Maryland delegate calls colleague ‘more attractive’ in public hearing

A state delegate from Harford County has been criticized for calling a female delegate “more attractive” than a past delegate in a video streamed public hearing this week.

Del. Rick Impallaria, a Republican representing Baltimore and Harford counties, asked about the history of a bill to study whether Maryland should establish a state-run bank during a hearing of the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee on Wednesday. He mentioned a former delegate whom he thought had sponsored the bill in the past.


“You are correct,” said Del. Stephanie Smith, a Baltimore Democrat now sponsoring the bill. “That person did bring the bill. But this is a new bill because I’m bringing it, and I’m bringing it with a new energy and hopefully a different perspective. But I appreciate your recall. Very impressive.”

Impallaria responded: “You’re much more attractive than the last ...” His remarks were cut off by laughter. Smith said: “I’ll take it.”


Del. Dereck Davis, the committee’s chairman, said: “Here we go, here we go.” And then he pushed to move on to the next speaker. “Let me move this right along,” he said.

The exchange bothered Del. Courtney Watson, who spoke up several minutes later, according to the video of the hearing.

“I would like to counteract my friend Del. Impallaria’s comment about you, Del. Smith, by saying that it is not your looks as a female delegate that are impressive, but your intellectual strength, your confidence and your hard work on behalf of our citizens,” said Watson, a Howard County Democrat. “And I suspect he probably meant to say that instead.”

In an interview, Watson said that she believes Impallaria didn’t mean to offend. But such comments are not appropriate and need to be called out.

“If we don’t choose to call it out when we see it, it’s not going to change,” she said. “I felt a responsibility to Del. Smith, who was put in a very uncomfortable position.”

Impallaria said he meant no malice. He thought he was making complimentary small talk.

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“I complemented the delegate, but apparently in the new politically correct world, you aren’t allowed to say, ‘You have a nice tie’ or ‘You have a nice dress’ or ‘You look like you’ve lost weight,’” Impallaria said.

Impallaria said Smith didn’t seem offended. “I thought it was a pleasantry and being nice,” he said.


Even so, Impallaria left Smith a message so that he could clear the air.

Smith said Thursday night that she’d been too busy to return Impallaria’s call, but was open to speaking with him about his “unfortunate” remark. She said she’s concerned that Impallaria’s remarks disparaged another woman while trying to compliment her.

“Politics is full of all kinds of people who look all type of ways and I haven’t seen people concerned with how men look,” Smith said.

And Smith is also focused on what Wednesday’s meeting was supposed to be about: whether there should be a state-operated bank to handle some of the government’s investments and provide banking services in underserved communities.

“If this gets more people to discuss why public banking should be explored ... hey, weirder things have happened,” Smith said. “I wish it hadn’t been said, but I am more focused on people listening to the things I said and what many people said about the bill.”