Meet the Republican candidates for Maryland governor: Robin Ficker


Robin Ficker is one of the Republican candidates running in the primary for Maryland governor July 19. Read the WTOP interview.

This interview is part of a series of interviews with the Democratic and Republican candidates for Maryland governor in 2022. In these interviews, WTOP asked all the candidates the same or similar questions on education, public safety and crime, jobs and the economy, and transportation. The Maryland primary is July 19.

Republican candidate Robin Ficker (Courtesy Robin Ficker)

The candidate: Robin Ficker

Running mate: LeRoy F. Yegge, Jr.

Website: CutMDSalesTax2Cents.com

In the past decade, Robin Ficker, a former one-term state delegate, has lost his fair share of races: He twice ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. House Seat and a state Senate seat, and lost the 2018 race for county executive of Montgomery County.

When it comes to ballot measures, it’s a different story.

“I’ve essentially been serving as governor in many ways, because I have placed — and this is a Maryland record — 25 ballot measures on the ballot in Maryland’s largest county, collecting 18,000 signatures for each,” he says. All told, the measures — many of them anti-tax proposals — have received more than 2.5 million votes.

In his current bid for governor, Ficker is running on a proposal to cut the state sales tax by 2 cents, which he says will equate to an extra $780 a year in the pockets of Marylanders.

Regarding his recent disbarment relating to his work as an attorney, Ficker chalks it up to having “rubbed a couple of judges the wrong way.” He adds, “I’m prepared to represent the people of Maryland in a way that is going to make them prosperous.”

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.


Education

WTOP: As kids have gone back to school this year, there are concerns about everything from mental health, learning, loss, budgeting. And, of course, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is now a part of the education landscape. The next governor is going to have to implement that. What would you do to see that those dollars are well spent and that the blueprint is successful?

Robin Ficker: Well, the first thing I’m going to do is cut the state sales tax 2 cents, by one-third — giving every Marylander a personal family fiscal stimulus of $780 a year. And then that will act as a lure to bring in the big businesses, all of which — every single one of which — is shunning Maryland. Once we bring them in, there’ll be plenty of money to pay for whatever educational blueprint we desire.

WTOP: OK and in the blueprint, what are some of the issues that you feel most strongly about?

Ficker: One issue I feel most strongly about is that it’s not being said how we’re going to pay for the blueprint. It seems as though they want to pass property tax increases along to all the local jurisdictions. And as you know, I was successful in Montgomery County in getting a limit on property taxes passed over the opposition of every elected official, which limited increases in property tax revenue to the rate of inflation. But now the blueprint wants far more than that, and people are already having trouble paying their gas bills, their rent, their mortgages — we don’t need tax increases.

… We’re not going to shut down the schools in Maryland, I can tell you that. I was the only speaker at the July 2020 Open Maryland rally to call for opening the schools fully in September of 2020. Instead, what happened? Maryland ended up with the lowest percentage of students of any state in the union in actual physical school.

… It can be parental choice as to whether or not kids should have to wear masks. But if you want to give a small child a mental concern, the best way to do it is to not let him or her associate with other kids, keep many of them home alone, and then make them wear a big piece of cloth over their face eight hours a day so they can’t breathe properly. We’re not going to go along with these mandates. If some parents want to have their little kids wearing masks, that’s up to them. But it’s going to be personal choice. We’re not shutting down the schools. It’s going to be in-person learning, not virtual.



Public safety

WTOP: We’re seeing police accountability boards that are going into effect because of a state law that requires each jurisdiction to do so. What are your concerns with those boards, how they’re being implemented? And what are your thoughts on the need to balance police accountability with also the need to attract and retain police in the county?

Ficker: Well, you know, it’s the governor’s job to see that people are safe. And we want police that are doing that. We’ve had a tremendous surge of fentanyl across our southern border, coming in unchecked. And as a result, fentanyl is the No. 1 cause of death for people between 18 and 45. Don’t bring your fentanyl into Maryland when Robin is governor, I will tell you that. The police should be Officer Friendly, treat the constituents as they would their brother or sister. But, of course, if a criminal is going to act violently, we’re not going to put up with that. And if you want to act violently — go out into the boxing ring or go and play football. But don’t bring a gun with you and try to hold up an innocent person.

WTOP: And what about recruitment and retention? There are concerns that policing looks like a less attractive field to many people, or that police who are in and eligible for retirement may be slated to retire early just because of the current climate.

Ficker: I don’t know why anyone would like to retire early except maybe if they’re earning a full salary and a second job, in addition to “retirement.” I think we ought to make the jobs enjoyable. We ought to give them adequate pay to be able to live in the county where they’re working, and we ought to be friendly to the police as they should be to the constituents.

Jobs, economy, transportation

WTOP: I think you hit this at the top, but I’ll ask you about it: You know, people are concerned about inflation, housing costs, even apartment prices are very high relative to people’s salaries. What would you do about that?

Ficker: Well, I’m the only candidate for governor in either party that’s going to have a job strike force that will be in the air within one hour to go out to these multibillion dollar companies that are having multibillion-dollar expansions except they’re all in other states. They’re not in Maryland.

Just this morning, I saw that Hyundai is having a $7 billion EV battery plant built in Georgia. Why not Maryland? I know that Toyota is building a multibillion-dollar car battery plant in North Carolina. Why not Maryland? Amazon moved to Northern Virginia. Boeing just recently moved in Northern Virginia. Why not Maryland? … Apple just decided to build a billion-dollar campus in North Carolina. Google is spending $9.5 billion in capital improvements in 2022. Not one dollar in Maryland.

Maryland’s Department of Commerce has been asleep. They haven’t been doing their job. And that’s going to change when Robin is governor. Our job strike force is going to bring in these jobs. We’re going to go out and talk with these companies that are paying very well but which are shunning Maryland. Each one of these multibillion-dollar companies — Microsoft, Nucor Steel, Samsung, Taiwan Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Toyota, Global Foundries, Amazon, Apple, Facebook — they’re all shunning Maryland. They’re not located here. Maryland is not a business-friendly state. But with Robin, we’re going to be very friendly and we’re going to cut that sales tax to act as a lure. No state has ever cut its sales tax before.

WTOP: Governor Hogan has that plan for adding what they call about the managed tolls along I-270 and I-495, redoing the American Legion Bridge. I think everyone recognizes there’s a bottleneck there. What are your thoughts on that plan? And what would you do about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge?

Ficker: Well, I’m going to make sure that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is expanded, that the capacity is improved very, very quickly, because I’m the only candidate who spent the last two summers … on the boardwalk in Ocean City meeting more than 50,000 voters there so far. And I know that people are coming from Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, New Jersey — they’re all coming to Ocean City to spend money that benefits Marylanders. We have to make sure people can get to Ocean City. It’s the second-largest city in Maryland in the summertime.

Now, as for 270, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these officials in Montgomery County decide to start issuing parking tickets to people driving on 270 and the Beltway, because we’re not moving. The road in the northern sections of 270 is the same as it was when I graduated from high school. Come on! We’ve got to improve these roads. Urbana has tripled in size and there’s been no road improvement. Clarksburg has been built — no road improvement. They put a big mall there on I-270. We needed to improve I-270, have some reversible lanes, 20 years ago — certainly today.

WTOP: And so it sounds like you want to widen from, say, Urbana 109 up to Frederick.

Ficker: I want to widen from Georgetown up to Frederick; certainly we have to do that. We need to have reversible lanes. We’ve got to get Maryland moving. The reason these big companies aren’t locating here is because we’re in gridlock. And you know, we need to improve the roads, because people in their cars have freedom to travel that people on mass transit don’t. People in their cars can go anywhere they want; they can go any time they want. So we need to make sure that our roads are improved, and that hasn’t been done.

WTOP: Would those improvements include that tolling?

Ficker: Well, you know, tolls are not my goal, OK? And I fought the high tolls on the Inter-County Connector, which many people didn’t want built and which every day I’m thankful that that road was built because I use it. But we need to keep tolls at an absolute minimum if we’re going to have tolls. But keep in mind that Maryland had the largest gas tax increase in U.S. history in 2013. And we should be using that money to improve our roads, including 495 and 270. It’s incredible to me that some of these officials don’t want to improve the Beltway. Evidently, they’re not driving on it. But people who are, are really upset by the time they get home, because after working all day, they’re in gridlock for a few hours — and then they get indigestion when they come home for supper.

WTOP: Back to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. There are these plans, for example, right now the EIS, the Environmental Impact Statement. They got a green light on going forward with a plan to add another span alongside the current one. What do you see as the solution there?

Ficker: Something should be done right away. We’re not going to be sitting around in Annapolis wondering what should be done. The environmental impact of the Bay Bridge has been studied forever. We know what the environmental impact is. We must widen that environmental transitway … We must widen it. We’ve got to include more lanes so that people aren’t backed up for two, three hours in the steaming heat, backed up all the way to Annapolis, or backed all the way back to Grasonville. Come on! … Get off it, Maryland, and get this bridge built. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an additional bridge or whether we widen what we have — but get off it and get it done.

Background

WTOP: What in your background makes you the candidate of choice for people to serve as governor?

Ficker: Well, you know, I’ve essentially been serving as governor in many ways, because I have placed — and this is a Maryland record — 25 ballot measures on the ballot in Maryland’s largest county, collecting 18,000 signatures for each. They’ve received 2,537,000 votes, which is more votes than Larry Hogan and Ben Jealous got put together. We imposed term limits; we limited property tax increases; and we kept garbage dumps and sewage sludge trenching out of residential zones. So I have done it. I’ve gotten matters passed with all Democratic opposition, although I can work with the Democrats and disagree without being disagreeable.

WTOP: Last question; I have to ask you about it: Recently, you were disbarred. What should a voter make of that?

Ficker: Look, I’ve completed 40,000 cases; overturned four state laws in federal court, laws that were passed unconstitutionally. And, you know, my clients love me. I rubbed a couple of judges the wrong way. But they’re opposed to defense attorneys anyway, because we’re battling them every day. I’m prepared to represent the people of Maryland in a way that is going to make them prosperous. It’s going to bring in jobs, and it’s going to reach the jobs that no one else has been able to bring in. Our Maryland Department of Commerce has been asleep. No jobs are coming in here, and we need to get our state moving by improving the transportation.

Interview by Kate Ryan; edited by Jack Moore



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