A case for Kathy Szeliga for U.S. Senate

Op-ed: Rich Douglas makes a case for putting Kathy Szeliga, his opponent in the Republican primary, into the U

Keeping faith with American workers and national security: These are two critical yardsticks for choosing Maryland's next U.S. senator. Take the measurements, and the results will demonstrate that U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen is not the right person to represent our state in the Senate. He has forsaken American workers. On national security, he helped Iran and harmed America. Kathy Szeliga, his opponent in the Maryland U.S. Senate race, will do a far better job.

How has Mr. Van Hollen forsaken American workers?

When markets collapsed a decade ago, millions of workers lost their homes and savings. My own experience as a U.S. Senate staffer taught me that when Congress fails miserably in its oversight duties, it rushes to cobble together legislation — Dodd-Frank, for example — to change the subject. Mr. Van Hollen and every other member of Congress serving with him shared responsibility for the oversight failures leading to the mid-2000s financial crisis. Mr. Van Hollen, too, supported the Dodd-Frank diversion, and then, like the rest of his colleagues, walked away unscathed from the economic wreckage.

In 2002, unions propelled Mr. Van Hollen, a Democrat, to Congress. In 2010, he rewarded them with the Affordable Care Act's devastating 40 percent excise tax on their health plans. Mr. Van Hollen was also one of the last to speak out against the Trans Pacific Partnership, and, I believe, would likely have voted for President Barack Obama's bid for Fast Track negotiating authority had the unions not put pressure on him. Maryland/DC organized labor showed its displeasure concretely: AFL/CIO Maryland/DC Council withheld its Senate primary endorsement, and the Maryland/DC Council of the International Association of Machinists endorsed Mr. Van Hollen's primary opponent, Donna Edwards.

In April 2015, Mr. Van Hollen joined Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez in a public attack on American workers. In an interview with Washington Hispanic following a Prince George's County rally for undocumented migrants, Mr. Gutierrez said Americans who worry about uncontrolled migration — most of us — are "enemies of the community." Mr. Van Hollen clapped and cheered, according to eye witnesses.

Later in 2015, Chinese hackers stole sensitive government data about millions of U.S. federal workers. Thousands of these workers live in Mr. Van Hollen's district. But he has never served on the House committees established to safeguard their interests. Federal cyber-vulnerabilities were apparent years before the theft. Mr. Van Hollen played no role in addressing them.

On national security, Mr. Van Hollen has been a spectator. He is not an armed forces veteran, and he exercises no leadership in Congress on military or veteran issues. Nor has he served on committees overseeing national security or veterans' affairs. When VA hospitals were failing, Gen. Eric Shinseki took the fall, though, ultimately, the buck stops with Congress. Congress failed to conduct proper VA oversight, and veterans paid with their lives. Mr. Van Hollen walked away again.

On Mr. Van Hollen's watch, U.S. soldiers in Iraq were reduced to welding scrap armor plate to their "soft" Humvees to protect themselves from IEDs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran supplied high powered sniper rifles and shaped munitions to our enemies and killed many U.S. soldiers. Mr. Van Hollen was not a factor in correcting these outrages. But when the time came to defend the dangerous Obama nuclear deal with Iran, he was in the front rank. That deal — a second Munich Agreement — harms American interests and allies. Mr. Van Hollen was among the first to praise it.

For a quarter century, Christopher Van Hollen has held elective office in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill with no significant impact. That's long enough. Maryland deserves Kathy Szeliga.

Candidate Szeliga, whom I ran against in the Republican primary along with a dozen others, has committed to attack the greatest threat of all to our state: unemployment and its consequences. No one in Maryland's congressional delegation ought to sleep soundly while vulnerable Marylanders lack work and single mothers battle rats and gangs to get their kids to school. Mr. Van Hollen has not been a catalyst for changing these conditions. Expect nothing different from him in the Senate.

On the other hand, Kathy Szeliga will strive to bring good private sector jobs and security to Maryland at every level. It won't be easy because Mr. Van Hollen has helped weaken Maryland by meekly tolerating federal regulatory assaults on his home state and his own people. Maryland workers, coal miners, watermen, farmers, ranchers and small businesses have suffered for it. But not even two decades of Mr. Van Hollen's presence in the U.S. House could kill off the latent economic energy that will help Maryland overtake any of the other 49 states.

For obvious reasons, Mr. Van Hollen is eager to sidestep his feeble record and thunder about the NRA and PACs. But the simple truth is that to unleash Maryland's potential and help our workforce flourish, we must send the right person to the U.S. Senate. That person will never forsake American workers. She will never send federal regulators to attack her home state. And she will never put Iran's interests above our own.

That person is Kathy Szeliga. Send her to the U.S. Senate in November, and let in the fresh air.

Richard J. Douglas is a Navy Iraq veteran who practices law in Prince George's County; his email is RichDouglas@hotmail.com.

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