District 12 candidates speak to seniors at Charlestown in Catonsville

The stage of the Charlestown Retirement Community auditorium was crowded with all 13 candidates running for state delegate in District 12 at a candidate forum held Tuesday night.

Ten Democrats and three Republicans are contending for three seats in a wide open race with no incumbents. Three Democratic state delegates Liz Bobo, Stephen DeBoy and James Malone will retire at the end of their term.

The event was hosted by David Politt, chairman of the Legislative Political Committee at Charlestown Retirement Community.

Candidates had three minutes to introduce themselves to the crowd of about 150 people and explain what they hope to accomplish if elected.

"They didn't all address issues. But I think theyall expressed their concern for the community," said Eleanor Lewis, 87, a member of the committee.

Some candidates discussed issues facing seniors, while others focused on issues affecting everyone.

Adam Sachs, a public relations specialist for the American Nurses Association who lives in Columbia, addressed transportation and affordable housing.

"I think special interest and corporations have more power. People don't have as much. I want to change that," he said.

He suggested a universal, single-payer health care system, implementation of a public matching funds system for elections and middle-class income tax cuts.

Terri Hill, a plastic surgeon from Columbia, said her experience as a doctor will assist in health care policymaking.

"As a surgeon, I approach problems differently than most people in elected office, I look for win-win situations," Hill said.

Clarence Lam, a Howard County physician, said he'd promote policy platforms such as additional transportation programs for seniors and expanding programs and resources offered by the Maryland Department of Aging.

Lam said he'll work to ensure Maryland continues to rank number one in education. He listed the environment as another top priority.

"When it comes to the environment, I will do all I can to protect the Chesapeake Bay, promote renewable energy sources...I will support a ban on fracking and I would oppose the expansion of Cove Point as an export facility," Lam said.

Eric Ebersole, an educator in Howard County schools for 33 years, also addressed issues affecting seniors and his desire to make sure school systems are "equitable."

"I'd be a model of the kind of integrity and dedication that I see in education professionals all across the schools," Ebersole said.

Another former educator, Renee McGuirk-Spence, who worked as a special education teacher and currently works as a lobbyist for the Maryland Department of Education, said, "I'm very interested in the schools in the area and I believe that every school in District 12 should be a blue ribbon school."

Brian Bailey, a Lansdowne resident and community activist, said he wants to expand the middle class and put people back to work.

"We need to ensure that Maryland continues to rank number one in public education. We need to continue to provide quality accessible health care services...promote energy efficiency and fight for social justice," Bailey said.

Rebecca Dongarra, a Catonsville business owner, said she believes in fiscal responsibility and government transparency.

Dongarra cited her experience testifying in Annapolis to ask that workers that don't have a retirement pension in place are offered one.

She'd work to bring funding to District 12 for public schools and open space if elected, she said.

Nick Stewart, an attorney and former speechwriter for Martin O'Malley, said his campaign is about expanding opportunity. The Arbutus resident said he believes the best way to get there is by taking a "pragmatic approach."

Mike Gisriel, a former one-term Baltimore County delegate and a registered lobbyist who lives in Catonsville, touted his experience working in Annapolis.

"I know how to get things done in Annapolis. I'm collaborative, pragmatic and I'm a team builder. I know how the bills work, " Gisriel said.

While many of the Democratic candidates spoke about education, health care and the environment, the oldest Democratic candidate took a different approach.

Jay Fred Cohen, a former attorney and orphans' court judge, expressed his concern for high taxes in Maryland.

"I'm very serious about the business of Maryland. Maryland is going downhill," he said. "We're losing businesses every day. Why? Because we tax them out of their sight."

The three Republicans had similar concerns about taxes.

Gordon Bull, a Halethorpe resident and construction business owner, said, "One of my main goals in running for the House of Delegates is to help make sure the taxes stay the same or are lowered."

"Being a working class hands on person I know exactly what it's like to watch the cost of a gallon of gasoline go up," Bull said.

Joseph Hooe, a Lansdowne resident and business owner, agreed that taxes are too high in Maryland.

Hooe said his solution would be to raise $350 million through a guest worker program, that would provide undocumented immigrants the temporary right to work in Maryland.

"We have to do something about the budget situation in Maryland," Hooe said.

Rick Martel Jr., a Catonsville attorney who has run for state senator in District 12 twice, said he's concerned about businesses leaving Maryland due to high taxes and the structural deficit.

"It's time that we protect free enterprise, individual responsibility and personal freedom," Martel said.

Voters will have the opportunity to vote for three of the 10 Democrats in the June 24 primary election.

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