Democrats try to unseat Republicans in District 7 House race

Three Democratic candidates have challenged the three sitting Republican legislators in a bid for their District 7 Maryland House of Delegates seats, accusing the incumbents of creating gridlock in Annapolis similar to the ongoing partisan gridlock among Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

"I think the [state] government is in such terrible shape right now that I would like to get rid of all the incumbents in my district and anybody who doesn't support my district," Bob Bowie Jr., 67, of Monkton, said.


Bowie is one of three Democratic nominees, along with Pete Definbaugh, 54, of Baldwin, and Norm Gifford, 47, of Bowleys Quarters.

He said the current delegates – Pat McDonough, Rick Impallaria and Kathy Szeliga – "are serving themselves by being angry."


For their part, the current members of the delegation defended their records of opposition in Annapolis as a reflection of the conservative values of their constituents and an effort to control state taxes and spending.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done to stop the reckless Democrats in the General Assembly who are taxaholics and spendaholics," Del. Pat McDonough, who was first elected 12 years ago, said.

McDonough, 63, lives in Middle River. He hosts a radio talk show on WCBM-AM, as well as a current affairs program on the Fox Digital Network, and he is a public affairs commentator on the WBFF Fox 45 morning news.

"I don't think I'm the best, but I think that our team is the best qualified because of experience, but also because of a successful track record," he said. "We have been consistent in our philosophy of fiscal restraint and responsible government."

District 7 straddles the Baltimore and Harford County line and runs from the northern to the southern ends of Harford County and from the northern part of Baltimore County south to communities such as Middle River.

Bowie is a retired attorney. He spent about 25 years running a law firm representing small and medium-sized businesses.

"We wanted to nurture them like a family doctor," he said.

Bowie, retired since Jan. 1, 2013, said he was spurred to run by gridlock in Annapolis, as well as the loss of jobs to other states.

"I can be inside the walls of the Democratic party and be part of a discussion about taxes, about job loss and about losing Maryland businesses in a way that the Republican delegates cannot and don't want to be part of," he said.

Definbaugh lives in Baldwin in the northern part of Baltimore County. He spent most of his life in Overlea and works as a master electrician.

He started Overlea Electric Service in 1990. He has also worked extensively in his community, starting a Citizens on Patrol crime watch group, serving as president of the Overlea Community Association and working with county and state officials on Smart Growth, transportation and community beautification projects.

"I'm all about bringing people together," he said.


Definbaugh made an unsuccessful run for state delegate in 2010 from the former District 5B, which has since been incorporated into District 7.

He describes himself as a "very conservative person; I don't believe in throwing money out for no reason at all."

He said District 7 is falling behind in terms of upkeep of infrastructure, losing quality teachers and environmental protection, for which he blames the current delegation.

Definbaugh said his background of working with county and state leaders, running a successful business and negotiating with people "would make me an excellent delegate."

Gifford, a resident of Bowleys Quarters in southeastern Baltimore County, is on a leave of absence from his job as the supervisor of the Maryland Joint Operations Center, or MJOC, under the umbrella of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, while he runs his campaign.

Gifford has been in his job for seven years, and he spent seven years before that as an emergency operations officer for the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, or MIEMSS.

"I enjoy public service, as my background shows, and I see the lack of return that we're getting from our current delegation down in Annapolis," Gifford said.

Gifford said District 7 is not getting the resources from the state that constituents need because of the poor relationship between the delegation and long-serving House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

"They're constantly creating controversy," Gifford said. "They're constantly saying, 'No,' they'd rather project controversy and stonewall rather than come to compromise."

McDonough called Busch, the House speaker, "a radical, liberal tax-and-spend powerhouse."

"The General Assembly is controlled by a supermajority of tax-and-spend Democrats; that story they are pushing is a phony story," he said of his Democratic opponents.

He continued: "Sometimes no is the right answer, no to the rain tax, no to the toll tax, no to the gas tax."

Impallaria, 51, who lives in Joppa, has also been in office for 12 years. He manages commercial rental properties and does freelance construction work.

"I believe that we need good strong conservatives in Annapolis who are willing to speak up and say what's on their constituents' minds," he said.

Impallaria said that "it's a little less than 20 percent of the issues that divide us."

"I think that no, in many cases, is the right answer, and I vote no on the budget, not because of everything in the budget, but the budget continues to grow at a rate that Marylanders can't sustain," he explained.

Del. Kathy Szeliga, 53, of Perry Hall, was elected in 2010. She and her husband own a small general contracting business, which they started about 30 years ago.

"I'm running for office because Annapolis needs more small business owners who know how to balance a budget and create jobs," she said in an email.

Szeliga said in a follow-up interview that she also has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Towson University.

"Between business and education, I think I make a good candidate for the House," she said.

Szeliga said members of the delegation receive a mandate of "lower taxes and less government" from District 7 voters.

"If voters want more Democrats and more taxes they should vote for the three Democrats, but if voters want lower taxes and less government interference in their lives they should vote for McDonough, Impallaria and Szeliga," she said.

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