Jay Fred Cohen says he is not a "yes man." The Democrat from Columbia has been many things in his career: IRS field agent, Howard County Orphans' Court judge, member of the Fabulous 50-Plus Players of Howard County.
But, he says, never a "yes man." Rather, he doesn't shy away from speaking his mind.
"One of my problems is that I tell it the way it is," Cohen said. "I don't think that's common with a lot of politicians."
Cohen is the latest to file in the packed race for three House of Delegates seats in District 12. Nine other Democrats and two Republicans are seeking to represent the newly redrawn district, which encompasses parts of Howard and Baltimore counties from Columbia to Catonsville.
At 80, Cohen is the oldest candidate to file. He argues, however, his age is an advantage.
"I've got more experience," he said. "I think I can do a better job."
Cohen, who has his own legal practice in Pikesville, has been in law since 1960. He served as an Orphans' Court judge from 2006 to 2010 and was president of the Lawyers Pilots Bar Association from 1992 to 1993.
Cohen said he's concerned that tax increases the past several years are driving businesses and residents from Maryland.
"I think [current lawmakers] spend too much money and collect too many taxes," he said.
He said Maryland residents end up bearing the brunt of each tax increase.
"Every time they do something like that, the people are the ones who get stuck with it, not the companies," he said.
He said he believes retired senior citizens are leaving Maryland and becoming snowbirds – people who change residence by spending part of the year in another state that has better weather and lower taxes.
Maryland, he claims, "is losing lots of income."
Some current lawmakers have indicated a willingness to re-examine Maryland's tax laws, including those relating to estate taxes and accelerated depreciation, this session.
A self-described "people person," Cohen said his job as a delegate would be to do "what's best for the people."
He added: "I believe in looking at what you're doing and making sure that's what the people want."