District 12 voters have an abundance of options on the Democratic side for the three open delegate seats. But, until late last month, no one had stepped forward to fill an "R" slot on the ballot.
Lansdowne resident Joseph Hooe became the first Republican to file for the District 12 House race on Nov. 20.
But Hooe, 45, doesn't intend to make his campaign about partisan politics.
A Lansdowne volunteer firefighter and owner of a small tire business in Baltimore, Hooe said he's concerned about the state's working class.
"I think we need to bring everyone together and focus on what's important: productivity and lifestyle," he said. "I'm running to help people in our district and in our state, and I want to hold the politicians in Annapolis accountable, and that's a job that I've been wanting to do for a long time."
This isn't Hooe's first bid for a delegate seat. He's run in District 12A three times before, in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Each time, he came in third, behind Democratic incumbents James Malone and Steven DeBoy, but he says he's been inching closer to a win.
In 2010, Hooe garnered 24.7 percent of the vote, trailing DeBoy by 684 votes.
This time around, the re-drawn district comes with new challenges. Whereas District 12 had formerly been split into two sub-districts — 12A, with two seats from Baltimore County, and 12B, with one seat from Howard County — the new District 12 has three House seats representing voters in both counties, from sections of Columbia to Catonsville, passing through Elkridge, Halethorpe and Arbutus.
"If you look at my performance in the last few elections, you see a solid third-place performance," Hooe said of his chances. "With a wide open field, I hope that favors me."
Hooe said his chief concerns were public safety, improving leadership in Annapolis and bolstering the economic climate.
"People have the right to living wages, they have the right to advance themselves, and I want to see companies stay in Maryland and grow in Maryland," he said.
Hooe said the topic of increasing the minimum wage, which lawmakers expect to pass in the General Assembly in 2014, was an "interesting issue.
"I do think people have the right to a living wage, but I also believe that companies have a right to be profitable, and to hire people and develop," he said, outlining his vision for a system that would set a limit on the amount of time employees could work for a low wage.
"Companies should not be allowed to exploit labor, and labor should not be allowed to exploit a company," he said. "It's a partnership."
Hooe has run his Baltimore-based business, The Tire Network, since 1998, and currently has six full-time and three part-time employees.
Hooe said he wanted to see taxes eased on business in the state. "Whether it's a gas tax or a rain tax, we have to stop doing it," he said.
Hooe said he hoped to participate in the next debate among District 12 hopefuls.
The nine Democratic candidates shared their views on hot topics, including the stormwater fee, minimum wage, fracking and decriminalization of marijuana, in a town hall hosted by Del. Malone in Arbutus on Nov. 13.
"For me, this is not a Democratic or Republican race," he said. "It's about getting good honest representatives in Annapolis. It's about putting a person like myself in office who will work for all people, and that's exactly what I intend to do."