Janet Holbrook: Anne Arundel’s Candidates Forum Confirms All Politics Are Local

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All politics are local, according to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Local politics recently came to Herald Harbor with a Candidates’ Forum. First, congratulations to the 13 candidates who participated and especially to Heather Bagnall, who coordinated the event with the Herald Harbor Citizen’s Association. Sadly, it almost looked like there were more candidates than voters, but it was streamed live and had over 200 views.

The meeting began with short statements from each candidate with an opportunity for questions afterwards. They spoke in the following order: County Executive: Steuart Pittman (R) and Jessica Haire (R); County Council District 6: Michael Pantelides (R) and Lisa Rodvein (D); State Senate District 33: Dawn Gile (R) and Sid Saab (R); District 33B delegates: Stuart Michael Schmidt (R) and John Wakefield (D); Sheriff: Everett Sesker (D) and Jim Fredericks (R); and Clerk of the Court: Terry Gillehand Jr. (R) and Scott Poyer (D).

Certainly, the GOP candidates agreed with Tip O’Neill; Saab, Haire and Schmidt said they were “hyper” focused on local issues and did not campaign with statewide GOP candidates, namely Dan Cox or Michael Peroutka, the GOP candidates as Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Overall, GOP candidates spent more time on personal biographies than on issues or accomplishments. By the way, all candidates agreed that Joe Biden won the presidency in 2020.

Anyway, I wonder if Mrs. Haire will be attending the fundraiser for Cox to be held at Mar-a-Lago on October 17 with her husband, Dirk Haire, the state’s GOP party chairman. Tickets are $1,770, and for $25,000 you can take pictures with Cox and Donald Trump! It reminds me of Steve Schuh and other GOP lawmakers lining up to have their photo taken with Alabama’s Roy Moore at a 2017 fundraiser in Severna Park for Moore’s U.S. Senate campaign. My advice: be careful who you pose with.

My favorite was Scott Poyer, the incumbent Clerk of the Court. He explained to us what the clerk’s office does and how important it is to keep operating during the pandemic. The office recorded $2 billion more in land transfers in 2020. He spoke about the importance of turning the wheels of justice – “justice delayed is justice denied” – and efficiency gains –” worst to first”.

Mr. Pittman and Ms. Haire had conflicting crime statistics. The contentious point seemed to be whether crimes committed in the city of Annapolis were included. Both seemed to refer to the same Anne Arundel County police report for 2021. Overall the report is positive, showing a steady decline in crime rates, including auto theft, since 2013. However, violent crime rates have not fallen and Ms Haire focused on a increase in aggravated assaults in 2021.

What has also increased is gun ownership and the number of people with concealed carry permits. In July, Governor Larry Hogan suspended Maryland’s restrictions a month after the US Supreme Court struck down a New York law restricting concealed carry. Since, more than 7,000 people applied for concealed carry permits in Maryland, up from about 1,000 during the same period last year, according to a report from NBC Washington.

So anyone who fired a gun at Arundel Mills last weekend may have been carrying it legally, which makes it even more unnerving. More people walk around with guns in public will lead to more gun violence in our state, just like in other parts of the country, according to a report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The only places guns make you safer are war zones and safaris, at least for most people.

Ms. Haire did not make the connection between the violent crime she denounces and gun violence; instead, she turned to mental health. Suicides account for 54% of gun deaths in the United States; we shouldn’t ignore all the other victims. The leading cause of child deaths in the United States is gun violence, which surpassed motor vehicle-related deaths for the first time in 2019. Unlike adults, 65% of child gun deaths are homicides; only 30% were deemed suicidal, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. People with serious mental health problems are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

The county has taken steps to address gun violence. Mr. Pittman established a gun violence prevention task force following the Capital Gazette shooting; Mrs Haire quoted figures from the working group website to back up his claims of an increase in violent crime this year. Irony never dies.

County Council Member Lisa Rodvien spoke about legislation she championed that requires all gun buyers to receive information about suicide prevention and gun safety, which passed unanimously. Former Herald Harbor Councilor Andrew Pruski, who unfortunately is not running for office in our district, also successfully advocated for legislation that increases security requirements for gun shops, which was passed by a vote of 4 to 3. However, even these common-sense measures are met with stiff opposition. A pro-gun group, Maryland Shall Issue, and local gun stores have filed civil lawsuits against the two laws

Jessica Haire did not respond when asked by her opponent how she plans to expand 2nd Amendment rights as she had promised. Earlier this year, her campaign sent letters showing her posing with a semi-automatic weapon, to Rep. Lauren Boebert. These mailers appeared in homes a week after people were shot at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and days after the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas. Thoughts and prayers, with a dose of cruel indifference to the human tragedy caused by armed violence.

John Wakefield, who is running for delegate in District 33B, was funny and had a bit of a Tip O’Neill style. He noted the tsunami of money flowing into states for infrastructure and climate change initiatives, emphasizing that we should be prepared to do our part to help our communities address issues such as chronic road flooding. Is a new Bay Bridge considered infrastructure? He also sees the looming threats to women’s health rights and will fight for an amendment guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortions in our state constitution.

It was a civil evening. I’m glad the local candidates aren’t hiding from their opponents as seems to be happening in some races across the country.

Janet Holbrook is a resident of Crownsville and is a member of WISE: Women, Indivisible, Strong, Effective.

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