A spirited race is developing for the state Senate seat in the Silver Spring area, but unlike Montgomery County's other contests for Senate, abortion is not the rallying issue.
State Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D), seeking her second term in the Senate, is being challenged by Ira Lechner, a lawyer who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1974 to 1978, subsequently was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia and was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Northern Virginia's 10th Congressional District. Robert B. Bates, a Silver Spring lawyer who ran against Ruben in a three-way race in 1986, is also a candidate in heavily Democratic District 20.
All three candidates are advocates of abortion rights -- a situation in contrast to the races in District 17 and District 18, where abortion opponents Sen. S. Frank Shore and Sen. Margaret C. Schweinhaut face stiff challenges from fellow Democrats. Del. Mary H. Boergers is challenging Shore and Del. Patricia R. Sher is opposing Schweinhaut. Both challengers are advocates of abortion rights.
The issues in Silver Spring promise to be campaign financing and the effectiveness not only of Montgomery's representation in Annapolis but also of Ruben's leadership.
"Mine is a proven record of dependability and leadership," Ruben said. She said the county faces serious problems if a state commission on taxes recommends changes in the way state aid is distributed. Ruben, who served in the House of Delegates for 12 years, said she has been such a strong protector of county interests that "I have been accused of being the most parochial legislator in Maryland."
"I wear that badge with honor," said Ruben, a member of the Senate's committee on budget and taxation.
Lechner, promising a battle of "Ira versus Ida," has attacked both the style and substance of Ruben's record.
He said Ruben has been "ineffective in solving critical issues which deal with the environment, skyrocketing property tax assessments and campaign finance reform."
Lechner, who has lived in Montgomery County for more than five years but not run for office there before, criticized Ruben for what he sees as her heavy reliance on campaign contributions from political action committees. Lechner said he refuses to accept any PAC contributions or any contribution of more than $50 from an individual. In addition, he said he refuses to accept any contributions from corporations and developers who seek zoning changes in Montgomery County.
Ruben countered that as recently as 1982, when Lechner ran for Congress, he accepted contributions from political action committees.
Nonetheless, she said, her contributions do not infuence her votes. "I vote the issues," Ruben said.
Lechner also has raised Ruben's well-publicized feud with Del. Dana Lee Dembrow (D), who also represents District 20, saying her refusal to cooperate with Dembrow is symptomatic of her inability to build alliances with other parts of the state.
"One person out of 188 really doesn't make a difference," said Ruben, who makes no secret of her dislike of Dembrow. Dembrow and Diane Kirchenbauer, who lost by 62 votes to Ruben four years ago, are running on a slate with Lechner.
Such personal animosities are seen by some as promising a campaign nasty in tone. And, Ruben and Lechner say they each expect to spend more than $100,000 in the race.
Bates, in contrast, said his will be more of a low-budget, grass-roots campaign.
There are no Republican candidates for the seat.