The following is a look at our endorsements for a number of local contested elections. These endorsements are intended to give readers a glimpse into why we have decided to support certain candidates. We take this obligation of offering our suggestions seriously at this newspaper, and it’s important to point out these are endorsements and not predictions and a result of an extensive review of each candidate and much deliberation.
Voters are extremely fortunate here to have a choice between Democrat Jim Mathias and Republican Michael James, qualified, intelligent and admirable candidates running for the seat long held by conservative Lowell Stoltzfus.
The nod goes to Mathias for his political experience in Annapolis and his two decades of quality constituency service that will give him an edge in representing the shore and its diverse citizenry.
We typically do not comment on candidates we do not endorse in a race to avoid the awkward position of having to explain why we do not support them, but the battle for this seat deserves an exception.
James is an affable leader who would serve the area well in public office. He belongs in elected office and we like his message and credentials. He is an outstanding candidate, but we feel he erred when he decided to run for senator without any previous elective experience. That’s a huge leap to make and one that concerns us. We would have preferred he seek the delegate seat he just barely lost out on four years ago. However, James’ message and his private sector background and practical approach resonates well in today’s world. He’s a valuable asset to this community and a force within it, no matter what happens next week.
With that said, Mathias gets our endorsement because we see him as a proven leader and a legislator that will be more effective in Annapolis, a culture dominated by the left party. His experience in government and his intentions to lean toward the center gives him the edge here.
When evaluating a legislator, voting record is important, and we frown on the fact he supported income and corporate tax increases during his early days as a delegate, but we do think he deserves recognition for going against his party and not voting for a 20-percent sales tax increase and opposing the extension of unemployment benefits to part-time employees.
However, there are other matters to consider as well besides votes. For instance, a local couple’s experience with Mathias last year is worth noting.
The Wicomico County couple had their lives turned upside down last year when they were victims of a frightening home invasion. Leaving out the sordid details, the suspects held the husband and wife at gunpoint in their own garage in an effort to rob them. A struggle ensued that eventually led to a shot being fired and the suspects eventually fleeing the scene without being apprehended by authorities. Area police investigated to a degree but no arrests were made immediately or thereafter.
Mathias was briefed on the situation by a family member and got involved on his own accord. He met with the police, asked to be kept abreast of the investigation and monitored police efforts from afar. After more time went by, an arrest was made, and the couple to this day believes Mathias played a key role by staying involved till an arrest was made. The suspect has now been linked to numerous other robberies in the Salisbury area and is awaiting trial.
Mathias’ actions on behalf of these citizens epitomize the basic tenant of elective service, and he helped these folks when they had nowhere else to turn. That’s solid representation, and there are other examples of this during his two decades of being an elected official.
That’s constituent service and it’s the most fundamental aspect of representative government. In a day when many elected officials will not even return phone calls from constituents, that’s noteworthy.
While we may not agree with each and every vote Mathias has made in Annapolis, we put greater emphasis on this type of citizen work, and that’s the kind of person that deserves to move up the political ladder from delegate to senator.
House of Delegates
Voters will see four names on the ballot, and we endorse the candidacies of Democrat Gee Williams and Republican Marty Pusey.
Williams, current mayor of Berlin, will be a rational and consistent voice in Annapolis. He understands the impact tax increases of any nature have on the district and as a former small business owner identifies with the struggles of many in the community currently. He has a unique background that will make him an asset in Annapolis and we believe he has the backbone to be independent in a liberal environment.
It’s been decades since this district has elected a Republican to this seat, and we think Pusey should be it. She offers a background in the local health department, giving her an understanding of the bureaucratic nature of government, as well as a small business owner that will prove valuable when considering finances as a legislator. She has a passion for government and wants to reduce spending rather than increase the burden on citizens through fees and taxes. She’s a conservative that has a solid grasp on the issues and is widely respected for her independence of thought.
District 1: Merrill Lockfaw, as a former county roads superintendent and longtime resident of his district, has the government background needed to ease smoothly into being a commissioner. His familiarity with how government operates gives him a leg up in this race.
District 4: Incumbent Virgil Shockley is the choice in this largely rural district. Shockley’s agriculture expertise and background separates him from his peers on the board. His 12 years of familiarity with how county government budgets are handled and how the various county departments are operated makes him qualified for another term. His voice needs to be heard in Snow Hill.
District 5: We give the nod to John Bodnar in the Ocean Pines district. Bodnar has run an organized and focused campaign, and he has been wise to point out the differences between he and the incumbent. Bodnar has made a commitment that he will not vote for any tax increases of any kind. With some officials already predicting property taxes may have to be raised to offset declining revenues and spiking expenses, Bodnar’s pledge is important. We think it’s time for Ocean Pines, among the largest residential housing communities on the shore, to get some fresh representation.
District 7: Louise Gulyas should never be underestimated. She has proven since she was first elected in 1998 that she can fly independent and not be swayed under pressure. In a forum last week, Gulyas proposed a reduced tax, one that would be increased incrementally over a period of time, be introduced for new businesses opening in Worcester. She understands the need for more jobs in the county and is aware of the impact tourism has on the entire region. She needs another term.
Although inexcusable blunders were made with his campaign mailings this week, and the fallout poorly handled, Joel Todd should be re-elected to his fifth term, which we believe should be his final one.
Beau Oglesby, a Caroline County deputy state’s attorney who by most accounts is a solid prosecutor and respected by those who he has worked alongside, once again opposes Todd and poses a formidable challenge.
We believe Todd should serve another term based solely off his tenure and record in office, rather than what’s happened throughout an ugly campaign.
The major success of Todd’s last four years has been a renewed effort to bust criminals in East Berlin. This initiative needs to continue on the same course it’s been on for the last couple years. It was the brainchild of Todd and law enforcement leaders in the community, and it’s been a success in its early stages. There’s still a long way to go, but Todd is making a difference in this area and criminals are being taken off the streets.
Additionally, we agree with him that an experienced prosecutor with familiarity with the ongoing cases is needed to see through the four active homicide cases in the county. That experience will be pivotal in seeing justice achieved for the victims of these crimes.
Being State’s Attorney means prosecuting cases, living within a limited departmental budget, overseeing a staff of attorneys and clerical posts and representing the people in a quest for justice. Todd has proven adept at juggling these responsibilities, and we would like to see him in office for another four years.
Reggie Mason is a logical choice to take over as the county sheriff. Mason is widely respected around the county for his workman like attitude, evidenced by a recent string of nightshifts he worked to get a grasp on what’s happening around the county in the wee hours. He has an understanding of the team atmosphere needed to fight crime in our unique county.
We see no reason why Clerk of Court Steve Hales and Register of Wills Charlotte Cathell should not be returned to their civil posts in Snow Hill.
Hales and Cathell are both affable and natural leaders, and they have earned the respect of the community in their public and private lives. They both deserve to be returned to office to provide consistent, quality service to residents.