Donald Fry: No tsunami in Maryland, but voters deliver ripple of transition

By Donald C. Fry

Although Maryland was generally insulated from the GOP tsunami that washed over much of the nation, Maryland’s State House will nevertheless experience some noteworthy transition when lawmakers convene in January 2011.

Based on vote totals from all Maryland precincts as of Thursday, there will be 40 new members in the two houses of the Maryland General Assembly when it convenes in January 2011. (Full list of new lawmakers.) Maryland’s 47-member Senate will likely have 10 new faces while 30 new delegates will join the 141-member House. Seven of the new senators will be former members of the House of Delegates – five Democrats and two Republicans. Democrats will gain two seats in the Senate if current election results hold up, reducing the number of GOP state senators to 12.

In Frederick County’s District 3, Democrat challenger Ron Young is leading Republican incumbent Alex Mooney by less than 700 votes, with absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted.

Meanwhile, Democrat Jim Mathias, currently a member of the House of Delegates representing District 38B (Wicomico and Worcester), was leading Republican Michael James for the District 38 (Lower Shore) Senate seat by 222 votes, with all precincts counted, but absentee and provisional ballots remaining to be tallied. That seat is currently held by Republican Senator J. Lowell Stoltzfus, who did not run for re-election.

Republicans retained the District 5 (Baltimore and Carroll) Senate seat when Republican Joseph M. Getty won the seat now held by Senator Larry E. Haines, who did not run for re-election.

In the House, Republicans will gain six seats, bringing their total number in the House to 43, compared to 98 Democrats. Republicans who won House seats currently held by Democrats include:

• Patrick Hogan, District 3A (Frederick), won the seat held by incumbent Democratic Delegate Sue Hecht, who did not run for re-election.
• John Cluster, District 8 (Baltimore Co.), won a seat held by incumbent Democratic Delegate Todd L. Schuler, who ran for the Baltimore County Council.
• Mark L. Fisher, District 27B (Calvert), defeated incumbent Democratic Delegate Sue Kullen in Tuesday’s general election.
• Herb McMillan, District 30 (Anne Arundel), won the seat held by Democratic incumbent Virginia P. Clagett.
• Glen Glass, District 34A (Harford), won the seat held by incumbent Democratic Delegate B. Daniel Riley, who lost in the primary.
• Mike McDermott, District 38B (Wicomico and Worcester), won the seat held by incumbent Democratic Delegate Jim Mathias, who ran for the state Senate.

Though no Democrats won any House seats currently occupied by GOP incumbents, House Democrats will continue to outnumber the Republicans by more than a two-to-one margin.

Nevertheless, 20 percent of both the House and the Senate will be populated by new members, many of whom will, no doubt, bring fresh points of view with them. Looking at it from another perspective, 18 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions will have some degree of new representation in the General Assembly as a result of the 2010 election. That’s significant transition.

For example, Montgomery County residents will have seven new representatives – two in the Senate and five in the House. Prince George’s county has six. Baltimore County has four new House and Senate members representing them in Annapolis, and Baltimore City has four.

As a former legislator, I know from experience what it’s like to be a new delegate and a new senator. All members of the General Assembly are sensitive to constituent feedback, especially new members

The post-election period represents a quality communication moment for advocates. It’s a period of time when newly-elected officials, veterans and rookies alike, are wide-open for information about the issues they will face.

So, as a business advocate, what’s my key message to lawmakers?

First and foremost, please remember what you told us during the campaign. Candidates for virtually any elected office have proclaimed their support for “jobs, jobs, jobs,” implying that they fully recognize business’ core value to the state and local economies as the primary generators of jobs.

I respectfully urge that lawmakers convert these campaign pledges into a dedication to developing and following a strategic plan for business growth in the state, and into a commitment to policy decisions that nurture a strong, competitive environment for Maryland’s private sector to thrive.

In two months, our newly-elected officials will begin a General Assembly session where they’ll face a myriad of policy challenges – not the least of which will be finding a way to close a more than $1 billion deficit without stimulus funding. In addition to fiscal challenges, they will deal with many other key issues including education, environment, land use, insurance and a wide range of employment issues, to name just a few. When they do, I urge them to remember their business-appreciation and job-creation campaign message points.

What too-often happens when lawmakers grapple with difficult issues is that businesses find themselves in the center of either tax or regulatory crosshairs, which translates into increasing costs of doing business.
This is not to say that businesses shouldn’t pay taxes or be subject to regulation. But it’s vexing when our elected officials find themselves instinctively pointing to business as a problem, rather than as the foundation of our economy.
Even during the campaign, when candidates almost universally voiced top-priority commitments to economic growth and job creation, many candidate ads contained messages that either implied or directly labeled business as some-sort of enemy.

If private-sector growth is what’s going to pull us through to the other side of the recession and beyond to prosperity, then it is imperative that our state government, from the top down, remembers to treat business as a partner rather than an adversary.

Comments are closed.