His detractors, he said, fail to acknowledge his compromises. Yes, he opposed MADD’s drunk-driving proposals because he believed they went too far. But in 2011 he supported legislation to strengthen Maryland’s penalties.
“They’ve got to pick on the chairman,” Vallario said of the enduring criticism.
If his tone suggested acceptance, his briefcase suggested otherwise.
Tucked inside the bulging black leather bag is a collection of campaign flyers his opponent in the 2010 Democratic primary mailed to voters, some including a photo of Vallario, his white hair combed back, his thin mustache framing a scowl, his eyes glowering behind thick glasses.
“Protect the Victims, Not the Criminals, Vote NO on Joe Vallario,” read one.
“The Next Time You Buckle Up, Ask Joe Vallario Why He Sides with Drunk Drivers,” read another.
A third said Vallario is to anti-crime measures “what segregationist Democrats like Gov. George Wallace were to civil rights legislation.”
He still carries the flyers, he said, “to remind me that people can be vicious.” He also pointed out that he defeated his opponent by more than 5,000 votes.
A district makeover
For more than two decades, Vallario has run on a ticket with Del. James E. Proctor Jr. (D-Prince George’s) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, the trio hosting election-year barbecues at Vallario’s estate at which thousands of Democrats ate burgers and hot dogs and listened to speeches.
“Here’s the secret,” Vallario said, by way of explaining his longevity. He flipped open a photo album from the 2010 bash, stuffed with shots of him posing with the governor, Miller, go-go star Chuck Brown and rank-and-file Democrats, many of whom left with T-shirts and towels promoting his name.
“Invite ’em to your house,” Vallario said. “We had a heck of a time.”
Because of redistricting, Vallario no longer will run with Miller and Proctor, which has generated speculation among his friends about the machinations that forced the chairman into a new area. In large measure, they wonder if Miller, who sat on the panel overseeing the redistricting, pushed Vallario out.
Miller, in a statement, said he “deferred” to the county’s House delegation “as to what was best to ensure maximum representation.”
Vallario, for his part, said, “I can live with it.”
His new district includes his home base of Upper Marlboro and extends north into Bowie, with blacks outnumbering whites by a 2-to-1 margin. In his old district, the population was about split. “Joe is going to have a much harder time at reelection because of the new territory,” Proctor said.
Vallario claimes he has no worries. He has $82,000 in his campaign account. He is ready to knock on doors. He is ready to host another barbecue.
“I’ve been practicing law in this community for 50 years,” he said. “People know me.”
And if they don’t? If he loses?
Not a problem.
The chairman has drawers filled with legal cases to pursue full-time.