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Progressive Edwards says Clinton won the debate

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards speaks at the first Rural Maryland Democratic Summit in Frederick on Saturday. Edwards and fellow U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Chris Van Hollen participated in a forum as part of the day-long summit. Both Edwards and Van Hollen emphasized that they can represent the interests of conservative-leaning voters in rural counties.
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards speaks at the first Rural Maryland Democratic Summit in Frederick on Saturday. Edwards and fellow U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Chris Van Hollen participated in a forum as part of the day-long summit. Both Edwards and Van Hollen emphasized that they can represent the interests of conservative-leaning voters in rural counties. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

Rep. Donna Edwards has not formally endorsed a candidate for president, but she sure seems to be leaning toward Hillary Clinton.

Throughout the first Democratic debate on Tuesday, the Prince George's County lawmaker and Maryland Senate candidate repeatedly tweeted applause to Clinton, at one point writing that her performance was "off the chain."

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Edwards repeated the sentiment in an interview Thursday organized by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association.

"I saw one president on the stage, and I thought she looked really good and strong and progressive," said Edwards, who is running for the Senate seat that will be left vacant in 2017 by retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

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"There really was light years difference between Secretary Clinton's performance and her responses and…any of the other people on the stage," she said.

On some levels, Edwards' support of Clinton makes sense politically: Both Clinton and Edwards have noted the historic nature of their candidacies. Clinton, if elected, would be the first female president. Edwards would be the first African American to represent Maryland in the Senate.

And Clinton remains a safe bet, especially after her strong debate performance.

But on policy, there are many similarities between Clinton and Edwards' opponent in the Senate race, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County -- issues that Edwards has criticized her opponent for throughout the campaign.

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Edwards has aggressively knocked Van Hollen for his support of past trade agreements, arguing that the pacts undercut labor and environmental standards. Clinton previously supported the Pacific Rim trade agreement being negotiated by President Barack Obama, but now says she opposes it.

Edwards has frequently referred to Van Hollen as a "Wall Street Democrat," despite bank regulation legislation he has crafted that Wall Street has opposed. Clinton has been criticized by some progressives for her ties to Wall Street -- and her campaign account has benefited from those relationships.

Put another way, Clinton has had to defend her record against criticism from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and others who have questioned her liberal bona fides in the same way that Van Hollen has had to defend himself from those same questions raised by Edwards.

"I'm a progressive. But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done," Clinton said during the debate on Tuesday -- a line that could have been ripped from Van Hollen's playbook.

Edwards has often noted she doesn't agree with Clinton on everything. And she has also said positive things about Sanders, who is running a campaign to Clinton's left. But she doesn't say them as often, or as forcefully.

Ultimately, it may be one of the few things Edwards and Van Hollen wind up agreeing on in their Senate race: Van Hollen supports Clinton as well.

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