Candidates Discuss Their Plans For Office - State Delegate, District 33


In our May edition, we featured a Meet the Candidates segment with bios on the people running for office. With early voting for the primary election starting on July 7 and Election Day scheduled for July 19, we asked the candidates about their priorities and experience.

While not every candidate could respond, we hope the responses we collected will inform voters headed to the polls this month. Some responses have been edited due to space limitations.

State Delegate, District 33

Heather Bagnall

What would be your three priorities if re-elected?

  1. A) Behavioral Health Services - Long before the pandemic, I was deeply aware of the challenges we face from disinvestment in our behavioral health system. Like nearly everyone else, I have friends, family, mentors, and colleagues impacted by mental illness and substance use disorder. Though we have made great strides in Maryland to improve our behavioral health system and to destigmatize mental illness and provide greater equity between somatic and behavioral health care, we still have work to do.

I will continue my work expanding access to behavioral health services, particularly focusing on services for adolescents and veterans, peer-to-peer services and trauma-informed care, community behavioral health centers, and mobile crisis and crisis intervention services, establishing behavioral health partnerships in primary care settings, and addressing workforce issues.

  1. B) Bay Bridge - I grew up in Cape St. Claire, and before the Reach the Beach initiative, I truly believed that the distance from my house to New York City and my house to Ocean City were the same because they took the same amount of time. After 40 years of passivity, we have returned to the days of paralysis for the Broadneck peninsula.

Although we've made recent progress since I took office with electronic tolling, traffic mitigation surveys, and electronic gantries for contraflow, as we consider traffic mitigation and a replacement span of the Bay Bridge, I will establish the Broadneck peninsula as an impact zone. Although the Broadneck community and our communities along Route 2 would rather the bridge move to an entirely different part of the state, if that is not to happen, we need revenue to invest in our communities, which have been deeply and adversely impacted by the bridge without benefit.

  1. C) Riparian Rights and Water Access - Three years ago, I set out on the arduous task of legislation to update and modernize our shared water access, to provide communities the flexibility needed for shoreline resiliency projects, while ensuring that unmaintained shoreline or "ghost sites" didn't have to erode into the sea and pollute our waterways before the state could take action, and that predatory developers couldn't tip the scales in their legal favor by exploiting zoning and permitting loopholes.

As you can imagine, this literal moving target has become all the more essential with sea level rise, more severe storms, and a loss of communal water access, and now other states are looking to Maryland as a leader in this effort. I will continue to work with our state and federal partners in modernizing our riparian rights legislation to protect our communities, our shared natural resources, and to provide the necessary guidance to our state agencies for enforcement.

What is the greatest challenge you would face in the next four years?

After the last four years where we've had to navigate the deaths of our longest-serving speaker and Senate president, election of the new speaker and Senate president, a pandemic, a collapse of our unemployment system, pivoting to virtual and then to hybrid, ransomware attacks on our Department of Health and other government agencies, and an attack on our U.S. Capitol, among other crises unique to this 2018 freshman class, I know that I am capable of addressing any challenge. But in the next four years, we as a state will have a huge challenge rebuilding our state agencies, which have been gutted under this current administration. These agencies hold essential roles in oversight and enforcement of our environment, senior services, health services, finances and cybersecurity, and we have struggled to stay competitive with the private sector in attracting and retaining quality public servants, resulting in an outsourcing crisis, which has made it difficult to maintain a high level of responsiveness and customer service and just getting things done.

What sets you apart from others running for this office?

One of the things that made me so well qualified to navigate the last four years of unique challenges is my background in the arts. Thinking creatively, pivoting and adapting to change, anticipating unintended consequences, and understanding people have been an essential part of my career for over 30 years. Additionally, having grown up on the Broadneck peninsula, I have institutional knowledge of this area: our heritage, our challenges, and the unique character of our various communities.

After decades in arts and hospitality, I have a firsthand understanding of the gig economy and a deep well of compassion and commitment to customer service, which informs every action of my office. My unique background in the arts, as a performer, director, playwright, arts educator, and arts administrator have proven my greatest strength in both policy and constituent services.

Kerry Gillespie

What would be your three priorities upon taking office?

My priorities as a member of the House of Delegates will be:

  1. Education: I will create and/or support legislation that will affirm parental rights and empower parents in our children’s education process, strengthen our education system, and help students in District 33C and across the state of Maryland have the best education possible. I will champion legislation that supports education fundamentals and ensures we are working toward improving student performance, especially following recent state assessment testing, which reflects that only 15% of students in Maryland are at grade level for math. And I will bring teachers into the conversation, many of whom currently feel they don’t have a voice in the system. We must ensure teachers are given the necessary resources to do their jobs, especially with the learning regression we’ve seen throughout the state as a result of Maryland being one of the last three states in the country to return its students to classrooms.
  2. Safety/Crime: We must treat police officers and first responders as community heroes and those committing violent acts as criminals. As your delegate, I will push for passage of tough-on-crime legislation that holds criminals accountable and supports the ability of our police to protect and serve our community: the job that they are trained and hired to do. I also want to ensure current laws on the books are upheld, and our criminal justice system not be used as a revolving door, a sad euphemism I have heard from many law enforcement officers.
  3. 3. Traffic and Development: We cannot continue along the same course that we have for years concerning our road networks in the Severna Park and the Broadneck areas. As your delegate, I pledge to work with industry experts in transportation and all partners at the county, state and federal levels involved in our roadways. We must come together to find solutions to the problems that have been created by years of development that has occurred without regard to our road networks and transportation system.

What would be the greatest challenge you would face in this office?

I am not a career politician. I am going to Annapolis with no personal agenda, and I am running for this office to represent and work for the residents of District 33C, to advocate for changes that will benefit our entire community, and because I want to make a real difference.

Like any challenge in my life, I am ready to meet that head on. I will get to work on day one to build the solid relationships necessary to accomplish positive change.

What aspect of your background or your experience sets you apart from others running for this office?

I am the only parent in my race, and as a mother of four children who has been raising my kids in Maryland public schools for the last 10 years, I know firsthand the concerns my fellow parents have for their children and our education system. Wanting the best education for our children is a nonpartisan issue, and parents do not want our children to be used as political pawns.

Many families reside in our district specifically for the education system, and we need representation that both listens to and understands what our children require to get the most out of their educational experience to set them up for success in the real world.

In addition, as the daughter of a veteran and wife of an environmental scientist, I have lived all over the country, in eight states and Puerto Rico. This has given me a diversity of thought and an ability to have meaningful discussions with people of all backgrounds to find solutions to problems. Having this ability will be key in being a voice for and representing all in our district, and for partnering with others in the General Assembly to create real change.


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