Jewish Doctor Bids for Vitale’s Seat

Dr. Ron Elfenbein (provided)

Emergency room physician Ron Elfenbein is bidding for the hotly contested state delegate seat in Anne Arundel County’s 33rd District, which was left vacant when former Republican Del. Cathy Vitale was sworn in as a county circuit court judge appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Vitale resigned on Monday, Feb. 23 upon assuming the bench. According to reports, Hogan is asking the Republican State Central Committee of Anne Arundel County to submit multiple names rather than one, as outlined in the state constitution,but the committee’s chairman said Hogan has yet to make the request. The governor would confirm the appointed delegate.

Elfenbein is one of 16 individuals who filed an application to be considered for the delegate seat. The county’s Republican central committee will hold a public hearing for interviews and balloting on Tuesday, March 3 and will resume voting the following day if a candidate isn’t selected. The top candidate must receive seven of the committee’s 13 votes to be nominated for the seat.

Elfenbein, an Arnold resident, ran for the House of Delegates in 2006 but lost to Democrats Michael Busch and Virginia Clagett and Republican Ron George. He then ran unopposed in the Republican primary during a run for the state Senate in 2010 and lost to Democrat John Astle by a little more than 1,000 votes, or 2.3 percent of the vote.

“As a Republican, I think having a Republican governor in office, we can really start to help redden the state a bit, certainly from a tax and spending and job perspective,” Elfenbein said on his decision to apply for the seat.

He would become the legislature’s only Republican physician, something he sees as a crucial voice in health care debates.

The Republican Central Committee took written public comments via mail and email through Friday, Feb. 27. One such letter was written by Rabbi Moshe Weisblum of Kneseth Israel Congregation, Elfenbein’s synagogue.

“His honesty and integrity — a keystone for any public servant — has been evident since I first met him 12 years ago, as is his genuine care of others,” Weisblum wrote. “He is an active member on Kneseth Israel’s board of directors and has been vital to the synagogue’s fundraising efforts as well.”

Elfenbein’s background includes volunteer firefighting and medical work, time as a Baltimore Ravens doctor and a teaching position at the U.S. Secret Service Academy in Beltsville, Md. He also finished in the top 5 percent of more than 8,000 applicants for NASA’s astronaut program and worked on developing better ways to administer medical care in space through a $700,000 NASA grant.

In addition to the economy, were he appointed to the delegate seat, Elfenbein would like to work on environmental issues, such as re-evaluating programs that aim to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and look at cost-effective programs, as well as education. He thinks state funds should be available for parents to send their children to the schools of their choosing; public, private or charter.

“I think it’s a travesty that you have kids born in a bad neighborhood and go to a bad school, and it’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

Others on the list for consideration include Louisa Baucom, who was an aide to former Del. Don Dwyer; political consultant Jim Burton; cupcake shop owner Angelette Cintron-Aviles; and Jamie Falcon, Jeff Ferguson, Jeff Gauges and Nora Keenan, all of whom ran in the Republican primary for the same seat in the 2014 election and several others.

Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee Chairman Nathan Volke said each candidate has received some support via letters.

“I probably am getting close 20 to 25 emails a day from people supporting candidates, and that’s probably on the conservative side,” he said. “Those are going to the full committee.”

Volke said each of the committee’s 13 members are trying to speak with every applicant, either in person or over the phone. It may take multiple rounds of voting to get one candidate with seven votes, he said. (The committee has not received a request for multiple candidates from Hogan.)

The public hearing is on Tuesday, March 3, at 6 p.m. in Room 145 of the Maryland House Office Building, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis. If the hearing, interviews and voting are not completed on March 3, they will resume on March 4.

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