Dear voters of the 7th Legislative District,
We know we don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues. You went more than 2-1 for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and we were on opposite sides of a host of big social issues, from marriage equality to the Dream Act. We get it if you’re not really looking to us for advice about the people you elect to represent you in the legislature.
But can we talk for a minute about Rick Impallaria?
The delegate is in the news this week because his chief of staff was fired by House Speaker Michael E. Busch after the state prosecutor indicted him on a campaign finance violation. The aide, Tyler Walch, is accused of orchestrating a robocall on the eve of last June’s primary election without including the authority line required by law to let voters know who was paying for it. That’s serious business and definitely worth losing your job over; it also carries potential criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Mr. Impallaria is not facing criminal charges because prosecutors have no evidence that he was involved in leaving the authority line off. But he did know about the content of the call, and from a moral perspective, if not a legal one, that’s the bad part. The call featured the voice of a purported transgender person and was designed both to mislead Republican voters and to play on the prejudice the Impallaria campaign evidently presumed they harbored. It’s on par with the robocalls placed in the Florida governor’s race from a white supremacist organization featuring someone pretending to be Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum speaking in an exaggerated minstrel dialect while jungle sounds played in the background.
Mr. Impallaria’s response to all this? He’s defending the aide and saying he can’t believe so much fuss is being made over the authority line in a robocall. Which is to suggest that the contents don’t bother him a bit.
If all that weren’t bad enough, the Impallaria call was targeted at his long-time district mate and supposed ally, Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga. That makes Mr. Impallaria not only bigoted and underhanded but double-crossing to boot.
Those who have paid close attention to Mr. Impallaria’s career shouldn’t be surprised by that part; after all, as The Sun reported when he ran for the House for the first time in 2002, he had been charged with four counts of assault with intent to murder when he allegedly tried to run down his own mother and brother (along with two other people) 20 years earlier. The charges got whittled down to battery, and he served three years of probation.
It was one of many, many brushes with the law in his youth, including various charges of assault, battery, destruction of property and, in one instance, attempted bribery of a police officer. More recently, Ocean City police caught him with trying to get into and start his illegally parked pickup with an open container of alcohol during the 2016 Maryland Association of Counties meeting. He would eventually serve two days in jail on a conviction for driving while impaired. He was lucky to get only that, given his 52 previous moving violations.
Seventh District voters, we can understand if Mr. Impallaria has been flying under your radar for the last 16 years, overshadowed as he was by former Del. Pat McDonough. Mr. McDonough, after all, was equally awful in terms of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT actions and rhetoric, but much more flamboyantly so. To wit, back in 2004, when Mr. Impallaria got into a shouting match with immigrant rights activists in the House office building after he asked one of them whether she was an illegal alien, it was Mr. McDonough who admitted to actually shoving one of them.
But what we don’t get is how you keep electing someone like Mr. Impallaria when, otherwise, you make so many good choices. Your state senator, J.B. Jennings is a true gentleman — kind, thoughtful, earnest and honorable. Delegate Szeliga is smart, dedicated and unfailingly positive; she is deservedly a star in the Maryland GOP. Del. Lauren Arikan is brand new, but by all accounts, her talent and work ethic promise a bright future. We may not agree with them on a host of issues, but as individuals, we consider them a credit to their communities.
Sadly, we just had an election, so there’s not much that can be done about Mr. Impallaria now. But three and a half years from now, when 7th District Republicans go to the polls again for the 2022 primary, we truly hope you will remember this. You can do so much better.