In this unusually eventful Howard County election season, the crowded field of state candidates was enough Saturday to fill three long tables with contenders for the county's 12 seats in the State House.
That's not even taking into account the candidates who didn't show up.
Eighteen Democrats and nine Republicans seeking state delegate and Senate seats turned out for a nonpartisan forum hosted by the African American Coalition of Howard County at Columbia's Owen Brown Interfaith Center.
With a little more than a month to go before the primary election June 24, time is running out for the dozens of hopefuls and handful of incumbents to make their case.
Saturday, the questions focused on economic matters. Moderator Candace Howell asked candidates to discuss how they would address unemployment in the county and how they would include citizens in the state budget decision-making process.
Here's a selection of answers from the candidates who attended, broken down by district.
RYAN FREDERIC (D): The businessman, who owns an aerospace security and research business in Columbia, could not attend but sent a representative, campaign treasurer Matt Wilkins, to share some of his platform. Wilkins said that job creation was a "core focus" for Frederic, who would hone in on "reducing income equality gap through affordable, accessible education."
DANIEL MEDINGER (D): Medinger, an Ellicott City resident who owns a media company, said "job creation is Job One." As a business owner, he said, "I know how to create jobs," and argued that that the state should "be more aggressive" in finding incentives to encourage small-business growth.
Republican Senate candidate Gail Bates, who is currently a state delegate in District 9A, did not attend the forum.
House of Delegates (9A)
WALLY CARSON (D): Woodbine attorney Carson said that the best way to ensure that businesses "stay here in Maryland" is to "[encourage] businesses that are going to create jobs by tax incentives."
WARD MORROW (D): Morrow, an attorney from Ellicott City, said that an expanded pre-kindergarten program in the state was a key to facilitating job growth, "so people can be available for the jobs when they exist." He also suggested updating transportation infrastructure to help employees get to work.
Republican Warren Miller, an incumbent delegate in District 9A, who is running for re-election, did not attend the forum, nor did Republican 9A candidates Frank Mirabile, Trent Kittleman and Kyle Lorton.
House of Delegates (9B)
TOM COALE (D): Coale, an Ellicott City attorney and former Columbia Association board member, called education "the most important thing to our economy." He also suggested infrastructure improvement projects in Ellicott City to improve Main Street and guard against flooding: "That's where we can start putting people to work right away."
RICH CORKRAN (D): Corkran, a retired math teacher who lives in Ellicott City, also called highlighted education as "the key to job creation in this state." He said he would support educational programs at all different levels, including pre-K, trade schools and universities.
CAROL LOVELESS (R): Loveless, an Ellicott City businesswoman, acknowledged that education is important but pointed out "there are kids with diplomas who can't find jobs." She said the said the state should focus on facilitating business development across the board – "I don't believe in giving tax credits to this company or that one," she said. "I may be a small business but my business comes from bigger companies and when they're hurting, I'm hurting."
BOB FLANAGAN (R): Flanagan, an Ellicott City attorney who formerly served as a state delegate and then as transportation secretary under Gov. Bob Ehrlich, said there are "job makers and there are job takers… we've got to listen to [both]." He said the state should "respect [blue collar and industrial] jobs and see what we're doing in our [current] policies to lose so many of those jobs."
ED KASEMEYER (D): The longtime incumbent and chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation committee that it's "imperative" to get the state's economy "back to where we were" because "without a vibrant economy, we can't do all the things and spend all the money in the areas that we want to." He listed expanding education as a key component to job growth and also pointed to a recently passed marijuana decriminalization bill that would lead to fewer incarcerations and therefore fewer ex-offenders struggling to find a job after leaving jail.
JESSE PIPPY (R): Pippy, a business manager for Mile One and a Catonsville resident, said the state needed to "have a dialogue with the private sector" to address job creation. While he agreed education is important to finding employment, he also acknowledged that not everyone wants to go to college. "We need to make sure we have jobs at all levels," he said.
House of Delegates
ERIC EBERSOLE (D): Ebersole, a Howard County Public School Systeam teacher and Catsonville resident, cited education as the driving force behind economic growth. "What we have to do is make sure we educate our populace," he said. Specifically, he said, the state should strive to educate residents for available cybersecurity jobs as well as for jobs in renewable energy.
RENEE MCGUIRK-SPENCE (D): "I think the answer to a lot of questions is education, education, education," McGuirk-Spence, a Catonsville resident and director of governmental relations for the Maryland State Department of Education, said. She said she supports expanding career technology and adult education courses, as well as training opportunities for mid-career changers and child care subsidies.
ADAM SACHS (D): Sachs, a Columbia resident and public relations specialist, argued "there's no magic wand to creating jobs." Instead, he said, "one way the state is [creating jobs] is by raising the minimum wage. To get more jobs, you need more money in the economy." He also suggested raising income taxes on upper income level tax brackets.
CLARENCE LAM (D): Lam, a physician and Columbia resident, said he had a "multifold solution" to the unemployment problem, including reinvestment in public schools, ensuring access to universal pre-K, supporting apprenticeships and targeting tax credits to businesses hiring the long-term unemployed.
REBECCA DONGARRA (D): The Catonsville businesswoman said she wanted to "promote college affordability and make sure people have access to go back and, at an affordable rate, get retrained." Dongarra also pointed to transportation as a "barrier for people when it comes time to go out and get the jobs that are out there."
NICK STEWART (D): Stewart, an Arbutus resident and attorney, said he wanted to take a "multifaceted approach" to job creation, starting with education and job training. He said the state should focus its growth around transit hubs to facilitate transportation to work, and should offer tax credits for small businesses.
TERRI HILL (D): "Yes, we have careers that are disappearing, but we also have opportunities ahead," Hill, a Columbia plastic surgeon, told the audience. She said the state should expand pre-K, technical schools and job training programs in growing industries such as cyber security and green jobs. She also suggested loosening credit for small businesses.
BRIAN BAILEY (D): Bailey, a Lansdowne resident and the former chairman of both the Baltimore County Democratic Party and the Southwest Area Educational Advisory Council of Baltimore County, said the solution wasn't simply to "[push] people into higher education and then… hang loans over their head." Instead, he said, the state "could really do a lot more to invest in the jobs of the future," such as in the renewable energy sector. "It's about creating family-sustainable jobs – jobs with health care, fair wages," he added.
JOE HOOE (R): Hooe, a small business owner from Lansdowne, honed in on vocational training. "I could hire five people today but we just don't have the skilled people to do so," he said. He also said the state needs to strengthen intellectual property laws and "get tough with big business."
RICK MARTEL (R): Martel, a Catonsville lawyer, said Maryland should expand job training and "give incentives to small businesses who hire people." He also said the state should do more to attract new business – "our tax structures should be in line with the surrounding states," he said.
GORDON BULL (R): Bull, a Baltimore County resident who runs a small family plumbing business, said a greater emphasis should be placed on skilled trades, via vocational schools and magnet programs – "good careers don't require college degrees," he said. "Creating government jobs is not the way to grow your economy," he added. "Creating private sector jobs is." Bull also said he would support tax incentives for companies to hire "natural" citizens.
Democratic candidates Mike Gisriel and Jay Fred Cohen did not attend the forum.
JODY VENKATESAN (R): Venkatesan, a North Laurel auditor, proposed offering minority-owned businesses and small businesses a zero-percent corporate tax rate for a decade "as they grow," and criticized what he called "regressive taxes" – such as those on stormwater and gas – as a burden on residents.
Democratic candidate Guy Guzzone, who currently represents District 13 as a state delegate, did not attend the forum.
House of Delegates
VANESSA ATTERBEARY (D): Atterbeary, a Fulton resident and a lawyer, talked about her family's business, KRA Corporation, which places people in jobs. The state, she said, needs to "create job training for jobs that are here." As a mother of two small children, she also said she supported expanding pre-K programs. "We cannot have everyone on the same, equal platform in terms of education when not everyone is starting out on the same foot," she said.
NAYAB SIDDIQUI (D): Siddiqui, a Columbia-based small business owner and Clarksville resident, said job creation requires a "short term approach and a long term approach." In the short term, he said, "people can make a difference by electing people who have experience what the need is today." In the long term, he said, the state should look at "policies to create more entrepreneurship" to support "not just jobs, but high-paying, good jobs."
FRANK TURNER (D): Turner, an incumbent delegate who has represented the district since 1995, said he had helped approve many tax credits while serving as vice chair of the House's Ways and Means committee. "All of these are job creators," he said of the credits. He also highlighted his work on an e-commerce bill to create partnerships between universities and the private sector.
JIMMY WILLIAMS (R): Williams, a Jessup resident and junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, said education was only important to lowering unemployment rates when there were jobs available. "What good does having a great world class education do if your state is not business friendly?" he asked, and proposed to cut corporate tax rates to 6 percent and personal tax rates across the board by 10 percent as a solution.
DANNY EATON (R): Eaton, a North Laurel resident, said his "number one focus is bringing back vocational schools." He also suggested using unemployment benefits to pay for an unemployed person to work in a company for eight weeks, giving employers "a risk-free way to try out a new worker," he said.
Democratic candidate Shane Pendergrass, an incumbent delegate running for re-election, and Republican candidate Chris Yates did not attend the forum.
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