Mathias, James Lean Toward Senate Runs

BERLIN – While both candidates have been decidedly sheepish about their intentions for the upcoming 2010 election, it now appears both Delegate Jim Mathias and former House challenger and Ocean City hotelier Michael James could be on a collision course for the District 38 Senate seat.

There has been much speculation about both candidates’ intentions following long-time incumbent J. Lowell Stoltzfus’ announcement earlier this summer he would not seek re-election when his current term expires. The announcement opened up speculation in some circles that Mathias and James could renew their spirited 2006 campaign when the former Ocean City mayor edged James for one of two District 38B House of Delegates seats.

While neither Mathias or James have formally announced they would seek the Senate seat and the deadline for filing is still several months away, both this week informally confirmed the direction in which they were headed. When prodded about his intentions during an Atlantic General Hospital Foundation meeting on Wednesday morning, Mathias told members he intended to go after the district’s Senate seat in the 2010 election. Hours later, he confirmed what he told the AGH Foundation board was not simply lip service.

“I’m going to be running for Senate,” Mathias told The Dispatch on Wednesday. “I haven’t made a formal announcement, and I’ll do that when the time is right, but informally, yes, I do plan to seek the Senate seat. I didn’t go there intending to talk about politics, but they asked me and I gave them a straight answer.”

Mathias hedged his bets somewhat and left open the possibility he could seek re-election to his House of Delegates seat, but it appears, for the moment at least, his intention is to challenge for the District 38B Senate seat.

“That’s my intent,” he said. “You’re not a candidate until you file the papers. If the deadline for filing was tomorrow, then I would be going in and filing for the Senate seat. Of course, the deadline isn’t tomorrow and there is still a lot of time left, but my intentions are to seek the Senate seat. I did make that known this morning in an informal setting at the AGH Foundation function, but the time will come for a more formal announcement.”

However, Mathias made it abundantly clear he was not starting to campaign for 2010. With what will likely be a weighty General Assembly session upcoming, Mathias said he is focusing only on the business at hand for the time being.

“We have a very important session upcoming and I’d rather be talking about policy than politics,” he said. “We’re going to go in looking at a $300 million deficit and that could grow to $1 billion by 2011. We have weighty issues to resolve and my focus is entirely on the task at hand. I would prefer not to get engaged in politics until we get some of these major issues behind us, issues that affect our district and the entire state.”

Mathias said his apparent decision to seek the Senate seat came after a lot of soul searching and interaction with both his family and the constituents in District 38B.

“I’ve considered my family’s interests and I’ve listened to the people of our district,” he said. “My constituents in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset have encouraged me to run. My wife Kathy has encouraged me to run. We’ve lived a full life in public service and we want to continue to do that.”

Meanwhile, James confirmed later on Wednesday he would most likely seek the Senate seat, although, like Mathias, he has not made a formal announcement. James, a Republican, has already announced his intention to run for either the House of Delegates or the State Senate, but said this week he is leaning toward the latter.

“I guess it’s possible I would run for the House again, but it’s much more likely I’ll run for Senate,” he said. “I think we’re both headed for that Senate seat, but I don’t think either of us are ready to make a formal announcement just yet.”

James said his motivation for seeking the Senate seat would likely be an effort to maintain some semblance of a balance of power on the Lower Shore and across the state. Republican Lewis Riley occupied the seat for years before being replaced by another Republican in Stoltzfus for over a decade.

“My situation has more to do with maintaining a balance of power in the district and across the state,” he said. “If we lose that seat, that would be detrimental to everybody. Having a Republican in that seat is in the best interest of everybody on the Lower Shore, if only to maintain some of the balance of power.”

James also said he is deferring somewhat to Delegate Page Elmore (R-37) before making a final decision about what office he intends to seek. Elmore has expressed at least an interest in seeking the Senate seat.

“Page Elmore and I have been talking and I’ve decided to give him all the time he needs to decide what he wants to do,” said James. “He is still the senior Republican on the Eastern Shore and I’m going to be respectful of that.”