Catonsville resident Rebecca Dongarra has become the fifth candidate in the race for one of three seats in the House of Delegates for the new District 12, which includes parts of Catonsville, Arbutus and Howard County.
Dongarra, who announced her candidacy on July 1 and ran against current 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk in 2010, grew up in Howard County. She graduated from Glenelg High School and received a bachelor's degree in biology from what is now St. Mary's College of Maryland.
She has lived in Catonsville for the past 20 years with her husband, Paul, and their three children, Roman, 9, who attends Hillcrest Elementary School, and Bella, 10, and Luke, 12, who both attend Catonsville Middle School.
"When you look at who I am, I'm vested in both parts of this new district," Rebecca Dongarra, 45, said.
Her filing follows that of Howard County residents Terri Hill and Clarence Lam, Catonsville resident Eric Ebersole and Lansdowne resident Brian Bailey. All are Democrats.
Redistricting by the state eliminated District 12A and 12B and created a larger District 12 for the 2014 election. So, no longer will one delegate represent only Howard County and two represent predominantly Baltimore County.
Del. Liz Bobo, who represents Howard County in District 12B, announced her retirement in September 2012.
Dels. James Malone Jr. and Steven DeBoy, who represent District 12A, which includes Arbutus and parts of Catonsville and Howard County, each announced their retirement in mid-April.
The three will represent their areas in their last session in January.
Dongarra owns a catering company, Dionysus' Kitchen, and mostly works from her home office. The company's commercial space is in the Harpers Choice business center in Howard County.
She said that being a small business owner and community leader will help her clinch one of the three available seats.
"I have a vested interest (in District 12) from the standpoint of being a parent, from being a small business owner," she said. "And I'm grounded, and that's huge.
"I'm not going anywhere," Dongarra said.
She describes herself as "a strong Democrat" and said she has a passion for statewide issues such as health care and transportation, as well as larger issues such as to preventing food scarcity, human trafficking and homelessness.
She also wants to focus on exposing violations of the state's campaign finance laws.
Dongarra said she plans to work so the state government can continue to do more with less funding, and be smart about it.
"I think we need people like myself in government to say, 'OK, we're going to tighten the belt. We're going to be more responsible with government spending,' We need to make sure that we stay fiscally sound so we can continue to uplift the vulnerable, I call them'" she said.
Having volunteered with a variety of organizations, ranging from the Samaritan Women in Baltimore City, a nonprofit Christian ministry that provides transitional residence and life skills programming for women in recovery, to the STAR (Supporting the Arts in Relay) Theater, Dongarra said she finds the new district's diversity encouraging.
"Just through my experiences, working experiences and volunteer experiences and where I've actually resided, has given me the opportunity to listen and to empathize with people across that broad spectrum," Dongarra said."