Politicians on the spot
District 37B candidates talk gerrymandering, environment
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-Mid-Shore.
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 underserved 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 deliver y system in this area is all hinged on the University system of Mar yland.”
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 singlemember 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.
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.
Democratic candidate for state senate Holly Wright, left, and incumbent Sen. Adelaide Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, at the League of Women Voters forum at the Talbot County Senior Center Thursday, Oct. 25.