It’s election season and after many legal twists and turns, we finally have a Gubernatorial Primary Election date, July 19. This year, we have a number of highly competitive races for several state and local offices, which makes for an excitingly robust campaign period and election.
With such an open field, how do you choose a candidate for office? Quite frankly, many of us are not fully informed about the candidates’ record, background, position on issues that matter, ethics and values. We sometimes resort to the “eeny, meeny, miny moe” method of selecting a candidate—or even worse, choose not to vote.
The redrawn District 10 includes Randallstown, parts of Owings Mills, Reisterstown and Windsor Mill, and will even dip deep into the southwest part of the county. Most of the District 10 representatives have been positive, influential and respected lawmakers in Baltimore County and the state of Maryland—that is, Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones, two-term Delegate Ben Brooks, and of course, longtime veteran, Sen. Delores Kelley.
Since it was established as a majority-minority district for the 1994 election, District 10 has had only one senator—Senator Kelley. She has served the district with honor, integrity, true expertise, savvy leadership and an impeccable legislative record. Currently the senator is chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. She’s shepherded, sponsored and passed a remarkable number of bills throughout her tenure. After a total of 32 years in office—28 of them as senator—she is retiring. Whom should follow in her footsteps?
Five people have filed to run for District 10 Senate: Democrats Stephanie Boston, Delegate Brooks, Del. Jay Jalisi and William Lawrence, and Republican William Newton. All have run for office in the past.
I have managed or have been involved in the campaigns of variety of candidates for a number of offices. I am a campaign manager this year. Because I am not just an observer, I know that marketing can highlight the assets of a great candidate and make a not-so-good or even a bad candidate look like a quality candidate.
That said, I also know how critically important that we not only read the mailers that come to our home, take in the slick, scripted TV commercials, evaluate the list of endorsements and see through the photo ops posted on Facebook. Take some time to do your own research and due diligence. Attend a meet and greet or Zoom forum where you can ask questions, listen to what the candidates say, what they do not say, and how they respond. Also, Google them (be sure to click past page one) for articles that have been published about them, for court cases and TV footage. Read the Wikipedia write-up. Talk to people who have volunteered on their campaigns or who were part of their ticket and left when they were asked to sign questionable documents and agreements.
At least one District 10 candidate for Senate is deploying some very clever marketing. Quite frankly, that’s politics. That’s trying to win at all costs. That’s hoping the voters are not paying attention. But remember: There is more to a politician than a warm smile, firm handshake and kind, gracious words. Candidates should run on results they achieved and policies they are proposing to improve people’s lives, and not on embellishments.
More important, politics is a team sport. No one alone can get anything done in Annapolis. Elected officials must be able to partner and collaborate and when necessary, and convince others to follow their lead. To do that, they have to be respected and a team player in order to be productive there.
We, as voters, have a responsibility to vet all candidates for the jobs they are asking us to give them. Choose wisely because once you’ve hired them, you have to live with your decision for the next four years or term of office. There is no probationary period for you to access their performance and then kick them out.
An employer can check the job performance from a candidate’s work history. You can do the same. If you’re going to hire a doctor to do a procedure you want to know how competent they are. The doctor must be willing to answer your questions and not just give you his spiel. They cannot be in the operating room just observing or passing time. They must actually perform the sugery, and must work well with the nurses, residents and other clinicians in the room.
If I were to use a sports analogy, a baseball player cannot present himself as a great player because they’ve been at bat 200 times in a season. The number of times they’ve hit the ball, got on base and scored a run gives a better picture of their skill.
It is important that residents of the 10th district must adhere to standards of excellence. Of course, no one is perfect, but some people are shameless perpetrators. Truly look at who will represent you for the good of the community, not for their self interests. If others, such as other statewide and congressional leaders, don’t think highly of your representative, they may not fully respect the community.
Again, Google the candidates and see what comes up. It’s public record. One candidate has been reprimanded by unanimous vote of the House of Delegates in 2019 for bullying and verbal abuse. He was ordered to take anger management classes. A legislative aide in his Annapolis office sued him for failing to pay him and won the case. Why am I calling this information to your attention, and bringing this up now? I strongly believe it’s important enough to be top of mind. He’s not the first legislator to be reprimanded but I don’t remember anyone who has been so bold as to believe that he deserves as pass from the community.
I’m reminded of the lyrics in The Undisputed Truth’s popular song from the ‘70s, “Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend….” Don’t be swayed because you received a birthday card, or because your church or organization received a monetary donation, or your child received a scholarship. (By the way, all state legislators receive taxpayer funds to award scholarships to their constituents.)
The choice for the next senator of the District 10 is an important one. We don’t need to hire anyone who is going to bring embarrassment to the district. Choose wisely. Don’t fall for the okey doke.