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Nelson wants more than "scraps"

June 05, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

When it comes to bringing home the bacon from the General Assembly, Vikki Nelson says that Western Maryland is always getting the "scraps," the leftovers from the state's larger counties.

"My idea in going down there is not to get the scraps," said Nelson, who's filed as a Republican candidate in the District 2A delegate race, where she'll face fellow Republican LeRoy Myers Jr., in the primary. If she prevails, she'll take on Democrat Peter Perini in the general election.

The 58-year-old businesswoman, who failed to unseat Don Munson in a 1998 state senate contest, said she's running now because she believes that her 20 years' business experience and 12 years spent working with all manner of Washington County groups give her the ability to work with people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

She noted that as an early member of Woman At The Table, a group dedicated to promoting women's voices in politics, she found a group composed largely of Democrats and Independents. The same went for the reorganized chapter of the League of Women Voters.

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"Many of those members are Democrats and we talk a common language. And if we get a Democrat governor, I'll work with that person as well," Nelson said.

Vince Dellaposta, Nelson's campaign manager, said that "there are ways to stand up for your principles without offending other people."

Which issues do you believe are most important?

"Making progress with education," Nelson said.

She said that she would like to use the expertise she gained in 1995 with the White House Conference on Small Business to reduce some of the paperwork and regulations affecting education, so that more money could be directed to the classroom.

Nelson said educational proposals and regulations coming down from the state must be evaluated in light of how they directly affect students.

Nelson also said she would also press for action on the lengthening of the runway at the Hagerstown Regional Airport. The project was left out of the state transportation plan released this past January, but Nelson said it's critical that state officials don't cede commercial air business in this region to the Martinsburg, W.Va., airport.

What committee would you like to serve on?

Agreeing that a first-term Republican delegate probably won't get a seat on Appropriations, Nelson said she'd seek a slot of the Judiciary Committee, which she said "gets all kinds of interesting bills."

She'd also like to work on health-care issues, not only because of its effect on county residents, but because rising costs impact small business, the backbone, she said, of the American economy.

As a delegate she said she expects to be faced with a decision about the proposed sale of CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is seeking to give up its non-profit status so it can merge with a for-profit provider.

Nelson said she's opposed to the change because since it became a non-profit in Maryland in 1937, Blue Cross has received millions in discounts and tax credits for acting as the insurer of last resort. Without that service, many small employers will be faced with a choice of cutting workers' benefits or forcing employees to pay a greater share of the costs.

Another issue that worries Nelson is the University Systems of Maryland campus planned for downtown Hagerstown. In recent days some candidates have suggested that it's not too late to switch the location to somewhere outside the city.

"If we don't stop at some point arguing about the University of Maryland, we could lose it, perhaps to downtown Frederick," she said.

Support the downtown site now, Nelson said, and if the campus outgrows it at some future date, then another location in the county can be found. Wrangling too much over a location cost the area the Civil War Medical Museum, Nelson said, and the same could happen again.

U.S. Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich, who's running for the Maryland governor's post, has come out in favor of slot machines at the state's horse tracks to fund the educational aid recommended by the Thornton Commission. Were do you stand?

"Yes, as long as it's privately operated," Nelson said, adding that the state's already in the lottery business and while it should take a large cut of slot revenue, it should allow private business to run them.

As to how it might be operated, "we have a couple of states that are our neighbors that we have studied and could study again," she said.

Is there anything else that people should know about you and your candidacy?

"I didn't just start yesterday getting involved personally in these things," Nelson said.

"I've been here 12 years and I've made it a point to be where the people who are making the decisions are," she said.

She's learned to listen, she said, and to form positions only after listening the people involved and determining how it would affect the average citizen.

One group Nelson hasn't agreed with lately is the Washington County Republican Central Committee, which says under its by-laws Nelson should have resigned from the panel when she became a candidate.

Dellaposta says the by-law doesn't make sense and most counties' committees don't have such a requirement. In my view, it's a needless distraction and if Nelson can get the committee to agree to stay neutral in her primary fight, she ought to bid this minor headache farewell.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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