Graf­fius an­nounces run for del­e­gate

Dorchester Star - - FRONT PAGE - By VIC­TO­RIA WINGATE vwingate@ches­pub.com

— Keith Graf­fius, the en­tre­pre­neur be­hind Crabi Gras in Cam­bridge, an­nounced Sun­day, April 2 that he will be run­ning for the District 37B seat in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates.

Sun­day’s an­nounce­ment was made at the for­mer Wil­ley’s Seafood, now owned by Lindy’s Seafood. The idea to

open Crabi Gras came to Graf­fius while at Wil­ley’s Seafood one day, which led him to choose the spot as the lo­ca­tion of this an­nounce­ment.

“We’re do­ing this for Dorch­ester,” Graf­fius said. “One of the un­in­tended con­se­quences of the last elec­tion was that Dorch­ester County lost its res­i­dent del­e­gate. We are ac­tu­ally the only county in state of Mary­land that now doesn’t have a res­i­dent del­e­gate.”

When Ad­die Eckardt, the long­time District 37B del­e­gate, ran for the Se­nate in 2014 and won, the District 37B seat was won by Wi­comico County res­i­dent Chris Adams. The district in­cludes Dorch­ester County and a por­tion of Wi­comico County.

Graf­fius spoke to a few re­cent bills that af­fect small brew­eries, oys­ter sanc­tu­ar­ies, and the prospect of Mary­land be­com­ing a sanc­tu­ary state.

“Here you have one of the most bur­geon­ing, fastest grow­ing in­dus­tries in the na­tion in mi­cro­brews, and only in An­napo­lis do they think it’s a good idea to take these young en­trepreneurs and tie their hands,” he said.

“These are young men and women in Cam­bridge, in Sal­is­bury, in St. Michaels, all over Mary­land, who risk ever ything, will­ing to give up ever ything to live the Amer­i­can dream, and you have a bunch of bu­reau­crats who don’t un­der­stand what that means. All they un­der­stand is they need to reg­u­late and they need to con­trol.”

As a small busi­ness owner, Graf­fius ap­pre­ci­ates the im­por­tance of small busi­ness to our lo­cal economy. He has served on the board of di­rec­tors for the Dorch­ester County Cham­ber of Com­merce and Cam­bridge Main Street.

Graf­fius was a mi­nor­ity part­ner for Jim­mie and Sook’s Raw Bar and Grill when it opened in down­town Cam­bridge in 2009. He later sold his share, which led to him open­ing Crabi Gras in Cam­bridge, which cel­e­brates re­gional pride.

He has since opened an ad­di­tional Crabi Gras lo­ca­tion in St. Michaels, and a sea­sonal lo­ca­tion in Cr­is­field.

Though not a na­tive to the area, Graf­fius said he un­der­stands and ap­pre­ci­ates the impact of the wa­ter on the way of life in the re­gion. He has or­ga­nized fundrais­ers to help lo­cal wa­ter­men.

In re­gards to the is­sue of oys­ter sanc­tu­ar­ies, he said, “24 per­cent of the oys­ter pop­u­la­tion is in sanc­tu­ar­ies. Wa­ter­men want to take it down to 23.7 per­cent. They just want to use .3 per­cent of that sanc­tu­ary to make a liv­ing. What do they think about that in An­napo­lis? That’s too much, be­cause they have big money be­hind them to stop peo­ple like the wa­ter­men.”

An­other is­sue raised was House Bill 0754, ti­tled the Mary­land Trust Act, which would make Mary­land a so-called “sanc­tu­ary state” for those fac­ing de­por­ta­tion on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion charges. The bill was passed in the House of Del­e­gates, but has not been voted on in the Se­nate.

“The mes­sage that sends is, ‘It doesn’t mat­ter if you come to this countr y il­le­gally,’” Graf­fius said. “Ac­tu­ally, they went so far as to say, ‘Even if you com­mit a crime, you’re a crim­i­nal, you’ll still be pro­tected un­der this bill.’ So they say, ‘What does it mat­ter that you come to our coun­try and break our laws? We’re go­ing to give you spe­cial pro­tec­tions.’ That’s just not right.

“I’m here to prom­ise you this: when you elect me to the House of Del­e­gates, 37B, I will go up there, and I will work to make Mary­land a sanc­tu­ary state for our wa­ter­men,” he said. “I will work to make Mary­land a sanc­tu­ary state for our farm­ers. I will work to make Mary­land a sanc­tu­ary state for our brew­ers.

“I will work to make Mary­land a sanc­tu­ary state for the peo­ple that get up ev­ery morn­ing, go to work, and care about this state, care about Dorch­ester, Tal­bot, Caro­line, and Wi­comico coun­ties, and live that dream ev­ery day,” he added. “That’s why I’m run­ning for House of Del­e­gates.”

Graf­fius said that there are many vot­ers in the four-county area who are reg­is­tered as Democrats, but have not voted that way in decades. He en­cour­aged those to change their party af­fil­i­a­tion to Repub­li­can to be able to vote for him in the pri­mary come June 26, 2018.

“The ma­jor­ity of this elec­tion is go­ing to be about the Repub­li­can pri­mar y,” he said. “The Repub­li­cans are go­ing to be the ones that pro­tect your farms, that pro­tect your liv­ing as wa­ter­men.

“We’re go­ing to let them all know that we’re here, we have a voice, and our voice will be heard, it will be strong, and we’re go­ing to change some things. The folks on the Eastern Shore aren’t go­ing to be ig­nored any­more, be­cause we have some lead­er­ship that’s go­ing to help take us to the next level, and we’re go­ing to be re­spected.”

Graf­fius was born and raised in Dills­burg, Pa., near Get­tys­burg. While grow­ing up he would visit the Eastern Shore and go fish­ing in Rock Hall and Kent Is­land.

His fa­ther moved Tay­lors Is­land in Dorch­ester County in 2006, and Graf­fius fol­lowed suit shortly af­ter.

He grad­u­ated from Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity in 2001. He en­joys hunt­ing and fish­ing on Tay­lors Is­land with fam­ily and friends.

He is cur­rently on the board that plans the an­nual St. Michaels and Til­gh­man Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pa­nies fundraiser.

While serv­ing with the Dorch­ester Cham­ber, he helped plan the ini­tial fundrais­ing and re­pair of the World War I Me­mo­rial Foun­tain at Long Wharf Park in Cam­bridge, along with the Cam­bridge Ro­tary Club.

The foun­tain was built in 1938 by the City of Cam­bridge and Dorch­ester County to honor the 38 men from Dorch­ester County that made the supreme sac­ri­fice in the World War. Cam­bridge Ro­tary Club re­paired the foun­tain in 1986 and again in 2012.

The 2012 re­pair came nine years af­ter Hur­ri­cane Is­abel’s his­toric flood­ing left the foun­tain in­op­er­a­ble. At that time the elec­tric sys­tem was re­placed, and a new pump was pur­chased; wa­ter valves were re­placed; the ex­te­rior was cleaned and re­fin­ished.

The Cam­bridge Ro­tary Club has since re­placed the side­walks with new hand­i­cap ac­ces­si­ble side­walks that en­cir­cle the foun­tain, and a new plaza was built to and around the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Cross Me­mo­rial. An ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem was also in­stalled in the cir­cle.

The flag­pole lo­cated in the mid­dle of the new plaza, that ac­tu­ally pre­dates the foun­tain by five years, was also re­painted through the ef­forts of the Cam­bridge Ro­tary Club.

The foun­tain is the site for the gran­ite mon­u­ment hon­or­ing five Dorch­ester res­i­dents who were awarded the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Cross dur­ing World War I. The mon­u­ment was a project of Post 88 of the 29th Divi­sion As­so­ci­a­tion.

Graf­fius said his in­spi­ra­tion to serve comes from his mom.

“Be in­volved in your com­mu­nity,” he said.

PHOTO BY VIC­TO­RIA WINGATE

Keith Graf­fius an­nounced his can­di­dacy for the District 37B seat in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates.

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