2A: The challenger

September 30, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

As a business leader, Peter Perini Sr. says he hears a great deal about the shortcomings of Washington County's General Assembly delegation.

"They've accomplished a great deal, but they've left a lot on the table," he said, adding that as a Democrat with proven coalition-building skills, he believes that performance could be improved.

Perini, 39, is the president of Magnolia Management Inc., which operates five nursing homes in Maryland. He became familiar with the state legislature while advocating on behalf of his industry. He seems to have little doubt if he wins the delegate 2A seat that the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly could do a better job.

"Right now there should be students studying at the University of Maryland campus in downtown Hagerstown, but some people are still talking about where they're going to put it," Perini said.


And then there was what Perini called the motel-tax fiasco, in which revenue from a tax designed in part to fund a new baseball stadium was diverted to other purposes by the county commissioners.

And then there are the volunteer fire/rescue companies, who Perini said are trying hard to raise money "a quarter at a time" because so few contribute.

As a member of the delegation, Perini said he would lobby businesses to contribute to the volunteer companies, or else face the prospect of tax-paid fire/rescue service.

Asked what the delegation could do on that topic in Annapolis, Perini said he wasn't sure, but is certain he doesn't support raising taxes.

Instead, Perini said he would look at programs like the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which he said have doubled during Gov. Parris Glendening's administration.

"Has their work product doubled? If you go through any department, you'll find the same general theme," he said.

"My opinion is that we should evaluate the social programs and decide what works," he said, and then fund those approaches that succeed.

Where do you stand on using slot-machine gambling to ease the state's budget woes?

"I'm in favor of that, but there's two sides to that argument," Perini said.

The first is that it's so easy for Marylanders to go to Delaware or West Virginia to play the slots, but Perini said the state must also take a hard look at who's doing the gambling.

Those who might be tempted to gamble away the rent and grocery money need education and information to protect them, their families and businesses.

Would you support limiting slots to the tracks, or would you allow them in off-track betting parlors as well?

"To me, where they are is not as important as how they're used," he said.

What committee assignment would you seek?

Appropriations, Perini said, adding that an assignment there is not totally out of the question, because 40 to 50 percent of the House will be freshmen in 2003. However, he said he would

serve wherever the leadership assigned him.

Perini said he's a step ahead of some of those others because he's spent so much time as an advocate for the senior living and health-care business. He'll continue to do that, he said, but would recuse himself on votes that would put him in a conflict-of-interest situation.

If you could only accomplish one thing during your first term, what would it be?

"To work diligently to make sure that Maryland gets back into a fiscally appopriate situation. I would work diligently to make sure taxpayers' dollars are wisely spent," he said.

Perini said he also felt there was a need to find a way to get Washington County Hospital's trauma center back in operation.

"I'm glad that the EMS groups are keeping this in the forefront," he said, adding that he would caution against any approach that pays professionals to be "on call."

"Where does it end? What about the rest of the staff?" he said.

Perini then paused to say that his criticism of local delegation was not aimed at individual members, but at its leader - and his opponent - incumbent Del. Bob McKee.

Perini said that last session McKee had voted against a series of bills, including some that would have carried forward the work of homeland security, assisted at-risk seniors, aided criminal prosecutions and expanded a program for children's health insurance.

"I would vote for bills to protect our homeland in Maryland," Perini saikd.

"Another fundamental difference is that I'm the CEO of a multi-state firm responsible for meeting the needs of 900 sick and vulnerable adults. My opponent is the executive of a not-for-profit firm with two employees," Perini said.

2A: The incumbent

This year's campaign hasn't been an easy one for Maryland Del. Bob McKee, R-Washington. First, the governor's redistricting map pitted him against fellow Republican Chris Shank.

When that was overturned by the courts, he was left with a race against Peter Perini Sr., who's criticized the 52-year-old Halfway resident for votes the Democratic challenger claims show McKee doesn't care about the welfare of children and the elderly, or about homeland security in Maryland.

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