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Ex-Army nurse taking on Munson in election

October 25, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A teacher and former Army nurse is trying to unseat a career lawmaker in the race to be Washington County's state senator for the next four years.

Democrat Mary E. Newby is taking on Republican Sen. Donald F. Munson, who has been a member of the Maryland General Assembly since 1975 and a senator since 1991.

Newby's biggest complaint with the incumbent has been that he has not returned enough state money to Washington County.

"We need to make sure we're getting our share of state money," she said.

Munson, citing numbers prepared by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, defends his record of bringing back "the bacon."

Spending on capital projects in Washington County increased from $48.7 million in 1995-98 to $79.5 million in 1999-2002, he said.

Newby disputes those numbers, which don't compare the county with statewide figures.

She points out that earlier this year, grants for local nonprofits never made it out of Munson's committee.

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Munson says that even though he does not belong to the party that holds the power in Annapolis, he has been able to form alliances with powerbrokers that have benefited the county.

"I have respect for them and they have respect for me," he said.

The candidates have similar views about slot machines. While neither likes the idea of expanding gambling, both are willing to consider slots to raise money for the state's budget.

Newby said the profits would have to go toward education.

Munson said the state would have to reimburse Washington County for tip jar gambling profits he believes would be lost due to the competition. County tip jar profits go to the fire and rescue service and charitable organizations.

Both candidates said filling in a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit will be the legislature's top priority next year.

Newby said she wants to make sure there is enough money for education and health care. Those are two of her top priorities, along with protecting farmers' rights and shoring up the local economy.

Munson said he wants to prevent the layoff of state employees and is suggesting the state adopt an early-retirement buyout program.

"I want to see human concerns come first," he said.

Munson cites his experience on the Budget and Taxation Committee as a reason to re-elect him.

Newby works as a reading teacher at Eastern Elementary in Hagerstown. She began her career as an Army nurse and volunteered in the schools while raising her children.

Newby, who moved to Washington County 17 years ago, has a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in education from Frostburg State University.

Lawmakers' salaries will increase from $31,500 to $34,500 in 2003 and will increase by $3,000 a year in each of the following three years, reaching $43,500 in 2006.

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