EASTON — The field for the District 37B House of Delegates 2014 general election race got a little more crowded this week.
Two candidates have just entered the district race — Dorchester Economic Development Director Keasha Haythe and southern Eastern Shore cardiologist Rene Desmarais. District 37B covers Talbot, Dorchester and parts of Caroline and Wicomico counties.
Haythe, who has been the economic development director in Dorchester County for the past five years, decided to run following the current district representative for Talbot County Del. Jeannie Haddaway’s bid for lieutenant governor. Haythe said she ran for Talbot County Council in 2010, and has held a continuing interest in public service.
“I believe that this would be a continuation of what I currently do now. Working for government, you’re basically a public servant already, so this would certainly broaden that approach and broaden what I’m doing right now — to represent more of a regional area and help the Eastern Shore on a more regional level,” Haythe said.
Haythe is currently the only Democratic candidate in the 37B race. She’s running on a platform of education, economic development and the environment.
“As an economic development professional for more than 12 years, I know how critical business growth and retention is to our economic success,” Haythe said. “I am dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small (business) owners and will be an advocate for and the voice of business and industry in Annapolis.”
Haythe stated that she pledges to work with traditional industries, like manufacturing, farming and fishing, to get policies and programs that make economic sense for the Shore.
She also said education and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand, and that she’s committed to supporting funding for programs that provide students with clear pathways in business and industry through technical training or college preparation, because “having a strong, prepared workforce is critical for individual and business growth on the Eastern Shore.”
Haythe, 40, is a Talbot County native who lives in Easton with her husband Marcus and three kids, Marcus Jr., who serves in the U.S. Army, Miniah and Isaiah.
Also, Haythe is the granddaughter of an Eastern Shore waterman, and said that there must be a balance of policies that promote environmental stewardship, but don’t threaten the Eastern Shore way of life.
“I am committed to tackling environmental restoration by supporting our farmers and watermen. From oyster farming to value added crops, we can and must put them at the top of our food chain,” she said.
Haythe plans to host listening sessions in each 37B county to hear concerns and discuss her Eastern Shore agenda, which she said she is planning to start after the first of the year. Those who wish to attend can keep an eye on her website, www.keashahaythe.com, for more information to come soon.
If elected, Haythe would be the first female African-American representative for District 37B. Apart from her position as economic development director, she attends college part time, holds a Certified Economic Development Developer designation and has a professional certification of mastery in economic development skills and principles.
Desmarais, 52, said health care in Maryland is at a crossroads, switching from “fee for service” to a “population health management” oriented health care system.
“Over the course of the 20 years that I’ve been practicing medicine, I just think that our health care system can do better for patients,” Desmarais said.
He said right now, the system is fee for service, in that physicians get paid individually for each service performed, like blood work or a checkup.
However, there’s not an alignment of incentives in that system, he said, since doctors can make more money by keeping their patients sick.
Population health management is a system in which doctors manage the whole population and work to keep it healthy, which Desmarais said would increase the value in health care.
But Desmarais said Maryland’s health care system isn’t ready to move there yet.
“We have not laid the foundation to move from fee for service to population health management, and one of the pieces of that foundation is improving health literacy and numeracy,” he said.
He said that without improving health literacy and numeracy, it’s like “trying to jump in the swimming pool before it’s full.”
According to Desmarais, health literacy is how well people are able to understand their medical peers and oral and written instructions for dealing with their ailments. Health numeracy, he said, is similar to health literacy, but refers to when people have to deal with numbers, whether for diabetes or heart issues or “something as simple as taking your pills.”
Desmarais also said Maryland’s health care system efficiency needs to be improved, and that this, along with improving literacy and numeracy, aren’t expensive things to do.
He also said that there aren’t enough physicians in the Maryland General Assembly, and there needs to be better balance of physicians when making health care policy changes.
Plus, since he’s trained in biology and science as a physician, he said he can provide some of the analytic scientific thinking that is necessary when tackling issues like phosphorus management, since policy-making related to phosphorus management is often heavily involved with scientific data.
“When we do things inside of hospitals, inside of doctor’s offices, to make effective policy changes, you have to have a multi-disciplinary approach — people from many different points of view to (not only) come up with solutions and put things into consideration, but get a consensus,” Desmarais said.
“Over the next five years, Maryland has a real great opportunity. If we can get health care policy right here, it can be a template for the rest of the country. I feel that the stakes are really high, not just for our state, but for the rest of the country, and we need balance so that we don’t miss on this opportunity.”
Also, with working in private practice, Desmarais said he understands what business owners are going through in the state.
Desmarais lives in Salisbury with his wife, Cairy, and they have three daughters together, Charlotte, Betsy and Aline. Aside from being in private practice as a cardiologist, Desmarais founded the American Health Care Workers Association and co-wrote a book called “The Coumadin Cookbook” to help those who take Coumadin better manage their diet. He said his website, www.renedesmarais.com, will be up and running soon.
Desmarais is running as a Republican in District 37B. The other three Republican candidates are Del. Addie Eckardt, who is a current representative of the district from Dorchester County, Talbot County native Johnny Mautz and Wicomico County resident Christopher Adams.