District 37B can­di­dates talk ger­ry­man­der­ing, en­vi­ron­ment

Dorchester Star - - REGIONAL - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@ches­pub.com

EAS­TON — Can­di­dates for the state Se­nate and del­e­gate for dis­tricts 37 and 37B, re­spec­tively, took part in a League of Women Vot­ers fo­rum at the Tal­bot County Se­nior Cen­ter Thurs­day, Oct 25, as the first day of early vot­ing con­cluded.

In at­ten­dance were Demo­cratic can­di­date Dan O’Hare; Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37BTal­bot; Del. Chris Adams, R-37B-Wi­comico; Demo­cratic can­di­date Holly Wright; and Sen. Ad­die Eckardt, R-37-MidShore.

The can­di­dates were sep­a­rated into two groups, an­swer­ing ques­tions pre-writ­ten by the League of Women Vot­ers, fol­lowed by au­di­ence ques­tions.

O’Hare, the Demo­cratic chal­lenger for Adams from the same county, spent the ma­jor­ity of his life work­ing in film and tele­vi­sion, pro­duc­ing for Vi­a­com and other mul­ti­me­dia com­pa­nies.

Adams de­scribed him­self as a fifth-gen­er­a­tion East­ern Shore na­tive and third-gen­er­a­tion busi­ness­man. Adams ran in 2012 on a plat­form ad­vo­cat­ing for small busi­nesses on the East­ern Shore and is a strong pro­po­nent of Gov. Larry Ho­gan.

Mautz is a St. Michaels na­tive and a grad­u­ate of Ohio North­ern Univer­sity’s law pro­gram. Mautz also spent 16 years as a leg­isla­tive lawyer for the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Del­e­gate can­di­dates were asked their opin­ions on ger­ry­man­der­ing and the ac­tions they could take to pro­tect against par­ti­san-bi­ased re­dis­trict­ing.

O’Hare said ger­ry­man­der­ing was a huge is­sue across the na­tion and is still an is­sue in Mary­land. He said the state should move to an in­de­pen­dent, non­par­ti­san com­mit­tee to es­tab­lish dis­tricts.

Adams said dis­tricts should be more com­pact and re­spect laws of the con­sti­tu­tion, while Mautz agreed to sup­port an in­de­pen­dent dis­trict­ing com­mis­sion.

“When you ger­ry­man­der and carve dis­tricts for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses, you re­move and dis­en­fran­chise peo­ple’s right to have that op­por­tu­nity to show up at the polls and have their vote count,” Adams said.

Del­e­gate can­di­dates were asked about ac­tions the district could take to pro­tect against ris­ing shore­lines while aid­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Adams said he be­lieves there is noth­ing a state leg­is­la­tor can do, in terms of pass­ing laws, that will af­fect chang­ing sea lev­els. He said he is a strong pro­po­nent for a clean en­vi­ron­ment.

Mautz agreed with Adams, say­ing a lot could be done to af­fect pol­lu­tion flow­ing into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, with re­gard to the Conowingo Dam.

O’Hare said he agreed with the in­cum­bents that more needs to be done about the Conowingo Dam’s con­tri­bu­tion to pol­lu­tion in the Bay. He said there are ways to pass leg­is­la­tion­that would aid in keep­ing ris­ing wa­ters at bay.

“There’s a lot of things that can be done, they do cost money,” O’Hare said. “One, they way we de­velop — we have to be very care­ful with how we de­velop ... An­other thing that can be done is uti­liz­ing oys­ter beds, uti­liz­ing bar­ri­ers, so dredg­ing, tak­ing that soil and uti­liz­ing it as bar­ri­ers will help with costal flood­ing.”

Del­e­gates can­di­dates also were asked about the chang­ing land­scape of health care in ru­ral ar­eas and how to bet­ter pro­vide care for those in un­der­ser ved ar­eas.

Mautz said health care is fac­ing chal­lenges and is be­ing re­shaped within the state. He said the cur­rent model, com­mu­nity care, looks to try to pro­vide care to the el­derly as early as pos­si­ble.

“One thing (that) to me is one of the big­gest is­sues to ru­ral health care, you don’t hear about it very much, is a hos­pi­tal in Eas­ton,” Mautz said. “Our care de­liv­ery sys­tem in this area is all hinged on the Univer­sity sys­tem of Mary­land.”

O’Hare said in or­der to bring more physi­cians to the area, Tal­bot County had to de­velop its art pro­grams. He said there are beau­ti­ful ar­eas to ex­plore within the county, but said there were ar­eas the county could add to the en­ter­tain­ment scene.

Adams said the cur­rent state of health care is un­sus­tain­able, as many rights were be­ing taken away from con­sumers. Adams also said in­sur­ance com­pa­nies are lim­it­ing ac­cess to care by forc­ing small phar­ma­cies to sell prod­ucts at a loss, which is an un­sus­tain­able model for the busi­ness.

Wright and Eckardt were posed the same ques­tions by the League of Women Vot­ers.

Eckardt, who served as a state del­e­gate for 20 year be­fore her term in the Se­nate, is a re­tired psy­chi­atric-men­tal health clin­i­cal nurse. She is a mem­ber of the Se­nate Bud­get and Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sub­com­mit­tee, along with many oth­ers.

Wright has 20 years of ca­reer ex­pe­ri­ence in pub­lic health, hold­ing po­si­tions at the state and re­gional lev­els in Massachusetts and New York. Wright said she was run­ning to be a leader for the work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties in district 37.

When asked about ger­ry­man­der­ing in Mary­land, Wright said she would sup­port an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to re­dis­trict the state. Wright said her ma­jor con­cern in Mary­land was help­ing in­di­vid­u­als gain ac­cess to the polls and reg­is­ter­ing to vote.

“As I men­tioned be­fore, I am very con­cerned about the cur­rent wave of ef­forts through­out the coun­try to un­der­mine the fran­chise,” Wright said. “That in­cludes voter ID, which my op­po­nent, she con­tin­ues to spon­sor bills on that.”

Eckardt said the only way to en­sure ev­ery voice is heard is to move to sin­gle-mem­ber dis­tricts.

In terms of the en­vi­ron­ment, both can­di­dates sup­port leg­is­la­tion that will aid the ris­ing sea lev­els on the East­ern Shore. Wright said at the state level, fund­ing for geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem tech­nol­ogy could help dis­tricts bet­ter un­der­stand ris­ing sea lev­els.

Eckardt said one piece of leg­is­la­tion she has been push­ing since her time as a del­e­gate is the restora­tion of Po­plar, Bar­ren and James is­lands.

“The rea­son that’s so im­por­tant is be­cause it pro­tects the shore­line for Hoop­ers Is­land, Tay­lors Is­land and all of our mid-bay shore­line,” Eckardt said.

PHOTO BY JACK RODGERS

Can­di­dates for 37B Del­e­gate make their in­tro­duc­tory state­ments dur­ing the League of Women Vot­ers fo­rum at the Tal­bot County Se­nior Cen­ter Thurs­day, Oct. 25. From left are Del. Chris Adams, R-37B-Wi­comico, Demo­cratic can­di­date Dan O’Hare and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Tal­bot.

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