Baltimore Co. Republicans face Howard Co. Democrats in redrawn District 12

Veteran Senator Kasemeyer faces challenge from Republican Pippy

  • Terri Hill, a democratic candidate for District 12 delegate, reviews upcoming engagements with incumbent Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-12), who participates in a strategy session at his home Thursday, Sep 18, 2014.(
Terri Hill, a democratic candidate for District 12 delegate,… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
September 20, 2014|By Luke Broadwater | The Baltimore Sun

In Maryland's newly redrawn 12th legislative district — which slithers from southwestern Baltimore County to West Columbia in Howard County — the race for the State House is pretty neatly divided along county lines.

All four Republicans in the race live and work in the smaller Baltimore County portion of the district, while every Democratic candidate works in the larger Howard County side, and three live there.

The district's geography has the underdog GOP candidates decrying what they perceive as gerrymandering to diminish their county's voice.

"It's a very sore subject for a lot of people," said Republican Jesse Pippy, 32, who is running against longtime incumbent Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer. "They surgically cut out parts of the district.

"Ed Kasemeyer has been losing 1,000 votes every election cycle for the last three or four election cycles. His popularity is shrinking. Maryland has done some of the worst gerrymandering," Pippy said.

Kasemeyer, 69, chairs the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. With 20 years holding state office, the Columbia Democrat says he has a strong record of representing both counties in the district.

"I'm a moderate," Kasemeyer says. "I've been a person who's been effective going across the aisle. There aren't many moderates left."

Kasemeyer, who has $114,000 in his campaign account, counts among his legislative accomplishments the creation of Maryland's prepaid tuition trust fund, which helps residents save for their children's college education.

He's also focused on issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Recently, Kasemeyer has been author of bills that helped deliver tax credits for the entertainment industry — luring Netflix's "House of Cards" and HBO's "Veep" to Maryland.

Kasemeyer says that bill has generated an estimated $400 million in economic impact in the state.

"It's been a win-win for Maryland," he said.

Kasemeyer beat 2010 challenger Rick Martel with 59 percent of the vote, but won narrowly in the Baltimore County portion of the district.

The map drawn by Democrats in Annapolis after the 2010 Census cut the number of Baltimore County voters in Kasemeyer's district while adding more precincts from Howard County.

It also combined the delegates from Baltimore County with those from Howard County. Before the redistricting, southwestern Baltimore County was represented in the House by Republicans or conservative Democrats.

Pippy, a manager with the anti-car theft company LoJack, is a Catonsville resident who lives with his fiancee, a Baltimore County prosecutor. The state's Republican Party sees him as a rising star in the party, even if the district's demographics don't favor him.

Joe Cluster, the director of the state's Republican Party, calls Pippy a "great candidate."

"If I could take him and put him in another district, he'd win hands-down. He's a workhorse," Cluster said. "It's a tough district for us, but if anybody can do it, it's Jesse."

Pippy says he's focusing on fiscal issues in the race — such as cutting taxes — not social ones. But with only $8,000 in his campaign account, he acknowledges he's outgunned financially.

He says he plans to make up for the lack of money with hustle.

"Ed's a nice guy, but people are looking for a change," Pippy said. "I've knocked on 10,000 doors and I can't tell you the number of people who don't know who their state senator is. How do you explain that?"

Kasemeyer says he is constantly meeting with voters and listening to their concerns.

"The majority of the voters in my district know me," he said. "My record speaks for itself — honesty, straightforwardness and candidness."

The district will also be welcoming three new delegates after the retirements of Democrats Elizabeth Bobo, James E. Malone Jr. and Steven J. DeBoy Sr.

Kasemeyer has formed a slate with three Democrats in the race: Clarence Lam and Terri L. Hill, both Columbia doctors, and Howard County math teacher Eric Ebersole, a Catonsville resident.

The quartet holds strategy meetings at Kasemeyer's Columbia home and are sharing funds and signs — moves for which the younger candidates say they're thankful to Kasemeyer.

"Ed brings a tremendous amount of experience and a wealth of knowledge," Lam said. "He's really been informative about local issues."

The Democratic candidates come from professions they say are underrepresented in the General Assembly, which now has only one practicing doctor and one active teacher.

Gene M. Ransom III, chief executive officer of MedChi, the state medical society, says Lam and Hill are key part of making this election the "Year of the Doctor." He says more doctors are running this year than at any time in the past 25 years.

"They're going to make very good legislators," Ransom said. "Health care is very complex, and having people who actually understand it in the General Assembly is important."

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