BERLIN – After representing Worcester County and the lower shore for 19 years, State Senator J. Lowell Stoltzfus (R-38B) yesterday announced he would not seek re-election to his District 38B seat in the upcoming election in 2010.
Stoltzfus was set to make the formal announcement last night at a press conference and dinner at The Fountains in Salisbury. Prior to that formal announcement, however, he shared his future intentions with The Dispatch in an interview yesterday.
“This will be my last term,” he said. “I will complete my current term, which runs for about another year and a half, but I will not seek re-election.”
Citing family concerns and health issues with his wife, Stoltzfus, who has represented Ocean City, Worcester County and entire lower shore in the Senate since 1992, said the time was right to announce he was not seek re-election the next time around.
“After 19 years, I’m ready to step aside,” he said. “It’s been a great 19 years, a whole lot of good, but sometimes difficult, which is how it should be. It’s been a very rewarding experience and I am a better person for having done it.”
For several months, really since the last General Assembly session, there has been considerable speculation about the senator’s long-range intentions as another election cycle nears. A handful of potential candidates have hinted at making a run for the District 38B Senate seat in 2010, although most are basing their plans on the popular senator’s future plans.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about what I intend to do,” he said. “There are a bunch of people out there planning on running for office in the next election, and it’s only fair at this time to make known my intentions so that they can make preparations for their own campaigns. I respect that, which is why I’m announcing this now.”
Stoltzfus said his announcement does not signal an intention to seek a different, maybe higher office. There had been speculation he might make a run at a seat in Congress or the U.S. Senate, but Stoltzfus dismissed those notions yesterday.
“This is it for me,” he said. “I have some family considerations to consider. My wife has some health issues we’ve been dealing with, so it’s a good time to finish out my term and then walk away.”
Of course, yesterday’s announcement does not close the book on Stoltzfus’ career in the State Senate. Next January’s General Assembly session promises to be one of the most contentious in recent memory with massive budget cuts on the table in the wake of the ongoing recession. Stoltzfus said yesterday his lame-duck status will not dissuade him from the work yet to be done, and that means continuing to go to bat for the citizens of District 38B.
“My motivation has never come from re-election, but rather from my constituent work,” he said. “I will continue to enjoy the work I do on behalf of the constituents. It’s the most gratifying thing I can do as a senator. My wife would tell you there are many days when I come home and I tell her I feel really good. I really helped somebody today.”
Over the years, Stoltzfus has been a staunch advocate for the agriculture industry and he often found himself in the middle of fights over farming, conservation, development and the environment. Yesterday, he called his work on farming issues some of the most rewarding of his career.
“One of the things I’m most proud of during my career is the work I’ve done over the years to protect the agriculture industry,” he said. “Because of the rural nature of our district, I’ve been at the fore on a large number of agriculture issues over the years and I’m proud of the work I’ve done there.”
Stoltzfus said he also proud of his leadership role in the battle to redraw legislative districts in Maryland that came to the fore several years ago.
“The redistricting fight is something I’m also very proud of,” he said. “It really changed the political landscape across the state, particularly in Baltimore City, and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t challenged some of those things.”
From 2001 to 2006, Stoltzfus was the Senate Minority Leader, often tangling on key issues with Democratic heavyweights, such as Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Michael Busch, battles he recalled fondly yesterday.
“I’m extremely proud of my leadership role in the Senate,” he said. “You’re elected to those positions by your peers, which makes it very special and also very important.”
This spring, the State Senate honored Stoltzfus with the First Citizen Award.
“I’m extremely proud of that honor,” he said. “It’s awarded each year by the Senate. Often it goes to a legislator, but sometimes over the years it has gone to a private citizen. It’s really a recognition of what you’ve accomplished, a lifetime achievement award of sorts.”
While he has much work yet to do in the Senate, Stoltzfus said he is looking forward to his private life.
“I’ll continue running my nursery business,” he said. “There are a lot of things I enjoy that I’ll have more time for now. I love fishing and I like fishing in tournaments, so I’ll get a chance to do more of that. I was supposed to fish in the White Marlin Open this year, but that didn’t work out. We plan on doing a lot of traveling, hopefully to warm, sunny places. There are a lot of opportunities out there and I plan to take advantage of them.”