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Nonprofit responds to robocall claiming affiliation with group

Del. Rick Impallaria (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Del. Rick Impallaria (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

The National Center for Transgender Equality was surprised this week to learn a robocall was sent to Baltimore and Harford county voters claiming to be from the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit last year.

A former top aide for Del. Richard K. Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford, was charged Thursday by the Office of the State Prosecutor with disseminating the call the day before the primary election last year without including an authority line.

Tyler Walch, who is no longer with the legislature, faces up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine for the alleged violation of election laws.

The robocall asked more than 9,000 voters to support Impallaria’s fellow Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga in the primary and praised her support for the rights of transgender individuals.

Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the NCTE, said Friday no one with the organization was contacted by Impallaria or his campaign in connection with the call.

“It is outrageous to hear the Delegate has so little faith in the support of his own constituents that he felt he could use transgender people as a political weapon,” Branstetter said. “Since it clearly did not help his campaign, the people of Maryland have proven they know better than to fall for such a cynical ploy.”

According to the charging document, Walch communicated the contents of the call to Impallaria before it was disseminated.

Impallaria denied any knowledge about the call Thursday and said he never approved or paid for it.

“It had nothing to do with me,” he said.

The call, which was transcribed in charging documents, said: “Hi this is Ali, a donor to the National Center for Transgender Equality calling to ask you to support Delegate Kathy Szeliga in tomorrow’s Republican Primary Election. Kathy Szeliga is a true friend of the Transgender Community having voted for House Bill 1003 making it illegal to discriminate against Transgendered persons in the workplace. With the support of lawmakers willing to work across the aisle like Kathy Szeliga, Transgenders will soon be able to use the bathrooms of their choice. Again this Ali calling to ask you to support Kathy Szeliga, a friend of the transgender community. Thank you!”

According to the NCTE website, “transgender” is an adjective and its use as a noun is “often viewed as disrespectful.”

Szeliga obtained the most votes in the June primary, 7,127, and Impallaria received 4,494. Along with Lauren Arikan, they were on the November ballot where they were elected to the three seats in House of Delegates District 7.

In a statement Thursday, Szeliga said “willfully and knowingly misleading voters is shameful and wrong” and called the content of the call “insulting to voters and incredibly divisive.”

The bill referenced was a 2016 measure providing equal pay for equal work and prohibited discrimination based on gender. Szeliga did not vote favorably when the bill was in the House but voted for it after it was amended in the Senate.

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