With just over a month to go before Anne Arundel’s Republican primary election for county executive, Jessica Haire, one of five GOP candidates running for Democrat Steuart Pittman, is questioning the county’s new health department.
Last week, Nilesh Kalyanaraman County Health Officer suggested that schools with a COVID-19 positive rate of 5% or higher be required of students and staff within 10 days of reaching the threshold for wearing masks. George Arlotto Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent accepted the recommendation.
The school system stressed that this was not a mandate, just a recommendation, but last week Haire sent a text message to his campaign followers saying, “Do you believe – Steuart Pittman wants to force masks on children again.”
The message was accompanied by a graphic saying, “No more mandates.”
Haire, who announced his candidacy for regional executive last June, argued that not using the word mandate does not do so, arguing that alternatives to masking and spreading the virus could lead to a return to virtual classes, Haire believes. a punishment.
“Pittman and Dr. Kalyanaraman will come to the Council [of Education] and to say you have to make a mask or maybe you should switch to virtual learning or the school will close, ”said Haire, who has replaced Edgewater County Council since 2018.“ Maybe Pittmani doesn’t like what I had to say, but there it is. there was nothing real about it. ‘
The Pittman campaign responded with a campaign bulletin on Thursday that the mask recommendation was not an order and criticized Hair’s campaign for spreading false information.
“What stands out about the paid Haire text alert is that it knows it’s fake. He knows that I have no authority in this school, and that I have not made such a threat, ”read Pittman’s bulletin. “We need to defend our region by spreading facts when politicians try to misinform.”
Haire’s clash with Pittman is the first of many high-tension campaign moments ahead of the July 19 primary.
Haire’s turn on Pittman’s masquerade may be a political ploy to establish his identity among county voters and mobilize his parents to go to the polls, said Dan Nataf, a political science professor at Anne Arundel Community College.
“I think there are probably a lot of people who don’t know him,” Nataf said. “He still needs issues to campaign for.”
Hare’s main Republican opponents include local businessman Chris Jahn, former state representative Herb McMillan, former Councilman John Grasso and Pasadena engineer Fernando Berra.
Jahn said masquerading as a school is decided by the school board without the influence of the county executive. If elected, however, he said he would work with the health officer on recommendations, not mandates.
“I don’t want to replace anyone when I take office,” Jahn said. “That said, I have a few things I want to achieve, and if these people can’t work with my agenda, we’re going to have to leave.”
McMillan, who has been critical of the Pittman, Kalyanaraman and school system since the pandemic began, said masquerading in schools should be an individualized decision, left to the parents of each child.
“I think Jessica, honestly, is a little late to the party on this issue and that’s probably a reason to do that,” McMillan said. “I think most of the time when a teacher recommends something a child will think it’s something that needs to be done. That’s the decision of the parents, not the school council. “
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If the health care provider has a parenting suggestion, the school board should be excluded, McMillan said, and the health care provider should talk directly to the parents through other means, such as writing an editorial in the newspaper.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Pittman in the Nov. 8 general election.
School closures, masquerades, and other issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are sensitive issues for voters, and especially those of parents, Nataf said. Many Republican candidates across the country are targeting voters who feel silent about their children’s education and health issues.
“Suburban swing voters may be, but it will be something that will win over parents who are hesitant to return a mandate or mandatory mask in schools,” he said.
Nataf agrees with the findings of a biennial political survey in Anne Arundel County that the virus has become a lower priority for voters since last fall, while the education and school environment have become more of a problem.
Haire’s attacks and Pittman’s response set the tone for the upcoming election, which will require candidates to acknowledge the pandemic and the issues that have arisen, without going into too much detail and excluding voters who may be tired of talking about it, Nataf said. .