The Associated Press has one of my favorite kinds of stories – let’s talk about a Maryland campaign contest and not once actually refer to anybody or anything in, like, y’know, MARYLAND? And for bonus points, it also uses words like “nasty” to describe a contest that is spirited and hard-hitting, but hardly nasty.
Tuesday’s Maryland Democratic Senate primary between Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen has become a polarizing battle over race, gender and personality that has transfixed and divided fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill. The White House and prominent national Democrats have weighed in on behalf of Van Hollen, even as Edwards backers insist that her opportunity to become just the second black female U.S. senator in history must not be denied.
And the contest contains echoes of the Democratic presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as Edwards and Van Hollen present similarly progressive agendas, wrapped in dramatically different approaches to politics. Edwards, emphasizing her personal story as a single black mom, champions an uncompromising brand of liberalism critics say would exacerbate the polarization on Capitol Hill. Van Hollen is running as a pragmatic deal-maker in a Congress where compromise is increasingly a dirty word, an approach that’s opened him to attacks that he can’t be trusted to protect core Democratic programs like Social Security.
“To hell with the aspirations of centuries of people in Maryland, a place where Harriet Tubman came from,” said Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, an Edwards backer in the Congressional Black Caucus, bridling at Democratic establishment support for Van Hollen. “To hell with that. I mean, he looks like a senator.”
“I can tell you that it matters, and it matters a lot, for women to be elected to Congress,” Moore added, noting that no black woman has served in the Senate since Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois lost her re-election bid more than 15 years ago. “There’s nobody who’s an African-American woman in there at all.”
Some of Van Hollen’s supporters are just as adamant that race and gender shouldn’t matter in the campaign. They point to Van Hollen’s record as a results-oriented leader on budgetary and other issues on Capitol Hill, compared with Edwards’ thinner legislative record and notoriety for clashing with fellow lawmakers and shortchanging constituent services.
“The choice in this election is very clear,” said Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of neighboring Virginia. “It is whether the people of Maryland want somebody who can be effective, or somebody who’s going to bask in her own feelings of moral superiority because of various and sundry factors, and effectiveness has nothing to do with it.”
Do these reporters not know anyone in Maryland they can call to talk about a Maryland race? Apparently not. Gerry Connelly is a fine man, but hey, pro tip, he lives in Virginia. That’s on the OTHER side of the Potomac.
And another point of irony. Connelly’s and Gwen Moore’s comments are probably “nastier” than about 99% of what I’ve heard anyone from Maryland say, on either side of the Van Hollen-Edwards contest.
But hey guys, thanks for sharing the opinions of everyone on Capitol Hill as to what we who actually live here should be thinking. Next time, call me. MarylandScramble.com. Not hard to find. Really.