ANNAPOLIS – A few months ago, Sen. J. Robert Hooper’s run to retainhis 35th District state Senate seat would have been easy.
Now, a lawsuit filed in August may have given two fellow Republicans– a young, retired police officer and a former state delegate — anadvantage.
And a win in Tuesday’s primary is tantamount to winning the seatbecause no one in any other party has filed a challenge.
Despite the lawsuit’s allegations of child sex abuse, Hooper saidFriday he is confident he can hold the seat.
Hooper’s former daughter-in-law filed a $43 million lawsuit againsthim alleging he sexually abused her two young sons, who were both underage 6 when the incidents allegedly occurred. The daughter-in-law’s nameis not being revealed to protect the privacy of her and the children.
Hooper denied the charge saying it was nothing more than a “familyfeud,” and said he has not been allowed to see the two children for threeyears.
“These kind of charges you can’t really defend,” he said. “I know Ididn’t do it.”
Recent redistricting may compound his problems retaining his seat,Hooper acknowledged.
“There’s enough new people who don’t know me,” Hooper said. However,he said he’s gotten nothing but letters of support.
Towson attorney Chris Nielson, who is representing thedaughter-in-law, declined to comment.
Hooper, 66, lives in Street and is co-owner of Harford Sanitation Services. He’s held his Senate seat, which now covers most of HarfordCounty, since 1999. He’s made health care, particularly high prescriptiondrug costs, his priority.
Kenneth E. Unitas, 34, is the youngest candidate vying for the 35th District Senate seat. Though he has no political experience, Unitas was anAnne Arundel County Police officer for 12 years and now is a DefenseDepartment contractor. He also teaches forensics at Harford and CarrollCommunity Colleges.
A Bel Air resident, Unitas said his main reason for running is the”ultra- conservative partisanship” that he said has pervaded his districtfor years.
“It doesn’t serve anybody,” Unitas said. “He (Hooper) doesn’t bend to anything . . . any new, creative, innovative ideas.”
Unitas said the focus of his campaign is education, includingadditional school funding and teacher input on curriculum. He alsosupports using gaming to raise funds for education and other countyneeds.
“They’re (teachers) not supported by our dysfunctional Senatedelegation,” he said.
Anthony M. DiPietro Jr., a former 16-year Southeast Baltimore state delegate, is also competing in the race. DiPietro, 67, said his experiencewill sway voters.
“I know where to go and whose buttons to press,” said DiPietro, aFountain Green resident. “I’ve been a people person all my life. I knowhow it is to make a living in Annapolis.”
Education issues and preventing overdevelopment in Harford County, aplace he said is beginning to look a lot like Baltimore, top his agenda.
“I’m an in-the-trench person,” he said. “I’ll be there fighting withyou.”