F. Kirwan Wineland is just completing his first term on the Prince George's County Council. Nonetheless, he has accumulated a campaign war chest nearly twice the size of his colleagues'.
Robert Isom, hoping to oust Wineland in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, is alleging that Wineland has been bought by county developers and is "ineffective and non-responsive" to the issues facing his constituents in District 9.
The vast district, a heavily rural area holding 40 percent of the county's land mass, starts from the Potomac River in the west and ends at the Patuxent River in the east. It includes parts of Upper Marlboro, all of Croom, Aquasco and Brandywine, and has had a tremendous influx of residential communities and shopping centers during the past decade.
Isom, 52, vice president of a Washington-based computer time sharing firm, acknowledges that growth has been good for the economy of the county's southernmost area, but complains that Wineland, 31, has been invisible on strategies to cushion the boom. He noted that of the six candidates forums he has attended, Wineland has been absent.
"I've had quite a few constituents say they have written him on a host of problems and he has not responded with a letter, not even with a phone call," Isom said. "He's basically been ineffective and non-responsive."
Council members also joke about Wineland's hands-off management style. Council member Sue V. Mills told one reporter trying to reach Wineland to not take it personally, saying that was "just Kirk, he doesn't even return constituent calls."
Wineland, who will enter his second year of law school at Catholic University in September, brushed off such criticism and said his constituents are pleased with his "proactive" performance.
"We are out there talking to the people and always have been," he said. "I also believe I have worked strongly and successfully toward achieving a balance in growth."
Wineland's district holds the largest amount of undeveloped land in the county. The council member has sponsored fewer than a dozen pieces of legislation during his four-year tenure, but two sought to soften the infrastructure problems brought on by growth. A 1989 resolution urging state transportation officials to initiate a Commuter Rail Service from southern Maryland to the Amtrak line in Bowie was never adopted, but Wineland did push through a zoning ordinance imposing strict smell and noise laws on a waste processing facility tentatively slated for his district.
A former legislative aide to council member William Amonett, whom he replaced, Wineland gained the council seat in an easy 1986 campaign, aided in large part by Amonett, who transferred $37,000 from his treasury to Wineland after making a 11th-hour decision not to seek reelection.
While Isom has raised $1,200, the incumbent has raised $113,59, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Wineland does not plan to hold any fund-raisers for his first reelection campaign, because a fund-raiser a year ago, "raised enough money to satisfy the campaign treasury's needs," he said.
Most of his campaign funds have come from county developers, including firms and individuals who have brought zoning requests before the council. This is not unusual in a county where the nearly $1 million in campaign contributions made to council members between 1985 and 1989 came from the local development community.
Wineland's April 19, 1989, fund-raiser, in which more than $70,000 was donated to his campaign, came at an awkward time while the General Assembly was considering legislation forbidding the County Council from voting on land issues that involved anyone who had contributed to their campaign.
An appeals court later struck down the law, and an attempt to revive it failed.
In addition, a series of reports in The Washington Post this summer disclosed that the county purchased two tracts of land from Fred Wineland, the council member's father and Democratic Party leader, at inflated prices and at a time when less expensive land was available.
The younger Wineland did not sit on the council when it voted to approve one of the purchases and he abstained on the other. He also was not on the council when the zoning changes were approved, but some have said that is beside the point.
"It may not have been illegal, but it smacks of nepotism and favoritism," said Karen Crownover, the Republican candidate for council in the District.
Isom has yet to receive an endorsement from any county group. Wineland has been endorsed by the Prince George's County Professional Firefighters Association; the Maryland State and District of Columbia Professional Firefighters; the county police union and members of an apartment and office building trade association.
"The primary on Sept. 11 will prove that I have a great deal of support in the community," Wineland said.
The winner of the primary will face Crownover in the Nov. 6 general election.