ctnow.com/topic/bs-md-co-huff-challengers-20130511,0,7152615.story

CTnow

Hopefuls preparing to challenge Huff

Schools advocate, legislator eyeing County Council seat

By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

9:24 PM EDT, May 11, 2013

Advertisement

An education advocate and a longtime state lawmaker say they are eyeing Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff's seat.

Democrat Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, an art historian and local education advocate, said she has decided to run for the four-year term in 2014, and Republican Del. Wade Kach said he's "seriously considering it."

Huff, a Lutherville Republican, was elected in 2010 for the district that covers the northern part of the county. He was sentenced last month on a DUI conviction stemming from an incident in February. Huff said he plans to seek re-election.

Kach, a former teacher who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, said that if he runs, he would seek to increase cooperation between the state and county. He pointed to the way different levels of government work together to fund capital improvements at schools.

"It's always been a situation where the school board, the county and the state all work together," said Kach, 65. "That's the kind of cooperation I'd like to bring to other areas, such as roads, such as open-space preservation."

Taylor-Mitchell, 56, said she began considering a run late last year because she was concerned about Huff's zoning decisions, which expanded the development potential of large swaths of land in the rural district.

"Education and land preservation are the two big reasons I'm planning to run," she said.

The Towson resident said her passion for land preservation doesn't mean she opposes all development. "But we need development that looks at the needs of everyone in the district," said Taylor-Mitchell, an associate professor at Hood College.

In April, Huff, 45, was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and ordered not to drink alcohol. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after being arrested while driving a county-issued SUV in February.

Huff said he hopes constituents can "forgive me for that mistake."

"Even working through that issue, I have not missed a beat as far as doing my job serving the people of Baltimore County," he said. "I'm dealing with my mistake, and I pray that other people will learn from it. It is definitely not slowing my drive down to do the job to the best of my abilities."

Huff said he has helped direct county dollars into his district for capital improvements, such as a planned community center and road paving.

"I love this job, and I've helped a lot of people," Huff said. "To be honest, I'm not focused on the campaign right now — I'm focused on what I was duly elected for, and that's the budget."

Although Huff and his predecessor — the four-term councilman T. Bryan McIntire, whom Huff unseated — are Republicans, Taylor-Mitchell said she believes voters in the district are independent-minded.

Taylor-Mitchell has worked on school issues, including bringing air conditioning to Ridgely Middle School and stopping a 400-seat addition at Loch Raven High School.

"I've worked with people across the aisle and brought them together on education issues," said Taylor-Mitchell, who plans to leave her position at the college this summer to pursue more community service.

Taylor-Mitchell declined to comment on Huff's arrest and said it did not influence her decision to run.

But Kach said he has heard from constituents concerned about Huff's conviction. "I've been approached by a number of people requesting that I run," Kach said. "And they have brought up the issue."

He's also heard worries that Huff doesn't share some residents' concerns about protecting the county's water supply, he said.

In the General Assembly, Kach said some of his biggest priorities have been child-support enforcement, protecting homeowners from shoddy construction and bringing down the cost of health care premiums by working to eliminate what he believes are unnecessary mandates for health insurance benefits.

Kach, who lives in Ashland, said he wants to attract more private businesses to Baltimore County, saying he thinks too many major employers in the county are either government agencies or companies that are heavily dependent on the government.

"I would like to see us to expand and bring in more private-sector employers in the county because I think that is a mistake to rely on government … considering that the federal government is downsizing because of the budget issues," he said.

Huff is operations manager for his family business, Brooks-Huff Tire & Auto Centers.

alisonk@baltsun.com

twitter.com/aliknez