In a remarkable – and remarkably awkward – video interview with Roll Call’s Melinda Henneberger, Steny Hoyer lamented the seemingly sudden absence of any women in Maryland’s ten member congressional delegation.
Put aside the Roll Call lead about Hoyer being “dismayed” that Kathleen Matthews lost the primary, although Hoyer hastened to add that Jamie Raskin will be “wonderful.” That’s not the real story here.
Watch the video, and you’ll see Hoyer being awkward and defensive about there now being no women in the delegation. And watch him try to defend that fact. When Henneberger asks, in essence, how did this happen, Hoyer tries to brush it off as “happenstance.”
Maryland has been very supportive of women. I think it’s just a happenstance of electoral politics that it just so happens now, like I said, that over 50% of our delegation, five of the 10 members, at one point in time that I’ve been serving, for a significant period of time, were represented by women. So we were 50-50.”
It was not a “significant period of time,” it was a single congressional term in which four (not five) women were in the Maryland delegation. And guess when it was?
1985-87, following the 1984 election. Yes, the one in which Ronald Reagan was reelected. I was a senior in college, and a whole lot of you reading this weren’t even born yet. The four congresswomen were Helen Bentley, Barbara Mikulski, Marjorie Holt, and Beverly Byron. In 1986, Holt retired, replaced by Tom McMillen. Mikulski was elected to the Senate, replaced in the House by Ben Cardin. Byron lost a primary in 1992, Bentley ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994. Connie Morella, elected in 1986, was defeated for reelection in 2002 by Chris Van Hollen. And Mikulski retired this year, and Donna Edwards, elected to the House in 2008, lost the primary to Chris Van Hollen.
Outside of Mikulski, how many new women have been elected to Congress from Maryland since that high water mark of 1984?
The answer is two: Connie Morella in 1986 and Donna Edwards in 2008. In 32 years, TWO women. How many new congressmen?
Tom McMillen, Kweisi Mfume, and Ben Cardin in 1986.
Wayne Gilchrist in 1990.
Roscoe Bartlett and Al Wynn in 1992.
Bob Ehrlich in 1994.
Elijah Cummings in 1996.
Dutch Ruppersberger and Chris Van Hollen in 2002.
John Sarbanes in 2006.
Frank Kratovil in 2008.
Andy Harris in 2010.
John Delaney in 2012.
And now Jamie Raskin and Anthony Brown in 2016.
That’s 18 new congressional representatives in 32 years, and 16 of them have been men. And let’s not forget, one of the women (Morella) was a Republican, and the other was a primary challenger (Edwards) who’s never been forgiven by the state power structure for winning in 2008.
And the two open Senate seats since 1986? Ben Cardin in 2006 and Chris Van Hollen in 2016. So that’s 18 out of 20.
I’m not criticizing any candidate in any particular race (I was in the tank for Van Hollen, and proud of it), but Steny Hoyer is being disingenuous. This isn’t a fluke or an outlier, it’s a culmination of a stark pattern for three decades. While the rest of the country has elected increasing numbers of women, Maryland – at one point a bellwether – has regressed, and badly so.
How bad? This bad – in every open seat or partisan pickup in the past generation – every single one – a male candidate has ended up with the seat.
From that high water mark of four in 1984, it dropped to three in 1992, two in 1994, and one in 2002. It ticked up to two in 2008, and will drop to zero in January.
No happenstance, just a pattern. When congressional and Senate seats have been worth fighting for over the past thirty years, men win in Maryland. Every single time, without exception.
That’s the real story, a shameful and embarrassing one, and it’s time we do something about it.