Just a couple of days remain for Carroll County voters to take advantage of early voting, and the state's primary election will be held next Tuesday. This being a presidential election year without an incumbent running for re-election, the primary takes on magnified importance. It's also the first time since 2006 that voters will have a chance to fill an open U.S. Senate seat.

The leading Republican candidate, Kathy Szeliga, is a political lightweight when compared with the two leading Democrats, Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen; it's a fact of life that the winner of the Democratic primary will be a heavy favorite to replace Barbara Mikulski. Carroll County Democrats have a large say in deciding their party's candidate, a person likely to spend the next 12 to 18 years representing our state. It is incumbent on us that voters make an informed choice.

Advertisement

Edwards is a single, African-American mother and four-term congresswoman from Prince George's County. She represents the 4th Congressional District and serves on the Science and Technology, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. She is a progressive with a long record of supporting women's rights and is an advocate for strict gun safety legislation.

Chris Van Hollen has represented Maryland's 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Carroll and Frederick counties, since 2003. He presently is the ranking member on the House Budget Committee and is considered an expert on financial issues. He has worked to increase funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup and to ensure equal pay for women with the Paycheck Fairness Act. He, too, favors safer guns.

Both Edwards and Van Hollen are within the broad mainstream of the Democratic Party, and they generally agree on core issues such as protecting Social Security or universal health care coverage. Those differences between them that matter most to Carroll County voters are in constituent services and effectiveness. In both of these matters, Van Hollen's track record is outstanding.

A recent Washington Post editorial observed that Edwards runs an office "notorious for inattention to constituent services and teamwork." Edwards was criticized "for aloofness from the details of local problem-solving." Van Hollen maintains an office in Mount Airy and is a familiar face at public events here. My direct experience with him leads me to believe that as senator, he will continue his close connections to our community.

Being an effective legislator requires more than listening to your constituents. It also means getting bills passed into law. Even the brightest, most dedicated congressperson (and both Edwards and Van Hollen have razor-sharp intellects) needs to build teams within his or her own caucus and work well with representatives from the opposing party. If history is any indication, it would be hard for Edwards to seek common ground with Senate Republicans, should she succeed Mikulski. On the other hand, Van Hollen has a history of successes in building bipartisan coalitions: He worked with Republicans representing states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to get historic funding for agricultural conservation. He was also a key figure in forming the bipartisan coalition that got the ABLE act passed to create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities, and his work to improve federal whistleblower protection made it easier to report waste and abuse without fear of reprisals.

The 2016 election will be among the most important, consequential elections in American history. The Maryland primary will have a major impact on both the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns. It will also select the state's next Senator, and for us here in Carroll County, the next person representing the 8th Congressional District. Our county's pivotal role in picking the state's new senator presents us with an historic chance to make a difference in the nation's future. It really is no exaggeration to say that your vote makes a difference. Throughout our history, Americans have fought and died to preserve our right to select our leaders — it's the least we can do to honor them by exercising that right.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at mjemath@gmail.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement