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The Charles County Republican Central Committee kicked off what it hopes will be a series of fundraisers featuring candidates for office Friday with a mixer at Port Tobacco Restaurant featuring Del. Ron George, who earlier this month announced he was making a run for governor in 2014.

A two-term lawmaker and small business owner, George (R-Anne Arundel) boasts a platform centered on economic growth. If elected, he said he would push to cut taxes, conduct independent audits of state agencies and increase the state’s tax base, particularly in Baltimore.

His campaign announced last week that George had signed a pledge to not raise taxes if elected governor.

“I want jobs for people,” George said. “I want to create a good economy that grows the tax base. … My theme is to build a new Maryland.”

A jeweler and goldsmith by trade, George grew up in Central Maryland and started a jewelry repair business in 1986 before opening Ron George Jewelers in Annapolis in 1991.

George opened a second store in Severna Park in 2007, the same year he and his wife bought and restored The State House Inn in Annapolis.

“I have a life. I didn’t aspire into this,” he said, adding that he first entered politics when business owners started asking him to testify on issues in Annapolis. The commute wasn’t bad — his downtown jewelry store sits a block away from the State House.

A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which considers all tax legislation, George describes himself as the committee’s “go-to person” on small business issues.

George was critical of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for creating an environment hostile to business — he said the state has three remaining Fortune 500 companies, compared to 13 prior to O’Malley’s election in 2006. George argued that Maryland charities have lost out on a lot of donation dollars from wealthy residents who have fled the state.

“Right from the beginning, his policies have been hurting and attacking small businesses,” George said. “Our economy is not growing. Old people can’t retire here. Young people can’t afford to live here.”

George holds the distinction of accruing the most votes in his three-member district during the 2010 election, besting even House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). When lawmakers redrew the state’s legislative boundaries last year, George was set outside of Busch’s district.

“I told the paper I’ll still represent him as governor,” George said.

George said his new district is safely conservative, which only makes his decision to run for governor easier given that his replacement in the House will in all likelihood be a Republican.

“Don’t believe a Republican can’t get anything done,” George said. “People think the enemy is the Democratic Party. It’s not. It’s apathy.”

He added that in a legislature controlled by Democrats, it is important for Republicans to not be ambitious. George said Democratic lawmakers will kill Republican legislation that they like, only to then introduce and pass a near-identical version with their own names on it. He added that it’s happened to him several times, and said he still would testify in favor of the bills if he supported them.

“It doesn’t matter if your name is on the bill or not. I don’t care,” George said.

When George asked if there were any fellow candidates in the audience, Hughesville resident Matt Morgan raised his hand. Morgan again will campaign to unseat Del. John F. Wood Jr. (D-St. Mary’s) after falling short by fewer than 300 votes in 2010.

George called Wood “a good man” who “can’t really do much” as a conservative Democrat who won’t “follow orders” in a liberal legislature.

George advocated tax cuts over tax credits, claiming that the latter is the Democrats’ way “to make you dependent.”

“You play their game, and you get a tax credit,” George said. “They’re picking winners and losers.”

He also estimated that independent audits would lead to the discovery of “conservatively” $2 billion in waste.

George even floated the idea of $4,000 state-funded scholarships for students who pass private school entrance exams. He said the measure would reduce classroom sizes and save the state $6,000 off the nearly $13,900 price tag attached to each public school student, with the remaining $3,900 going toward pay raises for public school teachers.

George also said he supports legislation that would deny public officials convicted of a felony a pension and retirement benefits.

Having already made a few trips to Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, George said, “I’ve got some ground to make up down here.”

“You’re going to see me around quite a bit,” he said. “We’re running this race right now as if there’s two weeks left. That’s how I operate: nonstop.”

Waldorf businessman and Maryland GOP 1st Vice Chairman Collins Bailey attended the mixer and seemed impressed by what George had to say.

“Some of the things he said, I thought, were focused and appropriate for our state,” Bailey said. “He seems to have a good grip of the facts.”

jnewman@somdnews.com