Montgomery County is quite fortunate to have a collection of outstanding political figures. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett was scheduled to serve as the guest speaker for the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County luncheon on May 18th, but had to cancel. Who steps in? None other than senatorial candidate, Chris Van Hollen.
The closest analogy I can come up with is Cate Blanchette having to drop out of a role only to be replaced by Meryl Streep.
I was fortunate to be able to attend and I was not let down; the talk was, as expected, extremely informative. The Congressman’s focus was on the upcoming elections this November and the need to not take anything for granted. As blue a state as is Maryland, Congressman Van Hollen reminded the attendees that the greatest election upset of 2014 occurred right here in Maryland with the election of a Republican governor.
Congressman Van Hollen emphasized, from a national perspective, the need to take back the Senate majority if there is any hope of ever cracking the wall of obstructionism. The controversy surrounding the selection of a Supreme Court Justice to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the bench is one example. The message: with all of the 5 to 4 decisions that have come out of the Robert’s court and the impact that those decisions had and have on our country, it is critical that we keep the White House and take back the Senate. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the court allowing elections to be won by limiting the number of voters is just one example. Another example the Congressman gave was the horrific Citizens United case which opened the floodgates for a glut of big money campaign donations.
He pointed to several Senate seats that could easily turn Democrat: Tammy Duckworth is strong in Illinois as is Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Katy McGinty in Pennsylvania and Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona to name just a few examples. With the current 54 to 46 Republican lead in the Senate, four is all that would be needed as long as we keep the White House. Former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is a strong possibility in Wisconsin, former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland the same in Ohio and Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy is a strong candidate in Florida. Four or more out of these seven alone would give the Democrats back the Senate.
As for the Maryland Senate race, although Maryland Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, as mentioned with the victory of Larry Hogan as governor, no race can be taken lightly. Republican candidate Kathy Szeliga likes to describe herself as a Republican Barbara Mikulski. As Congressman Van Hollen pointed out, however, you can’t, as is the case with Ms. Szeliga, be against raising the minimum wage, oppose LGBT rights, limit a woman’s right to choose, be against earned paid sick leave, and oppose restrictions on firearms on campus and compare yourself to Senator Barbara Mikulski.
As a close observer of the recent Democratic Senate primary, I will also add that Ms. Szeliga is following a failed strategy when she keeps emphasizing the need to prevent sending an all male contingent to Congress. As Congresswoman Donna Edwards found out in her failed attempt to win on that message, records matter to voters. Although more diversity in Congress is clearly needed, the records of the candidates are much more important to voters than simply the gender of that individual in determining the level of support of women’s issues that can be expected of the candidate. There was a reason why Chris Van Hollen received the endorsements of just about every major women’s group in his contest with Ms. Edwards and that reason was his record.
Regarding the upcoming general election for Senate, the good news is that voter turnout has drastically improved from the record low 20 percent in 2014 to 40 percent during the primaries this past April. As we all know, when Democrats vote, Democrats win.
So, you ask, what needs to be done? According to Congressman Van Hollen, getting out the vote is the single most important effort in determining the upcoming elections.
In his own primary victory, he pointed out that, although he won by 52 percent to 39 percent over Ms. Edwards, that still leaves nine percent of Democratic voters who voted for neither. His hope is to gain all Democratic votes come November. Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore seem to be the locations that may provide the greatest Republican threat and outreach to those locations is a must.
He explained that we must also attract independent voters and Democrats who voted Republican in 2014. There surely is work to be done.
As for the presidential race, Congressman Van Hollen strongly supports the candidacy of Secretary Clinton and the importance of all Democrats coming together to ensure that the demagogue, Donald Trump, does not get elected by dividing America along religious, ethnic, racial, and economic lines.
I think the best way to close this piece is to repeat the phrase used by the Congressman throughout his campaign which goes something like this: The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers, but most of all we need dreamers who do!
As someone who has followed Chris Van Hollen’s career and supported his Congressional agenda any way I could, I must say that one of the proudest achievements of the state of Maryland may very well be producing a candidate of the quality and stature of Chris Van Hollen. He is, indeed, a “dreamer who does!”