District 38B Delegate Candidates Profiled

BERLIN – The seven candidates for the two local seats in the House of Delegates were recently asked to respond in writing to a questionnaire from The Dispatch.

Incumbent Norm Conway is joined in the Democratic primary by candidates Bernard John Hayden and Gee Williams, while Republicans hopefuls include A. Kaye Kenney, Mike McDermott, Marty Pusey and Joe Schanno.

The top two vote getters from each party will advance to the General Election in November.

Conway, 68, is a retired educator who has been a delegate for 24 years. He is the current chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Hayden, 62, a West Ocean City resident, is a retired newspaper editor.

Williams, 61, mayor of Berlin, is a former newspaper editor and publisher who currently works in development and marketing for non-profit organizations.

Parsonsburg resident Kenney, 61, owns a small business and is the current chair of the Wicomico County Liquor Licensing Commission. She has served on a number of Wicomico committees.

McDermott, the 48-year-old mayor of Pocomoke, is the commander of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigative Division as well as a poultry farm manager.

Pusey, 59, a Snow Hill resident, is the co-owner of a small business in Salisbury and is the public health manager and director of prevention services in the Worcester County Health Department.

Schanno, 26, of Ocean Pines, lists his current profession as a student and salesman.
The following is a verbatim look at the candidate responses.
Q. Why are you running for this particular public office? Please give at least three reasons.

Conway: To utilize the experience and leadership gained over 24 years as a member for District 38B. To continue work on maintaining a balanced budget for the State during very rough economic times. To continue work on economic development and creation of jobs for our region by maintaining our achievement in education at all levels.

Hayden: The global economy has changed, and more economic shocks probably lie ahead. Maryland must reform government and spending. I hope to be able to contribute to sound decisions by the General Assembly.

Second, voters have lost confidence in government and both political parties. If people give up on government, we’ll be at the edge of chaos. We need term limits on career politicians and to streamline bureaucracy. No one is entitled to a political or bureaucratic job for life.

Finally, Ocean City, West Ocean City, and Ocean Pines should be represented in Annapolis. Some District 38B candidates are from Pocomoke or Wicomico County. I live in West Ocean City and understand the seasonal resort economy.

Williams: I believe my elected public service as the mayor of Berlin has demonstrated leadership skills based on effective, pragmatic policies that are needed more than ever in Annapolis. I am running to advocate the following four priorities.

— The creation of jobs by reducing or streamlining regulations, reducing fees, and reducing targeted tax cuts that will spur business.

— The state must live within its means by making state government affordable, responsive and less intrusive in our lives. We cannot regulate ourselves into recovery.

— We must make economic opportunity and environmental responsibility compatible, not competitive.

— Make sure Maryland remains committed to educational excellence in our public schools even during these economically challenging times.

Kenney: As a small business owner, farmer, wife and mother, I experience some of the same challenges of the residents of District 38B and have great understanding of their concerns and needs. I was encouraged to run for the office because my friends, family, and the people that believe that I can represent this district well. I walk the same walk as they do on a daily basis. For many years, I have been involved behind the scenes with county and state issues and government. My experience has prepared me to serve in this capacity. I have a desire to give more to District 38B because I am a life-long resident who has a vested interest in what happens in Worcester and Wicomico Counties.   

McDermott: I believe we are at a great crossroads as a state and nation. Maryland is currently ranked dead last in “personal freedoms”, almost last in “business climate”, and fourth worst in overall “tax burden”. Liberal governing in Annapolis has given us bigger government, higher taxes, overly burdensome regulations, and families who struggle to stay afloat. Our local economy is dependent on thriving agricultural and seafood industries, which find themselves increasingly under the thumb of the Maryland Department of the Environment. This administration and legislature fails to provide a balanced approach to solving the many problems that plague Maryland families; and our current leaders have appropriated a debt that will be borne by our children’s children. Marylanders deserve a better future.

Pusey: I am running for office because:
— I love the Eastern Shore having lived here all my life

— I want my grand-daughter to grow up in a free society am concerned that Maryland has become one of the most taxed States (ranked among the 10 worst by the Tax Foundation) with the fewest freedoms. Taxes, fees, and regulations are crippling the choices of hard working individuals, families, and businesses. The poultry industry is at risk of leaving the Shore which will devastate our family farms and economy.

— The incumbent should be challenged with his 50-percent anti-business voting record and we are losing jobs. We must change the culture of Annapolis.

— I have professional and leadership experience, am passionate about my beliefs, and will work tirelessly to represent the people of the Lower Eastern Shore.

Schanno: Maryland is on the wrong path. Our “experienced” politicians are on a folly, promoting policies of ever increasing intrusive regulation and fiscal management of tax, then spend, then tax again. Senior citizens are being robbed of the financial security they earned over a lifetime and the dreams of our younger generations for a a future of success and happiness are in question. It is time for a new agenda of optimism, principle and doable solutions – to stop punishing taxpayers, business owners, the unemployed and property owners. Fiscally, we have no other option than to tame big government by lowering, not raising taxes and to limit spending to actual revenue. We must unleash individual citizens from overly intrusive regulation to respond and innovate in challenging economic times.

Q. Eastern Shore representatives, particularly those who are new to Annapolis, traditionally have a tough time getting their voices heard during heated debates, such as the budget. How will you overcome this?

Conway: In my role as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I make sure that all members have opportunities for input on all issues that come before the committee.

Hayden: Some legislators are in over their heads. Novice delegates who’ve lived all their lives in one rural county or one small town can sink like a stone in Annapolis. I have a broad understanding of Maryland government and politics from my work as an editor and journalist on the Western Shore, plus eight years as a Democratic precinct chairman in Montgomery County. I will work cooperatively with delegates from other parts of Maryland, and help them understand issues unique to the Lower Eastern Shore. Communication is a two-way street. Like college freshmen, new delegates should: 1. Attend your committee meetings and do your committee homework; and 2. Avoid being sucked into the late-night drinking scene.

Williams: I may become a new delegate, but I won’t be new to several members of the state legislature. I have successfully lobbied the legislature on a number of issues as a town council member, as the Mayor, and for a number of nonprofit and professional organizations.

When I was a newspaper publisher, I led the fight to defeat proposed state legislation that would have added sales tax to all free newspapers in Maryland.

I am a passionate, persuasive and persistent guy. I’ve never had trouble getting people to listen, especially when they realize you’re informed and respectful of differing opinions. I see no reason why I would not continue to be an effective representative on key issues of the day, even as a new delegate.

Kenney: I have been very successful in tackling issues locally and believe that I will command respect from those who have served in the capacity before I arrived. I understand the need for diplomacy without compromising my values. That is why I have been successful when taking on any issue before our government.

McDermott: The floor of the State House is not for the timid. Before there is debate on the floor, there are discussions in committee. It is there where the questions are asked and bills can be shaped. The ability to communicate a thought that resonates and alters the opinion of another is invaluable. You have to make every opportunity count. In my profession, the ability to communicate can boil down to life and death decisions. You come to understand quickly the power of words and whether or not you are truly communicating your message. A strong voice, conveying a strong message is not easily drowned out by the babbling of those who bring nothing new to the table.

Pusey: It cannot be business as usual. I will stand firm on the principles of less government intrusion on our daily lives and reducing the burden on individuals, families, and businesses and will not be swayed by those that dilute that core belief. I will work with the leadership and conservative representatives from the Eastern Shore and the state to coalesce support, be relevant, and influence outcomes. The 38B incumbent often votes with the liberal majority leadership which results in increasing the burden on hard-working citizens, hurting farmers, watermen, and small businesses, and as the Chairman of Appropriations, is responsible for increasing taxes. The people of the Lower Eastern Shore deserve better. We must elect representatives in Annapolis that reflect Eastern Shore values and respects our way of life.

Schanno: My voice will come in time by earning respect as a member who sticks to his principals while being able to work with other delegates from across Maryland. I will start by working with our state senator and the two other delegates for District 38 to establish a unified platform of goals for the district for legislation and budget matters. To move the platform forward I will ask questions to educate myself as to the goals of other delegations with the expectation that common ground can be found.

Q. Reducing spending is expected to be a necessity during next year’s General Assembly session to balance the budget. Would you support increasing property taxes, or any other type of tax or fees, to make up the expected gap between expenditures and revenues?

Conway: I plan to work within the Spending Affordability Guidelines that will guide the governor and the legislature on budget process. I would not support any tax or fee to make up a gap in expenditures and revenues.

Hayden: No new taxes in the next four years. The only exception: I would vote to increase the alcohol tax, which has not been raised in decades and is among the lowest in the country, by a dime a drink. The revenue is needed to keep schools and Medicaid afloat. We should begin cutting the sales tax when that is possible. Maryland will realize some added revenue from slots beginning in 2011.

Williams: No, I would not support additional taxes or fees. The state still has more cost cutting to do and the choices will never be easy. The legislature must do everything within its power to limit our obligations to conform to current economic reality.

Instead of raising taxes, the legislature should look for ways to reduce fees and reduce some targeted taxes that will help to spur business development and create jobs, such as the state’s corporate tax rate and personal income tax rates.

It’s not all just about taxes. Directly related to getting our state economy growing again is the urgent need to reduce and streamline regulations. We must find ways to make state government more affordable, responsive and less intrusive in our lives.

Kenney: I would not support increasing any property taxes. Our government should be expected to be efficient and effective in their duties. I believe our government needs to be downsized and refocused on core responsibilities. Private industry should be contracted with to accomplish some of the other tasks. A different approach has to be used when attempting to balance the budget without the tax and spend mentality.

McDermott: Increasing taxes or burdening the public and business community with additional fees leads to greater deficits. Our legislators increased the sales tax by 20%, which only provided diminished sales. They decided to tax “millionaires” at punitive rates resulting in deceased revenues as those folks voted with the feet. There is a reason as a state we are rated almost last in “business climate” and fourth worst in overall “tax burden”. If we would lessen the corporate tax burden, we would have a net increase in job growth and revenues from new and existing businesses. Yet, increasing revenues without holding the line on spending is not the right path. We must cut taxes and spending to secure our future.    

Pusey: I will not support raising taxes. This hurts families and stymies investment and growth resulting in businesses fleeing to neighboring states.

I believe in reducing taxes (sales, personal income maximum, unemployment, corporate, property), fees and unnecessary regulations and offering incentives for investment in order to bring back jobs to Md.

Reduce the cost of Maryland’s illegal alien population estimated at 1.4 billion annually. As a sanctuary State for illegal immigrant, the cost to tax payers for education, medical care, and incarceration is tremendous.

Reduce the excessive land acquisition by the state that costs taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

Seek efficiencies in government by consolidating departments with similar purposes and regulatory authority.

Schanno: I have pledged not to support any tax increase because Maryland’s high tax burden is ruining the State for business innovation and job creation. Instead of raising taxes the state must impose real controls on spending. Establishing spending priorities will not be easy, but will have to be completed. Some programs may have to be reduced or even go unfunded. We should follow the lead of successful governors such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, who have shown fiscal leadership in difficult time and against intransigent politics.

Q. If elected, there’s a chance you may be asked to co-sponsor or at least support a bill deciding the Liquor Control Board for Worcester County’s future. What’s your position on the LCB?

Conway: I would listen to all sides and look at the audits and reports and work with my colleagues to address any needed legislation.

Hayden: Worcester County leaders and voters have decided in the past that the Liquor Control Board benefits local residents. I believe that remains true today. It’s an unusual monopoly arrangement, but the liquor business is an unusual enterprise. The Liquor Control Board is better than a liquor store on every corner and it provides needed jobs and revenue to the county.

If an audit finds corruption or incompetence, we should fire those responsible. If an audit reveals part of the Liquor Board operation is broken, we should fix it. Bar owners imagine that abolishing the Liquor Control Board would benefit them. But bar owners constitute a special interest. I will represent all the people of Worcester County.

Williams: Yes, I support legislation to abolish the Liquor Control Board (LCB), but my support is absolutely dependant on the formulation of a plan that guarantees Worcester County and all of the municipalities will permanently receive revenue that is equal to, or greater than, the average contributions of recent years under the LCB system.

As the mayor of Berlin, I am very aware of how important this revenue is to the county and all four municipalities. It’s time for an alternative system that puts this important local industry in the hands of private enterprise, where it should be, while also protecting an essential source of public funding that is used exclusively to help meet local needs.

Kenney: I served on the Wicomico County Council’s appointed study committee that spent several months studying the Wicomico Liquor Control Board. I also serve as the chair of the Wicomico County Liquor Licensing Commission and have experienced their total disregard to law and regulations of the State of Maryland Article 2B. The present system is archaic and has outlived its usefulness. Not having any outside authority to enforce the state law provided in Article 2B, the system is ripe for corruption. Only three counties in Maryland have a dispensary system similar to the one in Worcester County. I am in favor of abolishing the system.  

McDermott: The tradition in Worcester County has been to ask the voters. However, if the current audits reveal gross mismanagement or corrupt activity, I would introduce a bill that would eliminate the LCB. Further, I would work with the Worcester County Commissioners, municipal leaders, and the affected business community to determine the best path for replacing the revenue stream currently provided through the LCB. In light of a clear audit, there have been enough questions and angst expressed to require a straw poll on the next available ballot. I would make this request in the next session. Following the poll, I would accept the expressed direction of the people.

Pusey: The citizens of Worcester County should decide this issue and if they determine that the LCB should be eliminated, I will sponsor a bill to that effect. I have personally voted to eliminate the LCB in the past referendums because I believe that government should not be in the business of selling liquor, and it belongs in the hands of the private sector. The Board of Licensing would continue to exist and provide the necessary oversight to assure that businesses are responsibly dispensing alcohol to the public. I believe the Liquor Control Board is an antiquated system that has out-lived its function.

Schanno: I am willing to sponsor legislation to abolish the LCB. A remnant of the prohibition era, the LCB has no role in protecting the public from the harm and nuisance that is caused by the misuse of alcohol. These responsibilities are within the jurisdiction of business licensing and law enforcement. The sole purpose of the LCB is promote the sale of alcohol as a commercial monopoly in wholesale and retail alcohol sales and distribution. These tasks should be left to private business governed by appropriate regulations as currently done in nineteen other local jurisdictions without apparent ill effect to local communities. There is no good reason for county taxpayers to be on the hook for losses that could be incurred by the LCB.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.