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Hogan to decide temporary replacement for former Baltimore Sen. Nathaniel Oaks after split committee vote

Gov. Larry Hogan will choose between two people to temporarily fill the seat left by former state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks after the Democratic Central Committee for Baltimore's 41st District remained split after five votes.

Hogan will chose between former Del. Jill P. Carter and Joyce J. Smith, both of whom received two votes from the committee. Smith was one of the voters and voted for herself. Two of the committee members, former Baltimore City Councilwoman Rikki Spector and Del. Angela C. Gibson, abstained from the final vote.

Eight people applied to fill the vacancy, but only seven presented themselves to the committee at a public forum held at the Forest Park Golf Club on Tuesday evening. In addition to Smith and Carter, Gary Brooks, James Butler, Charles Smith, Jay Steinmetz and former state Del. Shawn Tarrant all were interviewed.

Carter, who is now the director of Baltimore’s civil rights office, is competing against educator J.D. Merrill in the June Democratic primary for the seat.

The forum was structured like a reality show audition, with candidates having a minute or 90 seconds to answer questions offered by the committee about their plans for a term that will last only a few months — until the next election.

“I understand in eight months, you can’t change the world,” said Brooks, an area attorney, sitting before the dais.

Candidates were asked whether they believed tax dollars should be used to keep the Preakness at Pimlico, which is in the 41st district. Most of the candidates agreed that they should — though some added more needed to be done to make Pimlico work with the community.

Only passing acknowledgment was made of the reasons for the vacancy — the resignation of Oaks last month after he pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.

Carter said that when she resigned as state delegate, “I thought I was leaving the district in very capable hands … but as you all know all kinds of chaos ensued.”

Some candidates referenced the divisions within the district, which includes neighborhoods from Park Heights to Mt. Washington.

“I think we need to bring some harmony to this district,” Joyce Smith said.

Steinmetz, CEO of a local company and a member of several boards, offered to do the job for free. “I’m willing to do this on my own dime. I don’t need the money,” he said. “This is my way to give back.”

Public input was not accepted, which bothered Mark McLaurin, political director for the Service Employees International Union, who sat in the audience.

He was skeptical of the forum, saying that it appeared that committee members had their minds made up before the session began.

“Must be nice winning a Senate seat with only one vote besides your own,” he said, referring to Joyce Smith’s candidacy. “Be a neat trick if you can pull it off.”

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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