Interview With Eileen M. Rehrmann
She sat down recently with Washington Post staff writer Robert E. Pierre for an interview. A transcript follows. Interviews with other candidates have been published in The Post's Maryland Weekly, and also are available on our site.
Q: Why do you want to be governor?
A: I'm running for governor because I believe Maryland needs a governor that they can count on, a governor that they can trust. Time and again, Parris Glendening says one thing and [has] done something else. Just take the ICC [intercounty connector highway] for example. For years he supported it, and as governor, he said it was the state's highest economic development project. And then as the process moved along, suddenly it was taken off the table and we're going to look at improving intersections. That's not going to solve the east-west problem.
Additionally, it is not just a road project, it is a very vital economic development project that will link the Washington area with the Baltimore area and that's very important for the state's future.
The comptroller selection. The initial response from Parris Glendening was he was not going to politicize the office of comptroller. The next thing we know he has appointed his campaign chairman as the acting comptroller. Then when someone else got in the race he dumped his choice and went with [former governor] William Donald Schaefer. And I'm very concerned as other people are in Maryland that Parris Glendening makes decisions on what is best for Parris Glendening and that the interests of the state are far behind.
Q: Comptroller's position. Why didn't you go for that?
A: Early on in the process, Louis [state Comptroller Louis Goldstein, who died July 3] announced right after election he was not going to run for comptroller, and a lot of people around the state encouraged me to look at the comptroller's race, which I did. At that same time, there were matters that I was working on with Parris Glendening on business issues for Harford County's future and I just found that he was the first governor that we couldn't count on to get the job done. And I became increasingly concerned about that as time evolved so I made a decision to take on a very difficult election for two reasons. I think that we need to have stronger leadership in this state. Secondly I believe, that I'm the strongest Democrat [against Republican] Ellen Sauerbrey. I believe I am Ellen Sauerbrey's worst nightmare.
Q: You've said that there are problems with the governor and yet the economy's doing fairly well, people have jobs. Why [should] the governor be fired?
A: Well, it's not just the lapses in ethical judgment, it's his consistent pattern of conduct. Time and again he takes one position and then changes it. If you look at the economy, we are doing what we're doing because of the national economy. If you look at our surrounding states, we're not performing as well as they are. Our surrounding states also have a lower unemployment rate. So Maryland should be doing better than it is today. And that's part of the leadership problem.
Q: Are you talking about Virginia?
Q: What are they doing that Maryland ought to be doing? A: Several things. Virginia is focused on job creation and business investment. Maryland needs to do the same. First of all, we have no brand image for our state. We need to develop that and market that. Another area is information technology jobs. [Former University of Maryland at College Park President] Brit Kirwan and other college presidents put together a really good [plan] to bring us in the leadership in this country on the development of those information-based jobs. It was met with lukewarm response at best.
That is an area that I believe that there is no reason why Maryland should not be a national leader, when you look at the strengths that we have in this state [Johns] Hopkins, College Park, other colleges and universities, our federal laboratories, our businesses and government. When you look at that, you know with those strengths that we can be a leader in this country, and we're not.
And why aren't we? Because of a lack of leadership by the governor in pulling that together and make things happen. Additionally, one of the growths in the economy is small businesses, and I proposed a one-stop shop to start up businesses and expanding businesses. Regulatory reform. One of the clear responsibilities for the lieutenant governor will be the office of regulatory reform where we move archaic regulations, duplicative regulations, streamline and coordinate regulations.
... So we're really not focused on business friendly climate in Maryland. Also, as county executive I've done a fast-track permitting process. That means you meet all the regulatory rules. It is a process where you move the paperwork and permits are paperwork and it's also a two-way process. You set up timetables and you meet those timetables. If it's deliverable, then you pick up the phone, make sure it keeps on track. I believe that those two areas, regulatory reform and fast-track priority, can make a tremendous difference in Maryland's future as far as being business friendly.
Q: Are the things you've done at the county level feasible at the statewide level?
A: The office of regulatory reform, the fast track permits, is absolutely doable in the state, but it takes the leadership of the governor. The governor has to say this is the right thing to do in Maryland and we're going to do it. And it can be done and should be done as well as a focus on retaining and expansion of the existing Maryland businesses. ... And I've suggested that we reorient our sunny day funds and some of our other incentive programs for existing businesses, because we do more for new businesses coming into the state, than we do for existing businesses and we've got to change that philosophy.
... We have fragmented [economic development] programs. We need to coordinate those programs so that we have the retraining, and look at education differently. It's going to be a lifetime of learning. We're going to go through retraining and we need to have programs that can respond to changes in the workplace. Right now we don't, and I know we can do that. That's another area that it takes the leadership of the governor to say this is really important for our future and and we're going to change the way we do business and we're going to do it better.
Q: Is there some regulation that you would change.
A: If you take one example of regulation that's in place. If you have a person that works for company A and they decide they're going to go to company B because they have a better job opportunity. It's got growth, it's at a better salary. Things don't work out and they leave, who gets charged the unemployment? Company A. Well that's some of the problem in our system. That's just one of many. In other states that have done this they've been able to take and reduce regulations and change regulations, there were a thousand of them that were archaic, that had no value. And that is something that the governor can do, should do and I believe is important to do for creating a business-friendly climate.
Q: There's been a lot of discussion of health care, HMOs.
A: The state of Maryland has one of the largest number of people enrolled in managed care organizations and as a result of that and because of what is happening in managed care, we're finding problems on the treatment side. I've been believed it's important to have a bill of rights for patients in HMOs that set a standard of care that involves access, treatment, privacy, dignity and a number of different aspects that are very important to quality of care.
As I travel around Maryland I heard horror story after horror story of people going through problems with their HMOs. And that's going to continue if we don't make a change. So number 1 is a bill of rights for HMOs.
Also the medical directors of managed care organizations don't have any accountability. I believe that they should come under the same accountability as physicians for the board of physician quality assurance. They are making protocol decisions, they're making recommendations on treatment so there should be accountability. Right now there isn't.
And third is regulatory reform in health care. Our regulations do not respond to the change in environment. Just to give you one example, there's rate setting for all the hospitals and we have a surplus of beds and operating room in the state. However, hospitals are building free-standing ambulatory clinics next to an existing building because they're not regulated. So here you are with the hospitals and those beds set by rate setting and then on the other side, 15 feet away, is an ambulatory care facility that has no rate setting on it. Added to that is that hospitals in the Washington area in Maryland are seeing problems develop where HMOs are sending more patients to [out-of-state] hospitals because they can negotiate. And they can't do that in Maryland.
So I believe with all of the regulatory agencies that we have, the insurance commission, 41 licensing areas and department of health and mental hygiene that we really need to coordinate and streamline and address those problems because the costs will go up and that affects everyone.
And most recently it is unbelievable that we overpaid HMOs by $80 million and not only that we overpaid them but we're going to continue to overpay them this year by $56 million. That's $136 million. So here's a program that was supposed to improve quality care and reduce cost, and it increased cost and did not do what it was supposed to do on the quality of care. That's not right.
Q: Another big issue in the campaign has been the issue of slot machines. You are supportive of slots at three racetracks, and the governor has clearly said that that's an extension of gambling that will be bad for Maryland. Why do you support slots at racetracks?
A: I support slots at three of Maryland's racetracks because we have all this money leaving Maryland and going to Delaware and West Virginia. I believe that we ought to keep that money here in Maryland, that we can use a significant portion of that to fund education, that we can add 2,000 classroom teachers in education by using that money. I do not support casinos. Parris is the only candidate that has a record of support for casinos, especially when he was Prince George's county executive, and for those reasons plus, I believe it is important to have a level playing field for the racetracks in Maryland. It's an industry that employs 17,000 people and there's a $1.5 billion economic impact.
Q: But how do you stop there? There are other interests in Maryland that would like to have slots at their entities also. How will you make sure that it only stops at the tracks.
A: If Delaware's done it, I'm sure Maryland can do it.
Q: The governor has clearly said to you that it's something against you, as a mark against you in this campaign.
A: The governor flip-flopped on that issue, flip-flopped on that issue over his years as governor and came out against the slots. Here's a governor who supports strongly the lottery, is wheeling in lottery machines to homes, aged homes and expanding that so that when you go to the supermarket now you have a dispenser and you can pick your instant lotteries a day. And I think that's hypocritical. We're talking about slots at Maryland's racetracks and using that, a significant portion of that money for education.
Q: On the issue of slots, that was one of the reasons that Mayor Schmoke came on board. Would you talk a little bit about that endorsement.
A: The mayor has worked with me for several years and [knows] I say what I mean and mean what I say, and his problem with Parris Glendening was there were several times when the governor would say one thing and then not keep his promises. The issue of the slots was only a mechanism to fund education, but if you remember back [when] they had a meeting, they agreed on that and then the governor said, "I never said that."
And in the case of Mayor Schmoke he wants a governor that he can work with whose words mean something.
Q: Now County Executive [Wayne K.] Curry [of Prince George's] came along also and supported you. Can you talk a little bit about that and about how that came about.
A: County Executive Curry and I worked together over the past four years, especially in the area of funding education. If we go back when we had the Baltimore City funding issue, we sat down together and that included the county executive and the mayor, and said we have children at risk all over the state and we ought to have a statewide approach to funding education.
And it was mission impossible to get seven different jurisdictions to agree on a mechanism to fund children at risk but it was so important we did that. The governor wasn't interested in that because it wasn't an election year. We pushed for the task force which was created and, finally, in election year we had a statewide approach. But Wayne Curry is extremely concerned about the education system in Prince George's County.
He knows how important it is. What you have to do is look at the mess that Parris Glendening left behind. He only built two schools in the entire years that he was county executive. And now is the time to make a difference for the schools and the education of the children in Prince George's County and I'm committed to work and to build those 26 schools that are necessary.
Recently I met a young mother and she shared with me that she was in a dilemma and her dilemma was her child was getting ready to start school and she was looking at either moving out of Prince George's County or sending her child to private schools. That's not right. That is not a decision that that young mother should be making. We should have good public school systems. And I'm committed to working with Wayne Curry to have good public schools in Prince George's County because it's vital for the future of the children as well as the future of the county.
Q: There was a hard fight in Annapolis this year to get them the funding that got pushed through. How can you be sure, I mean how can you assure residents of Prince George's that you'll have any more luck than Parris Glendening?
A: Because the governor would take leadership on the issue. He's not going to sit back and fight with how many schools and what Eileen Rehrmann's going to do is say this is important to Prince George's County's future: We need to build 26 schools and this is how the state and Prince George's County are going to get them built.
Q: Now a lot of people in the Democratic Party who are supporting Gov. Glendening say that what you and Curry and Schmoke are doing is making a good case for Ellen Sauerbrey to be governor, that you guys are splitting up the party and that you're going to be responsible for a Republican getting into office.
A: I'm going to be responsible for keeping a Democrat in the State House. I am the strongest candidate against Ellen Sauerbrey. You saw how close she came to winning the election last time. People have a lack of confidence in this current governor and a lack of trust and I'm running in this campaign because I believe that I'm the strongest candidate against Ellen Sauerbrey.
Q: A recent poll we did showed that you were fairly significantly behind the governor, and that the governor had a fairly sizable lead over Ellen Sauerbrey also if he were to win the Democratic primary. So what's your basis for that claim?
A: Well in all the polls we've looked at I'm the only person that consistently keeps Ellen Sauerbrey under 40 percent and I'm ahead of her. Secondly, if you look at that poll, you will find that Ellen's support is really soft and the campaign's just beginning. And Ellen Sauerbrey picks up her campaign and her message and who she is and the problems Parris Glendening has you'll see those numbers change because they're very soft numbers.
Q: And you've got to do well where?
A: Basically about 81 percent of the vote is in ... Harford County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties. And so you use your strategy to get the votes that you need to get elected. That doesn't mean you ignore the rest of the state but I'm just saying from a mathematical perspective that's where the majority of the votes are, we're out campaigning throughout the state but we'll be also focusing a little harder.
Q: ... Why should voters say yes to you?
A: First, I have a proven record as a tough fiscal manager. I believe that with Louis Goldstein now gone, our fiscal watchdog on the Board of Public Works, that it's even more important to have a governor who is a strong fiscal manager. Just look at what the governor's done on the payments to HMO. We're headed for a deficit in the Medicaid funding.
So I believe, No. 1, I have a proven record of that. I was a county executive during a [unintelligible word] recession and went through rounds of cuts by the state as well as decline in revenue. What I did was not raise the property tax rate or the piggyback income tax. I made government more efficient. I didn't lay off people or furlough people but we all worked together to provide the services and we did not cut any services and, in fact, we redirected some additional money into education as well as public safety.
And I've created no structural deficits. That's far different than how Parris Glendening left Prince George's County. So first of all it's good fiscal management and I think that's very important for a governor to be able to manage the state's budget and make sure that there are no structural deficits for the future.
Second is job creation. I've been focused on job creation. Harford County was a primarily bedroom community and we've made a significant difference in eight years. But I've been focused on creating a business friendly climate, focused on work force development and, as a result of that, you can see our job development over those eight years.
We have a difference between taxes. The governor was a Johnny-come-lately on jumping on the income tax which we are now going to do but in addition to that I plan to eliminate the state property tax. We're only one of nine states in the entire country that has a state property tax and I believe it's one of those taxes that we should eliminate.
Q: How much does that come out to for an average resident? A: For an average resident, it's about $120 a year. And I know for a lot of seniors that makes a big difference.
Q: How much revenue is that to the state?
A: Approximately $242 million.
Q: How do you replace that?
A: Two sources. We're going to do better in job creation and business investment, which means you get more revenue so as you get more revenue you fund that from that source. That's the primary focus of how we're going to do it.
Q: Any other tax breaks?
A: That's been my [focus]: eliminating the state property tax and making that difference, especially being one of only nine states in the entire country that imposes state property charge.
And another area is the rise in violent juvenile crime. We have got to revamp our juvenile justice system. When a juvenile breaks the law they have to know that there are consequences. Right now it's pretty much of a laughing stock. You break the law and nothing happens. So I believe that for the first time offense minimally you have to get community service, I mean you get progressive punishment for those offenses, so that we do for those first time offenders.
Then we do intermediate sanctions, whether it's boot camp or intensive day program, and, third, that we have a maximum security juvenile facility in this state. We have a growing number of juveniles, and violent juveniles, we've got to deal with that. We also have a fragmented system. ..., In some counties, it's juvenile [court], in some counties it's district, we need to say this is the state approach for dealing with juveniles. And it's a growing problem, a serious problem and we've got to do something about it.
Q: What have you done on that issue in Harford?
A: What we've done is we have an intensive daycare program in Harford County for intermediate offenders and for first-time offenders we've been focused on making a difference with drugs and cigarette use. And a first time offender that the juvenile will go into the juvenile system with their parents and they either go into community services or get programming. And our early look at numbers shows that the recidivism is really low, which is good news. So that's just one of the programs.
We have done boys and girls clubs for intervention and prevention strategies. We've also done a number of programs with churches and non-profits, mentoring programs, after school programs, programs with new strategies to deal with our kids at risk. Plus a very expanded mentoring program because I believe that one on one mentoring with a troubled youth can make a big difference in the outcome of their life. And we have a tremendous number of volunteers that are now willing to commit one year to mentoring a young person.
Q: On education a couple of things. This governor has said that he's put more money into school construction, $225 million this year. An accomplishment. Do you agree with that or not?
A: I believe that we have increased our funding for school construction. [Lieutenant governor candidate and Rehrmann running mate] Sid Kramer chaired the task force, and I was on it which led to the initial expansion of that funding. And in fact we didn't even modernize our older schools and it's now come of that task force, we balanced our program between new construction and modernizing older schools so you know we were really in the beginning of expansion. But let me point to one concern I have that we're spending more money and improving less in public education and there are a number of areas that I think that we need to improve in. I talked about funding for 2,000 additional teachers. I think that's extremely important.
Q: Where do you pay for that?
A: From the revenue from the slots.
Secondly, a lot of people don't realize that over one-third of our teachers are going to retire in the next five years. I think it is crucial that we reinstate and have a state scholarship program for young people that want to go into teaching so that we can get good teachers.
Additionally, I believe that we need to improve the teacher testing for teachers coming out of the schools before they go into the classroom. We have a teacher test now but we can have a better test. We have an indeterminate time for provisional teachers to get their certification. I hope that that's going to be reduced to three years. I believe that it should be taken down over time so that they pass to be put in a government classroom. You know, if you're going to go into law you have to pass your bar exam. If you're going to teach I think you ought to be able to pass a basic test that says that you have a competency to teach.
I believe that we also need to have incentives for teachers to get the most rigorous certification, a national teachers certificate, and proposed a tax credit program for that. The minute they teach in an at-risk school, an additional tax credit. As I've traveled across Maryland listening to teachers and principles, one of their growing problems is disruptive youth and I support an increase in the alternative education programs so that we can get the students that are creating the discipline problems in the classroom out of the classroom, get 'em into an education system where they can learn and then they could return to the classroom.
And one of the final areas is charter schools. I believe Maryland should move forward and the ability to establish independent public school which are chartered by parents or educators or teachers or business, which have a focus of what the school's about. And they've been successful throughout the country.
Q: But aren't there already programs like the one you talked about, which would put disruptive youth, where you get 'em out of school and put them in another school. I mean there are already a couple around the state, right?
A: There are a couple, but talk to a teacher in a classroom, talk to parents in classrooms and there's a need for more. That's one of the greatest concerns the teachers and parents have is discipline and disruption in the classroom.
Q: Why do you want this job? Why do you want to be governor?
A: I believe it's one of the most difficult jobs that there is. But I believe that you can make a difference for Maryland's future. People have long asked me why are you county executive, you know, you get blamed for all the problems of the world. You don't expect any thank yous. And yet you know that you make a difference.
And I'll just share with you one background information. I was with a teacher at one of our at-risk schools and we were sitting talking about programming and other opportunities make a difference and a young woman was waiting and she asked me if I was Mrs. Rehrmann and I said yes. And I carry cards around because that usually means I've got a problem for a constituent to solve. So I take out my card and I say to her well how could I help you, and she said well you had something to do with that family resource center, I know that you got it started.
And I said, well, a lot of people worked together on that because we knew it could make a real difference. And she said well I just want to thank you, she said, I wasn't going to make it and my baby wasn't going to make it, but we're going to make it now. And to me that's what government service is all about.
Q: Is that what drew you to government service?
A: Making a difference for people. I always thought that I would do it through teaching. I was an elementary school teacher and as my children were young I got very involved in the community and PTA and the league of women voters and found that it was so important the direction the government as far as solving and working on problems I was concerned about. That's how I got involved in public service.
Q: Your initial office was?
A: County commissioner.
Q: In Belair.
A: Yes. Then my last year there I was president of the Maryland Municipal League so I worked with all the cities and towns across Maryland and worked on state legislative issues so that's how I really ran for the House of Delegates because I was doing a lot of work in Annapolis on issues that were important to cities and towns. Then spent eight years on the budget committee and that clearly showed me how important the budget is. I mean it's really the heart of public policy. It is where you use your resources to fund what programs and how efficiently they work.
Q: What do you think you brought from that experience that will help you as governor? A: Well clearly I've served in the state legislature. I've been a member of the state legislature for 8 years. I understand the state legislature. I think that is a definite plus in experience for a governor as well as someone who's gone through good times and bad and has been successful in both good times and bad in managing the county.
Q: Anything else that folks should know?
A: Maryland should just be doing so much better than it's doing today, just look at our surrounding states. And we need a leader that we can count on and a leader that will take and do what is so important for Maryland's future. Improving public education, job creation, making a difference in managed care for patients, there are so many things that we have to do and I know that we can do, the team of Eileen Rehrmann and Sid Kramer, we bring together those 36 years of experience. The local level, state level, business side and education.
Q: What forces people to come out in this election? A: I believe that on election day I believe because of the reasons that you mentioned that we'll have a low turnout in the primary.
Q: Is that helpful to you?
A: Well you plan your campaign around a low turnout in the primary. Now there's a lot of time between now and Sept. 15. A lot can happen in the state and but we're focusing on the campaigning that we need to do to get elected, to let people know who Eileen Rehrmann is, to let them know what I will do as governor of this state and that I'm also someone that they can count on, that they can trust.
Q: You think you're making a case now because a lot of people don't know who you are still.
A: Again, our focus is on the Democratic primary voter. So that a person who's a Republican or Independent hasn't heard us much because our focus is the Democratic primary voter.
Q: Has it been distressing at all that a lot of public officials are behind the governor?
A: Absolutely not. I remember another election a few years ago when everybody else came out in back of a governor and somebody named Harry Hughes won the election.
Q: So do you think you have history on your side? A: I believe that we have a good campaign team, a good message and that people will know we can make Maryland such a better state than it is today.
Q: When did you come to Maryland?
A: I moved to Maryland as a newlywed in 1955.
A: My husband had, was a graduate chemist and job opportunities were available in Maryland and that's why we came to Maryland and lived in Belair.
Q: And you were a teacher for a couple years? A: Yes, I taught in a couple schools in Pennsylvania, then I taught in St. Margaret's in Belair when I first came to Maryland, then we started our family very quickly and had four children and I was very fortunate to be able to stay home and be with them, which a number of mothers and fathers aren't able to do that today. And as I stayed home with them I got very involved in PTA as they started growing, the league of women voters and community activities.
Q: How old were your children when you started to run for office?
A: I was involved in community activities. I started in the League of Women Voters when I was expecting, very expecting with my third child. And I wanted to learn more about the community that I'd moved into, the state I'd moved into because I'd grown up in Pennsylvania and I wanted to learn more about Maryland and all the different issues.
Q: You're not married now?
A: I'm separated. I've been separated for 2 years.
Q: Are you in the process of getting a divorce?
A: We're separated.
Q: Your children, one of your children lives in England.
A: She just moved back to Buffalo from Scotland.
... I want to see her. I want to see her. She might come down this weekend. They're all finished college. They're between, Bill's 31, Maryann's 30, I can't believe it. Chrissy's 28 and Rob's 25.
Q: Your mom talked about how your life is different from hers.
A: There are some differences and some things that are the same. I was the oldest of six children and being the oldest, there are 20 years between myself and my youngest sister and I have one brother, poor guy and I helped raise my brothers and sisters. Some of the things that were different, when I was growing up we did a lot of cooking and canning and freezing, so during the summer when all the crops came in, we did a lot of time on freezing beans and corn and the garden that my Mom grew.
Q: Dad wasn't a farmer.
A: No. But Mom always had her garden. In fact she has it today at 75. It's her proud and joy. But we did that and I think growing up with a strong sense of work ethic. You helped to raise your younger brothers and sisters, when you get to an opportunity when you could work you had a part-time job. I started my first job in my aunt's grocery store on Saturdays helping her out.
Q: How old were you?
A: I forget. Early high school. 15 or 16.
Q: What were you like? A: I would say working class. My Dad ... he'd have second jobs to bring extra income into the house.
... We had a lot of dinner discussions back and forth. Q: Why was that important? A: Well I guess it helped shape me by listening to what my father said, what I was saying was what other members in the family would say and we would discuss all the issues of the day around the family dinner table. And probably it helped to develop my analytical skills as well as some communications skills. And also to fight for what I thought was right.
Q: What do your children think about what you do?
A: My children have encouraged me to run for governor. They think I can make a difference. At the same time, they know that it takes away Mom's time from them.
... Chrissy lives with me. She's next to the youngest. The youngest lives with my husband. Other kids leave or stay.
Q: Any involvement in the campaign?
A: Yes, Chrissy was at the rally and Bill they were both at the rally. Maryann was in Buffalo, they'd just bought a house and they're getting ready to move into that in August. Two children. Hopefully they'll be down very soon so I can get to hold the youngest one and read to the 2 year old.
Q: So you have 2 grandkids?
A: Yes, two grandsons.
A: 2 and 5 months.
Q: Are you going to get them campaigning?
A: No, I'm going to enjoy them. There's nothing like holding your grandchild in your arms for the first time. It's like falling in love and then sometimes you forget as you get older to look at the world new and when you have these little kids, everything is new and you see the world all new again through their eyes. That's really amazing.
Q: But why not stop and say, I'm going to be a grandmom.
A: Oh, I really thought about that. I thought after 20 years of public service maybe it was time to do something different, to spend more time being a grandma, to do something in the private sector. I believe that there is so much more that we can do in this state that I want to make a difference for the future and I think the next four years will be critical, especially in the area of job creation and making Maryland a leader in the information jobs for the future. So it's wanting to make a difference for the future and it's still there.
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