The way Danny Eaton talks about politics is a bit like the way he explains the distinction between novel and memoir when discussing the book he's writing: "We are the sum total of all the parts of our life, so it's hard to write anything without having a piece of yourself in it," he says, paraphrasing a character in the movie "Before Sunset."
When Eaton, 29, a Republican from North Laurel running for the House of Delegates in District 13, discusses how he became interested in politics, he talks about a passion that began when he was 13 and living in Israel.
During that time, "I got very interested in foreign affairs," he said. While abroad, he went to Turkey for two weeks and "saw a lot of poverty. 9/11 happened when I was 17. So I got very interested in politics from a young age."
Eaton has been involved in 10 campaigns since the age of 18. Locally, he volunteered for Chris Merdon's 2006 race for county executive.
He's the only candidate so far to have officially filed in District 13, although Howard County Board of Education member Janet Siddiqui, a Democrat, announced in June that she would be running for the spot vacated by Del. Guy Guzzone, who is making a bid for retiring District 13 Sen. Jim Robey's seat.
District 13 delegates Frank Turner and Shane Pendergrass, both Democrats, presumably will run to keep their seats.
Raised in North Laurel and educated in Howard County schools, save for the time he spent in Israel, education is Eaton's top campaign priority. He especially thinks the state needs to expand vocational school options.
"I don't think everyone has to rack up debt at a four-year college," said the Atholton High School and University of Virginia graduate. "I think we need to spend more money on training people and giving skills."
The jobs that vocational school prepares its students for — auto mechanics, culinary arts, plumbing — are all solid middle class jobs, he said. "The great thing about these types of jobs is, generally speaking, you can't transfer them overseas," he added.
Another of Eaton's campaign priorities is health care. He has had his own struggles with both mental and physical health. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young adult and recently in need of kidney dialysis, Eaton says he was lucky to have the support of his family when paying his medical bills. But he knows not everyone has the same good fortune.
"Everyone in America has a story about health care," Eaton said. Even though he does not agree with every component of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, he says he believes in the principle of universal health care, and has written his own plan on his website, DannyEaton.com. "I think that I'm very blessed and people who aren't as fortunate should definitely have help," he said.
Most of all, Eaton says he believes in limited, accessible government. If elected, he says, he will spend the months when he is not busy in the General Assembly knocking on doors and talking to voters — two hours on weekdays and six hours on weekends.
"I think the way that you stay in touch with average citizens is to go door-knocking, meet people face-to-face, talk to them personally, and listen to them. And if you don't do that, then I think you just automatically become out of touch right away," he said.