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Hall would have early edge in district 2B

August 08, 1997

Last week I wrote about three of the candidates who've expressed interest in Del. Bruce Poole's seat, should he be appointed to the post being vacated by Washington County Circuit Judge Darrow Glaser. This week, I'm going to tell you what I think is going to happen, based on what I know about the candidates.

Both appointments - the judgeship and the delegate's post - will be made by Gov. Parris Glendening, who needs all the help he can get in his next race for the governor's mansion. Despite his embrace of an income tax cut last session, many party regulars are still considering jumping ship, in part because they know the Republicans will make a meal of some things early in Glendening's term - fund-raising tactics, among others - which were on the edge, ethically speaking.

So Glendening needs all the pals he can get, and what better way to make friends than to appoint someone to an open legislative seat? And if that person can be appointed early enough to serve the entire 1998 session and show voters they can do the job, then the governor gets positive PR for appointing such a paragon.

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Why Poole for judge? Because Poole's been outspoken in his opposition to state aid for new professional sports stadiums, something Glendening has favored. As a judge, Poole couldn't do anything political, or throw his public support to someone like Rep. Benjamin Cardin.

The judgeship appointment lets Glendening move Poole out of the way, and replace him with an ally, someone who can hold the seat against Republican contenders like Rick Wiles, who almost pulled off an upset in the last election.

But it still won't be an easy decision, because doing a favor for one person means saying "no" to at least three others who've expressed interest in the seat - Charles "Skip" Kauffman Jr., mayor of Boonsboro; Rick Hemphill, deputy clerk of courts; Kathleen Vogt Hall, head of the Washington County's United Way and Randy Changuris, a Montgomery County teacher active in South County Democratic politics.

(Changuris didn't make my column last Sunday because nobody I spoke to told me he'd expressed interest in the seat. My apologies to him.)

Four years ago, Changuris says, he was one of the first members of the Western Maryland steering committee for Glendening and says he's done plenty of the "grunt work, the field work" it takes to win campaigns.

He said his goal, if he gains the seat, would be to work on bringing together the different area governments that are isolated, at least in spirit, from each other. And, in what may be his campaign's biggest selling point, Changuris pledged that if elected, he would retire from teaching and be a full-time delegate, providing constituent service year-round "like (Sen.) Don Munson."

That's a pledge Kauffman and the others may not be able to make. Kauffman, who works in the finance department at Brook Lane Psychiatric Center, is fairly certain he'd have to quit his job to run and isn't sure he can. Hemphill is awaiting an attorney general's ruling on whether he can work in the courthouse and run. Hall says she can do both jobs with proper time management.

In my view, she's got the inside track. As U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski's local representative, she developed more goodwill for the senator than Mikulski's liberal record would ordinarily justify here. She also developed contacts statewide, and showed her negotiating and consensus-building skills as chair of the task force that put together a local gambling bill.

And here's a little-known fact: When Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend comes to Western Maryland, it's Hall who keeps her on schedule and arranges local meetings. The two have become close friends, and if you can't count on your friends when you need help, who can you count on?

And speaking of friends, it's full disclosure time: I've known Hall for at least 10 years, ever since she was a parent-activist questioning asbestos-removal procedures in the county schools. We were members of the same service club and have worked together (with many others) on a lot of projects. I consider her a friend and shouldn't be involved in any endorsement decision The Herald-Mail makes involving her candidacy.

But based on close observation I'll say this: Nobody works harder or inspires more loyalty than she does. As one prominent local businessman said to me, "I can't say no to Kathy, because I know that if I need something done, she will do it."

Her one weakness may be her insistence (so far) on using Hall - the last name of Jack Hall, whom she recently married - on the ballot instead of Vogt, the name by which everyone knows her. With opponents like Changuris, with his knowledge of campaigning and his pledge do the job full-time, Hall needs very advantage she can get.

In the near future, I'll try to survey the Republican hopefuls in this district.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion Page.

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