Dist. 37 House, Senate candidates participate in forum
CAMBRIDGE — Members of the Dorchester and Salisbury chambers of commerce hosted a forum with District 37 candidates for the state Senate and House of Delegates Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Delmarva Community Services building.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-MidShore, answered questions alongside Democratic challenger Holly Wright. Incumbent Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot, and Del. Christopher Adams, R-37B-Wicomico, faced Democratic candidate Dan O’Hare, along with Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A-Wicomico, who countered points of Republican candidate Frank Cooke.
The majority of the questions posed to candidates were written by the chamber organizations. Candidates had seen the questions prior to the forum, and each responded individually.
One question asked candidates their positions on health care and how they would guarantee care to citizens while lowering the cost of prescription medication.
Cooke said he does not support the single-payer system for health care and also is against the establishment of a state board to set prescription drug prices.
“I’m in favor of retaining private insurance system,” Cooke said. “I’m also in favor of enabling the filling of prescriptions across the Canadian border.”
Sample-Hughes said her time spent serving on the Health and Government Operations Board has given her personal experience on the issue of health care access. The state can support community colleges who train health care professionals, while tackling rising prescription costs to provide more accessible health care, she said.
“People, they’ve served their time, they’ve retired, and they should be entitled to quality health care resources,” Sample-Hughes said.
Eckardt, a former psychiatric-mental health clinical nurse, said nursing home expenditures, which are another concern for Mid-Shore seniors, can cost more than $72,000 a year. The district is lacking in access for medical adult daycare, which allows people to age in place. The Delmarva Community Services building also would be an outlet for these services, she said.
“We also need expansion for very complex care as more and more people are diagnosed with dementia,” Eckardt said.
Wright said the issue of health care accessibility, and its solution, is much bigger than simply offering blended service areas. The Eastern Shore has the fewest number of physicians available for patients, she said.
“In terms of prescription drug prices, it’s not OK when you go to the Walmart pharmacy section and you see people leaving their medications on the counter,” Wright said. “That is a big problem. That is something we can do in the General Assembly by establishing a drug price control commission. We cannot be consumers of medication.”
Candidates also were asked what they would do to ensure every child had access to education within the district. All candidates agreed accessible and affordable early childhood education benefit a child’s future development.
O’Hare said another component to education is internet access. The delegation needs to focus on bringing universal broadband to the entire state, he said.
“It needs to become a public utility,” O’Hare said. “It can’t be done on a county by county level or a municipality by municipality level . ... This is an education issue. If kids don’t have access to broadband, if kids don’t have access to the internet the way that other kids do, they’re losing competitiveness in their school, they’re losing the ability to keep up and learn.”
O’Hare also said access to broadband will benefit health care providers and patients, through the use of FaceTime. Some physicians in Wicomico County already are using this service, he said.
Mental health patients also benefit from this service by FaceTiming counselors and psychiatrists to feel more comfortable in therapy, he said.
Mautz said funding universal Pre-K would be a challenge, but it is the direction the state is moving in. Schools are moving in a different educational direction then they have before, he said.
Mautz also said he is not in favor of moving approval of school construction projects out of the responsibility of the Board of Public Works.
“Our schools are taking responsibility of our children at the age of 2 or 3, and carrying them to the age of 18,” Mautz said. “Most of our schools are free and reduced meals, breakfast, lunch.”
Adams said with his wife being a public school teacher and his daughter pursuing a degree in education, the issue is personal for him. Adams said the Republican party did not get enough credit for supporting education initiatives.
Adams said teachers don’t want to teach to a test, and by facilitating universal prek, teachers could focus on teaching important communication and problem solving skills.
“And so, pre-K means this: it’s not ABCs, it’s not one, two, threes; it’s being able to communicate with one another, it’s being able to make friends, deal with conflict resolution,” Adams said. “Those aren’t educational aspirations that you can test; it’s about helping young people, for whatever reason in this generation, learning how to work well together.”
From left, Del. Chris Adams, R-37B-Wicomico, Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot, and Democratic candidate Dan O’Hare talk amongst themselves Thursday, Oct. 4, during the District 37 candidate forum at the Delmarva Community Services building in Cambridge.