERIENCE: Delegate, Maryland General Assembly, 2/2002-Present; Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, 2000-2002; Secretary, Women Legislators of Maryland; Counsel, Gebhardt & Associates, LLP; Board, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes; Past Board Member, Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and Progressive Maryland; Past Co-Chair, Montgomery County NAACP Multicultural Community Partnership Committee
ENDORSEMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Montgomery County Education Association; Maryland State Teachers Association; SEIU, MCCSSEE Local 500; NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, Maryland League of Conservation Voters; Montgomery County Public Schools Retirees Association; Municipal and County Government Employees Organization; Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
FAMILY: Husband Earl Ing
LIVES IN: Bethesda
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: $124,892 in contributions and $53,730 in expenditures; $30,000 from district 16 slate account; cash balance of $12,979 as of Sept. 1
TOP THREE ISSUES: education, healthcare, environment
LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS: sponsored bills protecting victims of identity theft and credit card fraud; house chair of the Identity Theft Taskforce; supported Agricultural Stewardship Act, Healthy Air Act and increased funding for Program Open Space
<b>Angela Markelonis (R)</b>
EDUCATION: BS in Accounting, University of Maryland-College Park; Blair High School
EXPERIENCE: University of Maryland Alumni Association; vice president, Smithsonian Young Benefactors; executive board member, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church; team captain, Maryland Alumni/Bethesda Softball
OCCUPATION: public accountant
LIVES IN: Bethesda
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: no campaign finance data available at the Maryland Voter Information Clearinghouse
TOP THREE ISSUES: fiscal responsibility, transportation, matching infrastructure to growth
LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS: incentives for telecommuting; incentives for green buildings; increase teacher pay
<b>Mike Monroe (R)</b>
EDUCATION: BA, James Madison University
EXPERIENCE: Board of Managers, Society of Sons of the American Revolution; member, All Saints Church; member, Screen Actors Guild; member, Saint Andrew’s Society
OCCUPATION: actor; owner of small business that videotapes special events
FAMILY: Wife Cristina
LIVES IN: Bethesda
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: $3,855 in contributions and $3,152 in expenditures; cash balance of $704 as of Sept. 1
TOP THREE ISSUES: fiscal responsibility, investment in arts and education, transportation relief
LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS: wants to institute a wage rebate grant program to give incentives to movie producers to film their productions in Maryland, and then put the revenue produced toward education, healthcare and transportation