Mikulski, Kratovil haven't earned endorsements

October 26, 2010

On Sunday, the Sunpapers predictably endorsed Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Frank Kratovil. The endorsements trotted out a bunch of reasons that the Sunpapers feel that these two politicians are best suited to represent Marylanders in the Senate and in the Congress. However, neither of them can possibly represent me nor the employees of my company. Let me explain.

Starting in July, my small company invited politicians to meet with us in a roundtable question and answer format. We sent invitations to every politician representing this business at every level, including Baltimore County Council, Baltimore County executive, Maryland state legislature, states attorney for Baltimore County, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and Maryland governor. These invitations were sent to both Democrats and Republicans, incumbents and challengers alike. We wanted to hear directly from the candidates themselves on the issues.

Our most important questions dealt with the economy. My company has had to tighten its corporate belt again, and again, and again, and again. We have tried to do this without layoffs or furloughs, cuts in hours or pay, or cuts in benefits, and to date we have been successful in doing so. It has meant that many things on which we would like to spend money simply have to wait. It meant deferring a number of projects and canceling others. Unlike government, we have no means to print more money, nor can we raise our prices because the economy just won't support it.

One of the questions we asked each candidate is what plans or proposals they had to make government behave as a typical business, which tightens its belt repeatedly as needed in a very negative business environment and, like a typical business, does not raise taxes or fees.

We were pleasantly surprised and impressed that 19 candidates responded affirmatively to our invitation and spent several hours with us. There were, however, three conspicuous exceptions. All received multiple letters of invitation. All are incumbents. And none of these three responded in any manner to our invitations to meet. These were not meetings scheduled in September and October, prime campaigning season. We tried to hold most of the meetings in July and August, which we hoped would be a little more amenable to the campaign schedules of the various candidates.

Frank Kratovil was one of those who refused to meet with us. Dutch Ruppersberger, who spent a most informative two hours with us, said he was Congressman Kratovil's mentor, and would recommend that he meet with us. So did state Sen. Jim Brochin, who also spent a couple of hours with us. But Congressman Kratovil remained aloof, apparently not interested in talking with us. His opponent, state Sen. Andy Harris did come, was cordial, freely answered questions, showed an excellent grasp of the issues and made a good case for his election. Perhaps Mr. Harris refused to meet with The Sun's board, but to us, equally telling was that Congressman Kratovil declined to meet with us and talk about business and our concerns.

A very similar situation occurred with Senator Mikulski. In spite of multiple letters and a conversation with one of her staffers, who told us that "the Senator loves to meet and talk with small groups." I guess that she likes to meet with small groups that do not include businessmen who might ask difficult questions. Dr. Eric Wargotz also came and made a case for his election. It appears that Ms. Mikulski receives over half of her campaign contributions from outside of Maryland. That makes it difficult to believe that she can possibly represent Maryland well, and although she has brought some jobs to Maryland, those jobs have mostly been in the government sector.

I have read reports that small businesses create and provide over 80 percent of the jobs and that over 3,500 small businesses throughout Maryland have closed in the past two years. I'm not talking about big business with thousands of jobs and corporate CEOs paid obscene salaries. We are a small, local employer of about 50 people who rely on this business for their jobs, to pay their mortgages, and take care of their spouses and children. To me, failure to pay attention to small businesses, and failure to respond to a request for a meeting during election season, means only one thing: These politicians do not care about nor do they understand small business at all but will say and do anything to get elected.

And the final politician who did not respond to repeated letters was our governor, whom presumably the Sunpapers will anoint in a future editorial. Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. came and impressively seemed to understand many of the challenges faced by small business and their employees. Mr. Ehrlich certainly is more friendly to business because he understands that without business, there is little for Marylanders in general. Business creates jobs, and without jobs, people have nothing but unemployment payments.

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