Wages looks to seek common ground, be a defender as delegate

·3 min read

Sep. 23—Editor's note: The Frederick News-Post is profiling candidates in Frederick County's state legislative races and for Maryland's 6th Congressional District in the Nov. 8 general election. For profiles of candidates for county offices and other election coverage, go to fredericknewspost.com/news/continuing_coverage/election_coverage.

Justin Wages knows that being a Republican in the Maryland House of Delegates wouldn't be easy.

The recent University of Maryland graduate and Republican House candidate from District 3 knows he would be in the minority if he wins a seat in the November election.

So, he sees himself seeking to find common ground with his Democratic colleagues when possible, while still working for the conservative values he believes in.

"A lot of the work for Republicans in the state legislature is defensive," Wages said. "Being able to come up with common sense amendments to bills that have been proposed and are being voted on is a big part of the game on the Republican side."

Republicans can't get things accomplished in Annapolis unless they work with Democrats, he said.

"And I think that's where it comes to making relationships on the other side of the aisle, being able to have conversations."

Running on issues including lowering taxes, fighting the opioid epidemic, ending COVID-19 mandates, and preventing crime, Wages knows he wouldn't always see eye to eye with other delegates.

But he thinks there are lots of areas where he could work with Democrats.

"It's always great to be able to work together for the common good," he said. "Obviously, Republicans have their values that they're not going to back away from, and Democrats have their values that they're not going to back away from. But in the middle, there's plenty of subjects and plenty of topics that can be approached from both sides amicably."

Wages is one of two Republicans running for three District 3 seats in the Nov. 8 election, along with Kathy Diener. Democrats Kris Fair, Karen Simpson and incumbent Ken Kerr are also running.

Wages graduated from Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in 2017. He said running for office in the place where he grew up has been "kind of a surreal experience."

Campaigning this week at The Great Frederick Fair, he's run into former classmates and some of his old teachers.

Running in a district that contains big pieces of the city of Frederick, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1, is a challenge for Republicans, he said.

But he tells himself that he doesn't need to beat all three Democrats, but just capture enough votes to win one of the three seats.

Wages' website includes an endorsement from Dan Cox, the delegate and Republican gubernatorial nominee who Wages supported in the Republican primary.

"I've known Dan for a long time. He's a personal friend of mine. ... When I filed, he reached out and let me know what to expect," Wages said. "He kind of braced me for what to expect if I do get elected and how things go."

Wages said his top three issues are lowering taxes and fees, crime, and fighting the opioid crisis.

But as a delegate, he said, he would also work to end COVID-19 mandates and states of emergency, and push for COVID-19 rules to be handled by local governments rather than at the state level.

As a conservative, he believes that "a small government holds the interests of the people closer to their heart," he said.

That's especially important with something like COVID-19 restrictions, where local officials better know the conditions in their own community, he said.

"Obviously, the local government has the control to make that decision, but they need to take the input from their constituents," he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP