Allegany County may be a long way from the state government in Annapolis, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t felt the effects of the legislature’s propensity for heavy-handed regulations, not to mention the numerous (and oftentimes creative) tax increases.
The remote county in Western Maryland has faced stagnant job creation and population decreases for decades. That’s why 22 year-old Jake Shade is hoping to bring his bold economic ideas to fruition as County Commissioner in Allegany County of Maryland.
“The state of Maryland has big issues,” Shade said in an exclusive video interview with Red Millennial. “Since Martin O’Malley has taken over, there’s been over 80 tax increases, our budget’s gone up over $8 billion, and we’re still running deficits. What that means for our county is that we’re going to get less aid.”
When it comes to Allegany County’s economic outlook, Shade doesn’t mince words.
“We have big challenges, and they’re not going to get better unless something changes. Allegany County is in a unique position, and I don’t think our assets are being put forth as they should.”
Shade is eager to discuss his “14 for 14” economic plan, which describes 14 specific strategies for encouraging job creation and economic development in Allegany County. He said that he showed the plan to local business owners, who were impressed.
“They really liked what they saw. They said ‘This is the most in-depth thing we’ve seen in years, ever, from the county. This is actually stuff that can get done.’ It’s small steps, but that’s where we have to start.”
He lists his priorities as cyber-security, bio-technology, and heavy manufacturing.
“I really want to focus on economic growth,” Shade said. “All of our problems stem from a lack of job growth which leads to a population decrease which leads to budget deficits.”
Something that isn’t in Shade’s platform is any sort of tax increase. In fact, one of Shade’s strategies involves specific tax cuts.
“People are taxed enough already from the federal level all the way down to your town,” he said.
Shade regards himself as a fiscal conservative. He is also a Republican and a recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Every other candidate who is running for county commissioner is at least twice Shade’s age, but he shrugs off questions about his youth, pointing out that a 17 year-old high school student recently won her primary in a West Virginia state legislator race.
“At least I’ve finished college,” Shade said, smiling. “She just graduated high school.”
“People are more interested in my ideas and what I can bring to the table,” said Shade. “I have worked in Annapolis, I have been involved, I am a member of the Republican Central Committee. I’m not just some college kid running. I have real ideas. It also helps when you have so many people supporting your campaign, both in and out of the business community.”
Shade possesses a firm grasp of local issues, even addressing recent budgetary battles between the county government and Board of Education, pointing out that it’s not the county’s fault that the board has seen a plateau in funding.
“Seventy percent of their funding comes from the state of Maryland. (The Board of Education) has lost out on $12 million because the state of Maryland can’t afford it, and the Democrats and Martin O’Malley decided they shouldn’t get as much money as they were allocated. So since 2010 they’ve been shorted $12 million.”
“They’re both members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which means they deal a lot with the budget and taxation,” Shade said. “It’s really important to know where every dollar goes, and making sure you’re being a good steward of taxpayer money.”
A recent study found that 47% of Maryland residents want to leave the state–the third-worst rate in the nation–but Shade says that those who believe in limited government should not give up nor concede the state to big government policies.
“Maryland is worth saving,” Shade said. “I think we should stay and fight for it, but it’s not going to be easy. The state of Maryland is sort of pulling us down with their regulatory and tax environment, but there are things locally we can do, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Among Shade’s highest priorities will be blocking any movement to introduce speed cameras to the county, calling it a tax “just for driving.”
“I think this is a personal liberty issue,” Shade said. “They are very arbitrary, but they’re very hard to disprove.”
Shade also said that speed cameras could pose a public safety risk, because drivers learn to slow down for the cameras but then accelerate again.
“We don’t want them here. We’re the type of small government folks that don’t want them in the county and want to keep them as far away as possible. I would urge the city of Cumberland, Frostburg, and municipalities to do the same.”
“That’s the biggest part about running, especially for local office,” said Shade. “People vote based on name recognition, and a big part of that is yard signs.”
Shade found an innovative way to distribute many of his yard signs. He invited his Facebook supporters to request a sign by simply “liking” a post. He was then able to find their addresses through the voter database.
“I don’t really like the campaigning that much,” Shade confesses, “but I do like the governing aspects and trying to find solutions.”
Shade has benefited from eager support among Millennial-age voters, and he is especially interested in fostering an economic environment that will be beneficial for his peers.
“It really doesn’t matter if you’re college-educated or you dropped out of high school. It’s everyone. Everyone is struggling.”
“We’ve seen younger people that would like to stay in Allegany County,” Shade continued. “There’s this misconception that everyone wants to leave as soon as they graduate high school. I think it’s self-fulfilling, because there’s not enough jobs, not enough opportunity.”
Shade’s economic plan contains a section on internships, citing the benefit to the employer.
“(Young people) have a new way of seeing things. They do things in a different way, often more efficiently.”
Shade says that Millennials face big challenges, especially in a shaky economy, but sees a generation that favors a change from big government policies, and that means a belief in limited government.
“When people see gay marriage has high support among young people, that doesn’t translate into collective bargaining support for unions or some other Democrat agenda,” Shade said. “They want the government off their backs, and they don’t want the government intruding in their business.”
He says his favorite political philosopher is John Locke, whose writings, many would argue, were largely responsible for the foundations of the American Constitution.
“All of our Western thought stems from these Enlightenment ideals, based on small government, which means individual liberty, the government being run by the people.”
After all, limited government is what our country was founded upon, Shade said.
“It was the first true democracy based on liberty and these constitutional underpinnings that had been created by the Enlightenment. It was something very unique at the time. It wasn’t based on a king or a ruling class; it was based on the everyman. I think that’s still alive today.”
Shade was also a delegate for Gov. Jon Huntsman in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.
“He’s someone that got a bad rap in 2012,” Shade said, citing Huntsman’s fiscal conservatism and foreign policy experience. He listed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as Republicans to watch for in 2016’s presidential race.
The next President should not follow the high profile example of the current officeholder, Shade indicated, but rather the model set by a President nicknamed “Silent Cal” or “Cool Cal.”
“The presidency was intended to be a low-key position,” said Shade. “That’s why I like Calvin Coolidge. He was able to cut taxes, balance the budget, and bring the government into the modern era by creating the Office of Management and Budget.”
“He’s not someone who had to be out there on the campaign trail all the time. He was more of a low-key administrator.”
Shade faces a tough primary on June 24, but he’s confident thanks to his big ideas, enthusiastic supporters, and hard work.
“People want someone who is going to do a good job and put their 110% into it, and I think that’s what they see when they see me.”