ROSEDALE, Md. (AP) — Harford County Executive David Craig has experience in local government, plus one term in each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly. He also has led statewide organizations representing Maryland's counties and municipalities.
It's the kind of understanding he believes Maryland needs in its next governor: someone who is familiar with city, county and state government.
As he campaigns for the GOP nomination in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin, Craig relishes past victories over incumbent Democrats four times in his career, when he ran for city council and mayor in Havre de Grace and in both his House and Senate races.
"You have to show you've had experience, and you know how to do it," Craig said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, noting that two of his three main primary opponents have never been elected to public office.
Despite the uphill climb Maryland Republicans face in statewide races, Craig says the time is ripe for a GOP victory after nearly eight years of tax increases and tapping transportation funds to help balance the state's books during the recession.
"Most people are very frustrated, Democrats, Republicans, independents. They do not want a third term of the current administration," Craig said.
Beyond winning at the local level, Craig contends he has demonstrated how to balance a county government budget, while cutting the county's property tax. He said he'll bring that experience to Annapolis to help pave the way to cutting taxes.
A key goal of a Craig administration would be to phase out the state's income tax beginning in 2016, a move he says would directly benefit just about everyone in the state.
"That's the one that encourages businesses to either stay in the state or go to a different state, and every day I talk with someone who says, 'I'm retiring and I'm leaving the state of Maryland, or I'm selling my business and I'm leaving the state or Maryland or I am just leaving the state of Maryland,'" Craig said.
Craig said cutting waste and streamlining government will partly pay for the lost tax revenue. He also said state revenues will improve as businesses become comfortable remaining in the state and other businesses decide to move to Maryland. To reduce government costs, Craig wants to consolidate positions in state government.
"We'll examine each one," Craig said. "That's what each department is going to have to do. When they come to me and say: 'All right, we had 400 positions and we have 10 retirees this year. Guess what? You've got to justify keeping those positions."
Craig, like his primary opponents Larry Hogan, Charles Lollar and Del. Ron George, also wants to eliminate stormwater management fees, which have been derided by opponents as Maryland's "rain tax." The fee is required in 10 Maryland jurisdictions, including Harford County. Craig opposed the legislation, which was approved in 2012.
Craig also highlights his experience in education, as a teacher and assistant principal. He has been strongly opposed to Common Core, the national learning standards he said have given away too much control over Maryland classrooms. He also advocates greater planning for school construction projects.
"Just don't come and ask me for the money right now," he said. "Show me how this is going to affect your school population and your school construction for the next 10 years. That's what I did as county executive."