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Balto. Co. endorsements [Editorial]

Laws and LegislationElectionsVicki AlmondUniversity of Maryland Baltimore CountyBenjamin L. CardinDemocratic Party

The Sun makes endorsements for state legislature and County Council in the following races:

8th District

Redistricting left the residents of the 8th District with two incumbents for three spots. Del. John Cluster, Christian Miele and Norma Secoura are unopposed in the Republican primary, but there is significant competition among the Democrats. Del. Eric Bromwell, though still young at 37, is running for his fourth term in Annapolis, and he has matured as a lawmaker during his time. He is fiscally conservative, as befits his district, but he took a courageous stance in support of marriage equality, which encouraged other centrist Democrats to join the cause. Look for him to move up to a position of leadership in his next term. He has our endorsement. Among a field of good candidates, we endorse Renee Smith and Harry Bhandari. Ms. Smith is a long-time aide to state Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, and she brings tremendous knowledge of the district and experience in constituent service. Mr. Bhandari is a native of Nepal who started out in this country as a gas station attendant and worked his way through college and graduate school. He is now a teacher, and he has a passion for education policy. He has an immigrant's drive and appreciation for the opportunities this country affords, and we have no doubt that he would work hard to make sure others have the same chances to succeed.

10th District

Redistricting and the retirement of Del. Emmett Burns leaves the 10th District on Baltimore County's west side with just one incumbent, Del. Adrienne Jones. Don't let Delegate Jones' low-key demeanor fool you, this veteran lawmaker has a sharp sense of the issues and represents her district well. As speaker pro tempore, she is also the highest ranking member of the county delegation in either chamber. She deserves re-election. We also support one of the candidates Delegate Jones has selected as a member of her ticket, Carin Smith. Ms. Smith is the daughter-in-law of former County Executive James T. Smith Jr., but she earns our endorsement because of her professional and personal involvement in helping children with mental health or developmental disability needs. Given the history of waiting lists for such services in Maryland, the General Assembly could use more advocates for those families. Finally, we endorse Rob Johnson, a real star among candidates for the legislature this year. He is a young attorney and UMBC graduate who displays a depth of knowledge about the issues that few veteran members of the legislature could match.

11th District

We strongly support the re-election of incumbents Dan Morhaim and Dana Stein. Dr. Morhaim, the only physician serving in the General Assembly, has provided crucial expertise to matters of health care, including championing the legalization of medical marijuana. Mr. Stein, a long-time director of a Baltimore AmeriCorps service organization with degrees from Harvard, Princeton and Columbia, has been an important voice for social welfare and environmental causes in Annapolis.

That leaves a third seat that was left open when Del. Jon Cardin decided to run for attorney general. Four well-qualified candidates are vying to replace him, but we believe the best choice of the challengers is Shelly Hettleman of Pikesville, a long-time aide to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin who is running for elected office for the first time.

Ms. Hettleman is well-known in the district having worked not only on Senator Cardin's election staff but on Capitol Hill, and she has developed an expertise in domestic violence and family issues. She would be the first woman to represent the district in the House of Delegates in 30 years. Also deserving of consideration is Don Engel, assistant vice president for research at University of Maryland Baltimore County who not only has a doctorate in physics but some independent-minded experience in politics as well.

12th District

The shape of the 12th District shifted to become majority Howard County in the latest redistricting. Gone are the two subdistricts and, just as significantly, all three incumbent House delegates have stepped down.

Without the incumbents, the race has attracted three Republicans who will pass along to the general election, while 10 Democrats are vying for three spots in the general.

Those Democrats offer a variety of life experiences and come from all portions of the district. We found many of them to be capable to serve in Annapolis but three rose to the top for us. They are Eric Ebersole. Clarence Lam and Terri Hill.

Ebersole, a long-time Catonsville resident and math teacher at River Hill High School in Columbia, would bring three decades of education experience and smart views on the environment and job creation. Both Lam, a physician and a former legislative staffer for Del. Dan Morhaim, and Hill, a plastic surgeon, would bring health care experience to a legislature that needs it. Lam, a Columbia resident, also pledges to bring a progressive voice to the district and we like his ideas on a progressive tax plan. Hill, also a Columbia resident, makes the environment and support for small businesses among her priorities.

There is no primary in the district's senate race.

 42nd District

State Sen. Jim Brochin annoys just about everyone (us included) at one point or another. That alone seems to be the basis of his challenge by former Del. Connie DeJuliis, who has predicated her campaign on the idea that she is a real Democrat and he is not. Ms. DeJuliis decries Mr. Brochin's willingness to break with his party and his propensity to change his mind — gay marriage and gun control among the most prominent examples. Indeed, he sometimes comes down on what, from our perspective, is the wrong side on big issues, as in his opposition to Maryland's version of the Dream Act. But since when is a willingness to listen to the evidence and change one's mind a bad thing? Another reliable vote for the Democratic leadership is not what Annapolis needs, and it's almost certainly not what the 42nd District wants. Mr. Brochin gets our endorsement.

The new 42nd includes a Democratic-leaning one-member district in the south, where incumbent Del. Steve Lafferty is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. But the race in Republican-leaning District 42-B is much more contentious, with GOP incumbent Dels. Susan Aumann and Joseph Boteler III facing challenges from attorney Chris West and Jesse Filamor. Ms. Aumann has consistently demonstrated herself to be a caring and thoughtful lawmaker during her three terms in Annapolis, and she is extremely attentive to issues of importance to her constituents. Delegate Aumann gets our endorsement. Among the other candidates, Chris West, a long-time Republican activist and first-time candidate, stands out. He combines moderation on social issues with a focus on improving Maryland's business climate through tax and regulatory reform. He has a realistic sense of how he, as a Republican, could influence legislation in a Democrat-dominated General Assembly, and he brings welcome expertise on issues related to state pensions and education policy.

44th District

Thanks to redistricting, the residents of the Catonsville area have the opportunity to elect two new delegates in a district that was once entirely within Baltimore City. Five Democrats, none with any experience in elected office, are running. Rainier Harvey and Charles Sydnor are the best among them.

Mr. Harvey, a Windsor Mill resident, is a veteran and former police officer who now serves on the Baltimore County Planning Board. While this is his first campaign for public office, he is nevertheless familiar with the world of politics, having served as political director for Del. Adrienne Jones, who had represented the area when it was part of District 10.

Mr. Sydnor, a Catonsville resident, is an attorney with a Columbia company founded by James Rouse that seeks to create opportunity for low- and moderate income people through affordable housing. A Johns Hopkins University graduate who focused on educational policymaking in graduate school at UMBC, he will bring a thoughtful, intelligent approach to matters before the General Assembly.

County Council District 2

First-term County Councilwoman Vicki Almond is facing a rematch from her opponent in 2010, Jon Herbst. Then a Republican, Mr. Herbst has switched parties and is now challenging her in the primary, and the 36-year-old attorney has the backing of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and state Sen. Bobby Zirkin (for whom Ms. Almond once worked as chief of staff). Much of the issue at hand revolves around Ms. Almond's handling of the approval of the Foundry Row project in Owings Mills, which will include a Wegmans grocery store. Indeed, we agree that her enthusiasm for the project appeared to get ahead of the process, but we also get the sense that dissatisfaction with the final result is concentrated among rival developers rather than Ms. Almond's constituents.

Mr. Herbst says the district needs someone with the skills and background that Mr. Kamenetz brought to the council when he represented the 2nd and that Ms. Almond squanders too much goodwill by disagreeing with the executive. However, we think the council needs someone like Ms. Almond, with her decades of experience in community work and her willingness to ask tough questions about the administration's policies. She has our endorsement.

County Council District 3

Republican Wade Kach, a longtime state delegate who has diligently served North Baltimore County and who is now running to represent the same conservative-leaning area in the county government, is the best choice for the 3rd District. Mr. Kach, first elected to the legislature in 1975, taught math in county schools, then served the system as its auditor, which makes him particularly qualified to address school overcrowding and keep county spending in check. His past work on the House Environmental Matters Committee also makes him attuned to the need to preserve open space in that district, which stretches from Lutherville to the Pennsylvania border. Incumbent Republican Todd Huff has served an unimpressive four years. He touts a multi-million dollar renovation project at Hereford High as a chief accomplishment, but that project was underway before Mr. Huff ever came to the council.

To respond to this editorial, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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