UPDATE Monday, Aug. 29, 2016
Hollywood, MD – The Calvert and St, Mary’s County Republican central committees have each chosen three different recommendations to the governor to replace Del. Tony O’Donnell, who has been appointed to the Maryland Public Service Commission.
At an Aug. 27 meeting, the St. Mary’s County Republican Central Committee selected from a field of eight candidates former St, Mary’s County Commissioner Barbara Thompson, current Commissioner of St. Mary’s County Todd Morgan and St. Mary’s County deputy sheriff Sgt. William Raddatz. The three names are expected to be sent to the governor on Aug. 30, according to Chairperson Julie Burk-Greer.
On Thursday, Aug. 25, the Calvert County Republican Central Committee selected Prince Frederick attorney Theodore “Ted” LeBlanc, former county commissioner Jerry Clark and Greg Sauter, a St. Mary’s County resident and engineer at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
Leonardtown, MD – There was a flurry of activity this week surrounding the process to fill the vacancy left by the appointment of Delegate Tony O’Donnell to the Maryland Public Service Commission. His Delegate 29-C district includes southern Calvert and parts of central St. Mary’s, an area bisected by the Patuxent river and joined by the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge.
The Calvert County Republican Central Committee held a forum for the candidates Tuesday Aug. 23 and selected three names to present to Governor Larry Hogan on Thursday Aug. 25. The St. Mary’s County Republican Central Committee met with the candidates Wednesday, Aug. 24 and is expected to meet and make their three recommendations Saturday, Aug. 27. From those recommendations, Gov. Hogan will make a selection to fill the vacancy until the 2018 election.
The Calvert selections are Prince Frederick attorney Theodore “Ted” LeBlanc, former county commissioner Jerry Clark and Greg Sauter, a St. Mary’s County resident and engineer at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
The St. Mary’s Central Committee forum was held at the county commissioners’ hearing room in Leonardtown. Eight candidates were heard. Central Committee Chairperson Julie Burk-Greer noted that one other potential candidate failed to follow all of the requirements to be heard at the meeting.
Burk-Greer noted the responsibility vested in the elected body to make recommendations to fill the vacancy of a seat held by a Republican to the Republican governor. She said, “This is a responsibility we take very seriously and we are honored to fulfill it.”
The chairperson noted up front that a member of the committee, Jacinta Bottoms-Spencer was also a candidate. Burk-Greer said she was allowed to speak first and then join the other members for the rest of the meeting. She also will be allowed to vote her recommendations.
The candidates were sequestered so they could not hear the others answers. Each candidate was allowed a two-minute opening and closing statement and there was a 10-minute question-and-answer session in between. Member Bryan Barthelme II asked each candidate three questions and the other members asked questions geared to the individual candidate’s situation. Barthelme’s three questions were:
• What do you consider the most pressing problem of District 29-C and what bill(s) would you introduce to address it;
• What committee would you like to serve on, and
• What would you do to encourage bipartisanship and can you name an issue that would achieve that.
Jacinta Bottoms-Spencer, a small business owner, used her opening and closing statements to recite famous American’s feelings about God and the Bible. She said education was the most pressing issue along with the environment. She called education a “dinosaur” and said there was a need for consistency in standardized testing.
She said she would like to be on the Environment Committee to continue Del. O’Donnell’s concerns about the environment. She said she would work on watermen’s issues to ensure that watermen don’t disobey the regulations. Bottoms-Spencer noted that the district was uniquely split between two counties, lending itself to bipartisan cooperation.
Bottoms-Spencer, when asked what could be done to assist small business, called for more transparency in the minority business set-aside program.
Greg Sauter, a retired Navy pilot and defense engineer, said his experience qualified him for the job and cited his work on the campaigns of the now-sitting local legislators. “I want to support Gov. Larry Hogan,” he said.
Sauter said the most pressing issue for the district is a structurally-balanced budget. He said what is now balanced by the governor is projected to have a deficit by next year, He said he would follow up on Del. O’Donnell’s opposition to tying gas tax increases to the Consumer Price Index.
Sauter said he would like to serve on the Environment and Transportation committee to help press for a new bridge, noting the recent transportation priority list which included no projects for the region. Gov. Hogan has delayed implementation of that list and Sauter hopes to work with the governor to overturn it.
Sauter praised O’Donnell for his leadership in aquaculture and fighting for “right to life.” He said O’Donnell took “a lot of heat” for his right to life position but the battle needed to continue.“You can trust me to be your conservative voice in Annapolis, Sauter said in conclusion.
Donald Statter of Calvert County, a federal government employee, said in his opening statement, “There is no authority except from God. He said he hoped to continue O’Donnell’s “legacy work.”
Statter was pressed on how he would deal with Hatch Act provisions for federal employees. He said he would retire from his position in 2018 if elected. But he was asked how the prohibition of fundraising could be handled up until he retired. He said he didn’t think that would be an issue because there would be enough time after the 2018 legislative session and before the November 2018 election to fund-raise.
Statter said the most pressing issue in District 29-C was aquifer management “We need to protect our water supply,” he insisted. Because of those concerns he said he would like to serve on the Environment Committee.
Statter was critical of environmentalists. He said, “The real science the left would like us to think that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. It Isn’t.”
Statter said he has been a long-time member of the National Rifle Association, He said he would immediately call them if elected. “They will probably tell me what we need to do in Maryland,” he said.
Gerald “Jerry” Clark is a Solomons businessman and former three-time Calvert County commissioner. He touted his regional experience as county commissioner and on the Tri-County Council and ownership of businesses in both counties.
Clark said the most pressing issue for the two counties of the district is economic development, noting that 2,000 people live in Calvert and work in St. Mary’s at Patuxent River Naval Air Station (Pax River). “I believe we need to get the infrastructure of the two counties up to snuff,” he noted, especially the bridge and the Route 235/4 intersection.
Clark would like to serve on the Environment Committee. “I am very interested in the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River. I live on it and I have seen it change,” he said. Clark blamed the problems on upriver sewage treatment plants and not on individual septic systems. He said he is not sure how effective individual and costly nitrogen removal systems are.
Barbara Thompson, a former St. Mary’s County Commissioner, lives with her husband Mike, a member of the Metropolitan Commission, on a 55-acre tree farm. She noted she also had run for the Maryland Senate in 2002 against then Senator Roy Dyson. She said she has been active in the community since then and now is chair of the MedStar St, Mary’s Hospital Board of Directors.
Thompson said the most pressing issue was the problem with transportation funding and mentioned that infamous priority list. She said of the need for a new bridge between the two counties, “There is a lot of inter-connectedness between St. Mary’s and Calvert counties.”
She also would like to be on the Environment and Transportation committees. She said her experience as a farm owner would be helpful on that committee.
Thompson was asked what lessons she had learned as a county commissioner that would be helpful to her as a delegate. She answered that it taught her the importance of local government and used the example of the state pushing down to the counties the cost of teacher social security payments and the big fiscal impact on them. She called that “an unfunded mandate.”
Thompson said in closing that she wanted to go to Annapolis to assist Gov. Hogan in his quest to “Change Maryland.
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan, now in his sixth year, wants to go to Annapolis to continue to serve. “There’s a draw in my heart to serve in Annapolis,” he said.
Morgan has worked in the defense contracting industry for 30 years and he feels his experience in the previous BRAC processes would help the area in Annapolis. He would like to serve on the Appropriations Committee because of his fiscal experience in industry and as a county commissioner.
Morgan was pressed by Committee Vice Chairman David Willenborg, on Morgan’s praise of Democratic Congressman Sterny Hoyer in a letter while he was a member of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance. Morgan said Hoyer had done a lot to help the base and he said the future of the base is not a partisan issue. “Patuxent River [NAS] is the economic engine that drives District 29-C,” he said.
St. Mary’s County deputy Sgt. William Raddatz wants to be the second full-time policeman in the General Assembly to represent law enforcement. He said the local community supports law enforcement but there’s a disconnect with how they are treated in the General Assembly.
Raddatz in his opening statement said the state needed to have a softer tax burden on retirees to keep them in the state.
The deputy, who sees the effects every day on problems with mental health, would also like to see the legislature pay more attention to that issue. He said he would like to see more state dollars diverted to prevention.
Raddatz used as an example of “idiotic” suggestions about law enforcement in the legislature, the proposal to require a helmet to be provided to anyone arrested.
Raddatz was pressed about his change in party affiliation. He admitted that he was an historic Chicago Daly Democrat because that’s what his family was. But except for Mayor Daly, Raddatz said he has always voted for Republicans.
Raddatz insisted that whoever is appointed to fill the vacancy needs to work to keep the District 29-C seat, and others around the state, Republican. He said that’s the only way to “make Maryland great again.”
The final candidate Prince Frederick attorney Theodore “Ted” LeBlanc said he knew what it was like to run his own business “and make a payroll.” He said his experience as a practicing attorney would help him in drafting legislation. With that experience he would like to serve on the Judiciary Committee. He also called himself “an excellent negotiator.”
LeBlanc noted his experience in running for and winning a seat on the Calvert County Orphans Court. Even though he lives in Calvert he said he would maintain a legislative office in St. Mary’s County.
LeBlanc said the district’s most pressing issue was holding the line on taxes, as Gov. Hogan has done.
As others had done, LeBlanc criticized the lack on local road programs on that priority list that was mandated by the legislature. “I think it is not good for the people. We need to get roads built,” he said.
LeBlanc said education policy was also a pressing issue and called for payment of teacher pensions to be returned to the state from the counties. “There needs to be a re-looking of all of our education system,” he said, “We are not getting value for our money,” he added.
LeBlanc said he was a hard worker, noting that while he was an insurance claims adjuster during the day he went to night school to get his law degree. He said he would take that ethic with him to Annapolis.
“It is truly an honor to interview all of you,” said Burk-Greer at the end of the forum. “It will be a very difficult decision.”
The BayNet News Editor Marty Madden contributed to this article.