Sitting in the kitchen of his Bel Air home, Terry Hanley speaks in earnest as he describes his views on Harford County politics. It’s a proto-stump speech laden with enthusiasm, aimed at a moderate Republican base, and one he’ll deliver many more times after he entered the race for the county council’s District C seat on Friday.
Hanley, 45, will face off against incumbent “Captain” Jim McMahan in September’s primary election. He announced his candidacy in front of the county courthouse in Bel Air Friday afternoon, shortly after County Executive David Craig joined with former Governor Robert Ehrlich to open their joint Harford campaign headquarters on Main Street.
The night before his announcement, Hanley spoke with The Dagger, providing a glimpse of what will likely be his pitch to voters, casting himself both as an everyman and his own man, and defending his decision to seek a council seat. In recent months, Hanley’s name has been bandied about as a possible candidate for several positions, but he said he believes a county legislative job is the best choice.
“The fact is that I’m a local guy, and county council fit me best, and fit my family best,” said Hanley, who has served as a town commissioner since 2003. “It just felt like this is kind of positive work that shows what you can get done, with a phone call, with an e-mail.”
Hanley said his agenda is centered around the core Republican issues of reducing government spending and supporting local business efforts while preparing the county to take full advantage of the Army’s BRAC effort before its September 2011 deadline.
While private businesses and citizens have been pummeled by the deep economic recession of the last few years, Hanley said he believes government has yet to feel those effects, and is still riding a “gravy train” left over from the housing bubble. However, he said he believes that will end soon, requiring a sharp reduction in government spending.
“This county needs to concentrate on the private sector more than ever, government needs to get out of the way,” Hanley said. “You can’t get a job from a poor man.”
To be elected, Hanley will have to follow in the footsteps of and defeat McMahan, who was elected to the District C seat in 2006 after four years as town commissioner. The district includes a portion of central Harford County including the Town of Bel Air.
Hanley said there were several races he could have jumped into, but chose District C to stay involved in Harford County, not to defeat McMahan.
“I’m running for the job,” he said. “Numerous people said, ‘well, you’re running against Captain Jim.’ I’m not running against him, I’m running for the job.”
“For the last year and a half, I’ve had people say I should do this, or I should do that, and I’ve had a lot of options,” he said.
And some of those weighing his options may not have been members of his own party. Hanley claims he was approached by Democratic operatives who offered to back his candidacy for higher office if he’d switch parties.
“I’ve been approached by Democrats, they said ‘switch parties, we’ll put you up as county executive,’” he said. “I said, I can’t do it, these are my core values, I can’t switch platforms.”
But Hanley said he would also keep members of his own party at arm’s length during the election.
“You see a lot of guys doing these alliances, and quite honestly I’m running my own race,” he said. “There are a lot of good people out there, they’ll get my vote, but I’m not walking down the street with [their] banners.”
Hanley’s decision to run for higher office comes after two handpicked candidates, Gregory Adolph and Ricky Davis, were unsuccessful in their bids to unseat incumbent town commissioners David Carey and Robert Preston in last fall’s election. Hanley admits that he “hung it out there a little bit” in his backing of the two challengers, but said his intentions were not just to bring them on the board to vote for him as commissioner chairman, a position that carried the honorary title of “mayor.”
“Everyone thought that was about me being mayor, that was about me having enough votes to stop the expansion of town hall,” he said. “Last time I checked, not one single family hasn’t had to cut back.”
At several points, Hanley spoke strongly about his passion for politics. Despite referring to himself several times as “a local guy,” he said an eventual run at a state-level elected office was in his future, but paused when asked how high up his ambitions ran.
“We’ll see where the ride takes me,” he said.