There is a new candidate debate or forum in CD8 just about every day, it seems. Most of the time, reporters like Bill Turque or Lou Peck come, they schmooze, they listen – and nothing happens that is worthy of commentary. Having been to at least a dozen myself, I can usually predict who’s going to say what. On Saturday, I was at two events: one on public safety and criminal justice issues sponsored by Safe Silver Spring, and one largely on immigration issues organized by the African community. No new ground was broken – the candidates largely stayed on message.
On Sunday, however, things broke from the usual script at an event in Frederick. Boy howdy, it got a little hot up in here. And of course, I wasn’t there to record it. Sigh.
But Bill Turque has now written about it, and his account reads like one of my blog posts (OK, one of the tamer ones, but hey, it’s the Post. They dont usually go for the Borscht Belt humor the way I do. What’s clear is that hackles and voices were raised, fur flew, gauntlets were flung in anger, etc.).
State Sen. Jamie Raskin was on the defensive early in Sunday’s League of Women Voters Debate at Hood College in Frederick, placed there by two opponents whose own polling shows them in close pursuit of the Maryland lawmaker for the 8th District Democratic Congressional nomination.
Under questioning by Washington Post senior regional correspondent Robert McCartney, Raskin’s rivals — wine retailer David Trone and former news anchor Kathleen Matthews — reiterated their opposition to the redrawn Congressional district boundaries that Raskin and another candidate, Del. Kumar Barve, voted for in 2011.
Matthews and Trone assailed the new map, which created an additional“safe” Democratic district, as the kind of blatant “gerrymandering” that has led to a polarization and partisan gridlock in Congress.
Trone called it “an abomination,” and scoffed at Raskin’s proposed solution — a regional reapportionment effort by Maryland and Virginia state legislators — as “silly” and “a waste of time and rhetoric.”
Matthews called the map “the result of an old boys network protecting themselves” and called for an independent national commission to address the issue.
Raskin said that his opponents “need to get real about this” and acknowledge that “every redistricting is gerrymandering” because the party in control of the state legislature has no incentive to act differently.
He then pushed back at Matthews and Trone for contributions to Republican lawmakers.
“Both of them have given thousands of dollars to right-wing Republicans who have participated in gerrymandering plans in their states,” Raskin said.
* * *
“I wonder if Kathleen would approach Sen. Roy Blunt, her friend from Missouri, the anti-choice, anti-birth control Republican, and ask whether he’s doing anything about gerrymandering in his state,” Raskin said, “And I wonder whether Mr. Trone would approach Gov. Abbott . . . to see whether he’s doing anything about gerrymandering.”
Trone and Matthews weren’t bashful about responding.
Trone responded by admonishing Raskin for his tone.
“First, I would start with the word respect. That’s where you start, Jamie,” Trone said. “Next point would be in Texas we have a thousand employees and we’re working for pro-consumer bills like Sunday sales, wine tastings, good things. Not a dollar for tax breaks. . . . That’s money well spent.”
Matthews, who was an executive with the Marriott International hotel chain when she contributed to Blunt, said Raskin has yanked the donation out of context.
“I have given thousands of dollars to try to elect Democrats across this country,” she said. “In my entire career I’ve given one donation to one Republican who worked as a bipartisan colleague on a piece of legislation that created thousands of jobs in this country. I think we need to build bridges and need to work together.”
At Marriott Matthews oversaw the company’s political action committee, which contributed more than $1.4 million to candidates between 2008 and 2014, including nearly $700,000 to Republicans, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Matthews said in an interview last week that Marriott employees were free to designate which party they wanted to receive their money. She also said decisions about specific contributions were made by lobbyists who reported to her.
If Bill Turque says David Trone “admonished” Raskin, I can only imagine what outrageous description I would have used. Suffice it to say that I’m sorry I missed it.
But even more intriguing adjectives poured forth from the usually mild-mannered pen of Bill Turque.
Raskin sounded shrill in addressing contentions that moving a progressive agenda in Washington will be far more difficult than than it was in Annapolis, where Democrats dominate.
“Annapolis isn’t Washington and I’m glad of it! In Annapolis we can get things done. We make things happen,” he said with an edge of anger in his voice, referring to legislation establishing same sex marriage and abolishing the death penalty.
“The people who pride themselves on the fact that they were staffers in a deadlocked, paralyzed Washington,” he added in a poke at candidates Will Jawando, a former Senate aide, and former State Department official Joel Rubin. “I urge them before they try to go to Congress to come out to Annapolis to see how to get things done.”
He then turned back to Matthews and Trone, both first wealthy first-time candidates (Trone is self-funding his race.)
“Public office isn’t something that you buy, it’s something that you earn through your devotion to the public good and your service to the community,” said Raskin, a three-term state senator and American University law professor whose own financial disclosure statement shows he and his wife, deputy treasury secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, with assets valued between $2.8 million and $6.8 million. “I would put my record of public service up against anybody running for Congress in America right now.”
Shrill? Anger? If someone has some video of this event, I’d really like to see it. I’m so so sad that I missed it.
Raskin then rebuffs Trone’s call for respect and civility with a classic non-sequitur, and Trone responds in kind.
He concluded by responding to Trone’s request for respect.
“I wasn’t quite sure what he was referring to. I know riding up here we saw lots of illegal Trone signs placed all over the roads.” he said. “I know you’re stuffing our mailboxes, the TV airwaves and the radio airwaves with your ads. At least give us [the public right of way]. That’s what the law says.”
Residents in several District 8 communities have complained about Trone yard signs on roadsides. They are required to be placed on private property.
Trone acknowledged that inexperienced campaign workers were not familiar with the rules.
“We’re working on that.” he said. “But thank you for your help Jamie in pointing that out.”
The next logical step will be a call for a duel. Note to self: don’t miss any more debates. Seriously.