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Baltimore Co. Republicans face Howard Co. Democrats in redrawn District 12

In Maryland's newly redrawn 12th legislative district — which slithers from southwestern Baltimore County to West Columbia in Howard County — the race for the State House is pretty neatly divided along county lines.

All four Republicans in the race live in the smaller Baltimore County portion of the district, while three of the Democratic candidates live in the larger Howard County side, and the fourth works there.

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The district's geography has the underdog GOP candidates decrying what they perceive as gerrymandering to diminish their county's voice.

"It's a very sore subject for a lot of people," said Republican Jesse Pippy, 32, who is running against longtime incumbent Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer. "They surgically cut out parts of the district.

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"Ed Kasemeyer has been losing 1,000 votes every election cycle for the last three or four election cycles. His popularity is shrinking. Maryland has done some of the worst gerrymandering," Pippy said.

Kasemeyer, 69, chairs the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. With 20 years holding state office, the Columbia Democrat says he has a strong record of representing both counties in the district.

"I'm a moderate," Kasemeyer says. "I've been a person who's been effective going across the aisle. There aren't many moderates left."

Kasemeyer, who has $114,000 in his campaign account, counts among his legislative accomplishments the creation of Maryland's prepaid tuition trust fund, which helps residents save for their children's college education.

He's also focused on issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Recently, Kasemeyer has been author of bills that helped deliver tax credits for the entertainment industry — luring Netflix's "House of Cards" and HBO's "Veep" to Maryland.

Kasemeyer says that bill has generated an estimated $400 million in economic impact in the state.

"It's been a win-win for Maryland," he said.

Kasemeyer beat 2010 challenger Rick Martel with 59 percent of the vote, but won narrowly in the Baltimore County portion of the district.

The map drawn by Democrats in Annapolis after the 2010 Census cut the number of Baltimore County voters in Kasemeyer's district while adding more precincts from Howard County.

It also combined the delegates from Baltimore County with those from Howard County. Before the redistricting, southwestern Baltimore County was represented in the House by Republicans or conservative Democrats.

Pippy, a manager with the anti-car theft company LoJack, is a Catonsville resident who lives with his fiancee, a Baltimore County prosecutor. The state's Republican Party sees him as a rising star in the party, even if the district's demographics don't favor him.

Joe Cluster, the director of the state's Republican Party, calls Pippy a "great candidate."

"If I could take him and put him in another district, he'd win hands-down. He's a workhorse," Cluster said. "It's a tough district for us, but if anybody can do it, it's Jesse."

Pippy says he's focusing on fiscal issues in the race — such as cutting taxes — not social ones. But with only $8,000 in his campaign account, he acknowledges he's outgunned financially.

He says he plans to make up for the lack of money with hustle.

"Ed's a nice guy, but people are looking for a change," Pippy said. "I've knocked on 10,000 doors and I can't tell you the number of people who don't know who their state senator is. How do you explain that?"

Kasemeyer says he is constantly meeting with voters and listening to their concerns.

"The majority of the voters in my district know me," he said. "My record speaks for itself — honesty, straightforwardness and candidness."

The district will also be welcoming three new delegates after the retirements of Democrats Elizabeth Bobo, James E. Malone Jr. and Steven J. DeBoy Sr.

Kasemeyer has formed a slate with three Democrats in the race: Clarence Lam and Terri L. Hill, both Columbia doctors, and Howard County math teacher Eric Ebersole, a Catonsville resident.

The quartet holds strategy meetings at Kasemeyer's Columbia home and are sharing funds and signs — moves for which the younger candidates say they're thankful to Kasemeyer.

"Ed brings a tremendous amount of experience and a wealth of knowledge," Lam said. "He's really been informative about local issues."

The Democratic candidates come from professions they say are underrepresented in the General Assembly, which now has only one practicing doctor and one active teacher.

Gene M. Ransom III, chief executive officer of MedChi, the state medical society, says Lam and Hill are key part of making this election the "Year of the Doctor." He says more doctors are running this year than at any time in the past 25 years.

"They're going to make very good legislators," Ransom said. "Health care is very complex, and having people who actually understand it in the General Assembly is important."

Lam, 33, is a physician with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and a legislative aide to Baltimore County Del. Dan K. Morhaim, the General Assembly's only doctor.

The top vote-getter in the June primary, he says he will focus on Baltimore County neighborhoods just as much as Howard County.

"That's a concern we've been hearing from a lot of voters," Lam said. "It's our goal to make sure we represent the entire district equally."

Hill, 55, is a plastic surgeon in private practice. Ebersole, 56, is striving to become the second active teacher to join the House of Delegates. He says he's happy to help his colleagues learn about Baltimore County.

"There are some differences in the demographics [of the two counties], but I think people's concerns are pretty much the same," Ebersole said.

The Democrats are facing Martel, a Catonsville lawyer; and Joseph D. Hooe and Gordon Bull, who own small businesses in Baltimore County.

Both Martel and Hooe have run unsuccessful races before in the district, but the candidates believe those campaigns have boosted their name recognition and taught them valuable lessons about what works on the campaign trail and what doesn't. They all share Pippy's concerns about redistricting.

Martel, 56, says he's incensed that state officials divided Catonsville among three legislative districts.

"You would think there would be a natural anger in Catonsville about being split up to effectively eliminate our voice. That's a problem," he said. "There could be no real Baltimore County representation in District 12. It's not Baltimore County residents' fault. It's the gerrymandering's fault."

Bull, 33, says the Democrats in the race are too liberal for most area voters.

"My positions are a lot more in line with outgoing delegates DeBoy and Malone, as opposed to my Democrat opponents, who come off as hard left," he said. "The Democrats have raised a large sum of money. But money doesn't always equal victory."

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Hooe, 46, says he's the only person in the race with a concrete idea to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to state government. Hooe wants to create a work-permitting system to allow all of the state's undocumented immigrants to stay in Maryland and begin contributing payroll taxes. He would charge $1,000 for a permit, and estimates 350,000 immigrants would sign up.

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"We have a lot of problems," Hooe said. "They all come down to one thing: money. This is a really good plan that will raise revenue and eliminate the fear of being deported."

He said he believes his ideas appeal to Republicans and Democrats — in both counties.

"I'm running a bipartisan campaign," he said. "I think I have a really good chance."

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Senate candidates

Democrat: Edward J. Kasemeyer

Hometown: Columbia

Age: 69

Work experience: State senator, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

Republican: Jesse Tyler Pippy

Age: 32

Hometown: Catonsville

Work experience: Business development manager for LoJack

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