Kent County Democrat files for District 36 state senate seat

GALENA — Heather Lynette Sinclair, a 32-year-old Kent County Democrat, has filed to run for the State Senate seat in District 36, challenging incumbent State Senate Minority Whip Steve Hershey (R-Upper Shore) for the seat that represents southern Cecil County, as well as Kent, Queen Anne’s and Caroline counties.

An Eastern Shore native who grew up in Salisbury, Sinclair attended the University of Maryland University College and studied communications. After graduating, Sinclair said she did “a little bit of everything.”

For the last five years, though, she’s been a self-described “citizen lobbyist,” working as a citizen to write and advocate for a number of different bills in several states. Over five years, she’s introduced 18 bills, with seven of them passing.

One bill, called Lynette’s Law, passed legislatures in West Virginia and Delaware, though it was vetoed in Delaware. This legislation made it a crime for mental health professionals to sexually exploit their patients. The bill also required that their disciplinary records be published on on a public, user-friendly database, in addition to requiring criminal background checks.

In 2013, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law her bill requiring criminal background checks for mental health professionals. In 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill she lobbied for that allowed for homeless citizens to receive a free birth certificate.

She has written one other bill that hasn’t passed yet: the Maryland Patient Protection and Provider Information Act, which would take public, disciplinary records and put them in a searchable database.

Sinclair said she’s running to fight for people.

“The General Assembly exists to represent the people,” she said. “When it’s no longer representing the people, it’s up to the people to change that, and I’ve been lobbying in Annapolis for five years, and I’m tired of seeing people lose. I want to give the people of District 36 a seat at the table.”

Generally, corporate lobbyists have had more sway than citizens, she said. Specifically in District 36, she said that citizens are losing out on health care, government transparency and consumer rights.

On health care, she said that representatives need to “look at the regulatory boards and how they are investigating complaints against providers, how the discipline is issued, and is it issued consistently.”

She used the opioid epidemic as an example.

“The doctors that have been found liable for overprescribing medications or have patients that overdose on medications — those doctors get very light disciplines and short suspensions,” Sinclair said.

On economic development, she said the Eastern Shore needs a stronger voice to lobby for development.

“It seems to me that we haven’t had a powerful voice on the Eastern Shore,” Sinclair said. “It seems to me that the Eastern Shore always gets left behind.”

She said one example is the lack of advocacy for luring Amazon’s second headquarters to the Eastern Shore.

“Just recently, Governor Hogan said that he wanted to place a bid and lobby to get Amazon in Baltimore City,” Sinclair said. “What about Cecil County? I think Cecil County is the perfect location.”

Hershey was elected to the House of Delegates in 2011 before being appointed to the State Senate in 2013. In 2014, he was re-elected to his senate seat with 67 percent of the vote. He was subsequently named minority whip, a position he continues to hold, in which he’s tasked with retaining Republican Party votes on bills.

District 36 is a red district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 36,000 to 30,000, but Sinclair sees that as a benefit to her, should she be elected.

“I work well with members of both parties,” she said. “I’m not about party lines. I’ve worked with both parties — predominantly with Republicans. I don’t see much difference.”

Though she’s up for a fight by challenging an incumbent in a red district, Sinclair made her case to voters. Referencing the bills that she’s lobbied for and gotten passed, she said, “I can do the job. I’ve already done the job.”

“District 36 needs a fighter and I’m it,” she said.

Original article courtesy CecilDaily by Brad Kroner.