By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Sept. 6, 2018) Sen. Jim Mathias, a Democrat, said his approach to the final leg of the District 38 senate seat is simple – continue working with people and politicians on both sides of the aisle for the betterment of Marylanders.
“I’ve worked with Republican governors, I’ve worked with Democratic governors, and we’re still here and we’re all smiling when we see each other,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are some people whose politics are not driven that way.”
He acknowledged the campaign against Republican Challenger Del. Mary Beth Carozza (38C) has been difficult, in particular because of a string of what he called negative advertisements.
Mathias has said he’s his own man, independent and unaffiliated with the race for Maryland governor happening in parallel. Gov. Larry Hogan, meanwhile, endorsed Carozza and some ads from her campaign have painted Mathias as part of a team with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous.
One political ad, paid for by Friends of Mary Beth Carozza, show Carozza with Hogan and Mathias standing with Jealous, with a caption stating Mathias “Refuses to denounce Ben Jealous’ socialist agenda to raise taxes and increase regulations” and he “Supported taxpayer-funded heroin injection sites.”
Two other versions of same ad said Mathias “Voted Against Accountability” and was “Working Against Our Values.”
Another ad, paid for by the Maryland Republican Party, showed a cartoonish ice cream truck and stated “Jim Mathias Is Making It Easier To Get Heroin Than Ice Cream!”
Mathias said his own advertising campaign was relatively minimal and has “all been positive,” essentially including some donor solicitations and many, many Facebook live videos taken during events. He was in Deal Island for the 59th Annual Skipjack Races & Festival on Monday and, on Tuesday, stopped at several area schools to celebrate the first day of the new school year.
“My stuff on the internet has always been introductory, positive [and] event-oriented,” Mathias said. “That’s always been my orientation.”
In particular, Mathias took issue with ads suggesting he was running with or endorsing Jealous.
“Some of the support groups around my opponent have gone as far as saying I endorse the Democratic candidate, which is not true – I have not. Period. End of story,” Mathias said, adding there have been no conversations with Jealous about support or endorsements.
He said a photo taken with Jealous and used in several ads was taken after Mathias attended an event honoring former Beach Patrol Capt. Robert Craig. Jealous happened to be in town and they met on the Boardwalk for a few minutes between events.
Mathias said he has always tried to maintain a sense of bipartisanship.
“I’ve given keys to the city to [former Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele when the Republicans had their state convention here and I was the mayor,” he said. “But they took the picture [with Jealous], put it up on Twitter, and immediately partisan operatives started to malign the picture and misrepresent the picture as me endorsing him … it was misrepresented intentionally.
“I run my own race,” he continued. “If you look around and see my signs and see what I do, I’m an independent person and I work well with both parties.”
He added he opposed former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley on issues like taxes, guns and poultry regulations.
Mathias said he’s no stranger to ads that unfairly categorized him, from a mailer last year with his face on a milk cartoon saying he was “Missing” and “Wrong For Maryland,” to the ice cream truck ad this year.
He said the latter “wholly misrepresented” his support of Senate Bill 288 that would, among other things, “provide a location supervised by health care professionals or other trained staff where drug users can consume pre-obtained drugs” and “provide sterile injection supplies, collect used hypodermic needles and syringes, and provide secure hypodermic needle and syringe disposal services.”
Mathias said he supports Hogan’s efforts to allocate $50 million over five years to combat opioid use in Maryland, but still more could be done.
“When you spend $50 million and you’ve done all this proactive stuff and you’ve been at the lead of it, and you still have upwards of 2,500 Marylanders – sons and daughters and wives and husbands die – why wouldn’t you have the conversation?” he said. “But, to turn around and pervert the conversation, that has to be in the eyes of the reader.
“We went down this road before in 2014, when I was referred to as ‘liberal Jim,’” Mathias continued. “This is a tactic that’s deeply unfortunate and, if that’s the way that my opponent and my opponent’s folks chose to present themselves … to try to drive a wedge between people, then that’s deeply unfortunate.”
The campaign – and the tone of the ads – will likely “only get worse” in the approach to Election Day, Mathias said.
“Before it’s all over with, there’s somewhere where you have to have self-respect and somewhere you have to dignify yourself,” he said. “That’s not been my choice, but there are folks around me, regardless of who it may be, that some point down the road may say, ‘Hey, we’ve had enough of this.’ That’s what happened the last time, in 2014.”
Mathias said he has a good working relationship with Hogan, including an appointment to the executive nominations committee that helps oversee gubernatorial candidates.
“Why would I take a relationship that works so well for the people of the Eastern Shore – why would I take and jeopardize that by doing something foolish or reckless, just because of partisanship?” Mathias said. “I’m sticking to my race, as I always have, and I’m asking the people for their endorsement.
He said the key to the remainder of the race would be to continue working with his constituency.
“You call me … and a few minutes later I’m on the phone with you. Most of the time, when people call me, I answer the phone,” he said. “The legislative portion of this job is 90 days. But its 365 days of public service and this opportunity to represent our people is all about their needs, it’s about constituency service, it’s about relationships that you build, and that’s what I have been able to do.
“I’m ever-present, all the time, and that’s not just something that happens around election time – that’s something that happens every day,” Mathias continued. “We’re going to continue to give 100 percent, we’re going to continue to speak to the issues, we’re going to continue to find common ground that’s effective and that has served the Eastern Shore and the Lower Eastern Shore, and Marylanders.”
As an example, Mathias said he worked with former Delegate Norm Conway to get money allocated to expand Route 113, and then worked with Hogan to help secure funding for the final stretch of that.
“Legislating is not a one-way road – it’s a two-way street. It’s working with people. And, clearly, as you build those relationships is how you are effective as a legislator,” Mathias said. “This is what I do and this is what I’m asking people to do – not to scare them to death and say how the world is going to come to an end if somebody gets elected to some office.
“I ran in five governor’s races and one of my opponents, in the last one, decided they wanted to express themselves in a negative way and I said on the record, if that’s the way my opponent chooses to express himself, that’s their choice – it’s not mine.”