Catonsville resident becomes sixth candidate in race for District 12 delegate

As the weather begins to cool down, the race to fill the three open seats in the Maryland House of Delegates in District 12 is heating up.

Renee McGuirk-Spence joined the field Monday, Sept. 9, as the sixth candidate to file in Annapolis.

The 60-year-old Catonsville resident grew up in Beechfield, about a mile from the county border in Baltimore City, and has been living in Catonsville for the past 35 years.

"I've lived within a five mile radius [of Catonsville] for 55 years," McGuirk-Spence said Tuesday Sept. 10. "I really feel like this is my community."

After graduating with an bachelor's degree in elementary education with a special education option and a master's degree in education from then-Loyola College, McGuirk-Spence fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming teacher.

"From second grade on I wanted to be a teacher," she said.

She worked for one year at Beechfield Elementary — the elementary school she attended — and another six years at Chatsworth School for special needs students in Baltimore County.

From there, she spent the next eight years as a stay-at-home mother raising her two children — Matthew Spence, now 31, and Rachel Spence, now 28 — before working with Gov. William Donald Schaefer in the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families until 1994.

McGuirk-Spence currently serves as director of governmental relations for the Maryland State Department of Education, a position she has held for almost 20 years and one she believes will give her an edge in the race for District 12 delegate.

Though McGuirk-Spence said she had been considering a political career for some time, she finalized her decision after hearing that all three incumbent delegates would retire after the 2014 session.

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.

State redistricting eliminated the subdistricts for the 2014 election so there will no longer be one delegate to represent only Howard County and two to represent predominantly Baltimore County. Instead, three delegates will be chosen to represent the entirety of the district which now includes parts of Columbia, Arbutus and Catonsville.

"As soon as I read that they [Malone and DeBoy] were both retiring, it was immediate. I thought maybe I should," McGuirk-Spence said. "And people approached me and said, 'Renee, now's your time.'

"Jimmy [Malone] represented the firemen, and Steve [DeBoy] represented the police, and here's a chance for an educator," she said. "What a great time for me to be in Annapolis."

Because her current job requires frequent interaction with legislators, McGuirk-Spence thinks she would easily slip into the role of delegate.

"I have the know-how," she said. "I know how it works.

"Hopefully that will afford me the opportunity to start and hit the ground running and be a voice for District 12," McGuirk-Spence said. "I will be able to relate with all my constituents and hear their concerns."

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