(June 20, 2014) Four years after winning a closely contested race for the Maryland State Senate, Democratic incumbent Jim Mathias could face another stiff challenge in Republican Mike McDermott.
Mathias won election to the senate in 2010 by a razor-thin margin of just 640 votes over Carousel Resort Hotel General Manager Michael James.
In McDermott, the senator will face a well-organized candidate whose credits include the Maryland House of Delegates, mayor of Pocomoke City and chair of the Worcester County state delegation. Mathias, himself a former mayor of Ocean City and member of the Maryland House, had a similar background when he was elected to the senate four years ago.
Both candidates are running unopposed in the primary.
Mathias believes the key issue in the campaign will be balancing agriculture, the environment and the needs of the economy.
“We’ve been real close to recovery here on the shore, but even in good times Worcester County has the highest unemployment,” he said. “We’re trying to find sustainable jobs to protect the industries that we have and to find growth in new industries.”
Mathias supported Governor O’Malley’s veto of the moratorium on wind turbines on the Eastern Shore, and he spoke out against “prohibitive regulations” affecting small businesses.
“We’re looking at taking the industries we have now and strengthening them by getting rid of some of these regulations,” he said.
On jobs, the senator said he’s worked hard to pass the offshore wind bill, including amendments allowing businesses in Worcester County to benefit.
“We’re looking to really drive hard that offshore wind,” he said. “Pioneer Green came in and invested up to $5 million there for an industry that could bring as much as $40-$45 million dollars, and revenue to up to 200 farmers.”
Mathias also supported the post-Labor Day start for public schools.
McDermott believes the state’s economy will be the biggest issue on voter’s minds in November.
The delegate was quick to draw lines between the two parties in what could become a microcosm of the off-year election as a whole.
“There are two approaches; the Democratic Party tends to focus on the ways that government can do things to make and grow the economy,” McDermott said. “The Republican side focuses on ways to get government out of the way so that the economy repairs itself. And I think that we’ve tried it their way, and their way is not working.”
McDermott said he would look to the example of what other states in similar situations have done.
“You have to reduce the overregulation of government,” he said. “Right now in Maryland it can take someone up to 18 months to get a poultry house permitted and start construction; it can take months for an individual who wants to operate a business in Maryland to make sure all the inspections are done and they’ve paid all their fees. And they have to put an incredible amount of money at risk up front in order to even get a business going in this state, and when you’re an entrepreneur you’ve got limited resources.
“Time is money for a business, and I think that’s lost on liberal democrats,” McDermott continued.
McDermott accused Democrats of increasing spending during “the worst recession we’ve ever had in Maryland,” adding that the state’s taxes were third-highest in the country in terms of their negative effect on business.
“You’ve got a government that has increased spending by over $12 billion – $2.3 billion last year alone,” he said. “They increased spending about 4 ½ percent this year; we have about a 1 ½ percent increase in revenues. It doesn’t take long when you run deficit spending like that to catch yourself.”
Off-year elections generally mean losses for the party in power, in this case the Democrats. Maryland’s new congressional districts, adopted in October 2011, and new state legislative districts, adopted in February 2012, could also affect the political landscape.
“I think that’s why they’re greatly concerned about the impact that the change has had, because the district, historically, was always Democrat,” McDermott said.
McDermott believes the election could shape up to be a “great year for people who feel like government can’t get any worse”
Mathias believes his track record in the senate, the house and as mayor will give him the upper hand.
“We’ve been very effective, quite honestly,” he said. “Most recently we secured $50 million for the next phase of the dualization of Rt. 113. We have been able to build effective alliances and I’d say it’s led to effective results.”
The senator touted his role in liberating local bar and restaurant owners from the formerly monopolistic role of the liquor dispensary system in Ocean City..
“The relationships that we’ve built as mayor of Ocean City, into the house with the house speaker and the individual members, over to the senate with my senate colleagues all the way up to the governor’s office have, I think, helped us be very effective,” Matthias continued. “We’re here to respectfully bring people together and get the job done.”