Ocean City Today

Mathias takes on Carozza in 2018

Republican leadership aim to gain Senate majority by targeting half dozen Dems
By Brian Gilliland | Dec 28, 2017

(Dec. 29, 2017) Following a contentious presidential election and even deeper partisan politics throughout the country, the year ended with the stage set for what should be the biggest local election showdown in years, with incumbent Democratic State Sen. Jim Mathias faces Republican Delegate Mary Beth Carozza for the District 38 State Senate seat.

Mathias is one of six Democratic senators who have been targeted by the Republican Party, which hopes to give Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, a Senate majority.

As for the past session of the General Assembly, Mathias was the primary sponsor of six bills, four of which could affect Worcester County. The first, SB36, allows for an exemption to filing for certain tax credits online, which was approved by Hogan. Next, SB61, was submitted last year, and would require health insurance companies, and related entities provide coverage for digital tomosynthesis —a form of mammography. This measure was also passed and signed by Hogan.

The final two, SB80 and SB84, are related to animal abuse, stemming from an incident in Wicomico County. SB80 adds extra penalties when animal abuse occurs on more than 10 animals, and SB84 would establish an animal abuse registry. Neither of these bills passed.

Carozza was not the primary sponsor of any bills, but was a co-sponsor of HB25, which would include police officers as a protected class within the scope of hate crime legislation. This bill failed to pass.

The session progressed with each representative working separately on their respective priorities until their interests coincided in March.

In this case, Mathias and Carozza opposed a measure that would have declared Maryland a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants.

“I’ll vote against the Maryland Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act. Immigration is a federal issue, and it’s clear we’re not going to get a federal solution — so we’re hoping to find a local one,” Mathias said. “I can’t support a bill that limits police engagement.”

Carozza also voiced strong opposition.

“When Del. Nicholaus Kipke (R-31B) offered an amendment to exempt terrorism and espionage that was defeated — that was astounding to me,” she said.

She said she tried arguing on the basis of her appropriations committee membership, by explaining that enacting this bill could cost the state federal funding, and then tried the public safety angle.

Though bill passed the house by a vote of 83-55 in the House of Delegates, it died in the senate.

At the end of the session, one of the most significant developments is the appropriation within the governor’s budget to fund the expansion of the Ocean City Convention Center, which became necessary after a bill seeking the appropriation failed.

A proposal to allow seasonal and temporary workers to accrue paid sick leave passed, but with concessions to communities like Ocean City that depend on seasonal and temporary workers. Some of the modifications include restrictions on how the time is used, and when. Hogan vetoed the bill, but the issue is expected to be one of the first legislators take up in 2018.

After the session, Carozza said she spent much of her time working on the annual budget as part of the appropriations committee, while most of the other members of the Maryland General Assembly were considering their own shares of the nearly 3,000 bills filed this session.

“I always start with the budget because it’s our one constitutional responsibility, which makes it every member’s responsibility, but I’m also on the committee so it consumes my time,” she said.

For his part, Mathias said he never stopped working during the 90-day session, and has already started working on bills for next year, when the assembly reconvenes on Jan. 10.

“It’s been the best session I’ve had. I reached out to friends, the governor’s office and the leadership, and it’s gratifying to have these kinds of relationships,” he said. “It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked.”

Mathias was part of the effort to secure funding for the third phase of the Ocean City Convention Center expansion, the Lower Shore Clinic and the Believe in Tomorrow House by the Sea, plus he was able to increase the live carry loads for poultry transportation — limiting the number of trips needed to transport birds to the processing centers and the associated emissions.

Mathias saw an inequity in the copayment amounts for certain types of mammograms and was able to level them out through legislation.

He said he was able to secure a commitment from his colleagues that they would not try to overturn Hogan’s order to start Maryland Public Schools after Labor Day, a measure popular on the lower shore but less so in other areas of the state.

Another significant effort of Mathias’ — to bring the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft to Wallops island — did not advance as Navy officials announced the selection of the Mayport naval station in Florida as the new home for the drone.

In May, it was discovered Maryland Republicans were developing a strategy to pick up five seats in the State Senate in the 2018 election to disrupt a nearly century-old Democratic majority in the legislature, and the effort, dubbed the “Drive for Five.”

Mathias is one of six senators being targeted by the GOP in its quest to pick up the five seats. According to a piece published in the Washington Post on May 7, Maryland Republicans are banking on Hogan’s popularity, and a perception of splintering within the state’s Democratic party to help push the effort along. Democratic leaders, cited in the same article, believe opposition to President Trump will be strong enough to drive members to the polls.

Hogan took District 38 by 41 points, and every state-level election Mathias has competed in has been a close one.

In 2006, as a candidate in a four-way election for the House of Delegates district 38B, Mathias won with 26.6 percent of the vote, Norm Conway, also a Democrat, took second with 25.1 percent. Republican Michael James came in third with 24.6 percent, and Republican Bonnie Luna finished fourth with 23.7 percent.

In 2010, Mathias ran for the state senate, once again against Michael James, and won 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent. In 2014, he faced Mike McDermott and won 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent.

This is when speculation of a Carozza challenge to Mathias’ incumbency began. This remained speculation until November, when she revealed a “special announcement” was in store for Sunday, Nov. 19.

“I believe all of my past family and public service experiences have led me to this announcement,” Carozza said before the event, breaking months-long silence on the topic.

She made it official on that Sunday.

“For real and lasting change, Gov. (Larry) Hogan needs more team players in the Maryland Senate. As I’ve thought about the election, I believe I can do more for the shore as your senator,” Carozza said. “I will continue to stand up with the governor and fight for you. I will always put the interest of the shore first.”

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