Two Columbia Democrats will go head to head in the June 26 primary election for the Democratic nomination for the District 12 Senate seat to then face off with the sole Republican candidate in the November general election.
Mary Kay Sigaty and Clarence Lam both hold elected office: Sigaty representsthe 4th Districton the Howard County Council and Lam represents District 12 in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Both candidates are running to replace State Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, 72, who has held the seat since 1994 and announced his retirement in February. Prior, he served since 1982 in the House of Delegates.
Maryland’s District 12 stretches north from Columbia, into parts of Ellicott City, across the county line into Arbutus, Lansdowne, Halethorpe and parts of Catonsville.
Republican Joe Hooe, of Lansdowne, who is unopposed in the primary, will face the Democratic primary winner in the general election. Hooe, a businessman, is president of The Tire Network, in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood. Sigaty and Lam both said expanding access to health care in the state will be an important issue that the next class of Maryland legislators will have to tackle, and both said they believe in taking steps toward universal health coverage.
The two are both also highlighting education in Maryland, with a special focus on improving school facilities.
Their attitudes toward land development may be one of the biggest differences between the two candidates. Sigaty said she’s proud of the work she’s done on Howard’s County Council to build up the area around Columbia; Lam called that build-up “overdevelopment.”
Mary Kay Sigaty
Sigaty, 68, has lived in Columbia since 1972. The 12-year veteran of the Howard County Council said her experience on the council would give her an advantage if she’s elected to the state Senate because she has working knowledge of how local government works.
“I think that as we look at the intersection and the interrelationship of state and local government, having that knowledge will also be valuable for the constituency,” she said. . She describes her work serving as an elected official “fascinating, rewarding and energizing.”
Sigaty said she believes health care is a right, not simply a “job benefit,” and to that end, she wants to strengthen health care in Maryland.
“My heart of heart says we really need to put together a national health care system, like Medicare, because it works in other countries,” Sigaty said.
She said she does not expect the United States — or Maryland — to go from its current system of health coverage to universal coverage overnight, but that it’s important to take incremental steps in that direction when possible.
Sigaty also said moving forward on recommendations from the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will be critical for the next legislative session. The commission listed some recommendations for action in February, including looking for ways to increase teacher pay, increase the number of career and technical programs and develop a more challenging curriculum for high-achieving students.
Also important, Sigaty said, is thinking about how environmental protection, job growth and public transportation all intersect.
Of her time on the council, Sigaty said she’s most proud of boosting development and revitalization in Columbia — and promoting that development in a way that requires “green” buildings and environmental restoration.
Sigaty said being elected to the state Senate would mean working more than during the 90-day legislative session each year.
“It’s really being present for communities,” she said. “Being there to listen to the things they want to accomplish, being able to figure out if there’s a place for your level of government, and figuring out how you work with the other levels of government to help communities accomplish what they’re hoping for.”
Lam, 37, a nine-year resident of Columbia and a preventative medicine physician at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has represented District 12 as a delegate since 2014.
Two issues Lam said he’d prioritize if elected to in the Senate would be improving access to health care and improving school facilities in the state.
Lam said he’d like to eventually see universal health care coverage. He said expanding coverage to more pregnant women would be a good step in that direction. Becoming pregnant is not a “qualifying life event” for changing health care coverage, though giving birth is, according to Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health care exchange.
Lam wants to change Maryland law to classify getting pregnant as a qualifying life event, which he said would help them gain access to neonatal and other health care.
“It’s issues like that where I think we can continue to push to get more people covered,” he said.
He said he’s most proud of his legislative work that relates to health care. During his first four-year term, he sponsored a bill that makes it easier for doctors to test patients for HIV.
During the last term, Lam said, he worked on the House version of a bill that establishes an advisory committee to help the Maryland Department of Health on matters relating to training and certifying community health workers. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the state Senate’s version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who is running for re-election in District 44.
“These are folks who are trained and can help reduce the cost of care for individuals and make an impact in making people healthier,” Lam said.
When it comes to education, Lam said he wants to address school facility issues.