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Cliff-Hanger on School Board Soap Opera

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What would a soap opera, even a bad soap opera, be without a cliff-hanger at the end?
That’s what’s offered in that tedious soap scripted by the Anne Arundel County delegates and senators.
The delegates, eight Democrats and seven Republicans, have managed to push their bill for a totally elected school board all the way through the House of Delegates, and now wait for action from a Senate committee.
The county senators have steered their bill for a hybrid board — seven elected members and three appointed by a commission — through the Senate, and it awaits action by the county delegates. It had a two-minute hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee late last month where an aide for Sen. Bryan Simonaire told the committee that he’s working on a compromise with the delegates.
This is the first time in memory that a bill providing for any sort of elected school board in Anne Arundel County has made it this far in the legislative process. But both bills are only halfway there. For anything to pass and be sent to the governor, somebody has to give.

‘Never Know Till
You Vote’
Del. Pam Beidle, chair of the House delegation who represents North County, expects the delegates to reject the Simonaire bill. “But you never know till you vote,” Beidle said.
Sen. John Astle, who chairs the senators and represents the Annapolis area, has been a consistent roadblock in the past to an elected board. Yet this year, he co-sponsored the Simonaire hybrid bill, which he has said he prefers. But he also sponsored a Senate version of the House bill for a fully elected board. This usually means a senator supports a bill. He told Beidle he did it as a courtesy.
What does Astle say about the situation? “We’ll see how the delegates vote,” he said, a solid noncommittal.
What may be in play for Astle, the longest serving legislator in Anne Arundel County, is that he has said he will run for mayor of Annapolis later in the year, where he is expected to face a primary opponent. It might not look good for a Democrat who wants to be mayor of the state capital to oppose a democratically-elected school board, but Astle has never been a conventional politician.
By midnight on April 10, when the legislature adjourns for the year, we’ll know how the cliff-hanger turns out. Or not, if they choose to put up the “To be continued” sign.

Running for Council
Now only 11 months from the filing deadline for all state and county offices next year, serious candidates have started to emerge and begun to file.
“There’s a unified effort to get Democratic women to run for every open seat on the county council,” said Beidle, who served two terms on the council before being elected to the House of Delegates in 2006.
Because Anne Arundel County has a two-term limit on the council, four of its seven members will be leaving. There are currently no women on the council.
Democrat Allison Pickard is running for council in District 2, the Glen Burnie area now represented by Republican John Grasso. She filed March 24.
Democrat Debbie Ritchie, a retired VA nurse who served on the county board of education, is running for council District 3, the Pasadena area and south now represented by Republican Derek Fink. She filed March 9.
Democrat Lisa Rodvien, a teacher and a lawyer, is running for council District 6, the Annapolis and Crownsville area now represented by Democrat Chris Trumbauer.
Beidle said there also likely will be a woman Democrat running for county executive. Republican Steve Schuh has already raised $1.4 million for his reelection bid.
As for Beidle, she’s giving up her insurance business after 38 years, and will likely be running for a fourth term. For the moment, she’s preoccupied with the end of the legislative session, where she chairs the subcommittee on motor vehicle laws and transportation.

A New Republican
At least one of the Democrats hoping to get reelected to the Anne Arundel Council, Pete Smith, will face a Republican challenger in District 1, which includes Brooklyn Park, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Jessup.
Kim McCoy Burns, currently chief of staff to Secretary Kelly Schulz at the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, held a fundraiser last month.
“I’m sick and tired of paying all the property taxes in Anne Arundel County and not really seeing anything I could touch,” Burns said. “This is about representing a community that has been notoriously underserved over the last four years.”
Burns only became a Republican last year. In the early 1990s she chaired the Democratic Central Committee in Anne Arundel County. Her father is former Democratic Delegate Dennis McCoy, and she worked with her father as a lobbyist in an Annapolis. That’s where she met and married Republican Delegate Michael Burns. Kim Burns also served as president of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.
She believes local government is “not about party politics.”
Smith “didn’t have a particularly strong showing last time,” Burns said. “There’s no reason for him to return.”
Smith won by only 51%, edging a poorly funded Republican, Bill Heine, by only 300 votes out of almost 20,000 cast.
Smith said, “My record speaks for itself,” noting the Jessup Elementary School that will be replaced with a new building and George Cromwell Elementary, near the BWI Business District, that will be revitalized.
“Nothing moves very quickly” in county government, he said. He’s also worked on commercial revitalization and helping small businesses with zoning issues.
Smith has at least one big fan in Beidle, who represented the district on the council. “I love Pete Smith” and his work in the community, Beidle said. “I think Pete Smith is just the right person to represent that district.”

Walker, Plaster for House
Only one of the four term-limited council members has announced future political plans. Councilmember Jerry Walker said last month he will run for House of Delegates in District 33, which currently has three Republican delegates, Mike Malone, Tony McConkey and Sid Saab.
Dr. Mark Plaster, who put a lot of time and money running against Congressman John Sarbanes, has lowered his sights a little. Last month, he filed to run for delegate in District 30A, the area of Annapolis now represented by House Speaker Michael Busch and Del. Herb McMillan.