Category Archives: Chris Van Hollen

The Nation Analyzes Edwards’s Loss – and Misses the Story

Rep. Donna Edwards’s Strong and Gracious Concession

 Black women are the bedrock of the party, and yet Edwards’s loss is a sign that they still don’t have a place at the table” was the subhead of the The Nation‘s article delving into Donna Edwards’s loss. Yet, rather than providing good analysis, the article desperately works to make facts fit its narrative.

Racial Demographics and Voting

The racial statistics alone show its bedrock problems. Nowhere does the article mention that African Americans formed the largest share of Democratic primary voters — 48% compared to just 42% of whites according to the Washington Post. So this clearly was not just a case of the white majority shutting out the black minority, since there was no white majority.

What happened? The article mentions but elides over that Chris Van Hollen’s share of the black vote, 37%, was about twice as high as the 19% of the white vote won by Edwards. Van Hollen had a 53 point (72-19) margin among whites while Edwards had just a 20 point margin (57-37) among blacks.

Chris Van Hollen won convincingly in large part because he worked for and won a sizeable minority of African-American votes. White candidates fighting hard for and winning over African-American votes is not exactly something to lament.

Van Hollen also won women (53-39) by virtually the same margin as men (54-37), so the gender explanation carries even less weight.

The Machine

The other major trope of the article beyond racial dynamics is that Maryland’s political “machine” was stacked against the Edwards campaign, and this is emblematic of the general opposition of it to the elevation of black women.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Democrats nominated African-American State Sen. Catherine Pugh for the mayor’s office. I would call this a breakthrough except its not. Future Mayor Pugh will succeed a black woman who succeeded another black woman.

One can hardly call this a victory by Pugh against the establishment. Pugh’s colleagues in the State Senate lined up to write her $1000 checks for her mayoral bid. By the way, the State’s Attorney and two-thirds of Baltimore City’s State Senators are also black women. Marylanders do not find this either weird or novel.

The Nation deplores that Edwards didn’t win most Maryland establishment support, black or white. They’re correct there. Heavy-hitter Rep. Elijah Cummings sat this one out and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker endorsed her opponent. So did former Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

Here are Baker and Leggett explaining why they chose to endorse Van Hollen over Edwards – a question left unasked by the The Nation except to ascribe it to the mysterious machine and a generic unwillingness to support black women:

Perhaps we could avoid rushing to call all of these people machine politicians, sell outs (or worse), just as I would hope that one would avoid doing the same for the prominent white endorsers of Donna Edwards, such as former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and Sen. Karen Montgomery.

Insiders and Outsiders

The insider-outsider label is an interesting one and a matter of perspective. Edwards has served for four terms in Congress representing suburban DC. She received millions and millions of dollars of support from large donors via EMILY’s List.

The Nation leaves unmentioned that Donna Edwards originally won her first unquestionably outsider campaign because of support from white progressives. In both of her first two elections for Congress – the one where she nearly beat centrist, establishment Rep. Al Wynn and the one where she did – Edwards did massively better in the white than the black portion of her district. So much for the invincible machine or hostility of white progressives.

Virtually all of the white Democratic establishment also lined up behind soon-to-be Rep. Anthony Brown’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid. Brown defeated sitting Attorney General Doug Gansler and progressive Del. Heather Mizeur, who The Nation accuses of fomenting racial slurs for stating that Van Hollen’s office provides far superior constituency service to Edwards’s.

Donna Edwards rightly pointed out the obvious desirability for more diversity in the Senate. Frankly, I’d be surprised if Maryland does not elect an African American to statewide office soon (not counting the Lt. Gov with no disrespect meant to the current or previous incumbents who were elected on tickets).

But the narrative that Donna Edwards lost simply because Maryland whites or political establishment just couldn’t cope is too facile. The Nation grudgingly concedes Van Hollen is “nearly as progressive” albeit “not quite” as Edwards. The attempt to turn tiny differences into an ideological canyon failed.

Moreover, like so many this year, Edwards tried to turn her isolation from other politicians into a virtue and Van Hollen’s connections into a vice. Except that Van Hollen argued convincingly that progress only gets made by working with others, using his legislative record and firm stand for liberal values to back it up.

Anyone less talented or respected than Chris Van Hollen probably would have lost to Donna Edwards, who is engaging and formidable on the stump and had strong financial backing. I don’t blame Donna Edwards and her supporters for feeling the loss. It didn’t happen this time.

But, despite the Nation‘s near despondency, all is far from politically lost for progressive African-American women in Maryland even if Donna Edwards didn’t make it this time. I have no doubt that her supporters – and many of Van Hollen’s – will use that energy to win the next one.

Edwards Refuses to Join Van Hollen in Rejecting Campaign Spending by Outside Groups

Both Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards support rolling back the tidal wave of independent expenditures unleashed by the Supreme Court’s “disastrous Citizens United decision,” as Edwards put it. Now, Van Hollen challenged Edwards to agree with him to practice what they preach and pledge to reject spending by outside groups.

But  despite stating that “Marylanders deserve a Senator who will lead with bold solutions in the fight for campaign finance reform,” Edwards quickly rejected Van Hollen’s proposal–one pioneered by Elizabeth Warren in her race in Massachusetts.

So why is Edwards saying one thing and doing another? Van Hollen is far outpacing Edwards in “hard money” donations that fall under the legal limits for direct contributions to campaigns under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

Edwards hope that “soft money” expenditures by outside groups –the same type of spending denounced on her website–in support of her campaign will help her close the gap. In other words, she is unwilling to campaign under the rules she claims to support.

 

VH LetterHere is the proposed pledge:

Free State Pledge_Page_1 Free State Pledge_Page_2

Baker and Leggett on Race and Endorsements

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker got asked essentially why he, as an African-American leader, endorsed a white man over a black woman for U.S. Senate. Baker responded well and then Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett jumped in to give an exceptionally eloquent statement:

Regardless of whether you prefer Van Hollen, Edwards, or someone else, their answers as to why they support Chris Van Hollen speak to the content of both of these gentlemen’s character.

Bad Day for Donna Edwards

Bakerendorsement

Rushern Baker Endorses Chris Van Hollen

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s endorsement of Rep. Chris Van Hollen over Rep. Donna Edwards for U.S. Senate shows the tough road ahead for Edwards as the primary contest progresses. Not all endorsements matter. This one does.

While Van Hollen has the united support of the Montgomery County Executive and County Council, Edwards just lost the most prominent local official in her home base. Van Hollen has easily consolidated political support in his home base. In contrast, Edwards has now been served notice that she will have to fight hard to get Prince George’s to swing behind her.

It reinforces the existing media narrative that Edwards doesn’t work well with others either in Maryland or Congress. Moreover, it serves as a powerful signal to other African-American officials that it’s OK to endorse Van Hollen over Edwards. A further subtext is that Baker thinks Van Hollen will win so you should support early.

Edwards will try and counter as the authentic progressive candidate running against a corrupt establishment as when she challenged successfully Al Wynn. Except that she’s now a Member of Congress and part of the establishment so people want to see effectiveness as well as an ability to speak truth to power.

Moreover, neither Van Hollen nor Baker are Wynn. Both have strong reputations of wanting to clean up politics. Van Hollen, for example, has been a champion of campaign finance reform. The insufficiently liberal narrative won’t work on Van Hollen either and may just end up reinforcing that Edwards is less electable.

If Elijah Cummings enters the race, this can’t hurt him either, as it makes it easier for him to reach out to Prince George’s. In short, Cummings looks to have an easier time making inroads into Edwards’s base than vice-versa.

I’m Supporting Van Hollen for Senate

Dear Readers:

Yesterday, someone emailed me and asked if I’d be willing to lend my name to Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s U.S. Senate campaign. If you read my evaluation of Chris, you won’t be surprised that I replied yes. He has been my representative for many years and I have had the opportunity to see him and his office up close and afar for some time. While the field is still shaking out, I am not just comfortable but excited to support Chris Van Hollen for Senate.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good candidates out there and I imagine many of you, in both parties, will be supporting someone else. That’s what makes democracy great. Seventh State will still cover the Senate race and I plan to call them as I see them. I have not shied away from writing about problems in other campaigns that I support and I won’t pretend that someone is winning when they’re losing.

At the same time, I thought you should know. Thanks for reading.

David

Analysis: Decisive Van Hollen Jumps In the Race

Chris Van Hollen Takes on FOX News

I had wondered if Chris Van Hollen might play Hamlet and have a tough time making a decision on whether or not to enter the Senate race. After all, he ranks high in the House Leadership and was tipped as a strong candidate for Speaker. But I didn’t have to wonder for long. Rep. Van Hollen acted decisively and entered the race.

He brings a lot of major advantages to his candidacy.

Strong Montgomery Base

Chris Van Hollen’s base in Montgomery is strong and large. Thanks to redistricting, he has represented most of it at one time or another. While we have many well-liked pols, Chris is the most widely popular and respected. Put another way, his is the endorsement that most state legislative candidates in the County want on their mailers.

He will have a large army of loyal and excited volunteers, including many who worked on his congressional campaign. Equally important, he already has very smart advisers such as Joan Kleinman and Karen MacManus. Like so many originally from Louisiana, Karen has very quick political sense and a formidable ability to organize and get things done.

Money

Van Hollen’s campaign will be very well funded. The Sun reported that he already has $1.7 million cash-on-hand. As a former head of the DCCC, his network could hardly be more extensive. Having raised so much money for many his colleagues, he may benefit from their support is well.

Record and Skill Set

But the most important advantage held by Van Hollen is that many see him as the full package: a policy wonk who can also strategize and communicate. He has always been fast on his feet challenging Republicans on the floor or on television. Equally important, he conveys the Democratic message in an appealing and completely understandable way.

And Rep. Van Hollen doesn’t do this by temporizing. He is unafraid to stand up for progressive priorities, such as when he opposed the CROmnibus. Just watch one of many examples in the above clips in which he wins the debate not just intellectually but in terms of communication even on FOX.

Like Sen. Barbara Mikulski, he is good at looking after the home team as well. For example, he worked to secure at $15 million federal grant that allowed 14 Maryland community colleges to train workers in cyber security. Another $300K federal grant helped to provide “technical training to veteran-owned businesses seeking federal procurement opportunities.”

Challenges and Overlap with Other Candidates

Some fear that he may suffer from the same problem as Mike Barnes did when he ran for Senate in 1986. Rep. Barnes carried Montgomery handily but failed to make inroads elsewhere. A key difference from 1986 is that Mikulski had already run for Senate in a general election. Though she lost that uphill race against Sen. Mac Mathias, she gained both credibility and name recognition. No sitting representative in Maryland has that advantage.

Nonetheless, Chris will have to break out of Montgomery. He has represented portions of other counties. His connections from his days in the state legislature may also help these efforts. It will also aid the Van Hollen campaign if other Montgomery based candidates like John Delaney and Heather Mizeur stay out of the race.

Chris Van Hollen is in for Senate

vanhollen

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8) announced in an email to supporters and Facebook posts today that he in for the 2016 Senate race. Arelis Hernández at The Washington Post and John Fritze at the Baltimore Sun already have stories up. Here is the post from his Facebook page:

I am excited to share that I have decided to run for the United States Senate from our great State of Maryland. I am very grateful to the citizens of Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District for the opportunity to represent them and want to thank the many Marylanders who, over the last 48 hours, have called, sent text messages, or emailed to urge me to run for the United States Senate. A more formal announcement will come later, but I wanted to let you know of my plans.

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming campaign and a healthy exchange of ideas. In my very first election for Congress I believed that people were tired of politics as usual, and I ran a campaign based on key issues and ideas that matter to our future. The same is true today.

The promise of America is that every individual — regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation – will be given an equal opportunity to succeed and prosper. We have fallen short on that promise. I believe that one of the key challenges of our time is the struggle to make sure that America works for all its citizens, not just the wealthy few.

I am committed to working every day, as I have in my years in the Congress, for policies that ensure equal access to quality education, provide good paying jobs, a strong middle class, and a healthy state, country, and planet for future generations.

In January, I put forward an economic Action Plan to generate more growth in our economy with more shared prosperity. Despite important economic progress, too many hard working families across Maryland and around our country have been struggling to make ends meet. For the last 20 years, as the productivity of our workforce has increased dramatically, paychecks have remained flat. We must unite to promote a tax system that rewards hard work, instead of one riddled with loopholes and special deals for the super wealthy and well-connected. We need to make sure that every individual in our state and our country has a chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and build a successful and fulfilling future.

We must sharpen our competitive edge and invest strategically — in education, cutting-edge scientific research, and modern infrastructure — to ensure that every American is equipped to compete in the 21st Century. We must create opportunities for more Americans to save and benefit from the wealth creation that is currently concentrated at the very top of the income ladder.

It is also important that we grow our economy in a way that protects our environment, including our national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay. As the Co-Chair of the Congressional Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus I have been honored to work with Maryland’s farmers and conservationists to protect the Bay and preserve it for future generations. I have also been pleased to Co-Chair the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, which is committed to addressing the threats and costs to our communities from the disruptions created by massive carbon pollution and climate change.

Even though our nation is politically polarized today, I continue to believe in the power of ideas to bring people of goodwill together for the common good. I’ve had the opportunity to work across the aisle to get things done on a variety of issues, from funding for the Chesapeake Bay, to expanding research on pediatric cancer, to leveling the playing field for families with children with disabilities by providing equal access to tax-free savings accounts to provide for their children’s future, to protecting federal whistleblowers who take action to ferret out waste, fraud, and abuse.

For 5 long years, I fought to gain the freedom of my constituent, Alan Gross, from a Cuban jail cell and I was honored to travel to Cuba in December to finally bring Alan home. I have also been proud to lead the fight to reduce the influence of secret money and ensure greater transparency and accountability in our electoral process.

I have always believed in the power of the democratic process to further strengthen our nation, to build on the progress we have made, and to create an ever more perfect union. I look forward to hearing your views in the coming days and weeks on how, together, we can achieve these goals and continue the fight to get things done for our great State of Maryland and our country.

Thank you,

Chris Van Hollen

 

MD-08 Tea Leaves

Chris Van Hollen probably ain’t going nowhere. He has a lot to lose and very little to gain by running for US Senate. In the House, he’s got a solid shot at the Speakership (if Team Blue ever regains control of the chamber). Even if he falls short, he’ll likely advance into some lower tier of leadership–and being Majority Leader or Caucus Chairman ain’t bad. Perhaps he ends up in some lofty post in a theoretically Biden Administration (the Vice President is very close to CVH). But hey, many a down county pol dreams of the day this seat will open up . . . so let’s speculate.

Here are some politicians, who without having asked them, I’d wager would seriously consider it:

State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20): Jamie represents about 20% of MD-08 and would carry with him a rabid base of progressive activists. I believe he would be able to tap into a substantial network of national “net roots” small donors as MD-04 Congresswoman Donna Edwards was able to in 2006 and 2008. He’d also be able to raise money from national progressive donors. I think he could raise betwixt $1,000,000 and $1,600,000 for this bid.

State Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18): Rich would likely attract substantial backing from a large community of national LGBT donors. He also represents 1/5th of MD-08 currently and presents a more practical blend of progressivism than Senator Raskin. I believe he could raise between $700,000 and and a million dollars.

Delegate Bill Frick (D-16): I discussed Delegate Frick’s congressional fortunes in my post on MD-06. He represents a much larger portion of MD-08 than MD-06 so he might have a stronger showing here.

County Council Member At Large Hans Riemer: Hans has the distinct advantage that he represents the vast majority of Democratic Primary voters in this district. He’d also be a nice Obama spin off Congressional Candidate. Perhaps by the time MD-08 is open the President will be ready to stump for the alumni of his historic campaigns. I think Hans could put together $500,000-$650,000. He also has the opportunity to a great deal of constituency building due to his county wide position.

District 5 County Council Member Tom Hucker: It is my opinion that Tom Hucker espouses a slightly different brand of progressive rhetoric than Jamie Raskin. Jamie is the liberal law professor while Hucker is a fiery labor organizer. I believe Hucker would be labor’s choice and could come up with between $350,000 and $600,000.

Former Delegate Heather Mizeur (District 20): This is the seat Heather was born to run for. Unfortunately, I think Raskin would cut her electoral base out from under her. This is very different than her donor base and I believe she could rake in between two and three million dollars for her bid. Weirdly, I hear her mentioned more frequently for MD-01 (where she owns a vacation home, in Kent County).

My Analysis
In a field likely to be chock full of dynamic progressive elected officials (think Raskin, Hucker and Mizeur) vying to be the farthest of the far left a slightly more pragmatic liberal (think Madaleno, Frick or Riemer) could break through. It even opens the door for a real moderate (!) self funding businessman to flood the race with money and cruise to victory.

Outlook: Toss Up

Did I miss someone? Am I off base? Shoot me an email at johnga.ems@gmail.com.