An important role of a community newspaper is to offer endorsements at election time. Endorsements, which are not to be confused with predictions, are educated opinions on races for elected office as well as referendum questions to be decided on election day.
When it comes to weighing endorsement decisions, which we take seriously and consider over months, the process begins with evaluating the incumbent if seeking re-election. The incumbent’s background, votes, positions and effectiveness are all ripe for critical analysis.
Did the incumbent carry himself or herself in a professional fashion befitting of the honor of holding elected office? If the answer to that is yes, then we match the incumbent up against the challenger(s). If the answer to that is no, then we don’t support that individual.
Is there a need for new insights and perspective? Does the challenger bring an improved skill set for public service? When the answer to those questions is yes, we support the nonincumbent.
The following is a look at our endorsements for a number of local and state contested elections. These endorsements are intended to give readers a glimpse into why we have decided to support certain candidates after independent and careful review.
Most important of all, we encourage voters to let their voices be heard on Tuesday if they didn’t already take part in early voting. We also ask each citizen to consider each race individually and to refrain from simply voting for individuals based on party alone. These decisions require more attention than that.
Governor: We maintain incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan has been the most shore-friendly governor ever in Maryland. There are several examples to cite, but two that stand out are the Executive Order mandating all public schools start after Labor Day that clearly benefits this region and the addition of funding for the latest Roland E. Powell Convention Center expansion in his budget when the legislature refused to approve it for unknown reasons. Hogan has earned another four years to carry out his agenda. It’s working for Maryland, and we look forward to the next four years under his leadership.
State Senate District 38: This race features two charismatic and capable leaders, incumbent Democratic Senator Jim Mathias and Republican Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who is giving up her seat in the hopes of replacing Mathias. It’s one of the most dynamic races in Maryland, drawing the interest and financial wherewithal from the state parties.
In explaining her reasons for running for senator after only one term in the House, Carozza says she believes she can be a stronger voice for the shore than Mathias. She thinks she can work better with Gov. Larry Hogan and advance his initiatives for Maryland. She’s also hopeful the District 38 Senate seat will be one of five to flop from the Democrats to the Republicans across the state, allowing Hogan the ability to veto legislation such as the paid sick leave bill. He currently does not have the votes to carry a veto through because the Democrats have the three-fifths override in the Senate.
We do not think the Republicans will be able to achieve a block of a veto override in this midterm election because the chances are slim five Senate seats will flip to the Republicans. Therefore, we do not think Carozza will be as effective as Mathias, a respected member of the majority party in Maryland, in representing the shore in Annapolis.
It’s better for the shore to have a voice with the decision makers in Annapolis rather than being essentially silenced by the simple “R” before the name. The shore is already at a decided disadvantage when it comes to Maryland politics. We are simply outnumbered in the House and Senate by virtue of the western shore’s tremendous population advantage. There are some decisions that we on the shore simply play no part in whatsoever. That’s the reality of the current climate in Maryland, and we don’t see the Republicans being able to muster enough victories to give Hogan veto power in this election.
Carozza has run an outstanding campaign. She understands the issues facing constituents because she is visible in the communities and has communicated with thousands of voters. She is intelligent and strategic and understands how government works at all levels. She is prepared every day to serve the people and can be relied on to speak up for the shore no matter the political climate.
However, we believe the lower shore would have been better off with Carozza remaining in the House and Mathias in the Senate. They should have worked better together during the last four years advancing shore priorities in partnership instead of as rivals. The reality was there was no relationship due most likely to the fact it was clear Carozza would be trying to take Mathias down this election cycle.
We believe Wayne Hartman, who has served as a councilman in Ocean City for one term and prevailed in the house primary, will do a solid job as a delegate replacing Carozza. He deserves a vote of support on Tuesday as he faces a write-in campaign effort. However, there will be a learning curve for him that was not present for Carozza. We believe the drop from Carozza to Hartman in experience and presence is more significant than any sort of advancement or improvement from Mathias to Carozza. We wish Carozza stayed as a delegate for another term.
We view the role of a state legislator representing a district as two primary responsibilities – a legislator and a public servant. There’s the representative side of the job in Annapolis, working, introducing and voting on bills on behalf of your citizens in your domain. On the flip side, there’s the work at home, responding to concerns from residents and in many cases helping citizens work through situations involving government and business. Mathias gets our support for a third term in the Senate because he carries out those primary with poise.
On the public servant front, Mathias provides excellent constituent service at home. He’s accessible and responsive when approached by citizens in need of assistance. We will provide one example to prove the point. When a local family’s patriarch suffered a devastating stroke and the matriarch was diagnosed with lung cancer, the situation reached emergency status for the man, who needed around the clock care while his wife went through treatments. When there were no openings at local nursing homes, the family reached out to anyone and everyone they could, including Mathias. The senator answered the call. By virtue of his seat on a subcommittee governing health matters, he was able to communicate with a local facility to persuade it to accommodate the man. Four years later, the man remains in the same facility receiving the health care he needs. Without Mathias’ intervention, this family would have faced severe hardship. That story defines effective constituent service and helping citizens in a time of need. Mathias was there for the family and there are other similar stories over the last eight years. He’s responsive, aware and respectful.
Additionally, the nod goes to Mathias because of his standing with the majority party in Maryland. We disagree with Hogan’s blanket claim, “time and time again he votes with the bad guys.” We feel Mathias does represent the shore and is not a rubber stamp for the dominant party. There’s a political game that must be played in Maryland. While he has ins with the ruling party, Mathias has proven he is not “Liberal Jim” and not ruled by high ranking Democrats. His conservative positions on gun control, the death penalty and spending prove he’s not the typical Democrat and make him appealing to conservative area voters. We would describe him as moderate, which is a political position that has served this district well over the last eight years.
Worcester County Commission District 1: This is an interesting race and we give the slight edge to the two-term incumbent, Merrill Lockfaw. He’s an outspoken champion for the southern end of the county, and we see no reason why he shouldn’t continue for another term. His opponent, Josh Nordstrom, has worked hard and campaigned well. He has a bright future and his time will come, but we think for this year it’s Lockfaw.
Worcester County Commission District 3: Incumbent Bud Church has robust support for a fourth term. If elected, his tenure on the commissioners will reach 20 years in 2022. That’s an impressive record of service and we think Church is the right choice for one final term. He is experienced and knowledgeable in how county government operates and works hard for his district. He is a familiar face who responds to concerns within his community. The recent changes in animal control laws in Worcester were a result of his response to concerns within constituency, confirming he remains effective as a commissioner for his district.
Worcester County Commission District 4: We would like to see Virgil Shockley back in Snow Hill representing his district. Shockley’s biggest strength is his budget prowess. He actually enjoys the budget process and during his previous stint was always one of the most knowledgeable on the county’s spending. A farmer and retired school bus driver, Shockley was an effective commissioner for 16 years because of his work ethic, which had him prepared for every meeting. We suspect he will not agree on many issues with the current slate of commissioners. We think this board could use an antagonist to bring more issues to light for dialogue and discussion in open meetings.
Worcester County Commission District 5: We feel strongly Worcester County should be open to a creative public-private partnership on a youth sports complex. It’s been proven to be an economic engine in many rural areas and could do wonders for our area, especially in the off-season months. Incumbent Commissioner Chip Bertino’s adamant opposition to the county being involved in this effort nearly cost him our endorsement. However, one misguided view on one issue, albeit a major one with huge ramifications for the entire county, does not make an entire individual. We believe he’s the better pick in this district because he’s more engaged, knowledgeable and aware of how government works. We expect him to understand, however, that with an inventive public-private partnership, as has been successful in Frederica, Del., a sports complex built to host youth tournaments will provide a major economic development boost here.
Worcester County Register of Wills: Terri Westcott’s 18 years of experience working in the Register of Wills Office makes her the clear choice. She is familiar with the office’s operations and understands what needs to be done on a daily basis. She’s the best person for the job.
Ocean City Mayor: Rick Meehan gets the nod for a seventh term in office as mayor. Last month marked 33 years for Meehan at City Hall – 21 on the council and 12 as mayor. These years have provided him with an important historical perspective on city matters. He understands the entire operation of the city and that’s critically important and evident in his leadership. Meehan deserves to continue serving as mayor.
Ocean City Council: The three seats open this election cycle should go to Matt James, Lloyd Martin and Mark Paddack.
James, who is by far the youngest council person in Ocean City, was a productive, reasoned elected official in his first term. He’s reserved in council meetings typically but that doesn’t mean he’s not opinionated and aware of the issues. Back in 2014, we endorsed him, writing, “while his youth, unfamiliarity with government and dearth of life perspectives could be viewed as negatives, we believe these facts will eventually result in the 21-year-old being a valuable asset on the new council.” Four years later, James has been a productive and reliable addition to the council. He provides a needed, youthful and open viewpoint to the council.
Martin has been a steady, mature voice on the council. He has served admirably for the last six years as council president and has grown over his 16 years in office into a well-respected and trusted elected official. He’s approachable and works well with his colleagues at City Hall. While he’s routinely reserved with his comments in open council meetings, he’s well regarded in the community and has the perspective and judgment to do what’s needed on the council.
Paddack has essentially been campaigning, unofficially, for a council seat for more than 25 years. During the mid- to late 90s when he was campaigning for the police to gain collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration through multiple referenda efforts, Paddack was clearly in his element. He enjoys getting to know constituents and will bring a valuable perspective to the city as a retired law enforcement professional. He’s a familiar face who will be approachable for citizens looking for an outlet to voice concerns. Paddack’s life experiences as a cop as well as his longtime residency in the resort will make him an excellent councilman.
Ocean City Referendum: Resort voters are being asked whether to extend binding interest arbitration to the firefighters/paramedics union’s already granted collective bargaining rights. We believe the time has come for these rights to be extended to the public safety union.
There are major morale and personnel issues facing the fire department in Ocean City, as evidenced by the manpower struggles from last summer when dozens of shifts had to be covered through overtime as a result of personnel shortages. Leadership has not handled these matters appropriately, and the Mayor and Council have not intervened to work through the issues.
We support a “for” vote to give union officials more input during critical budget discussions with the town. As has been with the case with the police, we believe the firefighter/paramedics union will be responsible during negotiations with city staff and most disagreements will be ironed out without a third-party arbitrator.