Feuding Lawmakers Take Their Quarrel to House GOP Caucus

An already nasty Republican race for the House of Delegates in the 7th District turned decidedly nastier this week when feuding delegates took their quarrel to the entire House Republican caucus. The two incumbent House members seeking reelection in the Harford-Baltimore County district, Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga and Del. Richard K. Impallaria, have been at odds for years (the third delegate, Patrick McDonough, is running for Baltimore County executive this year). But the tension has escalated in recent weeks as Republican voters in the district have received mailers attacking Szeliga – who was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016 – as a closet Democrat. At least one of the mailers is the handiwork of a new entity of unclear origin called the Make Maryland Great Again PAC. The PAC recently filed an affidavit with the Maryland State Board of Elections saying it did not plan to raise or spend more than $1,000 this election cycle. But Szeliga believes Impallaria and his allies are responsible.  One in a series of anonymous mailers attacking House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R) calls her a “Democrat in Disguise” and “The Anti-Trump.”  “Delegate Impallaria is smart enough not to have his name on them, but they have his fingerprints all over them,” she said in an interview Friday. Impallaria denies the charge. Szeliga said she believes Impallaria is attacking her because she decided against slating with him this year. Thirteen Republicans are competing in Tuesday’s primary for the three slots in the general election. “That’s the rub right there,” Szeliga said. Earlier in the week, Szeliga sent Impallaria an email stating, “Your attacks on me are not necessary. She added, “I will be sure everyone in our caucus sees your attacks against me.” In an interview Thursday, Impallaria denied being the source of the attacks. “There’s a whole lot of people who it could be,” he said. “There’s one person who it’s not – and that’s me.” But after Szeliga emailed Impallaria to say she would inform their GOP colleagues about the fliers targeting her, Impallaria decided to forward the email to every member of the House Republican caucus with a long rebuttal, sarcastically referring to himself as the “evil genius” who is responsible for the attacks on Szeliga and other House Republican candidates. [The full text of Impallaria’s letter appears at the end of this story.] In the note to his colleagues, Impallaria references several mailers that the House Victory 2018 Slate – a political committee controlled by House GOP leaders – has put out in recent weeks that attack fellow Republicans running for the legislature. As Maryland Matters has reported, these mailers have targeted Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker (R), who is running for a House seat against three incumbents in District 33 and David Ellin, an attorney who is challenging three incumbents in Carroll County’s District 5 – and has filed a defamation suit against the GOP. A new mailer targets former Del. Jacob J. Mohorovic Jr., a former Democratic delegate from Baltimore County who is now seeking a House seat in District 6 as a Republican. Impallaria was highly critical of the campaign fund, which ostensibly is meant to elect Republican House candidates, being used to attack other GOP contenders. Maryland Republican Chairman Dirk Haire doubles as chairman of the House Victory 2018 Slate. “That money is not supposed to be used in that way,” Impallaria told Maryland Matters. “For the first time ever, it’s being used in questionable ways against Republican elected officials and Republican candidates, and that’s wrong.” House Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) did not respond to an email Thursday seeking comment, but Szeliga defended the campaign committee’s mailers, saying they are designed to protect Republican House members. “We would never attack one of our incumbents,” she said. Szeliga called it ironic that Impallaria was complaining about the House leadership mailings when she believes he is connected to the mailings attacking her. But Impallaria accused GOP leaders of violating President Reagan’s so-called Eleventh Commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” Impallaria was especially critical of GOP leaders who target party-switchers like Ellin and Mohorovic. “Ronald Reagan was formerly a Democrat,” he said. “How do you build a party if you don’t get people to change parties?” Impallaria said he would invoke “The Twelfth Commandment,” which he described as, “He who violates the Eleventh Commandment deserves no mercy.” He suggested that there could be consequences for House GOP leaders following the primary. “We’ve got to see what the fallout of the election is,” he said. “It will be up to the caucus to decide if they want a change in leadership.” Szeliga said she most House Republicans have confidence in the GOP leadership. But she lamented the negative tone of the attacks on her — and the general nasty tenor of modern political discourse. “That’s why people don’t run for office,” she said. Here is the note Del. Impallaria sent to his House Republican colleagues this week, in its entirety: Good Morning Colleagues, I am forwarding you an email I received from Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga.  I wanted to save her the time and effort of disseminating information to you.  Let me make this absolutely clear to all of you: I am 100% responsible for all dirty campaigning that is going on during this primary election cycle.  Yes, I am an evil genius.  I first went after Jerry Walker.  Then I brought the lawsuit upon us by David Ellin out in Carroll County.  I personally paid for and designed the hit-piece on Nic Kipke.  I have put out vicious pieces on everyone running in Harford and Baltimore Counties.  My funds are unlimited since I created the House Caucus Victory Slate.  So if you have received hit-pieces in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore, or in the middle of the state, I am totally responsible.  It is unfair to blame this new style of politics on Kathy Szeliga when I am clearly the evil genius who perpetrated this travesty on all of you.  Point the finger at me.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX [phone number withheld]. Remember, I am here to both help and destroy you – whatever fits your fancy. Most Respectfully,  Rick Impallaria   jkurtz@marylandmatters.org

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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