As the government shutdown drama was playing out in Washington, James Ward Morrow was shocked by some of the rhetoric he heard.
Morrow, a 49-year-old Democrat from Ellicott City who goes by the name Ward, said he's running for election as the District 9A representative to the House of Delegates to offer an alternative voice to what he sees as an increasingly conservative Republican Party.
He's the first Democrat to file in District 9A, which covers parts of Ellicott City, western Howard and some of southern Carroll County.
"I was seeing people saying shut [the government] down, get rid of it," he said. "I couldn't stand for that. Somebody needed to send a message that that's not acceptable."
On the Republican side, four candidates so far have filed to run for one of the district's two seats, including incumbent delegate Warren Miller.
Morrow has been an attorney for the American Federation of Government Employees for the past decade. He said he has watched Howard County shift from a historically rural community to a more suburban one, with an increasing number of residents who are part of the federal work force.
Now, "a lot of the folks work in government jobs," he said. "So, when you have people running for office that want to do away with the jobs [that doesn't make sense].
"I think the voters have to send a message. In a county with a lot of government employees as well as contractors and small businesses that would go out of business [without the federal government], there's a need for a different voice."
Before representing the AFGE, Morrow worked as a legislative assistant in the House of Delegates, a prosecutor in Baltimore and a federal prosecutor. In 2010, he lost in a race for a delegate seat in District 7, which represents Harford and Baltimore counties.
"I've worked in the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches of government, and I've worked at the city, state and national level," he said. "For years, I've always heard people say we need to send someone who knows how to run a business to government. I think it's time we send somebody who knows about government to government."
As a former prosecutor, he said public safety was an important issue to him. He also cited supporting Howard County schools and protecting the environment as top priorities.
A Sierra Club member, Morrow said protecting the environment, in his view, requires "some level of regulation."
He said the state's stormwater fee, which has generated controversy at the state and local level, could be improved upon but shouldn't be eliminated. District 9 state Sen. Allan Kittleman, the Republican candidate for county executive, recently pre-filed a bill that would eliminate the requirement that the state's nine largest counties and Baltimore pay a fee.
"I don't believe that government is funded by Santa Claus," Morrow said. "Are there other taxes to look at? Sure. Am I open to different funding streams? I'm all ears."
He said businesses who have benefited from Howard County's public services should "pay their fair share" but that the county should ensure that the fees did not have a "disparate impact" on groups who could not afford to pay as much, such as family farmers.
Morrow said the 2014 elections would "be a real chance for Howard County to shine and show itself that it's part of the governing class of Maryland." If elected, he said he'd "be looking to work with other delegates and people with both parties."
He also said the current big government-small government debate was a false dichotomy.
"I don't think the equation is bigger government vs. smaller government," he said. "I think people just want competent government."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun