Mathias Officially Files For Senate Seat

BERLIN – Ending months
of speculation, Delegate James Mathias this week officially filed for election
to the Senate seat in District 38, which includes all of Worcester County,
Somerset County and a portion of Wicomico County.

Unofficially, Mathias,
former mayor of Ocean City, has made no secret of his intention to seek the
District 38 Senate seat since Republican Senator Lowell Stoltzfus, who held the
position for nearly two decades, announced last year he would not seek
re-election. Mathias informally confirmed his intention to seek the Senate seat
to this newspaper earlier this year, but was reluctant to go fully public with
his decision because of the weighty issues he had in front of him as one of the
district’s House of Delegates representatives.

With the most recent
General Assembly session completed last month, Mathias formally filed for the
Senate seat on Monday. He said this week the decision was made less difficult
by the overwhelming support he has received from constituents throughout the
district and it wasn’t a decision he made rashly.

“Honestly, we’ve been
working through this for over a year since Senator Stoltzfus announced his
retirement,” he said. “As I worked through the entire district in all three
counties, people I talked to asked me to consider it. They were very
encouraging.”

Mathias said the
decision to seek the Senate seat came after considerable soul-searching and
consultations with his wife and family, friends and others.

“This was not a
unilateral decision,” he said. “This was a stakeholder decision contributed to
by family, friends and focus groups in each county. We talked about the ups and
downs and made the decision to seek the Senate seat. With their help, we’re
going to win this race.”

Mathias has represented
the district in the House of Delegates since June 2006 when he was appointed to
fill the term of the late Delegate Bennett Bozman. He was elected to the House
of Delegates in November of that year, along with long-time district
representative Norman Conway (D-38B). Prior to his appointment and eventual
election to the district’s House seat, Mathias served as mayor of Ocean City
for 10 years, following a six-year stint on the City Council.

Mathias will draw from
his considerable career in public service as he prepares for the campaign.
Considered by many to be a strong fiscal conservative, Mathias has voted to cut
the size of government and give small businesses incentives to create jobs. He
said this week he became a Democrat many years ago when he asked his
grandmother how to register to vote, but has not always been married to the
party over the years.

“When I was first on the
City Council and later mayor, nobody really knew or cared what my party affiliation
was,” he said this week. “When I was appointed to serve in the House and later
elected, I suddenly became Jim Mathias with a big ‘D’ behind my name.”

The delegate pointed to
his recent work in the General Assembly to further illustrate the point.

“Our government’s top
priority must be keeping our communities safe, and I worked across party lines
to give prosecutors and police officers stronger tools to fight gang violence
and to crack down on sexual predators who prey on our children,” he said. “I stood
up to those in my party who wanted to repeal the death penalty because I
believe the most heinous crimes deserve the ultimate penalty.”

Mathias’ official filing
this week potentially sets up a highly anticipated showdown in the district
with Republican candidate and Ocean City hotelier Michael James, who has also
publicly declared his intention to seek the Senate seat. James narrowly missed
election to the district’s House seat in 2006, falling to Conway and Mathias by
single-digit percentage points. When the last of the absentee ballots were
counted, James trailed Conway be a mere 254 votes and Mathias by just over
1,100 votes.

Mathias said while it
appears likely the two are on a collision course this fall, it was premature to
speculate on the potential race because both candidates will likely have
primaries to get through. Mathias certainly will as candidate Charles Mickey
Lehrer, a Somerset County Democrat, filed for the district’s Senate seat last
week. When asked about James, Mathias said he was prepared to take on all
comers.

“We have a primary to
get through yet, so we’ll see what happens,” he said. “Whoever the opponent
might be, I welcome that. I urge the voters to do their homework and get to
know their candidates. The most intelligent person out there is the voter, and
the voter will know who is the most qualified.”

James also said he
anticipates a challenge in the primary, but welcomes a chance to face Mathias.

“The voters will have a
very clear choice because Jim and I are so different,” he said yesterday.
“Clearly, Jim is an insider with considerable political experience, but this
might boil down to practical private sector experience versus public sector
experience. Clearly, the budget crisis is the biggest issue and it might be
time for somebody from the outside with a 20-year track record in turning
around a business and creating jobs take a look at it in a different way.”

 

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