District 13 Senate candidate says he'll prioritize education, lower taxes

As an auditor, Jody Venkatesan says he would love to take a look at Maryland's healthcare website, which made headlines last fall after being plagued by technical problems from the moment it launched.

But while Maryland Republicans have seized on the site's woes as an example of what they consider Democratic ineptitude, Venkatesan says that as a politician, he would focus on shared values rather than differences.

"It's not about party first, it's about people first," said Venkatesan, a Republican "If there's a philosophical divide, that's fine, but what we have to do is look beyond that."

Venkatesan is running for a state Senate seat in District 13 against Del. Guy Guzzone, who has represented the district since 2007.

"We need somebody who doesn't just go along to get along in Annapolis," Venkatesan said of Guzzone, who he said he blames, in part, for the health care website's foibles. "Really, what should be demanded is accountability, and right now I blame the current incumbents because there is no accountability."

This is not the first campaign for Venkatesan, a North Laurel resident who runs his own small auditing business, Platinum Business Services. He ran for the same Senate seat in 2010, but lost in the primary to Kyle Lorton, a Republican now running for a delegate seat in District 9A. Incumbent Sen. Jim Robey defeated Lorton in the general election.

Venkatesan has also previously served as political director for the Republican Indian Committee, a national political action committee of Indian-American conservatives supporting "fiscal conservatism, low taxes, small government, a strong national defense, free trade and open markets," according to the group's website.

Venkatesan, 43, lists supporting education, creating jobs and reducing taxes as his top priorities if he's elected.

"I'm not looking to go to Annapolis just to sit there," he said.

Venkatesan, who served in the Army and was honorably discharged in 1996, said he is passionate about expanding opportunities for young adults, women, families and small-business owners.

"I want to take down barriers, create more opportunity and allow them to succeed," he said. "That's what it's about."

He listed his audit work for companies such as Marriott International and Manor Care, and ownership of a small business, as proof of his financial acumen. As a member of his homeowners' board, Venkatesan said, he has helped to reduce assessments by 40 percent over the past five years.

"I know that from the inside out," he said. "I know what it takes to make payroll, to pay taxes, to balance revenue."

On education, Venkatesan, who is raising three children ages 10 to 16 with his wife, Louise, said he would push for a program that helps funnel the state's high school juniors and seniors into Maryland's public university system.

"We need to find room for them, and we need to make sure that we have a plan and strategy … for those kids," he said. Part of his vision for such a program, he added, would include creating a committee where high school and university educators work together to help kids make it to college.

"Ultimately," he said, his campaign has "a passion to serve, and we want to do right by families."

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