Richard Elliot, UMBC
Maryland is often thought of as a lily blue state. Almost all of our congressional delegation are Democrats, our General Assembly has Democratic super majorities, and Democrats have dominated the political landscape in our state for decades. It’s quite puzzling that in spite of this (or perhaps, because of this), Maryland’s sole Republican congressman is one of the most conservative in the nation. Andy Harris, who averages a 93.3% conservative rating from the American Conservative Union, has been in Congress since the 2010 Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party following his narrow defeat by conservative Democrat Frank Kratovil in 2008.
Low voter turnout, combined with gerrymandering that made Maryland’s First District into a sacrifice bunt for the state’s Democratic majority, got Andy Harris into his seat and helped him slide to easy victories (63.4% in 2012, 70% in 2014, 67% in 2016). But now, he has an opponent who wishes to completely rewrite the script. Kratovill received a 29% rating from the American Conservative Union – double the rating of Maryland’s second most conservative Democrat, Dutch Ruppersberger. He voted against the ACA, citing “the overall cost, the deficit impact, and the negative impact that the bill’s employer mandates could have on job creation.”
As politics have taken a departure from the more predictable patterns of the past, the Maryland delegation has welcomed a wider range of politicians. Allison Galbraith, a Democrat from red Harford County, aligns closely with contemporary progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Allison has routinely spoken about the rising inequalities in America that many Americans face, particularly people of color and women. Allison has personal experiences that have shown her the debt trap that student loans have become for my generation. Allison is a rare breed of politician: a young progressive woman who understands the struggles of a rising generation and the many Americans who feel left behind and forgotten in a rapidly changing world. Conservatives are impressed by her work experience with helping veterans navigating the endless bureaucratic hurdles to reenter civilian life, while progressives like her economic policy and vision for our state. Trump voters found her relatable at the Maryland State Fair; non-voters have found her likable at meet and greets. A carefully constructed message and image can still achieve bipartisan support in 2017.
Allison is a marker of the grassroots Democratic Party: young, determined Americans who want to push change through our government to address inequality and social justice. I’m proud to work with Allison and help move the Democratic Party forward.
Disclosure: Richard is currently serving as the Director of Digital Strategy for Allison Galbraith’s congressional campaign. If you would like more information on Allison’s campaign, check out allisonforcongress.com, #FlipTheFirst