Fierce Senate Primary: Waldstreicher v. Socol, Part II

Socol’s central barrier to closing the sale with many voters will be the very left-wing stances that caused him to run. Waldstreicher’s record is broadly progressive, so Socol must thread the needle of making Waldstreicher appear too cautious and too conservative but without coming off as too extreme.

A member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Socol has given voters a strong contrast. For starters, Socol has attacked Waldstreicher for being too cozy with the police union and weakening police reforms during a political moment when it was possible to achieve them. He favors civilian-review boards and supports marijuana decriminalization along with “reparations for those communities most harmed by the war on drugs.”

Socol’s call to “get police out of communities” and shift funding to mental health will appeal to some but concern others who want a visible police presence in a time of rising crime. Socol has also aligned himself with Del. Jhenelle Wilkins in support of rent stabilization and rent control.

Socol is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that is anathema among many voters, even those critical of Israeli policy. Like Peter Beinart, Socol’s views don’t stem from mindlessly following the progressive crowd but long engagement with Israel. Socol has lived in Israel, and worked for years for Jewish organizations.

Though Beinart and Socol are passionately and proudly Jewish, as is Waldstreicher, voters who associate BDS with vocal antisemites and opposition to the existence of Israel as a Jewish State may not care. Younger Jewish voters tend to be less focused on Israel and more open to BDS, but their elders vote at far higher rates.

Socol supporters argue that foreign policy isn’t relevant in a debate for the state Senate. But it is if voters care about it. The General Assembly has considered legislation requiring the state’s pension funds not to invest in companies that boycott Israel, which Socol would oppose. Waldstreicher calls BDS “antisemitic—full stop”, cosponsored an anti-BDS bill in 2017, and supports Gov. Larry Hogan’s anti-BDS executive order.

In short, voters in District 18 have a real choice.