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District 44B candidates address residents' issues at Edmondson Heights forum

Residents anticipating a prolonged discussion involving candidates for state delegate in District 44B did not have to endure sitting in library chairs at Edmondson Heights Elementary School for long on Thursday night.

The evening forum lasted an hour and 15 minutes and that included five-minute introductions by each of the four invited candidates.

The West Edmondale Community Association and the West Catonsville Community Association organized the event and invited Democrats Aaron Barnett, Rainier Harvey, Charles Sydnor and Pat Young of the six Democrats and one Republican in the race.

Those were four they wanted to hear from, according to Grace Strawder, president of the West Edmondale Community Association.

"I want our people to get to know the candidates, so they're aware of who's running to represent them," Strawder said.

Each candidate was asked the same two questions before a crowd of approximately 25 residents.

Margaret Stokes, a legislative aide in the office of 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, asked the four how they would reduce the number of vacant homes and how they would hold private businesses accountable for maintenance of their properties, both issues for the surrounding area.

Rainier Harvey, a Windsor Mill resident, said elected officials need to fight for their constituents.

"To be elected gives you a certain right to demand and say, 'Hey, my community needs help'. We need for the state to do certain things," he said, "It's about relationships and I have those relationships."

Harvey, an appointed member of the Baltimore County Planning Board, is a retired police officer. He has also served as political director for District 10 Del. Adrienne Jones and has the backing of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, District 10 Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Quirk.

Charles Sydnor, a Catonsville resident, said he believes foreclosed homes are a problem not only in the immediate area, but across the state.

"Legislatively, I do have a solution. But I'm not sure if I should say it — because they might take it from me," Sydnor said, which elicited laughter from the group.

"If I get to Annapolis, I'll make certain there is a bill with a solution," Sydnor said.

Sydnor, a senior attorney at Enterprise Community Partners, has also served on the Maryland Consumer Council and the Chesapeake Executive Council Citizens Advisory Committee. He has been endorsed by Kamenetz and state District 10 Sen. Delores Kelley.

Pat Young, a 30-year-old Catonsville resident and coordinator of veterans services at Towson University, said he'd like to see the state use eminent domain to take ownership of vacant properties.

Young said such a process would assist with the eradication of vacant properties.

"It's the government's responsibility to take that step when others can't, " Young said. "And if that's not the role of government, I don't know what is."

Young, a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq, is currently a commissioner representing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on the Maryland Veterans Commission. He is also co-chairman of the Maryland College Collaboration for Student Veterans. He has been endorsed by the Southwest Baltimore County Democratic Club.

Aaron Barnett, a Woodlawn resident, said, "People are suffering and I really can't sit here and tell you that I have an answer."

"With code enforcement and zoning, the only thing we can do is keep the neighborhood maintained as best as we can," Barnett said. "We need to come together as a community and find an answer."

Barnett, a Navy veteran who serves as vice president of the International Longshoremen's Association, runs the mentoring program Removing Barriers Limiting Our Kids. He is vice president of the Woodlawn Parks and Recreation Council and president of Powhattan Farms Improvement Association.

Barnett has the support of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, District 10 Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. and Baltimore City Councilwoman Sharon Green-Middleton. Green-Middleton's District 6 includes Ashburton, Coldspring Newtown, Cross Keys, Park Heights, Roland Park and The Woodlands at Coldspring, among other city neighborhoods.

The newly drawn District 44B is a result of the state's 2012 redistricting and includes parts of Woodlawn and Catonsville that previously belonged to District 10. It shares a state senator with District 44A, which includes West Baltimore.

There are no incumbents in the race.

Two other Democrats, Barry "Bishop Barry" Chapman, 56, a businessman and resident of the Villa Nova community off Liberty Road, and Frederick Ware-Newsome, a Pikesville resident who works for Baltimore City Social Services, are also candidates for the one of the two open seats to represent District 44B.

Michael Russell, the only Republican, is a 23-year-old student at University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Primary elections will be held June 24. Early voting is June 12 through June 19.

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