The 17th Legislative District is an area of blue collar workers and white collar professionals, of aging neighborhoods built during World War II and newly constructed, high-priced subdivisions. It is a district which, in 1974, re-elected one of the legislature's most conservative members. Yet, the man who won that race has a liberal voting record on social programs and labor issues.
Like the district they would like to represent, the candidates in this year's 17th District races are a varied lot, differing in backgrounds, interests, political styles and philosophy.
In the State Senate contest, Del. S. Frank Shore, 42, a Democrat and marketing representative for the C & P Telephone Company, is pitted against Republican Albert N. Nunn, 40, an American Airlines polot who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1976.
In the House of Delegates race incumbent Joseph E. Owens, 60, attorney and chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, and Paul McGuckian, 40, former counsel to the Montgomery County delegation, are running on the Democratic ticket with Jennie M. Forehand, 42, a former elementary school teacher, and member of the county Health Services Planning Board and the Maryland State Mental Health Advisory Council.
The Republican candidates are Eleanore Arn, 53, an activist in county Republican clubs, and Luiz R. Simmons, 29, an attorney and director of Senior Citizen Legal Education Services, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 1974.
Most political observers agree that the personalities of the candidates, rather than their stands on issues, will determine who wins in the district.
Shore, whose military-style crew cut has given him a conservative reputation not reflected in his voting record, is considered a formidable candidate by Republicans and Democrats alike.
He is an avid campaigner, quick with a handshake and a smile. As a delegate, he has never been the kind of legislator to engage in heated debate on the House floor, or behind-the-scenes arm-twisting to get his bills passed. Instead, his forte has been faithfully answering constituent queries.
His opponent, pilot Albert Nunn, who calls himself "The Flying Nunn," has attacked Shore's record in the House, noting that Shore voted for increases in the motor vehicles, boat and state sales tax.
Nunn, who has been active in the Montgomery Young Republicans Club, says American Airlines has already agreed to give him time off so he can serve in the legislature, said, "I want to stress that I am not a lawyer and not a politician. If anything, I am a hardworking, tax-paying citizen who's sick and tired (of seeing) that everytime somebody needs a park, or this or that, the legislature comes to me (as a tax-payer) to pay for it."
Forehand, as a candidate for delegate, is stressing that she has been a Rockville citizen activist for many years. She led a medical and pathological waste center in Rockville.
Besides environmental issues, she has also worked for health causes and helped the Health Systems Planning Agency draw up its five-year health care plan for Montgomery County.
Republican delegate candidate Arn is also hoping to attract both the citizen activist vote and the women's vote. A relative novice to politics, she returned to school at 44 to get her degree in political science.
The wife of a retired naval officer and a former Navy seaman herself, Arn says her experience living "in many different cities around the world" will help her bring a broad perspective to the legislature. Legislators, she says, should take a more cooperative role with the county government, especially when issues seem to be "getting stagnated" at the county level.
The other Republican in the race, Luiz R. Simmons, was narrowly defeated in the last House race, and many political observers say he had never stopped running for a seat since then.
Simmons has been attracting support from the district's liberal Democratic vote and calls himself a Republican in the tradition of former 8th District Rep. Gilbert Gude and Senator Charles McC. Mathias.
Simmons says he is stressing the fact that there are 19 delegates in the Montgomery delegation and not a single Republican.
He has proposed charging large users of electricity proportionately more than homeowners, tenants and small businesses for electricity used during peak hours.
McGuckian is running with the endorsements of every major Democratic group. As counsel to the Montgomery legislative delegation, he worked on much of the delegation-proposed legislation.
He says he favors giving the county government greater control of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He also proposes giving better mortgage assistance to young families seeking to buy homes, and giving more incentives to developers to build moderate income housing.
Running for his third term in the House of Delegates in Owens. Named chairman of the powerful judiciary committee in his first term, Owens is now a contender for the post of speaker of the house.
Owens, who is highly popular in the Wheaton Woods area where he lives and with the district's conservative voters, has been criticized by some Democrats who maintain his committee kills, a number of "reform" bills. But, says Owens, a gruff-speaking ex-Army colonel, "Reform is in the eye of the beholder . . . Some bills just have no merit, and people will say it's a reform bill."