Bailey, Brewer square off at candidate forum
State Senate candidates for St. Mary’s, Calvert talk school safety, economy, guns
Republican Jack Bailey and Democrat Thomas Brewer, both vying for the District 29 state Senate seat, debated Tuesday night at the Lexington Park library about school safety, improving the local economy, a proposed public gun owner registry and other topics.
Attendees filled the seats, stood in the aisles or watched online as the two candidates shared their ideas at the forum sponsored by the St. Mary’s League of Women Voters and the local branch of the NAACP.
When asked what could be done to make schools safer other than hiring more school resource officers, Brewer said school staff should identify and stop students who exhibit “toxic masculinity,” instead of letting their behaviors “go to a dangerous place.”
Bailey said community partners from local public schools, the sheriff’s office and the county commissioners should work together to solve local issues. State lawmakers shouldn’t “dictate to” public school officials about how to make school sites safer, he said. His wife, Karen Bailey, is the chairwoman of the St. Mary’s school board.
He said school representatives “should come to us” to require more funding or resources.
When asked about how to combat the closure of businesses on Three Notch Road, Brewer said the county can prevent a potential base realignment and closure, or BRAC, of Naval Air Station Patuxent River by proving to the federal government “how well the local and state governments supported” those who work and live on base.
He said ways to ensure the future of the base include making sure that small businesses “are strong and sustainable,” as well as pushing for infrastructure projects like a new bridge to connect St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, and widening the intersection at Route 5 and Great Mills Road to better accommodate base traffic.
Bailey said there is a need to increase the county’s economic diversity by “increasing manufacturing” in the county and to begin construction of the third building at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in California to offer more educational opportunities.
Brewer and Bailey seemed to differ on how difficult it is to provide people working in small businesses a living wage and health insurance.
Brewer, who said he worked formerly as a pharmacist for local and corporate businesses, said “it was a complicated question” about how to provide for those working in small businesses.
He said he would like to see taxes drop for smaller businesses. He said the state is “dooming them to failure” by not giving smaller businesses the same advantages of larger businesses.
Brewer said the corporate pharmacy he worked for reportedly treats employees “like a baby treats a diaper,” and he’s “seen how much better small businesses treat their employees — with wages and with respect.”
Bailey, who worked for 30 years with Maryland Natural Resources Police, said the leadership of Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has provided reduced taxes and more jobs.
“We have done the things that are important for our economy to thrive,” Bailey said, adding that there is a continued need to “reduce taxes for the people who create jobs … it’s very easy.”
When asked about the creation of a publicly available gun registry, Bailey said he was opposed. “We don’t need it,” he said, adding that people who “want to get our guns” could potentially abuse the information.
He argued that state law enforcement already has a database, and can address potential threats involving gun owners or their firearms.
Brewer said Bailey already has “an A-plus rating” with the National Rifle Association, and would most likely vote against legislation that “might hinder anybody’s Second Amendment rights.”
He said there could be multiple opportunities through legislation “that is not infringing on anyone’s rights but simply providing a protective buffer for those” who may want to harm themselves or others.
The candidates disagreed about “sanctuary states,” or a state that limits deporting people who aren’t legal citizens.
Bailey said he is opposed to allowing Maryland to be a sanctuary state.
Brewer said if someone is already in the country but has yet to be a legal citizen, there should be a process that is “not so insensitive” to those who may be trying to escape something worse in their native country. He said some of the local agriculture industry is “propped up on overlooking” the legal status of employees.
He said people shouldn’t adopt the attitude of “you do not belong here because you don’t fit a certain mold.”
Both candidates said they were prepared to represent the Senate based on their past job experiences.
Brewer, who worked in a variety of jobs from bartending to pharmacy, said he knew “pharmacy lingo” but may not understand some “legislative lingo.” He said he has a friend in the state department of legislative services who can help him once he gets the job.
Bailey said he testified and helped draft Senate bills while working with DNR, including the recently passed Senate Bill 793, a law related to health insurance requirements for people with certain tick-borne illnesses.
Maryland Senate candidates Thomas Brewer, left, and Jack Bailey share their views Tuesday on school safety, the local economy and other topics at a candidate forum in Lexington Park.