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Despite party pressure to withdraw, Gallion says he's staying in Harford senate race

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Jason Gallion, the lone Republican candidate for the District 35 state Senate seat serving Cecil and Harford counties, will remain in the race after the June primary, despite pressure from some local GOP leaders to withdraw and run instead for delegate in the general election.

“I’m running for the state Senate; there’s not going to be a flip-flop on the ballot, it’s not going to happen,” Gallion said Thursday evening, referring to discussions about him switching to run for Republican Del. Teresa Reilly’s Subdistrict 35B seat and Reilly running for Senate after the June 26 primary.

“I have a lot of support in Cecil and Harford,” Gallion said. “I’m just going to stay on the Senate ballot.”

Gallion, a resident of Level, was selected by the Maryland Republican Party to run for the District 35 Senate seat after the incumbent Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr., who was seeking re-election to a second term, died suddenly March 4.

Norman had filed for re-election. When the deadline for candidates to file passed in late February, he was the only candidate entered from either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Christopher Randers-Pehrson has been nominated by the Libertarian Party, and Frank Esposito, an unaffiliated candidate, filed a petition to be listed on the general election ballot with the Maryland Board of Elections on June 11, according to the board’s website. Randers-Pehrson lives in Harford County, Esposito in Cecil County.

District 35 covers most of north central and northeastern Harford County and western Cecil County, including Perryville, Port Deposit and Rising Sun.

Following Norman’s sudden death, party leaders at the state and county levels had to scramble to find a candidate to replace him on the primary ballot, as they faced a deadline of 5 p.m. the day after his death for a new candidate to file.

There had been discussions at the time that Reilly, who represents Subdistrict 35B with Republican Del. Andrew Cassilly, would file for the Senate race, but party officials learned that a March 1 deadline to switch from one ballot to another had passed.

Reilly, who had once served as Norman’s legislative aide and remained a close friend, had already filed for re-election to her delegate seat, so she could not run for Senate in the primary, according to Gallion and Jeff McBride, chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Harford County.

There also had been discussions among committee members about doing a transfer on the Senate and House ballots after the primary, which McBride said is a “very delicate process” that did not have strong support among the Cecil and Harford GOP committees.

He stressed Gallion “cannot be compelled to do anything.”

The candidate made his intentions clear in a letter, dated May 21, to McBride, Diane Carabetta, chair of the Republican Central Committee of Cecil County, and Dirk Haire, chairman of the state GOP.

“I have decided to spare the local central committees and the State Party from this pending controversy and will accept the party’s nomination to State Senate District 35 and run in the General Election,” Gallion wrote, referring to controversy over an “unprecedented flip-flop arrangement on the ballot.”

“It will allow us to work in a unified fashion to re-elect Governor [Larry] Hogan and gain seats in both the State Senate and House of Delegates,” he wrote.

Gallion has run unsuccessful campaigns in the past for Harford County Council and state delegate.

Cassilly and Reilly are unopposed in the District 35B primary. They will face Democrat Ronnie Teitler Davis in the general election, during which voters can chose up to two candidates.

Among Harford GOP committee members, there is “no activity or any discussions whatsoever about making any further changes” to the Republican ballot at this time, McBride said.

“Jason’s going to be supported for Senate, and Teresa and Andrew will be supported for the delegate seats,” he said.

Sen. Linda Norman, widow of Wayne Norman, is filling out the remainder of her late husband’s term through early 2019.

She was nominated by the Cecil and Harford central committees in March, and was later appointed by Hogan. Linda Norman sat in the Senate during the final month of the legislative session and will remain a member until her successor is sworn in next January.

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