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?
Member of the Maryland House of Delegate, District 12, since January 2015
Why are you running for office?
As a 50-year resident of the district, product of its public schools, small business owner for almost 30-years and state legislator, I am deeply rooted in the 7th Congressional district and committed to the well-being and success of its residents. My life is a testament to what can happen when opportunity and promise meet, and I want to do everything within my power to ensure that every child is given the chance to fully realize their potential. I have the experience, skill set and compassion to bring positive change to our national agenda. The issues which compelled me to seek public office seven years ago - attacks on the rights of citizens, voters, workers, women, people of color and other; and the growing dismissal of facts and data when addressing our most urgent problems of climate change, health care and growing economic insecurity have only worsened in the last few years.I believe the moment is urgent and that I am best positioned to advocate for the changes that are needed.
How do you assess Elijah Cummings’ representation of the 7th District? What would you do differently?
Congressman Cummings was someone I deeply respected. We can follow his advice to get off the sidelines and engage in the battle for our Democratic beliefs but we can not replace him. I share his passion for better healthcare and will bring a unique perspective to that challenge so that every person has access to affordable healthcare where they live. I always appreciate the opportunity to have learned from him and I will continue to serve this community as I always have. I will show up. I will listen. I will act.
How do you assess the Trump administration so far? Name at least one positive and one negative.
Trump is a danger to our country. I am disappointed by his disregard for the truth, especially evident in his attitude toward climate change. There is one positive thing about the Trump administration– he has been extremely effective in pushing the agenda autocratic powers have strategically rolled out over the last few years, and this is our uphill battle.
Based on what you’ve seen, is there sufficient evidence to impeach?
Yes, there is more than enough evidence to impeach and it goes way beyond the official articles “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.” His high crimes and misdemeanors include but are not limited to perjury, bribery, violations of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause and campaign violations. His actions as outlined in the Mueller Report also give evidence of impeachable offenses.
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 do not support the 2017 tax cuts and would work to repeal them. Despite claims of a great economy, the people I talk to one-on-one aren’t feeling it. They work multiple jobs, they carry greater debt, they can’t afford housing.
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?
We need to increase federal minimum wage and index it to inflation, decrease or eliminate tipped work, and strengthen and improve enforcement of anti wage theft laws. We must establish a progressive tax structure and repeal most Trump tax cuts. We need to expand the earned income tax credit, strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an independent agency with strong investigatory regulatory and enforcement powers, prohibit discriminatory and regressive lending practices; cap commercial interest rates based on the prime lending, allow education loans to be refinanced and to be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, close the education achievement gap, decrease costs of higher education, and provide more career and technical training. I would also support the establishment of the commission on reparations.
Should federal gun laws be changed, and if so, how and why?
At the federal level, I would support all gun sense legislation including: close background check loopholes, ban assault weapons, implement red flag laws, allow physicians to talk to their patients about gun safety, fund quality research on gun safety and the health and economic impacts of gun 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?
I’d vote to reinstate provisions removed from the ACA. I’d vote to preserve quality and lower health care costs through allowing of negotiation of drug pricing; cost review, oversight and fee setting mechanisms; global budget funding of facilities & separate funding for capital projects; and/or establishing a national long-term care option. Gradual transition to single-payer system may be optimal.I support affordable accessible healthcare for all including automatic enrollment, coverage of services that are medically necessary or appropriate for health maintenance, or the diagnosis, treatment or rehabilitation of health condition. I support covering hospital services, prescription drugs, mental health, substance abuse treatments, dental, vision and long-term care services. Affordable healthcare would ensure consistent costs for patients because it does away with deductibles, coinsurance and copayments and other out of pocket expenses. Limiting private health insurers and employers to supplemental but not duplicative benefits will create a level playing field for all patients.
What role should the federal government play in helping cities? What, if anything, would you do for Baltimore, specifically?
The federal government must reinvest in and not withdraw support for communities and organizations that are affecting positive change. We must provide affordable transportation, quality education, affordable healthcare and housing and sustainable work opportunity. We must identify and address the root causes of the despondency that has for too long infected our communities and fed the violence, and fear that has made advancements in education, business educational failings, at all levels we must provide the resources necessary over a sustained period for real change to be realized.
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?
Doing nothing is far more expensive. From an economic perspective, The Council of Economic Advisors estimates the cost of the opioid crisis at $696 billion in 2018, or 3.4%r of the GDP. From a health perspective the costs associated with untreated opioid use diseased include criminal justice, medical, lost productivity and more.
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?
We should preserve DACA. Immigrants are vital to our country and our workforce. Undocumented people currently living in the shadows need protection. Just like in 1986, we have the ability to craft bipartisan legislation to give people a path to citizenship that do not qualify for any current relief. The vast majorities of undocumented people have committed no crime and are only in the country seeking a better life for themselves and their family. By bringing them out of the shadows, we help our first responders by providing a community willing to assist in investigations, we increase our tax base and revenue and we reduce the overall exploitation of workers that create lower wages for every worker. To ensure our security and preserve our values, our policy must be clear, inclusive, allow rapid response to humanitarian crisis, address current and projected workforce needs, recognize our current reality, and provide protection and a path to legal residency or citizenship to those contributing to our communities and economy. America’s success depends on attracting and supporting successful integration of immigrants.
How would you rate the Trump administration’s trade stance with China and why?
This administration’s trade stance with China is incoherent. It changes as the wind blows and creates uncertainty for U.S. businesses, farmers and others involved in global trade. Foreign policy in general has been a disaster for this administration and we must re-examine our approach to the deployment of hard and soft powers around the globe.
Do you support the president’s decision to pull out of Iran nuclear deal? Why or why not?
Trump has undermined the credibility of the United States by withdrawing from the Iran deal. The US is now seen as an untrustworthy negotiator. His failure to understand the impacts on Middle East peace or how his withdrawal sets up future consequences in this region shows a critical lack of strategic thinking.
How should the United States address the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program?
North Korea is also not a problem that stands in isolation, but a problem that impacts global stability and security. North Korea has failed to follow through on any of its commitments and Trump’s failure to coordinate an approach with other countries is a critical mistake. His inability to articulate a strategy or goals and his leadership of complex foreign policy by tweet is an abject failure.
How should the United States address climate change?
We must treat climate change like the emergency it is and do everything we can. We must reinstitute environmental protection laws that have been eroded under Trump’s administration, recommit to the Paris Climate Accords, extend subsidies for renewable energy, remove subsidies for fossil fuels, accelerate programs for trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, initiate a carbon tax, encourage green innovation and green jobs and encourage dietary changes in nutritionally robust U.S. populations.
Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?
As a scientist, I support the Green New Deal, which resolves to treat climate change as an emergency through efforts limiting fossil fuel consumption, and reducing emissions. I believe in holding fossil fuel companies accountable and I affirm that ensuring that a transition to green energy must be accompanied by an investment in new green jobs and an investment to train fossil fuel workers for new employment opportunities. These investments will help prepare us for a healthier more sustainable future. As a physician I am keenly aware of the connection between climate change and social injustice. The disproportionate impact on poor and urban communities has already resulted in higher rates of chronic health conditions including asthma and heat-related mortality. I am committed to ensuring that federal investments and funding are commensurate with the need, reflect a correction for the disproportionate burden borne by these communities over multiple generations, and are committed for the many years required to effect the needed changes and sustained results.