Addressing the Democratic National Convention
As Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement, people aspiring to win the seat are already eying not just it but each other. Here is a first look at one potential candidate who could be a top contender: Donna Edwards
The Fourth District representative brings a lot to her candidacy. With firm backing from national and local progressives (read: left-wing Democrats), she unseated Rep. Al Wynn in 2008. Del. David Moon sent out an email yesterday from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee calling for her to run. (Clarification: David was forwarding the email so people could see it and has not endorsed any candidate.)
Her potential to attract both progressive and African-American voters–very large groups in any statewide Democratic primary–makes her a formidable candidate. Thanks to redistricting, she has represented much of Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.
These are very big advantages. Unlike Anthony Brown, she has real potential to fire up the left-wing Democratic party base. People who would like to see a woman take Barbara Mikulski’s seat may well also be inspired to support Edwards. In short, there is a real market for a candidate with Edwards’ political profile.
Edwards is not popular with the Democratic establishment but I don’t really see that as a barrier. A much bigger problem is whether she can raise the money needed for a Senate bid. She currently has just $30,000 in her congressional campaign account.
This is not an insurmountable barrier for a Member of Congress who will gain backing from various progressive groups, . But Edwards will have to put in serious phone time as she will face better fundraisers and is starting well behind many other potential candidates.
Problems with Jewish and Pro-Israel Voters?
She may also sail into choppy waters with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Unhappiness with her record on Israel was one factor that helped propel forward a near challenge by Glenn Ivey in 2012. J Street has strongly supported Edwards but even they criticized her fundraiser with the pro-Palestinian New Policy PAC.
The fundraiser touted that she was one of only 25 representatives to vote against a House resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself” in the Gaza conflict. Actions like these will give pause to voters who have no affection for Benjamin Netanyahu and think Barack Obama is fine on Israel but also do not want someone they perceive as unsympathetic to Israel representing them.
Maryland has one of the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the nation. Jewish Americans tend to vote a high rates and will, like African Americans, figure disproportionately in any statewide Democratic primary. Democrats may also fear that this record could harm her in the general election.
Edwards has received support in the past from some prominent local Jewish leaders. But will it be enough for her to brush these problems aside?
Rep. Edwards has served in Congress for six years, and Democrats have been in the minority but all for the first two years of her service. As a result, an Edwards campaign will have to focus more on her positions than her accomplishments, as do her congressional campaign and official congressional websites.
Overlap with Other Candidates
Maryland does not hold runoffs so whoever wins the primary wins the nomination. The supply of candidates will influence the outcome as candidates who have more competitors who can eat into their vote will suffer. This is not a problem peculiar to Donna Edwards–all candidates will worry about this issue. But who would eat into her likely potential voters?
African-American candidates, especially from the Baltimore area like Rep. Elijah Cummings or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, could make it hard for her to rack up votes there. Edwards and former Del. Heather Mizeur would compete for the same hard-left progressives, though I tend to believe Edwards would crowd Mizeur out. More seriously, Rep. Chris Van Hollen presents challenges for Edwards in Montgomery–a natural potential base for her support.