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Candidate Profiles for District 16 Delegate Primary

<b>Bill Bronrott</b>

Incumbent Bill Bronrott, 51, is a freelance public relations consultant who has served as a delegate since 1999. His endorsements include the Montgomery County Education Association, the Maryland State Teachers Association, the Maryland and D.C. AFL-CIO, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the local Municipal and County Government Employees Organization.

During his tenure in the General Assembly, Bronrott has focused safety issues through legislation on drunk driving, underage drinking and pedestrian safety.

Bronrott became involved in drunk-driving legislation while working as a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Michael D. Barnes from 1979 to 1987. In 1980.

Then he learned about an automobile accident that occurred around the Frederick County and Carroll County line.

“A mom and her six-month baby were hit by a repeat offender drunk driver,” said Bronrott. “The six-month-old girl was paralyzed from her shoulders down because of the crash.

“I learned that what happened to her was not an isolated incident — that 26,000 people were killed by drunk drivers that year and a million injured by drunk drivers,” he continued. “No one was doing anything about it. First-time offenders were becoming repeat offenders. I’ve stayed with that issue since 1980, working on drunk driving at the national, state and local levels.”

In the 1990s, Bronrott co-founded an organization called the Washington Regional Alcohol Program in order to combat drunk driving and underage drinking and develop a “Sober Ride” program to give free rides home to people.

During his time in the General Assembly, he has helped toughen the hit-and-run penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony, increased penalties for running a red light and failure to stop for a school bus, sponsored the state’s child booster seat law, and sponsored a federal bill to reform the state’s teen driving laws.

Bronrott said more work is needed to improve pedestrian safety.

“I’m working to improve laws and get more money to come back to the community to transform it into a far more safe and walkable community,” he said.

BRONROTT IS concerned by Marylander’s dependence on non-renewable energy like fossil fuels.

“We need to begin to transform our thinking and our actions and go green,” he said.

Bronrott said he was the chief sponsor in the House of Delegates of the 2003 Maryland Energy Efficiency Standards Act requiring that certain products sold in Maryland have to meet energy efficient standards. Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) vetoed the bill, but he was overridden by the General Assembly in 2004.

Another concern for Bronrott is the more than 1.5 million people in Maryland who do not have health insurance.

“Too many uninsured people are using overcrowded emergency rooms for their care and the high costs get passed on to tax payers,” he said. “That’s why I believe in universal healthcare. I’m backing the Healthy Maryland Initiative to help us get part way there. We can help small businesses afford health care coverage for employees, and at the same time encourage smokers to quit.”

Bronrott's website is www.bronrott.com.

<b>Charles Chester</b>

Challenger Charles Chester, 51, is a health attorney in a private practice. He is vice chair of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, where he advocates for more physical education in schools, more emphasis on a healthy diet and more money for smoking cessation programs. Chester served as a Democratic Precinct official from 1986 to 2002. He is endorsed by the Maryland chapter of NOW.

Chester is not advocating for a large-scale change in direction, but he sees room for improvement. He gave mixed reviews to the direction of the current General Assembly.

One area of concern is environmental protection. Chester said that clean air and water are basic rights and that “there needs to be more leadership in that area.” He believes there is “a lack of oversight” over the Department of Natural Resources.

“The Department of Natural Resources needs more staffing, more coordination with the attorney general’s office and more authority for fines and penalties in order to enforce environmental limits,” said Chester. “For example, under the Clean Water Act, Maryland is mandated to have come up with total maximum daily limits for certain pollutants to the Chesapeake Bay, and we’re way behind schedule in doing that.”

IN THE AREA of healthcare, Chester said that the unwieldy Medicaid budget is being driven “reactively” by preventable obesity- and smoking-related diseases.

“I think that healthcare reform involves several different things, first of all a more preventative approach, for example more funding of cessation programs,” he said. “It astonished me to read … how many physicians treat illnesses for smoking and afterwards don’t suggest any smoking cessation programs.”

Chester also advocates public/private partnerships for healthcare reform, such as tax incentives for private industries to help cover more of their employees, and for localities and municipalities to pool their resources in order to compete for lower insurance and prescription costs. He believes Maryland should follow the “Massachusetts model” to ensure more health coverage.

“The more uninsured there are, the less healthy people, and the more healthcare costs go up,” said Chester. “It’s a very destructive cycle we’re in.”

Chester does not have a website.

<b>Marilyn Goldwater</b>

Incumbent Marilyn Goldwater, 79, is a retired nurse who has served as a delegate for 25 years. Her endorsements include the Montgomery County Education Association, the Maryland State Teachers Association and the Montgomery County Medical Society.

Goldwater’s specialty is healthcare access, quality and cost. She wants all residents to have access to healthcare services and programs that are affordable and high quality.

“I’m a nurse and when I was first elected, everybody looked around for their own little area they could specialize in,” she said. “Nobody had health when I was there – it wasn’t a big issue. So I made health my priority and over the years it has become a major issue.”

For example, Goldwater was instrumental in getting legislation enacted to allow women to stay in the hospital for 48 hours after giving birth. At the time, hospitals tried to send new mothers home within 24 hours.

Goldwater would like to focus on improving current healthcare legislation.

“You put a program in place, but you have to go back and look at that program to ensure that it’s meeting the needs,” she said. “If not, adjust it to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do. We have a tendency instead of adjusting to just put another program in place.”

Goldwater would like to see the state’s budget process reformed for more legislative input.

“We have an executive budget process in Maryland and the legislature has very little input,” she said. “It’s put together and presented to us and we can make changes in it but it’s rather difficult.

“Having some legislative input at the beginning might make it more of a budget that is realistic in ways that it isn’t realistic right now,” she added. “People need to have access to programs and services…. Legislators are perhaps more familiar with the problems are than the executive branch, which doesn’t deal with people in the same way that we do.”

A recurring theme in Goldwater’s stances on the issues is the need to provide more oversight of current programs and make the necessary adjustments. She cited this for environmental protection, Smart Growth land use and relieving traffic congestions.

“Anytime you put a program in, there are going to be problems and adjustments that need to be made,” she said. “We must keep on top of it and work with the appropriate agencies and citizen groups. Citizens are the ones that are aware earliest of what the problems are.”

Goldwater does not have a website.

<b>Susan Lee</b>

Incumbent Susan Lee, 52, is an attorney at a private law firm in Washington, D.C. who has served as a delegate since 2002. Her endorsements include the Montgomery County Education Association, the Maryland State Teachers Association, the Maryland and DC AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters, MCGEO, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery Women and the Maryland National Organization of Women (NOW).

Lee is passionate about her work fighting identity theft and internet-related crimes.

“Technology has really changed our lives and how we do things,” she said. “The Maryland laws have to be up to speed with new developments in technology.”

Lee introduced a successful bill making it easier for victims of identity theft to file a police report, which is necessary to move forward with an identity theft case. Another successful bill she sponsored allowed a victim of credit card fraud to issue a sworn affidavit in lieu of having to appear personally in court. Many of the credit card cases had been dismissed because the victim could not leave work to appear at trial.

At the request of the Montgomery County Police Department, Lee introduced a bill prohibiting the sale of identity cards that have false names and addresses on them. She also helped increase penalties for identity theft, which she said had previously been “very minor,” and she helped put a law on the books prohibiting internet fraud. Lee created an identity theft taskforce, and she serves as the house chair on it.

LEE IS PLEASED with the environmental bills passed during her term. She cited the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, more stringent energy efficiency standards and the Agriculture Stewardship Act, which is designed to help preserve farmlands and help farmers reduce nutrient runoff into the water.

“We passed a lot of great bills this session and last session that are designed to protect air quality and waterways and restore the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay,” she said. “We need to build on initiatives and measures already passed and maintain our commitment.

“This year for the first time we approved full funding for Program Open Space and also passed the Healthy Air Act, cutting down on the emission of mercury, carbon dioxide and sulfur from coal fire plants in Montgomery County,” she added.

Lee supports universal healthcare.

“I think it’s very important that we look at other jurisdictions, especially Massachusetts and Vermont as to how they are passing bills to move towards universal healthcare,” she said. “Maryland needs to come up with the best measure possible.”

One health-related bill that Lee saw signed into law “meant a lot to me from my heart” required that automatic external defibrillators be on hand at school sporting events.

She said that automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), which can save people from cardiac arrest, are light-weight, cost-efficient and easy enough for a sixth-grader to use. She said their presence is as important in a crowded building as a fire extinguisher.

“We thought it was very important that our students, teachers and anyone on high school facilities [during an athletic event] also be protected,” said Lee.

Lee's website is www.mddelegatesusanlee.com.

<b>Regina “Reggie” Oldak</b>

Challenger Regina “Reggie” Oldak, 55, is an attorney whose focus is nonprofit work. She has worked at the Internal Revenue Service and served as vice president of the Policy and Legislation Committee for the Montgomery County Commission for Women, policy chair of the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, and founder and co-chair of the Maryland Coalition for Emergency Contraception. She is endorsed by Montgomery Women and the Maryland NOW.

Oldak is not advocating for a change in direction but says that District 16 needs stronger leadership.

“I really think we need more leadership in the General Assembly,” she said. “I don’t think it’s enough to just vote the right way. We need to push for more education funds in Montgomery County … [and] we need to push for heath insurance. We’re not going to get these things from the federal government, especially with this administration. We really have to fight for these things on the state level.”

Oldak is passionate about women’s rights and reproductive rights. She advocates for responsible sex education in schools, protection of the right to abortion and increased funding for family planning services.

“I’ve been concerned about reproductive justice for a long time – that’s where I came to political advocacy,” she said. “I believe that women’s equality really does start with the right to control their fertility – that for me is where equal rights and human rights start.”

During the last legislative session, Oldak created the Maryland Coalition for Emergency Contraception because she felt the federal government “is really dragging its heels on over-the-counter status for emergency contraception, so it falls to the states to fill this gap.” Oldak’s group wants to allow pharmacists to offer emergency contraception without a prescription so that women who can’t reach a doctor after rape or contraceptive failure can avoid “the terrible decision of whether to have an abortion.”

Oldak supports a more progressive system of income taxation. She said that all residents who make over $3,000 per year pay the same tax rate.

“If you make $10,000 or $200,000 your tax bracket in Maryland is the same. Really what we have is a flat tax,” she said. “There are a number of other issues in the tax system that also need to be looked at, such as provisions for corporate loopholes…. From my work at the IRS I think it’s not a good idea to change things piecemeal. That’s why I say we should have a comprehensive reform.”

In the area of environmental protection, Oldak advocates increased penalties for pollutant runoff, incentives for green buildings and more emphasis on public transit in order to reduce emissions from cars.

Oldak's website is www.ReginaOldak.com.