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?
This is the first time I have run for political office.
Why are you running for office?
I am running for this office to be a positive voice for the diverse residents of the 7th Congressional District. I live in the District and I care about the District. I will connect our communities around common concerns that impact all of us...access to affordable healthcare, quality education and training programs that do not burden new graduates with insurmountable student loan debt, confidence that the water we consume and the bridges we cross are safe. I will continue to be a champion for oral health, and look forward to undertaking this campaign with integrity, civility, responsiveness and advocacy.
How do you assess Elijah Cummings’ representation of the 7th District? What would you do differently?
Elijah Cummings served our District honorably and was receptive to his constituents. Known among his congressional peers as a consensus builder, his passion for purpose driven action focused on important 7th District issues such as health care, prescription drug costs, student loan repayment programs and opioid addiction. He co-chaired the Congressional Oral Health Caucus. I would aim to continue the Cummings imprint of effective coalition building, and also incorporate town hall meetings in the far reaches of our district such as agricultural North Baltimore County.
How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.
Unfortunately, our nation is strongly polarized in its opinion of the President. Our long-standing allies are uncertain as to the reliability of the President’s commitments and promises. Never in the past have parents had to monitor their 8 year olds when the President was speaking on television, to make certain their children were not exposed to profanity, debasement of disabled persons or encouraging law enforcement to disregard civil rights. This is a sad observation of our current leader. My positive comment is that this administration kept its word about banning bump stocks.
Based on what you’ve seen, is there sufficient evidence to impeach?
Sadly, according to the testimony of several witnesses at Congressional Committee Hearings, the President used his power and prestige of office to pressure a foreign government to interfere in the upcoming 2020 election. The President made a poor choice that was unlawful and unethical. I believe the evidence presented was sufficient for impeachment. It is unfortunate that not all of the individuals who were subpoenaed appeared for testimony.
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?
No, I do not support the 2017 tax cuts. This legislation increases the deficit and was a ruse for taking money away from hard working lower income and middle-class American families and diverting it to the wealthy. Our farmers, our service technicians, school bus drivers, and student loan indebted new graduates need tax relief. The 2017 tax cuts reduced the corporate tax rate, but did not ultimately benefit those who need tax assistance the most.
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?
Income inequality is a major struggle in Maryland and across our nation. Families are having to work harder and are still not able to make ends meet. The minimum wage was last increased in 2009. It is not a livable wage for anyone. We must move to a higher minimum wage for our citizens. They are our co-workers, family members, caregivers and our friends. I support restructuring of the tax code so that those at the very top, highest incomes pay their fair share. Investment in infrastructure and transportation are key parameters for accessing desirable jobs. Consumer protection, affordable and accessible healthcare options, and subsidizing higher education, childcare and after school programs are pragmatic mechanisms to avert and reduce poverty.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?
Yes, federal gun laws should be changed. Gun violence poses a threat to confidence that public places, schools and homes are safe. A first step in reducing gun violence is closing the loopholes that do not require purchasers to have background checks. In 1996, I reached out to one of our Maryland senators to express concern about efforts to repeal the Assault Weapons Ban that was in place at that time. Sadly, the Assault Weapons Ban expired and has never been renewed or reauthorized. Assault weapons are unnecessary and need to be removed from public access. In many parts of the 7th Congressional District, children are exposed directly to gun violence and its ramifications. Their traumatic experiences must be appropriately addressed to nurture their physical and emotional wounds, and to stop the cycle of violence.
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?
Healthcare access is one of the most important issues that our citizens face. I believe healthcare is a right for everyone. The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage and reduced the number of medically uninsured individuals, however many Maryland residents remain under-insured and cannot afford essential services such as dental care, hearing aids and co-payments for ongoing rehabilitative treatment and prescriptions. We need to implement safety net solutions that work and that people can actually get to. I would expand and improve the Affordable Care Act to reduce premium payments, limit copayments and deductibles, and provide comprehensive scope of coverage including adult and senior dental care, hearing aids, addiction treatment, mental health and vision services.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?
Cities need our help, particularly with aging and inadequate infrastructure. Mass transit, water pipes and drainage systems, roadways and bridges, inadequate technology, these all need federal investment. Many cities like Baltimore are educational, health care and cultural hubs. Institutions such as these make cities desirable and vibrant, and our government needs to support them. An accurate and complete Census, and eradicating voter suppression help communities to have the appropriate representation and empowerment by which residents can effect change. Violence prevention, addiction treatment and economic opportunity programs would greatly improve quality of life. Schools need to be safe centers of academic excellence with up to date resources and sound facilities. We have an obligation to ensure that our students have adequate readiness to learn and are not fearful in their transit to and from school.
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 CARE Act. We have seen an overwhelmed medical examiner’s office, increased violence, disruption of families, and young people induced into the drug trade, as direct results of the opioid epidemic. The infusion of resources from Cummings’ Bill will provide the education, treatment, services, overdose reversal medications and funding necessary to combat this pervasive and growing problem that is affecting American families across every state.
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 support DACA recipients and their pathway to citizenship. We made an agreement with these young people, and we must stick to our word. I support reinstating employment authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders. Our immigration policy needs to return to a humane asylum and refugee system where families are not separated, and where due process, legal representation and medical treatment are provided. It is unconscionable that our government, against the recommendation of the CDC, refused to provide flu vaccines to migrant families in border detention centers. This policy contradicts basic tenets of public health promotion and human decency.
How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?
It is important for the US to protect our intellectual property and to take action to level the playing field for American business and agricultural sectors. The current Administration has undertaken policies that while on first glance may seem to be protecting our growth, are actually stifling productivity. We are subsidizing farmers for crops they cannot sell. China is seeking alternative markets and suppliers. This will hurt us in the long run.
Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?
America is the world’s leader. We must act with reliability and consistency in our policies without rigidity and isolationism. Our allies depend on our cooperation and partnership when dealing with regimes around the globe who pose a threat to our safety. No, we should not have separated from the Iran nuclear deal. This agreement prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and offered some assurance that our countries could continue dialogue that would attenuate destructive weaponry.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
To combat North Korea’s nuclear program, the US needs to maintain a strong visible presence in South Korea and maximize use of sophisticated surveillance. North Korea is dangerous and reckless. Its desire to display nuclear strength threatens world stability. This is an instance where cooperation and collaboration with our global partners cannot be overstated. Collectively, we must employ efforts to promote stability, and negotiate reduction in nuclear weapons.
How should the United States address climate change?
We must address climate change immediately by following the dictates of evidenced based science that urge innovative technologies and pragmatic applications that reduce our carbon footprint: clean energy, agricultural efficiency, consistent enforcement of violations, recycling programs that work, increased green spaces, ensure access to clean water everywhere, recycling and clean energy job training programs. Our nation should not withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. We should instead participate fully and in a leadership role. At local and national levels our citizens require increased awareness and preparedness for extreme weather conditions.
Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?
The Green New Deal offers solutions to directly tackle greenhouse emissions and climate change. I support this plan because it provides clean energy goals to benefit the quality of life for every American, and the planet. Yes, it is transformational and revolutionary, but so is the urgent need to immediately change our ways of caring for our environment.