April 26 Primary: How important is it?

Candid Commentary from Takoma Park Councilmember Fred Schultz 

How important is this primary election?  Who should I vote for?

The answer to the first question is VERY. 

The importance of this upcoming primary for Takoma Park residents lies in the choice we make for our next U.S. Senator and our Congressman for the 8th Congressional District.

By now you have received your sample ballot and voting instructions in the mail. You will see 10 candidates listed for Maryland’s Senate seat and 9 for the House. 

I am offering my guidance as to who to vote for. Why me?

Having served for over 6 years on the Takoma Park City Council, I’ve met a lot of elected people and those running for office. Some I’ve gotten to know well enough that I trust my judgment as to their strength, character and ability. Of others I have learned of their reputation partly from those whose judgement I value. Through observation and off-the-record conversations in the world of Maryland politics, one gleans a lot about who is effective and not effective, who shows up, who follows through, who is admired and respected.

Because the April 26 primary is so important, I want to share my views on who I endorse and why.

Senate Race

I have endorsed Chris Van Hollen and strongly support his candidacy. Donna Edwards is the other highly competitive candidate. Aside from many good qualities, Chris is best known for his effectiveness in getting things done in Congress and for his responsiveness on constituent services. Chris returns my calls and emails and he’s followed through on stuff I’ve asked for his help with; most recently on problems with the US Postal Service. This matters!

Chris is a guy who is the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. He chaired the Democratic National Campaign Committee. He is a frequent guest on TV political shows. He’s represented us in Congress since 2003 and is recognized as someone who reaches “across the aisle” to get legislation approved. 

Even though Chris Van Hollen is a national figure, none of this has gone to his head. He is very approachable. You don’t hear pontificating, political BS and ideological nonsense coming from him. He has tremendous upside as a leader in the Senate, not unlike Barbara Mikulski who is giving up her seat after 30 years.

I’ve never met Donna Edwards, to be fair. She campaigns on the prospect of being Maryland’s first Black women in the Senate. She hopes to pick up Barbara Mikulski’s mantle in the Senate. Mikulski was an effective, personable community leader and social worker in Baltimore when I lived and worked there as a community planner in the 1970s.

Ms. Edward’s supporters tout the importance of having a woman and Black person in the Senate because she would be an important symbol here and in the Senate. The Senate indeed needs to have more minorities and women, but I do not want to elect just a symbol, someone whose appearance stands for something. We do not need an ideologue who on principal resists reaching across the aisle. We need someone who can get things done. In Congress she has a limited record of accomplishment.

Ms. Edwards has a reputation of being aloof and ineffective in responding to constituents.  Most of her campaign money comes from the Emily’s List PAC, which apparently wants a woman above all else in the Senate. The PAC’s cash infusion has sustained her campaign. Nothing wrong with that of course, except for one peculiar thing. According to Mr. Van Hollen, he carries a 100% rating from Emily’s List.

House Race

I strongly support and have endorsed Jamie Raskin. If yard signs are any indication, Mr. Raskin will win by a landslide in Takoma Park. The 8th Congressional District, however, extends far from the D.C. line to the Pennsylvania line including much of Frederick County (not the city of Frederick) and a big chunk of Carroll County, rural areas that tend toward conservatism. These are communities where many of the candidates will be striving for name recognition.

This means it may be a very close race and it is really important to vote! 

There are several quality candidates in the Democratic primary: Will Jawando, Delegate Ana Sol Guiterrez,  and State Senator Kumar Barve. Jawando has experience as a Hill staffer, but has not held public office. Guiterrez and Barve have solid reputations as effective and experienced members of the General Assembly.

David Trone, whose advertising is everywhere, is simply an inadequate candidate to run for Congress. He asserts his politically liberal views, but as corporate executive there’s nothing in his background to demonstrate what he knows and why. Founders of big companies are used to handing down orders and  telling people what to do. It does not actually work that way in a legislature. It takes newcomers three or four year to learn the ropes. Believe me, I know these things.

Unlike most professions, we voters somehow place a premium on inexperience in a job as though somehow a virgin legislator is the answer to our prayers. I have a problem with superrich people who in midlife decide they want to become politically relevant. They tend to think that their private sector experience makes them supremely qualified to run for national political office. Because they are superrich they are used to buying anything they want. Mr. Trone intends to buy a seat in Congress and has spent a breathtaking $9.1 million doing so, so far. He says that the tactic of spending only his money and not soliciting funds from voters protects him from “special interests.” (Who are they anyway?). Actually what it does is insulate him from having to talk to voters, now and in the future. His attitude is, “Trust me.” (Where have we heard that before.) We do not need more “1%’ers” in Congress. Let’s not reward his wealth this way.

Kathleen Matthews, an admired former local TV news anchor has name recognition. Being married to MSNBC’s host of Hard Ball, Chris Matthews, is what really distinguishes her from scores of other smart, successful Potomac career women. Apparently for that and her job as public affairs exec at Marriott International, the Post has endorsed her. No doubt her familiarity with Washington’s A-level crowd is a big help to her campaign.

But like Trone, Mrs. Matthews is a political novitiate. Differently from Trone, she’s conflating being a Who’s Who personality and an observer of politicians in action with readiness to start at the top of the political heap. I love watching the Orioles and the Nats, but that doesn’t prepare me to stand in the way of a hard smash down the third base line. If she wants to be true to her ambitions, let her get involved at the Montgomery County level on the County Council or one of its many commissions and boards where she could make a big difference.

At this time in America’s national political stalemate we need a Jamie Raskin. He has a brilliant mind, has a wonderful way with words and is able to make plain sense out of complex issues. He speaks with a rare passion that connects to reality. If you know his parents’ stories, you will know that Jamie was born a progressive. As a constitutional law professor Jamie not only understands the fundamentals of our democracy, but understands how to draft law, make compromises and figure out how to get things done. After all, politics is the art of the possible. Jamie is a past master at it.

I believe Jamie Raskin has the chance to be a significant voice in the U.S. House of Representatives and to become a national leader on issues that matter to us. In this time of political loggerheads in Washington, I’m convinced we cannot afford to not elect Jamie.