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‘He understands how people connect’: Carroll County native Dave Harden making a run for Congress

A Carroll County native threw his hat into the ring for the Maryland District 1 U.S. House of Representatives seat.

Dave Harden, 58, said he decided to run after he witnessed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and because he can help grow the district’s economy by using the skills he has obtained through working overseas. His ground game campaign starts Monday.

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“So I spent two decades looking at conflict and grievances and chaos all around the world and I saw that on Jan. 6 and it was disturbing and appalling to me,” he said. “And more so, Andy Harris’ role in this. He fueled the attack by denying the election results, by refusing to certify the electoral college on Jan. 6.”

Harden said he has a national security family. His son was deployed to the Middle East to defend America, his daughter works in missile defense to protect the homeland and his wife works at the state department. His family defends America but Harris’s actions “fueled the attack on the heart of our democracy,” Harden, a Washington consultant who spent years overseas with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said.

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A campaign poster is shown for Dave Harden, a Westminster High School graduate who has announced his candidacy for the House of Representatives.
A campaign poster is shown for Dave Harden, a Westminster High School graduate who has announced his candidacy for the House of Representatives. (Courtesy photo)

The second reason he decided to run is because he said he spent his life working on the toughest economic problems all around the world.

“I want to apply the lessons learned overseas to help the economy and create jobs at home,” he said. “I want to create an economy so families stay together instead of leaving for big cities.”

He said the global economy will face changes due to climate change and he has a full economic vision that would last a decade or two.

Harden said the people of this district live in small towns, rural areas and hold traditional values.

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“And they are centrist,” he said. “They’re not extremist. Not extremist leftist, not extremist rightist. Just kind of moderate people.” And a lot of them work hard for a living, he said. He said none of the other candidates have the economic experience that he has.

Harden joins Democrats Heather Mizeur, a former state delegate and 2014 gubernatorial candidate, and Mia Mason, a military veteran and transgender activist, who had previously declared their intent to try to unseat Harris. Mason lost to Harris in the 2020 general election. Democrat Jennifer Pingley, a registered nurse, is also running next year. Harris told the Baltimore Sun he is planning a run at a seventh term.

Harden said he grew up in District 1 and has been there the entire time. His family owned a farm in Westminster and they have deep roots on the Eastern Shore and Carroll County going back 100 years. He attended Mechanicsville Elementary, West Middle and Westminster High schools.

“I am a proud product of Carroll County Public Schools,” he said.

Leslie Jump of Bethesda said she knew Harden since first grade at Mechanicsville Elementary. They both graduated from Westminster in 1980. Jump went into technology and later married a man who has been an ambassador in the Middle East, that’s when her career took a shift. She started working on building global entrepreneurship so she could learn about the part of the world that was important to her husband.

“I was literally sitting on the couch in our sunroom reading Twitter about Dave Harden and the Middle East,” she said, adding that she said to herself “that can’t be the same Dave Harden.”

She said she thinks it’s amazing that Harden is running for Congress.

“I think he’s the perfect kind of person that we need for this district and on the Hill,” she said. “He understands how people connect with each and how people can work together.”

Harden attended Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and had plans to be a lawyer. He got into law school but decided to go to the Peace Corps instead and built the first junior high school in a small village in Botswana.

“It was a great decision,” he said. “Law school will always exist.”

He received his master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. Then he went overseas again to the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. He later attended Georgetown University for law school and became a corporate lawyer in New York City. He later signed up for the foreign service.

“It was both a service and an adventure,” he said.

Harden spent 17 years overseas in South Asia and the Middle East, including 17 months in Iraq and led economic negotiations to bridge the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. He was later nominated by President Barack Obama and approved by the Senate to spearhead USAID efforts. During the Donald Trump administration, he was sent to Saudi Arabia where he worked a lot in conflicts and wars “always representing America.”

When he retired, he started Georgetown Strategy Group, a firm that looks at emerging global trends and technology solutions.

Bob Sapora, a family friend of Harden’s, said he’s know Harden since he was about 12 and is good friends with his dad. Sapora, who lives south of Smallwood in Carroll County, said when he learned of Harden’s running, it was the greatest thing he’d ever heard. He described Harden as honest and hard working, which is shown through his career.

“And his whole life has been serving people and doing public service,” he added. “I’m pretty sure he’s not going to stop doing that if he gets elected to Congress.”

He also mentioned that Harden already knows his way around Washington.

“He’s one of the most high character young men I know,” he said. “I couldn’t have wished for a better representative.”

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