District 32 race sees diverse cast of candidates in changing landscape

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

West Anne Arundel County has changed along with Fort George G. Meade’s economic growth, so has the cast of candidates running to represent it.

Del. Pam Beidle and Del. Ted Sophocleus, two of the three incumbents, are not running this year. With Sophocleus’ death and Beidle’s decision to run for the state Senate, voters will have a diverse cast of candidates to consider for House of Delegates.

Consisting of portions of Linthicum, Glen Burnie, Severn, Fort Meade and Maryland City, District 32 represents a wide range of interests and issues when it comes to its constituents.

When talking to the seven candidates running for the three seats — Democrats Mike Rogers, Sandy Bartlett and incumbent Mark Chang and Republicans Tim Walters, Patty Ewing, Mark Bailey and Sandra German — the diversity of the district comes through in their platforms.

While German did not run in the primary election, she is running a write-in Republican candidate. The other six won the top three spots in their respective party’s primary election.

From education to infrastructure and a changing geographic landscape, each candidate said they want to tackle a number of issues if elected to office.

Infrastructure

As Route 175 plays a larger role of the morning commute to Fort Meade and the region, several candidates pointed to the state road and the surrounding area as crucial need to address. The state is currently expanding the road.

Mike Rogers, a Democratic candidate and a Russet resident since 2003 with 29 years of military experience, said the state has not properly addressed fixes needed on major roads.

“There hasn’t been a lot of forethought as to the infrastructure to support some of that growth,” he said.

Rogers said he wants to see developers play a more active role in planning the infrastructure of housing developments and would advocate for a “collaborative process working with the county executive and county council to try to find out what makes sense.”

Walters, a Republican candidate who served in the Navy for 20 years, said “the roads around Fort Meade are horrendous,” saying formulas passed by the General Assembly rating which roads should receive funding for construction first “favors their party base.” Outside of saying he’d “bring back every tax dollar” to the county, he offered few specifics.

Bartlett, an adjunct professor at Anne Arundel Community College, said “a lot of people are concerned about the infrastructure and the lack of preventive measures when it comes to traffic flow,” specifically in Hanover.

She said she believes that while development is largely dictated by municipal governments, she’d push for restrictions on development to be implemented at a state level and pointed to how counties use student populations and class sizes to study what areas might need new or renovated schools as an example.

Education

One of the most common refrains among all the candidates was a desire to improve education in the Fort Meade area.

According to a newly released report by the county Office of Planning and Zoning, the student population of Meade High School is expected to increase by 1,000 over the next decade.

However, multiple candidates pointed to the high school as underperforming and in need of state assistance.

German, the Republican write-in candidate who’s been at the front of calls to close several Light Rail stops, tied the area’s struggles with education back to the train line between Baltimore city and Anne Arundel.

Shesaid some students from Baltimore use light rail to attend classes at Fort Meade. Much of German’s platform flows through her desire to end Light Rail stops in northern Anne Arundel County.

She said the area’s woes flow through Baltimore and Beidle, who she criticized for awarding funding to the Laurel Park Racetrack and Maryland Live Casino she said could’ve been better spent elsewhere.

Rogers said Meade High School is “hemorrhaging teachers because of low pay” and would advocate for bonuses for teachers retained by the school.

"Certainly, (I'd do) whatever I could do as a legislator from the state level to fully fund our schools and to provide retention bonuses," he said.

Republican candidate Bailey made a similar remark over email, saying he’d work to “balance the spending per student throughout the state and ensure (district 32) receives the appropriate levels of funding and not get left behind other jurisdictions.”

He added “Maryland should expand existing vocational training programs to address the growing labor shortages in skilled service jobs.”

Development

As western Anne Arundel sees a number of growing economic drivers dictate new housing developments, some area residents have expressed frustration for what they feel is an overdevelopment of the area.

A cursory look at planned housing developments for the Odenton Town Center reveals western Anne Arundel is preparing for hundreds of more rental units in the coming years, which will also test the area’s commuter roads and underlying infrastructure.

Republican candidate Bailey wrote in an email the issue “is something that can be addressed at the state level, and it will take partners like County Executive Steve Schuh to minimize the impact to these areas.”

While he did write any specifics about how this could be addressed at the state level, he pointed to the fact that Schuh “proposed the Rural Conservation line (and the) County Council killed it in 2017. They need the state legislature to approve it as well.”

Rogers said the state and the county could do more to make sure developers are addressing the underlying infrastructure issues when they build larger housing developments.

“From my perspective, there hasn’t been a lot of forethought as to the infrastructure to support some of that growth,” he said. “Builders have been allowed to build and leave.”

Bartlett said the state should also address issues with public transportation to help combat problems with congestion as the region grows.

“When you have this level of folks at this capacity, I think that our public transportation should at least meet the need for people to come and go to the train facility or their jobs,” she said, adding it’s “Woefully inadequate when it comes to that on a state level.”

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