Maryland Republican Party asks Del. Impallaria to resign from legislature, calls him 'unworthy of the title'

The Maryland Republican Party is calling on Del. Rick Impallaria to resign, following a controversy over a campaign robocall, a history of traffic violations and a lawsuit against party officials.

At the party’s convention in Ocean City, members approved a resolution that says Impallaria is “unworthy of the title Delegate,” according to the author of the resolution.

Impallaria, who has represented a district that includes parts of Harford and Baltimore counties since 2003, said Monday he was not bothered by the resolution.

“I have no concern about it and it has no meaning to it whatsoever,” said Impallaria, who lives in Joppa.

Impallaria said it’s up to his constituents to decide whether he stays in the General Assembly.

The resolution was proposed by Al Mendelsohn, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, who is among those being sued by Impallaria for defamation.

Mendelsohn said many Republicans have long had concerns about Impallaria. He said they were renewed with the 2018 robocall, which targeted fellow Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga.

A campaign worker for Impallaria, Tyler Welch, was fined $1,000 for making an illegal robocall to 9,000 voters that purported to be from a group called “National Center for Transgender Equality.” The robocall incorrectly implied that a vote Szeliga took that banned employers from discriminating against transgender employees would allow “transgenders” to “use the bathrooms of their choice.”

Szeliga called the robocall an example of “election-eve dirty tricks.”

Impallaria has said the robocall violation — which was for not having a correct campaign authority line — was a minor offense.

Impallaria’s court record dates to 1982 when he was charged with assault with attempt to murder after allegedly trying to run down four people, including his mother and brother. He ended up serving three years of probation on a charge of battery.

In 2017, Impallaria was sentenced to two days in jail on a charge of driving while impaired. Ocean City police had stopped him in 2016 as he left a convention reception.

Impallaria was the only House member this year not to vote in favor of censuring Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, a Harford County Democrat, after other legislators said they heard her use a racial slur to refer to a legislative district in Prince George’s County. Impallaria said it would be inappropriate for him to judge Lisanti when he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of what happened.

The resolution passed at the Republican convention urges Impallaria to “step down and stop being a blemish in the face of our party.”

Mendelsohn said he brought up the idea of asking Impallaria to resign at a meeting earlier this year of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee.

At the next meeting, Mendelsohn and other committee members were served with a defamation lawsuit filed by Impallaria. The lawsuit names Mendelsohn and three other central committee members and seeks $150,000 in damages, Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn said the lawsuit is troubling.

“If there’s not political freedom of speech in the middle of the central committee meeting, where is there political free speech?” he said.

Impallaria said the defamation lawsuit was about protecting his reputation. He said there’s been an “organized effort of people defaming me in different ways.”

“I have a very, very thick skin and I can take a lot of abuse, and I do,” Impallaria said. “But there comes a time when that abuse gets so bad you must react. Some people would say you react with a baseball bat. Some people would say you react with a gun. Some people would say you react with a fist. But in a civilized society, we react by bringing those matters before a court and jury.”

Patrick O’Keefe, executive director of the state Republican Party, could not be reached Monday for comment.

The Red Maryland blog first reported the convention resolution vote.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter


UPDATES:

6:45 p.m.: This story has been updated to correct the title for Al Mendelsohn. The Sun regrets the error.

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