Everyone in Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset Counties is a small business owner or a farmer.
That’s the impression you would get, listening to the Maryland General Assembly District 38 candidates during a debate at Wor-Wic Community College on Wednesday night.
Welcome to the Lower Eastern Shore, home to small business people and chicken farmers. All others, please relocate to the Western Shore. Your political leaders, most of them, want government of the chicken farmer, by the chicken farmer, for the chicken farmer.
What’s up? Most of the people I know here on the Lower Shore are NOT chicken farmers. Most people are NOT owners of small businesses. Most people work for a big company, like Walmart or Perdue, or a sizable organization, like Atlantic General Hospital, or the Wicomico County Public Schools.
Are there any candidates who want to represent retired folks in Ocean City and Ocean Pines? Anyone to represent workers who earn their living in restaurants or hotels? Don’t ordinary employees get to vote? What about grocery store workers, teachers, and cops? Doctors and nurses?
Is any candidate interested in representing voters who work for somebody else, and earn a weekly salary or an hourly wage? If you’re not a small business owner or a farmer, you are invisible to many of these myopic politicians.
Don’t get me wrong. This remote southeastern corner of Maryland is a rural stronghold. Farming is a way of life here, whether you raise chickens or grow vegetables. But in the final analysis, only a small percentage of the people who live here are actually farmers.
Don’t get me wrong. Small business is as American as apple pie. The small towns here — Ocean City and Berlin, at least — are full of small businesses. Mayor Gee Williams, of Berlin, pointed out that more than 25 new businesses have opened in Berlin during the last two years alone. Berlin has become a magnet for small business, under the leadership of Mayor Williams, who is running for House of Delegates.
Snow Hill, unfortunately, is a town with few businesses, but it is the home of county government. Most jobs in Snow Hill are government jobs, all of them providing services needed by the rest of us.
Pocomoke City is a small business town, although far too many commercial properties stand vacant. If Mayor Mike McDermott has had any success recruiting small businesses in Pocomoke, he didn’t mention it during the candidate debate.
Del. Jim Mathias, a former mayor of Ocean City, pointed out last night that Ocean City government created and maintained the resort infrastructure in which so many small businesses flourished. Mathias is now running to be the state senator from District 38.
I would add that now, more than ever, Ocean City depends on the beach replenishment program, which could not be continued without state and federal support, to protect the town’s property and businesses. Without the network of modern state highways and bridges, how could millions of visitors come to the beach and support our businesses?
In the southern part of Worcester County, there are more working poor people (and unemployed poor people) than farmers or small business owners. Some politicians ignore poor people and unemployed people; other politicians would try to raise up the poor and educate the children.
The U.S. economy is in deep trouble, especially the real estate market. We are in for several more years of pain, and we probably have not seen the worst of it. All the candidates are undoubtedly correct in their conviction that government spending must be controlled. But the truth is that none of these candidates have it within their power to fix the larger economy.
Mike McDermott of Pocomoke and Marty Pusey of Snow Hill, two candidates for House of Delegates, are the most vocal and angry in blaming government for all economic problems. But they themselves are career government workers. Mr. McDermott and Ms. Pusey are campaigning to represent the chicken farmers, but they are former chicken farmers who prefer to draw a government paycheck.
By contrast, Gee Williams of Berlin and Jim Mathias of Ocean City started at the bottom in private business, and worked hard to be successful.
Summing up, Marty Pusey and Mike McDermott are passionate speakers who sincerely believe in farmers and small business, but not much else. They show no concern for the environment. Pusey and McDermott don’t like government (although they both work for the government), and they really, really, don’t like taxes.
Gee Williams and Jim Mathias speak with less passion but more reason. They are also strongly opposed to tax increases. Williams and Mathias are more seasoned in the business world, and more knowledgeable about government. Williams and Mathias have records of accomplishment in economic development and service to their communities.
That’s my first impression of the candidate debate last night at Wor-Wic. Stand by for more impressions and opinions about the the 2010 election for Maryland House of Delegates and State Senate.
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– John Hayden