36th Dist. Candidates’ Forum: Polite Politics in Chestertown

October 20, 2010

Perhaps it was the location in historic Chestertown, the home of Washington College and a tradition of political civility, that led to a particularly polite candidates’ forum Tuesday night among candidates for state Delegate and Senator in the 36th district. An earlier forum in Cecil County with many of the same candidates had lots more fireworks.

There were a few moments of spirited ripostes toward the end of the program, when Democrat William Manlove, running for the 36th District seat currently held by Republican Michael Smigiel, cited the attack ads against Republican Del. Richard Sossi of Queen Anne’s County, who narrowly lost the GOP primary to Stephen S. Hershey. (Hershey, who is now unopposed in the general election, did not attend the forum that was sponsored by the Kent County League of Women Voters.)

“It has disturbed many people,” Manlove said of the tactics used against Sossi. Smigiel and incumbent Sen. E.J. Pipkin campaigned as a team with Hershey and Pipkin paid for a flyer endorsing Hershey.

Manlove pointed out that Smigiel was rejected by a majority of voters in Kent and Cecil counties in the last election and only won due to support from a “coalition of Del. Sossi’s supporters” in Queen Anne’s County.

Smigiel summed up his credentials by saying, “I have been extremely effective” and “worked across party lines.”

Pipkin had a strong grasp of issues at the forum and largely ignored his opponent, Steve Mumford, a Democrat from Chestertown. Mumford had attacked Pipkin on several issues during the earlier Cecil County candidate’s forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. But on Tuesday evening, the strongest words Mumford had for his opponent were “There is a disconnect with our current representation.”

Running for the Kent County delegate seat formerly held by the retiring Mary Roe Walkup are Republican Jay Jacobs, the longtime mayor of Rock Hall, and Democrat Art Hock, a businessman whose family created the well-known Crumpton furniture and antiques auctions.

In response to a League question posed to all the candidates, Jacobs alone said he would support state ratification of a possible amendment to the US Constitution to rescind “birthright” citizenship to US-born children whose parents are illegal immigrants. He said illegal immigrants and their children cost state taxpayers millions of dollars.

Hock and Mumford said they would oppose any attempt to remove “birthright citizenship” from the Constitution while Pipkin said “it’s a federal issue” and that calls for such a change reflect “anxiety” over high unemployment rates.

“I would not work to change our Constitution,” Smigiel said. “Who knows what Pandora’s box it would open.”

Manlove said the long process to amend the Constitution meant that “most of us would be dead and gone” before the issue ever got to the Maryland General Assembly. He said he would work under existing laws to ensure illegals to not receive benefits and aid funded by legal residents and taxpayers.

All the candidates opposed any drilling for oil off the Maryland coastline, in light of the BP disaster in the Gulf region. Manlove said his initial reaction to the question was, “Hell, no.”

Pipkin cited his volunteer work, before being elected to the state Senate in 2002, fighting against dumping spoil material in the Chesapeake Bay as proof of his commitment to the Bay.

At several points in the forum, Hock said he would work across party lines to “build bridges” and suggested he would look forward to working with Republican Smigiel on issues. Hock has been the top fundraiser so far among the delegate candidates and has received a litany of contributions from organized labor political action committees, most of which are based outside the district.

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