In Catonsville's District 44 primary, seven Democrats vie for General Assembly seats

Democratic primary voters in the Catonsville area will be choosing a candidate from among two running for state Senate and two candidates from among five running for the House of Delegates.

The Republicans, with one candidate for Senate in District 44 and none for the House in District 44B, do not have a competitive local primary for the General Assembly. District 44 stretches from Oella, to Woodlawn, to Lochearn and to part of Catonsville, including the Paradise Community.

A breakdown of the candidates running in the June primary follows:

Senate District 44

In addition to parts of Baltimore County, Senate District 44 stretches into western Baltimore City. Incumbent Shirley Nathan-Pulliam has represented the district since 2014 and is challenged in the Democratic primary by Aletheia McCaskill.

Victor Clark Jr. is the only Republican registered as a candidate in the district.

McCaskill, 46, of Gwynn Oak, is an early-learning and child-development specialist who also works with SEIU Local 500, a union that represents teachers, child-care professionals and part-time college faculty in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

McCaskill said she was inspired to run by people in her community and organizations she’s involved with that support a change in representation in the district.

“Responsiveness is one of the things that sets me apart,” she said. “Even as a community activist or labor union leader, I’ve been able to be responsive to people’s concerns, [unlike] our current senator.”

As an example, McCaskill said she was going to do a walk-through of a Baltimore neighborhood with an official from the mayor’s office who complained to her about parking. McCaskill said the residents who contacted her said they had tried to seek help from Nathan-Pulliam’s office but got no response.

McCaskill said, if elected, she would focus on issues of homelessness, improving education standards, and would push for a $15 minimum wage in Maryland.

More information on McCaskill and her campaign can be found at https://www.mccaskill44.com/.

Nathan-Pulliam, 79, of Windsor Mill, was elected to the Maryland Senate in 2014 after serving in the House of Delegates since 1994. She’s a registered nurse who holds degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park and Johns Hopkins University.

She said McCaskill’s criticism of her was unfounded.

“She has no clue, OK,” Nathan-Pulliam said. She said she represents more than 120,000 constituents in the county and can’t attend every community meeting. She said she sends a liaison to meetings that she can’t be at.

Many of the concerns she hears about should be dealt with on the local level, not at the state level, she said.

“I’m not letting this knock me down, because I have done the work, and I am still doing the work,” Nathan-Pulliam said.

Her priorities in Annapolis, she said, are used on making health care affordable and accessible, ensuring quality education and pushing for economic development and environmental protection in the state.

Nathan-Pulliam lists among her legislative accomplishments preventing the sale of neonicotinoid pesticides in Maryland to protect pollinators and a bill that requires the development and implementation of a standardized reporting system to determine the effectiveness of community-partnered school behavioral health services programs.

More information about Nathan-Pulliam can be found at: http://www.shirleynathan-pulliam.com/.

House of Delegates District 44B

Residents of District 44B send two representatives to the House of Delegates. There are five Democrats and no Republicans on the ballot.

Incumbents Charles E. Sydnor III, 44, and Pat Young, 35, both Catonsville Democrats, have served since 2015, after being elected in 2014. The two are supporting each other’s re-election.

Young, a veteran of the U.S. Marines and former director of Towson University’s Military and Veterans Center, said keeping health care costs down in Maryland would be a priority for him during the next legislative session.

He also said he would focus on making sure Baltimore County gets its “fair share” of state money toward school construction and renovation projects.

What most sets him apart from his primary opponents is his experience as a legislator, he said, adding that he has a ”thorough understanding” of the legislative process.

“We didn’t get elected in 2014 and then hide in office,” Young said. “We’ve been active.”

He said he views his two biggest legislative accomplishments as expanding the types of classes that are eligible for tuition waivers for Maryland foster care youth pursuing associate and bachelor degrees or vocational certificates, and creating the Maryland College Collaboration for Student Veterans Commission to ensure the educational success of returning veterans.

Young’s website is https://www.patyoung4md.com/.

Sydnor, a senior staff attorney with an affordable housing organization, said his primary focuses in Annapolis would be “making certain that we continue to have good, strong schools,” and increasing transparency and public involvement concerning different technologies that law enforcement officers use.

“Being able to really engage constituents and get them to open up, point out some things that need to be changed I think has been really awesome,” Sydnor said. “I tell people a lot of things I do are not because I have the ideas, but the ideas are coming from the public.”

Sydnor lists among his proudest legislative accomplishments working on legislation that provides a tax credit for retiring law enforcement and emergency response officials, a hate crime bill that punishes perpetrators of a crime against a group as if they had harmed an individual, and a bill that will require reports to the governor and the General Assembly regarding how many applicants for occupational licenses or certificates were denied during the past five years because of their criminal history.

More information on Sydnor can be found at http://www.charlessydnor3d.org/.

Aaron J. Barnett, 58, of Woodlawn, has been active in community associations and groups since the 1970s, when he played youth football, he said. He ran for delegate in 2014 and lost the primary election by 34 votes.

The U.S. Navy veteran said he’s running to take his advocacy to “another level.”

Barnett said he’d have several goals in Annapolis, including preserving open and green space in the district and boosting behavioral health, and special education training in schools.

“For years, we’ve had elected officials and candidates coming out to our communities selling us false hope … we deserve better,” Barnett said.

More information about Barnett and his candidacy can be found at https://electaaronjbarnett.com//.

Aisha Khan, 34, of the Woodbridge Valley neighborhood, an immigrant from Pakistan, owns and operates Kiddie Learning Center in Catonsville. She said she’s running because she wants to give back to the community after “achieving the American Dream in 44B.”

In Annapolis, she said she would push for school funding in Baltimore County so that no student is going to class in a portable trailer, would encourage women and minority entrepreneurship, and would fight for universal pre-kindergarten in Maryland.

“We have amazing students and dedicated teachers, but until our schools are first class we will always risk losing families,” Khan said. “I don’t want to lose families because of our schools. When our schools do better, the entire neighborhood and our communities to better.”

Khan’s website is http://www.aishaforchange.com/.

Bishop Barry Chapman, 59, of Villa Nova, a businessman, said he wants the state to invest more in community projects.

“There needs to be a budget specifically geared toward community projects statewide,” he said. Investments should be made in retraining adults for high-tech jobs so that automation and outsourcing don’t destroy the job market, he said.

He also cited the need for prison reform and said nonviolent criminals don’t always belong in prison.

“Everybody can’t go to jail,” Chapman said. “When the breadwinner goes to jail in the family, you’ve wrecked the family.”

Chapman does not have a campaign website.

This story has been updated.

cboteler@baltsun.com

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