A Guzzone-Guzzone Ticket in Howard County?
When House Health and Government Operations Chair Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Howard) announced last month that she planned to retire in 2022, it created a dilemma for Sen. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard) and the other two House incumbents in District 13 who are seeking reelection: Should they add a third House candidate to their ticket before the June Democratic primary?
This is hardly an unfamiliar scenario in Maryland legislative districts, where one senator and three House members are elected. Incumbents often run as a ticket, and when a House member chooses to retire, the remaining lawmakers must decide whether to attempt to anoint a candidate to serve with them or let the voters make the choice without the incumbents’ input.
But for Guzzone, the situation is a little more complicated: One of the Democrats vying for a House seat in District 13 is his ex-wife.
Pamela Lanman Guzzone filed to run for the House seat late last week. A retired public management professional with the federal government, she has been a community and civic activist for years, serving on the PTA, and working with the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County and other groups. Since retiring from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2019, Pam Guzzone has run a professional coaching and consulting firm.
“I’ve been thinking about running for office for a while,” she said in an interview. “Over 10-plus years, people have asked me, ‘When are you going to run?’ Now seemed like a good time. So by filing, I’m saying, ‘OK, friends, let’s go.'”
Guzzone said she would emphasize several issues on the campaign trail, including education, child care, child protective services, and health care. She is a graduate of Emerge Maryland, the program that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for elective office.
“I am a lifelong learner,” she said. “I am a super curious person. I believe one of my superpowers is asking questions.”
Pam Guzzone joins a Democratic primary field for the House that includes two incumbents, Dels. Vanessa Atterbeary, who is completing her second term, and Jennifer R. Terrasa (D), who is completing her first, plus teacher and community activist Amy R. Brooks. Becca Niburg, an attorney who formerly worked for the federal government, has also announced plans to run, though she has yet to file candidacy papers. And several Howard County Democrats said former Del. Neil F. Quinter, who represented the district between 2003 and 2007, is considering a possible run.
“They’re all good Democrats,” Guy Guzzone said in an interview.
By all accounts, the Guzzones get along well for ex-spouses. They live close to each other, have shared the parenting of their three children, who are now young adults — none lives farther away than Baltimore City — and are doting grandparents to their first grandchild, a 1-year-old girl.
But will that give Pam Guzzone any kind of advantage when Guy Guzzone, Atterbeary and Terrasa decide whether to add anyone to their ticket before the June 28 Democratic primary?
“The answer that we’ve given them all is that we’re going to wait till the filing period is over [on Feb. 22],” Guy Guzzone said. “Then we’ll talk to anyone who wants to be considered to be on the ticket.”
As currently drawn, the 13th District, which takes in North Laurel, Savage and parts of Columbia and Clarksville, is a Democratic stronghold and will likely remain that way after the next round of legislative redistricting.
Pam Guzzone said she consulted with her ex-husband about the prospect of running and listened to his advice. But she pointed out that Guy Guzzone, a veteran lawmaker who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and has also served in the House and on the Howard County Council, is a powerbroker in the county whose wisdom and support is regularly solicited.
“Anybody who’s running in Howard County has talked to Guy, so my position is not unique,” she said.
Pam Guzzone acknowledged that Guy Guzzone has helped introduced her to key community leaders, but said she’s built up a list of contacts on her own — and has put her ex-husband in touch with key people through the years as well.
“I was always active in the community,” she said. “I’ve known lots of people in the community for years and years and years. I know a lot of people through Guy. But he knows a lot of people through me.”
In every legislative district, any departure by an incumbent creates a level of uncertainty at election time. Incumbents have built-in advantages, whether they run together as a unit or not, but they aren’t guaranteed reelection, for a variety of reasons. The senator, who is usually considered the top political dog in a legislative district, often gets to set the ticket. For Guy Guzzone, that process could be especially tricky this time, in a multi-candidate field.
“We’ll give everyone a fair shake if they’re interested,” he said.