Delegate Mary Beth Carozza declares State Senate bid

The stage is set for a battle of local political titans.

On the right, Mary Beth Carozza, 56, first-term delegate in the Maryland General Assembly. In just three years in office, she has made a strong impression in regional and state politics. She is viewed as constituent focused, connected, smart and serious.

On the left, the Lower Shore’s second-term state senator, Jim Mathias, 65. He is viewed as constituent focused, connected, smart and serious.

Gov. Larry Hogan is greeted by state Delegate Mary Beth Carozza.

Carozza, a moderate Republican, vs. Mathias, a moderate Democrat.

On Sunday, in the elementary school she attended at age 10, Carozza formally announced her candidacy for the District 38 Senate seat to a large crowd of cheering supporters. The event at Ocean City Elementary School attracted a who’s who list of political and business leaders and a good dose of local citizenry.

Carozza brought some star power along — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was there to personally introduce her.

The popular Republican recalled his two-decade friendship with Carozza: The two served together in Robert Ehrlich’s gubernatorial administration. It was the governor who took the day’s only shots at the incumbent Mathias.

While repeating several times that he “greatly respects” Mathias and his record of public service, Hogan said Mathias is too prone to voting with the legislature’s liberal leadership.

Meanwhile, he praised Carozza for “voting with us (when) time and time again the current senator votes with the bad guys.”

The state’s Republican leaders want to break the veto-proof majority Democrats have held in the state legislature for nearly a century.

Their hope is to capitalize on the popularity of Gov. Larry Hogan to oust a handful of state Senate incumbents — including Mathias — thereby giving the governor more leverage in the legislature and prevent his vetoes from being overridden.

“In the State Senate, I would be a stronger and more effective partner to Gov. Hogan as he continues his leadership role of changing Maryland for the better in his second term,” Carozza told supporters.

She said she would be in a position to uphold the governor’s vetoes on legislation, such as the paid sick leave bill, while also working with key leaders to support Shore priorities.

Hogan has prioritized the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic by declaring a state of emergency and recognizing local communities must be empowered, Carozza said, adding, “As your next senator, I will see this battle through.”

Hogan, Carozza said, must be re-elected to a second term and needs “more team players in the Maryland State Senate.

She promised to defeat legislation to make Maryland a sanctuary state, one that limits cooperation with the national government’s effort to enforce immigration laws.

“Under Gov. Hogan’s leadership, the culture of Annapolis has begun to change,” she said, citing three consecutive budgets with no tax increases.

“For well over a year, from Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, I have been encouraged or run for state senate. I have taken that encouragement to heart,” she said.

“The next step to serve as State Senator is my calling. As I have thought about the 2018 election, I believe I can do more for the Shore as our state senator,” she said to applause.

As senator, she said, she will support a young work force and protect farm families and allow the flexibility the commercial fishing industry needs.

“I am so humbled that you all are here to today to support me in my public services. Let me tell you, looking out at this crowd I have seen a version of This Is Your Life,” she said, referring to the former TV program and explaining those in the audience represented various times in her lifetime.

“I speak from the heart. Your support of my public service means the works to me and it inspires me,” she said.

She introduced her parents, Tony and Mary Pat Carozza, and called them her best friends.

“They made the very wise and bold decision to move their family from Baltimore to Ocean City when I was 10 … I thank my Mom and Dad almost every day for making that move to Ocean City,” where the family ran a small business, she said.

“I use my position in the Maryland General Assembly to fight for you in Annapolis,” she said to small business owners.

“When I ask their advice, they remind me to be myself, to smile and always remember my faith and my roots and where I came from. Ladies and gentlemen, my roots have shaped my public service. That’s why it was important for me today to hold my event at Ocean City Elementary School.

“Holding this event here is not only a nod to my roots as the first school I attended on the Shore, but it is also a reminder to keep my public service focused on the future, to ensure our young people have that support to pursue their careers in safe schools,” she said.

Carozza talked about about her experience at the state and federal levels of government, working for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during President Bush’s administration and for Ehrlich.

Her commitment to public service was fueled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and she vowed to do her part to protect the American way of life.

“I will always place the interest of the Shore first and say no to insider and backroom deals,” she said.

“I was thrilled with the historic election of Larry Hogan as our governor,” she said, calling him her friend and a “tremendous leader.”

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, she said, she supported Hogan’s budgets and will continue to “stand up with the governor.”

Hogan won the district by a 41-point margin in 2014. Mathias — by just 3.4 points — beat back a challenge by a hard-right opponent, Mike McDermott of Pocomoke City.

Carozza, meanwhile, cruised to a first-term victory, winning 73.4 percent of the vote in District 38C. A former congressional, Defense Department and Governor’s Office staff member, she relied on her deep political experience to run an overwhelming successful campaign, which gained a lot of attention and ultimately landed her a seat in Annapolis on the vaunted House Appropriations Committee.

An increase of five GOP seats in the 47-person chamber would mean Democrats wouldn’t have the 29 votes needed to override vetoes. With their perpetual minority status, veto threats are their best way to influence legislation.

Mathias, who had $162,512 in his campaign coffers as of January, has said he will definitely run for re-election.

“This is the people’s office and I am their trustee,” Mathias said. “I’m going to keep serving them and continue offering the committed public service I have demonstrated.”

Mathias said he has worked closely with Hogan on every issue facing the Shore, especially on poultry, agriculture and environmental regulation.

“I’m a bipartisan legislator, and I do that for the people of the district,” he said. “I’ve supported some (of the governor’s) vetoes and I voted to override some others.”

Carozza had $67,219 in her war chest in January, but the GOP’s targeting of Mathias ensures campaign dollars will flow in her bid’s direction.

By means of comparison, Wicomico Republican Delegate Carl Anderton had $5,209 in campaign cash on hand in January.

 

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