In a special election, voters in Baltimore city, Baltimore County and Howard County will vote to replace the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings for the 7th Congressional District seat. Here are their responses to policy questions in The Baltimore Sun’s voter guide ahead of the Feb. 4 primary.
Previous political experience?
Why are you running for office?
I am sick and tired of the injustice in this system. Maryland remains one of a handful of states that continually pay more in federal taxes than they receive back in aid from the federal government. That disparity shows all around this district when we look at our transportation system, the addiction crisis and our schools. For better or worse this district was drawn in a way that has allowed this seat to be occupied by a democrat for 30 years without much competition. While I certainly intend to keep that statistic going, I will not take the people and the needs of this district for granted. I’m not running to be a Washington elitist, I am running to deliver a new vision focused on results for the people.
How do you assess Elijah Cummings’ representation of the 7th District? What would you do differently?
Congressman Cummings was a good friend and a great leader. He inspired many in the district and around the country. He became a national leader for the Democratic Party and finished his career with one of the most impressive records in the history of the House of Representatives. Congressman Cummings led our people through difficult times and always put his country and his constituents ahead of his own personal interests. If there was one area of critique I had for the late Congressman, it would center around the investigation of President Trump. When the Democrats regained control of the House in 2018, Congressman Cummings was the Chair of the Oversight Committee and had the power to investigate a very troubled White House. I believe that too much time passed before the investigations began and too much time passed before results of these investigations were made public. I believe that a more focused and organized approach to the investigations would have uncovered an unequivocal violation of law by the White House. I do not think there should have been any delay in subpoenaing the President’s tax returns. The subpoenaing of these documents should have coincided with consistent and repetitive messaging about the importance of Americans seeing the President’s personal tax returns.
How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.
I assess the Trump administration as the worst and most embarrassing administration in the history of this country. I do not think the President wanted to win the election and certainly believe he did not have a plan for when he took office. I think the President’s treatment of the media is dishonest, disingenuous and has created a situation in which half of the voters in this country will not believe anything that is reported on by the press, regardless of the number of sources and proof provided in the story. This distrust of the press that has been created by the President and similarly by Fox News, provides an eerily similar story line to the fictional Orwellian stories we grew up reading. I do think the President deserves credit for changing the political world with respect to the direct communications he has with the people via Twitter. I think all of our politicians should have more authentic contact with the people and social media is able to provide that. I do however think it should be honest and dignified.
Based on what you’ve seen, is there sufficient evidence to impeach?
There is. I believe the outline and examples provided in the following link lay out a strong case for several impeachable offenses by the president. https://www.needtoimpeach.com/impeachable-offenses/. I believe strongly that with regards to the situation in the Ukraine, the President should be judged on the evidence presented to Congress. Under my calculation, every single witness that has testified has corroborated the charge. If the President, or the people that support the President, truly believe he is innocent, they should testify.
What effect do you believe the federal tax cuts of 2017 have had on the economy thus far or will have in the future and why? Do you support the cuts?
I believe they have had a negative effect on the economy in this district specifically more than others. The elimination of the SALT tax deduction has had disproportionate effect on the people of this 7th district.
Is the level of economic inequality in the United States a problem, and why or why not? What, if anything, should the federal government do to address it?
It is an enormous problem and will be a primary legislative focus for me. I think the conversation begins with the inequity in our schools. In this relatively small district, we have both the best and worst schools in the state and the country! Schools that are just a few miles apart should not have such differences. Federal funding must be made available to underperforming schools. Public college education should be available to Americans at the same cost that public high school education is. Student loan interest rates should be capped at 3%. With a primary focus on education, the inequity will not change overnight, but once these changes are made, we will have a sustainable plan for years to come.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?
Federal gun laws must be changed. We cannot ignore the number of victims of gun violence in this country every year. Unfortunately though, the NRA and the Republican party have been very successful in scaring lawful gun-owning citizens into thinking that any modification of our current gun laws will be the start of a slippery slope resulting in the government taking their guns away. I am deeply saddened that even in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, this country was not able to pass sensible gun regulations. I believe strongly that when considering reality, we need to think differently than we have in the past. With that, I would propose the following: a) That the second amendment to the United States receive heightened significance to the effect that if there were ever to be a law, rule or regulation that would result in the right to bear arms being eliminated, a unanimous vote would be required in the House and Senate. In exchange for that significant concession, the following regulations would be passed: i. All gun owners are required to carry insurance; ii. For ownership of an assault rifle or similar gun, a highly specialized license be required, and the weapons would be tracked to ensure they are used for sport purposes only; and iii. There be a mandatory 3-day waiting period to purchase a gun. I would support any regulation or law that is aimed towards having stronger gun laws, but as mentioned above, I do not think there is enough support and I am not sure there ever will be. Therefore I would be willing to make a serious concession just to make the progress listed above, or other similar progressive ideas.
What should Congress do with respect to the Affordable Care Act, how and why? If you believe it should be scrapped, what, if anything, should replace it?
I believe firstly that we must allow more Americans to qualify for subsidies on the exchange and we should offer a public option, similar to Medicaid or Medicare, for Americans who cannot afford health insurance. a. I would also support an incremental change that provided more affordable options for Americans to receive mental health treatment and medications. I believe we have a mental health crisis and mental health diseases are the most under treated diseases in this country.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?
I believe the federal government should improve regional rail transportation and support public Wi-Fi access. Improving Baltimore’s public transportation should be a primary objective for the city.
Do you back Cummings’ bill — which Republicans say is too expensive — to provide $100 billion over 10 years to fight the opioid epidemic? Why or why not?
I support the concept but believe we need to address the underlining disease of addiction by first providing real affordable and accessible mental health care treatment. If forced to vote up or down on the bill, I would support it, although I think it could be improved.
What changes, if any, should Congress make to our immigration and deportation laws and policies? Should the DACA program be preserved? Why or why not?
I believe we need a clear path to citizenship that mirrors the immigration plans of other progressive countries. I would support the elimination of ICE as I do not believe ICE is an effective use of tax dollars and there are existing agencies better equipped to enforce our immigration laws. DACA should be preserved.
How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?
I believe that Americans have been exploited by cheap, dangerous low-quality products from China. I believe that we must have protections for American consumers for all products and services consumed and when the Chinese government or other countries make that virtually impossible, we must act. I do think that protecting American consumers outweighs the benefits of American businesses doing business in China. I am not opposed to elements of a free trade concept if the companies that are providing goods and services in American can be brought to court if they deliver fraudulent products and services to the people of this country. I think that is most important and do not believe that tariffs in one direction or the other provides any protection.
Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?
I do not. The deal was a progressive step that was the result of a tremendous amount of hard work and should be expanded on.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
I do not support military action against North Korea and would support diplomatic talks and sanctions.
How should the United States address climate change?
I believe we need to declare a state of emergency in this country and take immediate action to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?
We must take stock of what current capabilities we have to slow down our contribution to climate change and invest in long-term solutions that lead to eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels. I think this begins with messaging. The Green New Deal must become a litmus test not just for political candidates, but also for companies that we give business to. As a congressman I will be calling on my colleagues and my constituents to unify around the Green New Deal and focus on getting the message out that the Green New Deal is more than an environmental protection plan, but that it is also a plan to revitalize the economy of so many cities and towns in America who have seen their jobs go overseas or become replaced by technology.