Five candidates running to represent the Catonsville area in the state Senate for District 44 and House of Delegates for District 44B spoke before a small group during a political forum held at the Christian Temple on Edmondson Avenue Wednesday evening.
"I think they did an excellent job tonight expressing their personalities as well as how they would represent the area," said Sherry Welch, a Catonsville resident who co-hosted the event with the Rev. Rick Powell, pastor of Christian Temple.
Two Democratic candidates contending for a seat in the state Senate in the newly redrawn district, Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who currently represents District 10 that includes part of Catonsville, and incumbent state Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, who currently represents District 44 in Baltimore City, spoke at the event.
Three of the five Democratic candidates running for delegate in the newly drawn district 44B — Aaron Barnett, of Woodlawn, Rainier Harvey, of Windsor Mill, and Pat Young, of Catonsville — also spoke.
The three, along with Charles Sydnor and Frederick Ware-Newsome, are vying for the two new open seats in District 44B.
The new district is a result of the state's 2012 redistricting and includes parts of Woodlawn and Catonsville that previously belonged to District 10.
The district's third seat in the House of Delegates will represent District 44B, which includes a portion of West Baltimore.
One state senator will represent District 44.
No Republican candidates have entered either race as of Feb. 20. The filing deadline is Feb. 25.
"I was disappointed Sydnor couldn't make it. He seems to have a good grasp on policy issues," said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, who attended the forum and has endorsed Harvey.
The candidates introduced themselves to the crowd and answered four questions prepared in advance about education, economic development, marijuana legalization and collaboration with public officials.
"A couple of the questions were framed broadly and a couple of them were direct — and I thought we got some direct answers," Welch said.
Welch said she was particularly impressed by Harvey's answers to the questions and Young's commitment to the community.
Harvey, a retired Baltimore County police officer, currently serves as a member of the Baltimore County Planning Board. He touted his experience working with elected officials, and cited the endorsements of Quirk and Nathan-Pulliam for his candidacy.
"I understand how the system works," Harvey said. "At this time, we need someone who can go to Annapolis that understands how the process works and can move forward. I believe I am one of those individuals who can represent you in that way."
Harvey said he has been involved in the political process for more than 25 years, having served as political director for Del. Adrienne Jones (District 10) and as chief-of-staff for Baltimore City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young.
Young, who served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps, is now a coordinator for the Department of Veterans Services at Towson University.
He said his commitment to the community sets him apart from other candidates.
"The ability to serve the community in a more comprehensive way would be an honor. I feel that I am capable of doing so and that I have the right mindset to do so," Young, 30, said.
"I will serve this community with the same honor, courage and commitment that I did when I served in the military," Young said.
Barnett, a U.S. Navy veteran who runs the mentoring program Removing Barriers Limiting our Kids, said he's also been dedicated to serving the Baltimore County community for a long time.
"I love my community. I'm a very dedicated employer, father, family man and trustee of my church right here in Catonsville," Barnett said.
Barnett serves as vice president of the Woodlawn Recreation Council, vice president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333 Port of Baltimore and president of the Powhattan Farms Improvement Association.
Nathan-Pulliam and Jones-Rodwell, both cited their years of experience serving their constituents.
Nathan-Pulliam has served as a delegate since 1995.
Jones-Rodwell has represented District 44 as a senator since 2003.
Nathan-Pulliam said she currently represents 75 percent of the newly drawn district and would like to continue to represent the area.
"I am running because of my commitment to the people," Nathan-Pulliam said. "I am asking each and every one of you for your vote again and your support."
Nathan-Pulliam is a nurse who also runs two health care businesses and serves as deputy majority whip in the House of Delegates.
Jones-Rodwell, who serves as deputy whip in the Senate, said she's worked with legislators to ensure legislation moves through the Senate.
"I have to make sure that the delegation comes together," said Jones-Rodwell, who has served as chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and the Baltimore City Delegation.
Jones-Rodwell said she believes Baltimore County and Baltimore City need to work together to obtain resources.
"We are competing with the Washington metropolitan area as far as resources. Sitting on the Budget and Taxation Committee, I see it," she said.
Whatever happens in the election, Welch said she is thankful for the candidates who are running.
"We have great community servants in this area. I thank you for your leadership and your willingness to put yourself out there," Welch said before the panel of candidates.
The primary election will be held June 24.