District 36 candidates discuss issues during forum
WYE MILLS — Candidates for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 36 answered audience questions and discussed environmental, economic and safety issues Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Cadby Theatre at Chesapeake College.
Candidates attending the forum included Del. Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent; Del. Stephen Arentz, R-36-Queen Anne’s; Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caroline; and Democratic challengers Michael Welker and Crystal Woodward. Welker and Woodward are residents of Cecil and Queen Anne’s counties, respectively. Democratic candidate Keirien Taylor from Caroline County did not attend.
Candidates for the state Senate were invited for their own forum, however, incumbent Sen. Stephen Hershey, R-36, was unable to attend, so it was canceled. Democratic challenger Heather Sinclair attended and talked with audience members individually after the event.
The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters, which limited candidates to 90-second responses.
Woodward, posed with the first question about protecting the Chesapeake Bay, said reducing consumer plastics would be an immediate action that could improve the health of the Bay. Woodward said her mantra — to educate, negotiate, legislate and, if necessary, litigate — would be an effective approach to improving the health of the Bay, by educating the district on the harms of plastic.
“I think we can provide guidance and tips on how to reduce our own personal plastic consumptions,” Woodward said. “I know that there have been citizens ... who have taken the initiative and gone to local restaurants to request that they refrain from offering plastic straws.”
Arentz said the biggest aid to the Bay would be the federal government, working with the state government to provide assistance. Eight million gallons of human waste polluted the Bay from the Baltimore Harbor this year, he said.
Amy Warner, a Church Hill resident, asked about the candidates’ positions on accessible health care. Welker said in opening remarks that one of his top priorities was providing access, especially to those with mental health issues.
“My sister is transgender, and she’s a military veteran, and a couple months ago, she tried hanging herself from the Delaware Memorial Bridge,” Welker said. “I want to make sure that people like her never have to go through that, that they have resources available. I want to make sure mental health care is available for all of our veterans.”
Ghrist said, in Caroline County, commissioners used to say the county was “first in a lot of things that we want to be last in and last in a lot of things we wanted to be first in,” including accessible health care. Ghrist said partnering with University of Maryland Shore Regional Health to provide hospitals in rural areas like Caroline and Kent counties is essential to accessible health care.
Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann asked about candidates’ opinions on hiring school resource officers. Arentz said part of the issue with hiring resource officers is school administrators allowing them to do their jobs. He said often school districts will try to handle issues in-house, instead of criminally reprimanding students.
“One of our key components is we have to protect our kids, we have to acknowledge our kids, but we also have to put accountability from the top down in that,” Arentz said. “We have to have better control over what’s going on in the schools.”
Most candidates agreed on the issue of banning assault weapons, saying the state has fairly stringent laws pertaining to the specific type of weapons. Jacobs said the state needs to enforce the laws it has.
Another audience member asked candidates about what they planned to do in response to the opioid epidemic throughout the state.
Welker suggested patients dealing with chronic pain experiment with other forms of pain management, specifically medical marijuana. Welker also said doctors who hand out prescriptions for opioids “like candy” should be monitored. He said targeting the opioid problem at the root by treating the addiction as a disease, along with dedicated counselors at each school, is a way to combat the epidemic.
Arentz said he applauded the efforts of “Go Purple” movements throughout the counties, which promoted conversation and awareness about opioid abuse.
“And my big question is, are you mentally ill before you use drugs or after you use drugs?” Arentz said.
Del. Stephen Arentz, R-36-Queen Anne’s, answers a question Wednesday, Oct. 3, during the District 36 Delegate Forum at Chesapeake College. From left are Michael Welker, D-36-Cecil; Del. Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent; and Crystal Woodward, D-36-Queen Anne’s.