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State Delegate District 17 (three seats)

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REPUBLICAN

George Ivan Hernandez

• Where you live: Gaithersburg

• Date of birth: June 14, 1989

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Database analyst at CollabraLink

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): None

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

To improve the political process, namely, to get big money out of politics, enact term limits at the federal and state level, enforcing a balanced budget, pushing to make Election Day a holiday, and overall fostering civic engagement.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

The most important issue in this race is fixing our political process. I will fight to pass a constitutional amendment to add term limits to U.S. congresspeople. I will also fight to pass this amendment for Maryland state senators and delegates. In addition to this, I will fight to bring more power from the federal level, back to the state level. The states have the ability to check and balance the federal government and I believe this is long overdue. This must be done by calling a constitutional convention and passing amendments.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

The current House of Delegates is doing an okay job in addressing issues such as education, the environment, and transportation. That is good; however, they are not addressing the underlying political process that has led us to have a $21,000,000,000,000+ national debt, polarization, and corruption. Too often politicians become great at campaigning and fundraising and not on addressing core issues.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I have no political experience, but my work as an IT professional has bolstered my ability to think systematically at problems, identify root causes, and provide long-term solutions.

DEMOCRAT

Esam Al-Shareffi

• Where you live: Gaithersburg

• Date of birth: Jan. 28, 1986

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Last employed by MedStar Georgetown University Hospital as a psychiatry resident physician.

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): First run for public office

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

I want to revive the old idea that legislators should be citizens, not career politicians, working for one or two terms before moving on to new challenges. This is also why I refuse to accept any campaign contributions. As a physician and a scientist, I would bring a pragmatic mind and a humanitarian touch to do my utmost to make Maryland a better place to live with common sense policies. Please give me that opportunity!

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

Jobs, jobs, jobs! Reducing barriers to starting new businesses and enticing new ones to our district is the surest way of achieving a brighter future for all our residents. It is also the best way to increase tax revenues without raising new taxes, to pay for the other important priorities which best improve our lives. This includes providing a “Medicare-for-all” system of healthcare, increasing funding for mental health, education, environmental protection, ending the opioid epidemic, and transportation, as well as removing all speed cameras in our district and our state, and much more.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

Defeating HB 878, the “100% Clean Renewable Energy Equity Act” was one of the biggest recent failures. Although the bill would have provided tremendous environmental benefits, the tactic of including three major reforms in one bill, namely ending unbundled RECs, excluding trash incinerators as sources of “renewable energy,” and setting the ambitious goal of 100% clean energy by 2035, allowed all the vested interests against this bill to join forces and easily crush it. I would have devoted a separate bill to each reform, starting with ending unbundled RECs, working over several years to divide and conquer the opposition.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I am familiar with parliamentary procedure and working in a legislative setting from my days of undergraduate student government. More importantly, however, is my real-life experience as a physician, encountering firsthand the plight of the mentally ill and most vulnerable in society, inspiring me to do something about it! The other candidates are good people, but all are career politicians, including incumbents who have represented us for decades, complacently upholding the status quo, as well as two challengers who dropped out of the county council election and would be Delegates only as a stepping stone to that office.

Kumar Barve (incumbent)

• Where you live: Rockville

• Date of birth: Sept. 8, 1958

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Chief financial officer, Environmental Managements Services Inc. in Rockville (hazardous/toxic waste disposal company)

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Maryland House of Delegates, 1991-present

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

I want to continue my successful efforts to promote affordable renewable energy, clean the Chesapeake Bay, improve K-16 education, rebuild Metro and our road network, and protect universal healthcare. Note, I was named Environmental Legislator of the Year because I led the effort to ban fracking. (See: http://bit.ly/Barve2017EnviroAward)

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

Global warming is an existential threat to the Earth. I am the father of renewable energy in Maryland, having brokered the first deal between the GOP Ehrlich administration and the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate for a 7% renewable energy requirement in 2003. We should expand our current requirement of 25% to 50% now that solar array fields have become (almost) the cheapest form of energy. This can be done in a way that will not increase electric rates, and I will use my position as Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee to make it happen.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

Currently in Montgomery, Frederick and Howard counties, landlords are not allowed to refuse to rent to a person because they use “housing vouchers.” I brokered a compromise late in the session that would have extended that non-discrimination policy statewide, and passed a bill with a veto-proof majority in the House. The bill did not get a vote in the Senate. So, in the future, I need to lobby the Senate more aggressively.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

Professionally, I’m an accountant and the CFO of an environmental waste disposal firm in Rockville. This gives me a great understanding of the needs of small/medium sized businesses as well as a practical understanding of environmental regulatory issues. My legislative history is that of Chair of the Montgomery County Delegation, Majority Leader of the House and now Chair of the Environment & Transportation Committee. All this combines to make me an effective agent for positive change.

Julie Palakovich Carr

• Where you live: Rockville

• Date of birth: April 22, 1983

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: CEO and co-founder of Victory Guide (January 2018-present). American Institute of Biological Sciences (February 2009-January 2018).  I was promoted several times and served as public policy manager, 2013-18.

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Serving second term on Rockville City Council, November 2013-present. No other campaigns.

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

It’s been an honor to serve on the Rockville City Council for four and a half years. I will bring my experience as a municipal elected official, as a scientist, and as a mother to the House of Delegates — which is severely lacking all three groups amongst its membership. From creating a system for paid family leave to getting big money out of politics, I’m going to fight for progressive reforms in Maryland.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

I’ve personally knocked on thousands of doors during this race. Transportation and education are the top issues I’ve heard from residents. The State needs to invest more in public transportation to reduce traffic congestion and to address climate change. Permanent funding for Metro is a positive step, but we also need Bus Rapid Transit and expanded MARC service to meet our transportation needs. Having high quality public schools and universal pre-K are vital to our state’s economy. We need a lockbox on the Education Trust Fund to ensure that gambling revenues supplement — not supplant — state education funding.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

Immigrants are an important part of our vibrant and diverse community. We need to make sure that all residents, regardless of their immigration status, feel welcome.

One of my proudest accomplishments on the City Council was enacting the Fostering Community Trust Act, an ordinance I authored that keeps local police focused on fighting crime rather than using city resources to enforce federal immigration laws.

It’s deeply disappointing that the Maryland Trust Act was not enacted. The House of Delegates passed the bill in 2017, but the State Senate did not. The legislation didn’t make it out of committee in 2018.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

As a Rockville City Councilmember, I’ve successfully pushed for progressive reforms, including banning smoking in outdoor dining areas, taking action on climate change, improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and helping seniors on fixed incomes to afford their water bills.

I previously worked for a U.S. Senator and for a national scientific non-profit, where I pushed to include science in federal policymaking and trained other scientists to communicate their research to decision-makers.

Prior to being elected, I led three resident advisory groups that addressed infrastructure, budget, and watersheds, and served two terms on Rockville’s Environment Commission.

Jim Gilchrist (incumbent)

• Where you live: Rockville

• Date of birth: May 1, 1965

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: State delegate, District 17

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): State delegate in District 17, 2007-present. Elected in 2006; re-elected in 2010, 2014. Ran unsuccessfully for delegate in 2002.

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

I am running for reelection to the House of Delegates to continue moving Maryland forward for all of its residents. We have led by funding Metro, increasing access to pre-K, banning fracking, supporting our schools, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, investing in senior centers and parks, supporting higher education, and stabilizing health insurance. I want to balance the needs of the state with its resources and I ask for your vote to continue the work.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

Maryland must balance its resources and services. I support the ballot question that will provide about five hundred million dollars for education funding. I believe Maryland must find the resources to commit to this investment. My plan is to provide tax relief for low and middle income residents, tax reform for our seniors, and a balanced approach for everyone. This will enable residents to move around the state, enjoy a healthy environment, attend good schools and universities, have access to health care, and enjoy excellent services such as Seneca Creek State Park.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

Solving problems is a long term process. The current House of Delegates has worked diligently on public justice issues such as taking a first step to protect residents from egregious video toll fines, providing access to health care, enacting Justice Reinvestment, expunging and shielding records to allow for those who have served their sentences to become productive citizens, and allowing bail reform to continue. We have also started a medical marijuana program and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. There is still much to do to make Maryland fair for everyone.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

As a part of the Maryland Community Development Block Grant program, I worked on projects across the state to improve water and sewer service, provide housing, and promote economic development. This was excellent preparation for understanding the wide ranging needs in communities across Maryland. Three terms as a legislator has given me a greater understanding of how to meet these needs, how to work with legislators from across the state, and how to sort through hundreds, if not thousands, of different policy proposals.

Julian Haffner

• Where you live: Gaithersburg

• Date of birth: Sept. 29, 1976

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Attorney, currently of counsel with Longman & Van Grack, LLC

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Member of Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, representing District 17, 2014-present; treasurer, 2017-present

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

Everyone deserves a S.E.A.T. at the table! As a teacher recommended candidate, I’ll work to ensure our schools are full-funded and our educators supported. As a business attorney, I will foster a business-friendly economy that spurs job creation and pursue transportation solutions that are environmentally sustainable. Access to affordable healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. I’ll work to implement a single-payer system, even as the federal government continues its assault on Obamacare.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

The most pressing issue facing us is not a single issue. Rather, it’s how we intend to respond to the demographic changes facing our state and ensure our continued viability going forward. We must ensure our schools produce students that are college and career ready. We must encourage and support the growth of small businesses so they can provide living wages. We must address the growing anxiety around access to healthcare by looking at pursuing a single-payer system. Finally, we must prioritize road and transit solutions that improve our quality of life, and spur economic development.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

Man-made climate change is the most pressing environmental issue facing our country and will require strong leadership to ensure that we take the necessary steps to wean ourselves off carbon-based fuel. Our state’s failure to extend the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 100% by 2035 is a major issue and must be remedied. Consequently, it will take a broad and diverse coalition of interests to see a bill pass. My background allows me to convene the faith groups, environmental organizations, unions and civic organizations necessary to make such an aggressive bill a reality.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I’m a business attorney with 15 years of experience and a member of the Democratic Central Committee representing District 17. I am also the current VP and former Communications Director of the Association of Black Democrats, and former chair of the NAACP’s Economic Development Committee. In 2015, the Montgomery County Council appointed me to the Minority Owned and Local Small Business Task Force. I am a founding member of the Democratic Business Council of Maryland, and the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to representing and always being accountable to the residents of District 17.

Rebecca Smondrowski

• Where you live: Gaithersburg

• Date of birth: Oct. 25, 1968

• Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: District 2, Montgomery County Board of Education, 2012-current;. Previously: legislative director, state Sen. Roger Manno

• Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Elected to board of education in 2012; re-elected in 2016

• Campaign information:

1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)

I am proud of my work representing District 17 as a six-year elected member of the BOE and working closely with the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville. I would like to take that experience and my previous work with the General Assembly and other county organizations to further the betterment of our community in areas such as Education, Transportation, Domestic Violence, Affordable Housing and Healthcare to name a few.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

A sustainable quality of life in Montgomery County. We need to provide all residents equal access to education and job opportunities, while addressing transportation concerns, and an aging and growing infrastructure and population. We are home to some of the most diverse communities in our country, and with great diversity comes great opportunity to bring new skills and knowledge to our residents and state. We must assure that all residents can be self-sufficient and prosper with new career training education and supports for our businesses and we need to ensure that MoCo is receiving its fair share of state funding.

3 – What is one major issue the current House has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

Equity should be the shared interest of all stakeholders, especially when it comes to redistricting and representation. We need to take partisan politics and gerrymandering out of line drawing so everyone has a voice. I support the creation of an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission. We also need to work more proactively with our municipalities and county agencies and reach out to our constituents for their input and collaboration before decisions are made to ensure better representation for all residents and businesses.

4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

My experience gives me a unique understanding of all aspects of our county. My current role representing District 17 on the Board of Education and my previous experience as a staff member in the General Assembly, along with several years as VP of Legislation for MCCPTA, a commissioner for the City of Gaithersburg and my many Boards and community committees I sit on, have allowed me to know the issues and forge relationships across the county and state. I have a reputation for collaboration, teamwork and an ability to network with all sides for the good of the community.

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