CAR/Salisbury Independent forum part 2: District 37

Yesterday I discussed what was said by the county-level candidates at this forum, so today I’m covering the six hopefuls who represented District 37: Addie Eckardt and Chris Robinson for the Senate seat, and Christopher Adams, Rod Benjamin, Keasha Haythe, and Johnny Mautz for District 37B.

Of the two seeking the Senate seat, Eckardt has by far the most political experience as she was elected as a Delegate in 1994, serving in the House ever since. At the eleventh hour this cycle she dropped her quest for a sixth House term and jumped into the Senate race, defeating longtime incumbent Senator Richard Colburn in a bitterly-contested primary. Robinson, on the other hand, is making his second straight bid for the Senate seat after losing to Colburn in 2010. He could be considered a perennial candidate as he’s also run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 and 2006, twice finishing second in the First District primary. Chris was also a last-minute addition after original Democratic candidate Cheryl Everman withdrew.

Their first question had to do with the retirement climate in Maryland, which is bad, but relevant to the district as a number of retirees live along the Chesapeake Bay. Eckardt properly noted the state’s poor showing in rankings of best states to retire in, but added that we needed to look at tax policy across the board, along with addressing the “duplicative nature” of our regulatory system.

After stating that “our jurisdiction is no different than any other jurisdiction,” Robinson agreed that we had to “ratchet back” spending and not raise taxes. But on the second question about the Affordable Care Act, Chris made the case that “it hasn’t worked its way through the country,” and while the rollout of the state exchange was “botched” he thought the emphasis on preventative care was worthwhile. “Give this process a chance,” he concluded.

Eckardt told us that the “good news” about the state’s adoption of Obamacare was the Medicaid expansion, which she believed should have been done first before the exchanges. With it being done in its present manner, premiums were up and employers were dropping coverage. She believed the states needed to promote change at the federal level.

When asked about key real estate issues, Addie wanted to bring together mortgage holders and first time homebuyers by conducting an inventory of tax sales and foreclosures. Meanwhile, Robinson wished to “put points on the board” by making towns exciting and vibrant, calling on builders to create quality homes.

I found Robinson’s closing statement to be intriguing, as he said he was “inspired” by Rick Pollitt and Norm Conway. “I want to be just like them,” he said. Eckardt stressed the power of communication to solve problems, and pledged to be focused and deliberate.

To be honest, I didn’t see Robinson saying or doing anything which would suggest he’ll do much better than the 40 percent he got last time against Colburn. He tried to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, but in this region it’s tough to out-conservative the Republicans.

In contrast to the veteran presence of Eckardt and the perennial candidate in Chris Robinson for the Senate race, the House of Delegates will have two new representatives. Those representatives will have to pay attention to southern and western Wicomico County, which has felt underrepresented in the past based on the thrust of the opening question.

As it turns out, Christopher Adams is from Wicomico, so he stated the obvious: he will be a resident delegate, focusing on our municipalities and business. That business background led him to pledge that “my customers will be my constituents,” regardless of where they live in the district. But he also stressed that we have to start “winning the argument” against the Democrats.

Keasha Haythe replied that she was used to working across county lines as an economic development director, so working with Wicomico County residents wouldn’t be an issue. Similarly, Rod Benjamin pointed out the similarities between his home area in Church Creek and the area of western Wicomico County.

Johnny Mautz noted that he had spent a lot of time in Wicomico County and would work with its local and municipal governments.

This quartet got perhaps the strangest question of the night, one which asked about the effects of climate change and flooding.

Mautz indicated his belief that the state should help flood-prone landowners, but reminded us the flood insurance rates are based on federal mandates.

Benjamin also believed the flood insurance cost was “unfair.” And climate change? “Truth is, I don’t know what the truth is,” he said, noting that he’d seen some extreme tides recently.

Haythe believed we needed to be proactive about the sea level rise, stating it’s already affecting the planned Harriet Tubman visitor center.

But Chris Adams turned the question on its head, taking issue with subsidized government interference. The Eastern Shore, he said, “should be pro-growth, pro-construction.” He also objected to the federal government turning a significant part of Dorchester County into a national park, warning that it would adversely affect private property owners in the area who would lose their rights.

Adams stayed in that vein during the “realtor” question, making the case that Sussex County, Delaware was the prime beneficiary of Maryland’s mistakes, which include a prospective 64% property tax increase because of our state’s growing debt. He pledged to be business-friendly, saying “I’m about jobs.”

Haythe thought a path to success for realtors involved taking advantage of state and federal programs, and leaning on pros (like herself) who know how to create jobs.

Land use was “a large concern” to Johnny Mautz, as were taxes.

Benjamin was asked a little later on about this question, and made the case that local control of issues is preferred. He also offered that the “tier system is better than the smart growth system.” He also proposed a Startup Maryland program, based on a program Wicomico County already has in place for tax abatement.

Later, in his closing statement, Rod told us all we had homework: tell others about what was said tonight. He repeated a mantra of “reduce taxes, reduce government.”

Reducing taxes was also on the agenda of Johnny Mautz, who told us “my word is my bond.”

Keashe Haythe encouraged us to consider both her track record of results and her “human American platform.”

Finally, Christopher Adams begged Annapolis to “leave us to our Shore way of life.”

To me, this was the weakest link in the debate. The questions were relatively uninspiring and most of the answers were fairly rote. One interesting aspect of the House of Delegates discussion was that Rod Benjamin was openly trying to sound as conservative as the Republicans. (In fact, I ran into him at the Autumn Wine Festival and his tone was relatively the same.) On the other hand, Keasha Haythe wanted to make us believe that an economic development director could create jobs.

Yet I did a quick bit of research into Dorchester County’s job creation and retention since 2009, and it shows their labor force has declined by 921 people in five years, with 554 fewer unemployed but 367 fewer actually working. Since she began her job in 2008, Dorchester isn’t doing all that well and one could argue it’s state policies holding her back – policies which emanate from her party. Perhaps it’s something which a woman who’s worked in the public sector for over a decade may not understand.

On the other hand, Adams and Mautz both run businesses so they have created jobs and added value. (Both also support this local blog.)

To me, it was telling that almost all of the candidates tried to convince the crowd of their conservatism. It was much the same in District 38, although there were a disappointing number of omissions. More on that tomorrow.

District 37 House: the five contenders

September 16, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on District 37 House: the five contenders 

For my final look this round at local races, I decided to do both Districts 37A and 37B in one feel swoop, mainly because the District 37A is already set in Sheree Sample-Hughes. She had a free ride once Delegate Rudy Cane dropped out days after the filing deadline, but it’s also worth seeing how she’s set financially to begin her sure re-election run in 2018. I’ll get to her in due course.

Meanwhile, in District 37B there is one real race. Although the top two would normally be declared the winners, a state law prohibits two members from the same county in this two-person district which spans four counties. So the two contenders from Talbot County, Democrat Keasha Haythe and Republican Johnny Mautz, could finish 1-2 but only the winner would be seated. I’ll begin with that race.

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/House-37B-Talbot.pdf”]

While Johnny Mautz has far outraised his opponent, the cash on hand is surprisingly close because Mautz had to survive a primary while Haythe did not – in fact, she has only filed one actual report (the Pre-Primary 1 report in May) while spending less than $1,000 in the last two reporting periods. She attested to this through Affidavits of Limited Contributions and Expenses, better known in the game as ALCEs. Obviously she’s had some spending since she has a website, but it doesn’t rise to the level of filing the paperwork.

Keasha’s report is fairly vanilla, although it would be interesting to know who pays for her website. As far as the small amount she’s raised, the $1,000 contribution from Rudy Cane’s account provides the most insight. She’s the perfect contrast to Mautz as all her contributions are local.

On the other hand, Mautz’s report reminded me of Mary Beth Carozza’s in District 38C because a huge portion of the seed money for both has come from connections they’ve made in Washington, D.C. But while Carozza’s local share has increased over the last several months, Mautz maintains his tremendous haul from friends in the Capital region. Over 60 percent of his total individual contributions come from outside the district, but not much comes from businesses and none from LLCs.

Mautz has also picked up some non-individual donations: $1,000 from the Republican Leadership Council of Talbot County, and PAC donations from the Maryland Farm Bureau, Licensed Beverage Association PAC, and the Maryland Dental PAC. He’s also received transfers from two federal accounts belonging to current Congressman Doug Collins of Georgia and former member Jim Saxton of New Jersey, as well as $500 from the NCPA Legal-Legislative Fund (which represents community pharmacies) and a cool $4,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

But the eye-popper is the fact Mautz has gone into six figures for spending – more than any other candidate in either District 37 or 38. Over $63,000 has gone just for printing and nearly $14,000 for media, generally to local businesses. (The folks at Bay Imprint and Poore House have made a lot of money from Johnny this election.) One other interesting expenditure is $9,750 to Public Opinion Strategies for a poll back in April. (Full disclosure: Johnny’s payment to me for his sidebar ad should be on his next report.)

So Mautz is the undisputed spending leader in this race. In contrast, the other Democratic contender, Rod Benjamin, is running the ultimate low-budget campaign because he’s neither raised or spent above $1,000 as a serial ALCE filer.

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/House-37B.pdf”]

So that leaves me Christopher Adams, who’s also paid for advertising here. His figures are a little bit hard to follow, since a lot of his contributions and expenditures are tied up as loans. He took out and paid off a $20,000 loan from Value Enterprises, LLC and borrowed from his own personal coffers to replace the $20,000. So in truth he’s raised $11,370, with an 11% portion from LLCs and about 1/4 from out-of-district.

Adams has spent on some interesting items, with the biggest being $19,000 to Scott Strategies. He’s also transferred out some good-sized amounts on other entities and races: $500 apiece to the Caroline and Dorchester County Republican Central Committees (although the latter is mis-identified as the Democratic one), as well as to District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton. As far as media goes, I’m a line item along with an ad in the Salisbury Independent, among other things. But if you threw out the loan repayment, Scott Strategies would be well over half Christopher’s spending.

Finally, let’s look at the unopposed Sample-Hughes.

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/House-37A.pdf”]

As you can see, the biggest part of her contributions is the $6,000 she received from the coffers of Rudy Cane. It’s worth noting that Cane’s campaign account was closed out as he distributed over $47,000 to several groups – local candidates Sample-Hughes, Haythe, unsuccessful Salisbury City Council candidate April Jackson, and Wicomico County Councilman-elect Ernest Davis all got something from Cane, as did the House Democratic Committee Slate ($13,242.40.) However, Rudy also gave $20,000 to Shore Up! (a local advocacy group) and distributed $13,000 between three local churches.

Sample-Hughes also received small donations from several local Republicans, such as her fellow Wicomico County Council members John Hall and Matt Holloway, along with Sheriff Mike Lewis. The Maryland Farm Bureau PAC chipped in $500 to her as well. She received very little from businesses, nothing from LLCs, and hardly anything from outside the area.

One thing I noticed is that her fundraising expenses were barely covered by the money raised, but aside from that it’s the sort of a report one might expect from an unopposed candidate. Fortunately, that $6,000 from Cane is about all she’s got so any 2018 contender isn’t far behind in the money race yet.

So that’s how District 37 shapes up. The next report is due October 24, just days before the election.

Campaign 2014: a District 37 look at finance

As part of my ongoing coverage of the 2014 campaign, today I’m going to look at a number of candidates who are running for seats in District 37, which covers portions of Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico counties here on the Eastern Shore. Presently the district is served by three Republicans and one Democrat, with the district’s State Senator being Republican Richard Colburn. In the lower House of Delegates, Democratic Delegate Rudy Cane handles the smaller District 37A, which takes in portions of Dorchester and Wicomico counties and is drawn to be a majority-minority district, while GOP Delegates Addie Eckardt and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio currently hold down the larger District 37B. In Maryland, House districts can serve as subdivisions of Senate districts and combinations of House districts (such as the case here) will have the same overall border as the Senate district.

I’ll begin with the Senate race: while Colburn has come under fire in recent months for both campaign finance issues and a messy pending divorce, he’s filed to run for another term and currently has no GOP challenger. Democrat Cheryl Everman of Talbot County is the lone Democrat in the race.

In terms of cash on hand, it’s no contest: Colburn has $31,994.55 in the bank while Everman is sitting at just $1,885.88. Moreover, the incumbent added to his total by collecting $35,101.55 in 2013 through a near-equal proportion of individual contributions (46.16%) and ticket purchases (46.65%), with political clubs making up the other 7.19%. In looking at the report, however, those political club contributions seem to be misclassified as they appear to be from various state PACs. Regardless, 104 individual contributions and 128 ticket purchases made for an average contribution of $140.42 to Colburn’s coffers.

On the other hand, only 38.61% of Everman’s $1,890.56 take for 2013 came from individual contributions – she received the balance of the money from the candidate account of “Joe Reid for Maryland.” Her 6 individual donors chipped in an average of $121.67 apiece. Since she started her reporting on May 30, this covers a little over seven months’ worth of financial activity.

In my coverage of the governor’s race, I also apportioned contributions into various categories: those from LLCs and similar legal entities, the legal community, unions, business, and out-of-state. (Many fell into more than one category.) I’m doing essentially the same here with the exception of the last category being out-of-district, and in this case I’m considering District 37 as the region covered by 216xx and 218xx zip codes – in essence the lower 2/3 or so of the Eastern Shore.

Colburn did well with the business community, receiving 30.84% of his 2013 donations from business entities. Just 2.66% came from law firms and only 0.31% apiece from LLCs and unions. (That translates to $100 each.) Only 16.02% came from outside of the enhanced district.

With such a small take, Everman’s totals reflected just 4.11% from outside the district, or $30. None of it came from businesses, law firms, unions, or LLCs.

Turning to the Delegate races, the District 37A race is most interesting financially. Democrat Rudy Cane has no GOP opponent yet, but is being challenged by current Wicomico County Council member Sheree Sample-Hughes. That’s not too shocking in and of itself.

However, Cane reported no cash balance on his report – yet is carrying forward $47,742.40 to his next one. Evem more mysterious is the fact he recorded no contributions for calendar year 2013, and the only incoming entry to his ledger is a $250 contribution from the AFSCME union in Salisbury on January 7 of this year. Yet he spent $6,250 on some interesting items – there’s only three, so this is an easy read.

In August, Cane reimbursed himself $50 for his filing fee. Prior to that, his campaign made two expenditures: on January 25, he gave Salisbury City Council candidate April Jackson a $200 boost to her campaign. But stranger still, July 13 saw a $6,000 transfer to…wait for it…Sheree Sample-Hughes.

Now consider that Sheree has a balance of just $7,147.04 in the bank right now. She took in $8,260 in 2013 so obviously only 24.33% of her income came from individual contributions while 3.03% (or $250) came from ticket sales. The other 72.64% of her campaign funding for 2013 came from her ostensible opponent.

But some of those individual contributions came from those one would consider political opponents. For example, fellow Wicomico County Council members John Hall and Matt Holloway (both Republicans) chipped in $100 and $50, respectively, while Wicomico’s GOP Sheriff Mike Lewis gave $40. All these were done in December, well after she had announced for the District 37A seat.

So while Cane got 100% of his contributions from unions based on the one donation, Sample-Hughes received just 1.77% from businesses and 1.11% from outside the district. Her 37 individual contributions and 9 ticket sales worked out to an average of just $49.13 apiece.

My gut instinct tells me that Cane isn’t really going to run to keep his seat unless he has to. The reason he filed, I think, was to keep another person from filing and challenging Sample-Hughes, who may win the district in the primary as sort of the anointed successor to Cane, who will turn 80 in May – thus the large contribution to her coffers. If he indeed runs, it’s likely he’d win another term then resign at some point, making Sample-Hughes the logical successor.

Meanwhile, there’s a financial shootout going for the District 37B seats, one of which is opening up as Delegate Haddaway runs as the lieutenant governor on the David Craig ticket.

It’s no surprise that the other incumbent, Addie Eckardt, leads the cash-on-hand parade with a balance of $44,488.89. But right on her heels is Republican newcomer Johnny Mautz, Jr. of Talbot County, who boasts $44,200.95 on hand. A third Republican hopeful, Christopher Adams of Wicomico County, has $24,777.29 in his coffers.

There are two others in the race, but Rene Desmarais of Wicomico County, a Republican, and the race’s lone Democrat, Keasha Haythe of Talbot County, only filed what are known as ALCEs, which attest a candidate has not raised or spent over $1,000 in the cycle. This isn’t surprising since both filed in mid-December, less than a month before the reporting deadline and just before the holidays, when political activity takes a hiatus.

So in looking at the three who filed full reports, we find that Mautz raised by far the most in 2013.

Cash raised:

  1. Johnny Mautz, Jr. – $56,186
  2. Addie Eckardt – $7,225
  3. Christopher Adams – $6,165

As it turned out, Mautz raised every dime from individual contributions, while Eckardt raised 84.26% that way and Adams just 23.56%. The remainder of Eckardt’s money came from Maryland PACs ($1,350 or 15.74%) while Adams loaned his campaign $20,000 to make up 76.44% of his receipts.

But there’s a world of difference in the contributions each received. Mautz’s 143 individual contributions resulted in a whopping average of $392.91 per donation. Conversely, Adams received 40 contributions for an average of $154.13 apiece, and Eckardt picked up 74 contributions at an average $97.64 per.

And while none had significant contibutions from LLCs (Adams had 4.06% and Eckardt 1.38%), law firms (none reported), or unions (Eckardt received the only union contribution of $250, or 3.46% of her total), there was quite a difference in business support:

  1. Addie Eckardt – 19.79%
  2. Christopher Adams – 8.52%
  3. Johnny Mautz, Jr. – 0%

Yet the one which made my jaw drop was out-of-district contributions:

  1. Johnny Mautz, Jr. – 68.65%
  2. Christopher Adams – 15.57%
  3. Addie Eckardt – 13.84%

There’s no other way to say it: Johnny Mautz, Jr. had a lot of large checks dropped into his campaign from a number of inside-the-Beltway friends and acquaintances he’s gathered in several years of working in Washington, D.C. Obviously this will bear watching in future reports to see how much local funding begins to come in, but it’s obvious his end-of-year push came from outside the district. The initial money for Mautz’s campaign came mostly from locals, but those tended to be smaller amounts.

It’s obvious the big money in District 37 is going to be put into the open seat race for District 37B, although the rumored emergence of a big-name Democratic contender for Colburn’s Senate seat may bring some more money to that contest, and may cause some dominoes to be knocked over on the GOP side.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the races on the District 38 side.

Update: In looking up items for the sidebar widgets I’m going to feature for easy campaign website access, I came across a note on Cheryl Everman’s campaign Facebook page from January 12 stating she would withdraw from the District 37 Senate race for health reasons; however, she has not finalized that paperwork.

Report: First GOP ticket is Craig/Haddaway-Riccio

It appears one of our own on the Eastern Shore may be gracing a gubernatorial ticket.

John Wagner of the Washington Post is reporting that Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio will be selected as David Craig’s running mate next week. While Wagner goes through some of the ramifications of the selection, particularly the gender and generational aspects since Craig is 28 years Haddaway-Riccio’s senior, I also wanted to focus on the local angle as well.

Assuming this is true, suddenly a seat on the House of Delegates opens up in what’s a plurality-Republican two-seat district for a politician from Talbot, much of Dorchester, southern Caroline, or southern and western Wicomico County. Haddaway-Riccio is from Talbot County and her fellow Delegate Addie Eckardt hails from Cambridge in Dorchester County.

Obviously no one is going to announce their intentions before the word becomes official, but you can bet there are a couple politicians from Wicomico County who may covet this opportunity. Democrats only managed to run one candidate for the two seats in 2010 – Patrice Stanley from Cambridge – but with the opening they will surely have a primary battle, as may Republicans itching to move up after a decade of the same representation in District 37. Haddaway-Riccio was appointed to the seat in 2003 after the resignation of Kenneth Schisler, who was selected for the Public Service Commission by then-Governor Bob Ehrlich, while the other District 37 representatives have held office since at least 1998.

If Haddaway-Riccio is indeed the choice and Craig is nominated for the GOP bid, it would mark the third election in a row the GOP sends out a female LG candidate; Bob Ehrlich lost in 2006 with Kristen Cox and in 2010 with Mary Kane. The only Democratic ticket thus far announced is all-male, although current Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown is black and has a white running mate in Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. Other Democrats pondering a gubernatorial run are considering diversity of a different sort: prospective candidate Doug Gansler is rumored to be considering another Eastern Shore resident, openly gay Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton, as his running mate; meanwhile openly lesbian Delegate Heather Mizeur is angling to be the first LGBT statewide nominee in Maryland history.

Finally, one has to ask what Haddaway-Riccio would bring to the ticket as far as legislative experience. Jeannie was the Minority Whip in the House for two years until being ousted by new leadership earlier this spring; however, she remains a member of the Economic Matters Committee and sponsored an interesting assortment of bills this year, with a bill expanding opportunities for small breweries being the lone one to pass muster. Two others for which she served as lead sponsor were vetoed as duplicative to Senate bills by Governor O’Malley.

In my years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, I’ve found Jeannie’s record is fairly parallel to her District 37 counterparts, as all have lifetime ratings in the low 70s. Jeannie is not the right-wing firebrand of the House and generally stops short of voting along the staunchly conservative lines of other Eastern Shore delegates like Mike McDermott, Michael Smigiel, or Charles Otto, but instead ranks among the middle of the pack overall.

In many respects Jeannie is a complementary choice for Craig, bringing youth and gender balance to the ticket while compiling a record inoffensive to most, although fiscal conservatives may not appreciate her seeming hypocrisy on bond bills. I’ve suspected for some time she would run for higher office at some point, having put in a decade in the House of Delegates before turning 40, and this seems like a great opportunity to set herself up for that success, whether in 2014 or down the road.

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