Tag Archives: Andy Harris

Maryland’s Congressional Delegation, Minus One, Aims for Gun Control

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – Maryland’s congressional delegation generally supports new gun control legislation proposed in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 schoolchildren.

Proposals for increased regulations on weapon types, background checks and ammunition magazine size have circulated through Congress, though only a few bills have been formally introduced.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, sponsored one of them: a bipartisan bill to make gun trafficking a federal crime and attempt to stop so-called “straw buyers” who purchase guns with the intent of passing them on to criminals.

“I know for a fact that (President Barack Obama) supports it,” Cummings said of the bill in a recent interview. But, he said, Obama “would like to have a package of bills” rather than one specific measure.

Obama signed 23 executive orders on gun control in mid-January. And at the end of his Feb. 12 State of the Union speech, he said the families of victims of gun violence “deserve a vote,” though he did not propose specific gun control policies.

Cummings’ nephew was shot and killed in 2011, which has made gun control a personal issue for him.

“It makes you mourn for what could have been,” he said. “That mourning will probably last me until I die.”

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, calls gun control a “long-term concern” of his and has co-sponsored unsuccessful gun control legislation in the past.

“I’m just hopeful that the conversation continues and that we get some meaningful action this time,” Sarbanes said in an interview. “If we can’t act now I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to act as a nation.”

Sarbanes, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee, sees a “public health component” to gun control.

“We often don’t look at it through that lens but I think that’s an appropriate lens,” he said.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, “supports the Second Amendment, but…doesn’t think private citizens should be able to purchase weapons of war,” said Jaime Lennon, his communications director.

Ruppersberger, who owns guns, supports “fair, reasonable and comprehensive reforms,” Lennon added, giving no further specifics.

The state delegation’s lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, takes a different view altogether.

“Before we go to expand the laws, we ought to make sure that we are enforcing the laws,” Harris said in an interview.

Background checks have not worked as intended, Harris said, and states that have more stringent gun control laws, such as Connecticut, have not been immune from shootings.

“The most important issue is making sure people who have mental health problems have the ability to get care,” said Harris, a doctor and gun owner.

Harris recently brought his views on gun control and the Second Amendment to a well-attended town hall in Ocean City.

“The majority of people in the 1st Congressional District are very skeptical of increasing gun control as a solution to the problem,” he said.

Harris’ views on gun controls are partly informed by the experience of his Hungarian and Ukrainian-born parents, who “escaped” from countries where guns were banned.

“I understand from one extreme what gun control can lead to,” Harris said.

Some in Maryland’s delegation are strong supporters of gun control legislation but don’t anticipate being asked to play a major role in upcoming legislatives battles.

“It’s something I want to be supportive of and contribute to, recognizing there are other people who’ve been working on this issue a lot longer than I have and I defer to their leadership on the issue,” said Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, in an interview. “But it doesn’t feel like an area where they need me to step forward and actually do specific things on it.”

A banker by trade, Delaney was recently appointed to the Joint Economic Committee and serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, is also known more for his financial acumen, though he has waded into gun control efforts. He was the only member of Congress to speak at the March on Washington for Gun Control in late January.

“We are gathered here….to say to the United States Congress that the price of inaction is too high. That the death toll across America is unacceptable,” Van Hollen said.

His guest at the State of the Union was Carole Price, who became a gun safety advocate after her 13-year-old son was accidentally shot and killed by a young neighbor in 1998.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, brought Patricia Bell and Sabrina Worthington, the mother and sister of a Maryland State Trooper who was fatally shot in 2010.

“Gun violence continues to plague communities here in Maryland and across the country, putting our brave law enforcement officers at risk every day,” Hoyer said in a statement at the time.

Hoyer and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, represent Prince George’s County, which has been hard hit by gun violence.

Edwards, who was unable to be reached for comment, spoke about gun control on the House floor Wednesday, though she has not released a statement about the issue since mid-December.

State level gun control efforts are moving swiftly in Maryland. The state Senate on Thursday approved Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control bill, which would ban many assault rifles, lower ammunition magazine capacity and require fingerprinting for people who purchase handguns.



Violence Against Women Act Passes Final Hurdle in the House

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted Thursday to renew the Violence Against Women Act, passing a Senate-approved version of the bill rather than a Republican-offered alternative.

The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama, who has said he will sign it into law.

The VAWA provides support and protection for victims of violence. It also funds training designed to better equip law enforcement to respond to instances of sexual and domestic violence.

“The legislation passed today provides the broad and comprehensive protections victims and providers deserve,” Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, said in a statement.

The bills include protections for same-sex couples and Native Americans, despite the reservations of some congressional Republicans. Senate Republicans had also opposed a provision granting visas for illegal immigrants who are abuse victims. It was eventually removed from the bill.

All 138 dissenting votes came from Republicans, though 87 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The Maryland delegation’s lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris of Cockeysville, voted against.

“For the sake of millions of victims of domestic violence, I am grateful House Republicans have finally joined Democrats in supporting the bipartisan Senate bill,” said Edwards, the only woman in Maryland’s House delegation.

The bill was a priority for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., long-considered the dean of Senate women, who reintroduced the bill in late January.

“This bill meets a compelling human need. It helps families, it helps police officers and it helps our communities,” Mikulski said in a statement following the House bill’s passage. “We need to empower victims and help prevent domestic violence and violence against women, whether it’s a stranger who perpetrates danger and despicable acts, or in their own home.”

Maryland’s Democratic representatives celebrated passage of the bill, which also consolidates support programs and provides better legal training to defend victims.

“For our mothers, daughters, sisters, and loved ones, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act today was the right thing to do,” Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, said in a statement.

“This comprehensive bill strengthens protections for all women and ensures that victims of violence have the services and support they need,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said in a statement.

“This is critical legislation that has equipped our law enforcement and government to aid and protect victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking for nearly 20 years,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, in a statement.

The Violence Against Women Act, which became law in 1994 and expired in early January, is said to have decreased domestic violence cases by 50 percent since its inception.

Capital News Service reporter Anamika Roy contributed to this report.

Sequester Could Close Five Regional Air Traffic Control Towers

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – Air traffic control towers at Maryland’s five regional airports could shut down on April 1 as the Department of Transportation plans ways to cut its budget should the sequester occur, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday.

The news left Maryland officials frustrated because without operating towers, commercial, military and general aviation air traffic could be delayed or cancelled.

Airports in Maryland that could be hit by the cuts are Easton Municipal Airport, Frederick Municipal Airport, Hagerstown Regional Airport, Martin State Airport and Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport. More than 100 air traffic control towers around the nation at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial flights per year could be affected, according to LaHood’s statement.

Frederick Municipal Airport just installed its air traffic control tower last May, but its closure will still have a major impact on flights using this airport. It is the second-busiest in Maryland, with 130,000 annual flights, despite a lack of scheduled service.

The air traffic control tower is a “critical component for us out here,” Airport Manager Kevin Daugherty said. “We fought tooth and nail to get the tower.”

Lack of an operating tower could hurt Maryland businesses, according to Daugherty. “There’s a lot of commercial aircraft that won’t fly into a non-towered field.”

Air traffic controllers are important because they “provide an extra set of eyes in a complicated, congested airspace,” Maryland Aviation Administration spokesman Jonathan Dean said. MAA operates the towers at Martin State Airport.

Without air traffic controllers, pilots would have to announce their positions and intentions to other pilots.

The sequester is a series of automatic budget cuts that would go into effect March 1. The Department of Transportation will need to cut $600 million from its budget for the remainder of the fiscal year to comply with the sequester, should it occur. Congress and the Obama administration are in discussions to try to stave off the cuts.

Frederick Municipal Airport, Martin State Airport and Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport will remain open should the towers shut down due to sequestration. CNS was unable to reach Easton Municipal Airport and Hagerstown Regional Airport for comment.

In a press briefing, LaHood said he hoped that announcing the cuts will “wake up members of the Congress on the Republican side,” to offer a proposal that would prevent sequestration.

Maryland Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, called the possible closure of the towers “very concerning.” Both the Frederick and Hagerstown airports are in his congressional district.

“Because we failed to take the necessary steps to deal with our deficit in a balanced way…we find ourselves facing a mini-doomsday machine in the sequester,” Delaney said.

The Easton and Salisbury airports are in Congressional District 1, represented by Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville.

“Senate Democrats and President Obama have yet to propose a plan (to prevent sequestration),” Harris said in a statement. “Now, they are blaming Republicans instead of upholding their end of the deal — to find a responsible way to replace the sequester.”

Harris was recently appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, which makes budget decisions for the government.

“Sequester will cripple air transportation, causing ripple effects across the economy and costing us jobs we can’t afford to lose,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski said in a statement. “These are real impacts in real communities with real consequences.” Mikulski heads the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Robert Bryant, spokesman for Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport, is frustrated that Congress has yet to figure out a plan to prevent the sequester and cuts to the airline industry: “Let’s correct this budget mess so this country will continue to move forward.”

Capital News Service reporter Jeremy Barr contributed to this report.


Economy Tops Obama Second-term Agenda

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama used his first State of the Union address as a second-term president Tuesday to focus on an economy that continues to struggle toward recovery and to lobby for better gun laws to stem the tide of violence that claimed two more student lives in Maryland.

“A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs — that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”

His administration released a package of job training, business incentives and education reforms designed to produce jobs, provide cleaner energy and improve the nation’s rusting infrastructure.

The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans now hold nearly 75 percent of the country’s net worth, according to a July 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service, while the rest of the country’s wealth share has declined. Meanwhile the national unemployment rate stubbornly hovers around 8 percent, down from its high of 10 percent in 2009.

Maryland’s unemployment rate stands at 6.6 percent, below the national average and down from a recent high of 8 percent in October 2009.

Obama called the sequester — a series of automatic federal spending cuts — a “really bad idea” that both parties need to work together to resolve.

Obama called reducing the deficit a priority of his next term, but added that “deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” He stressed that all the proposals he is putting forward will not increase the deficit.

Maryland’s Democrat-dominated congressional delegation supported Obama’s economic plans.

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, called the speech, “terrific, very strong in its tone and its substance,” and said that the president called for “bread and butter investments.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, called the speech “comprehensive,” and said it clearly laid out his agenda.

In a statement, Sen. Ben Cardin said he agreed with the president and added, “Congress cannot fail the American people by making them victims of reckless inaction. Sequestration will have a devastating impact on our economy and we cannot let it happen.”

A statement from Gov. Martin O’Malley praised Obama’s “balanced approach” to taking on the nation’s economic problems, “where eliminating government waste and cutting spending responsibly are paired with investments in core priorities like promoting innovation, improving our schools, and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.”

The state’s lone Republican congressman, however, did not see the speech the same way. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville said the president failed to present specifics.

“He spent a lot of time talking about climate change and gun control and gave precious little details on how to solve our nation’s economic problems,” Harris said. “I thought that the president was going to actually respond to what America wants to hear now, which is how are we going to get out of the recession, how are we going to solve our economic problems, how are we going to delay the sequester…”

Obama ended his address with a reiteration of his call for gun control, specifically calling for bans on “weapons of war” and “massive ammunition magazines” like the ones used in the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 dead, including 20 schoolchildren.

These measures deserve a vote, Obama said, “because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”

The discussion is a timely one for Maryland, which saw two students killed in a neighborhood near the University of Maryland, College Park early Tuesday in what police are calling a murder-suicide. A semi-automatic Uzi was found at the scene, along with rounds of ammunition.

“Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight,” Obama said. “But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can…”

Obama announced in January 23 executive actions he plans to take to stem the tide of gun violence, including an allocation of federal research funds to study its causes.

Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, said, “Obviously what he did on gun safety is necessary and important. And I thought his timing on bringing that at the end of the speech was the right approach.”

Several Maryland lawmakers at the federal level have been actively working for gun control. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, is a chief co-sponsor of a bipartisan federal gun trafficking bill and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, just spoke at the March on Washington For Gun Control.

Van Hollen Tuesday was joined at the president’s speech by Carole Price, whose 13 year-old-son was accidentally shot and killed by a young neighbor in 1998. Since then, Price has been a gun safety advocate in Maryland, lobbying successfully for “child-proof gun legislation” in 2002.

Maryland had another tie to Obama’s State of the Union speech. High school student Jack Andraka, of Crownsville was one of 23 invited guests in First Lady Michelle Obama’s private box. Andraka won the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for creating a dip-stick sensor for cancer, and was recognized by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in his State of the State address last month.

Capital News Service reporters Allison Goldstein, Angela Harvey, Nicole Macon and Yagana Shah contributed to this report.



Partisanship, Confusion Lead 1st District Voters to Back Noncandidate

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — Rep. Andy Harris handily won Maryland’s 1st District, but surprisingly lost 33 percent of the vote to an amalgam of a withdrawn candidate and several write-ins.

Despite dropping out in early September, well past the deadline to remove her name from the ballot, Democrat Wendy Rosen still received 27 percent of the vote.

“I don’t know if (voters) didn’t know that I dropped out, if they thought the allegations were petty, or if I shouldn’t have been pushed out.”

Concerns over voter fraud permeated the national discourse during the 2012 election cycle. So when news broke that Rosen had voted in both Florida and Maryland in prior elections, her withdrawal — with nudging from the Maryland Democratic Party — was inevitable. Receiving so many votes afterward was unexpected.

“It shows how strong partisan identification can be,” said Michael Cain, director of The Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “This is a strong behavioral tendency in a lot of voters.”

The Maryland Board of Elections reported that approximately 83 percent of voters are registered with a party, a fact that Cain says is “not trivial.”

Pundits and politicos agree that party affiliation produces an automatic reaction at the polls.

“I really wasn’t that surprised,” said Kathy Szeliga, Harris’ campaign manager. “I think that’s the base vote. The difference is between the ones that pay attention versus the ones that are just pulling the lever for the Democratic ticket.”

As strong a reason as party loyalty is, it seems unreasonable in light of the fact that John LaFerla, who narrowly lost the nomination to Rosen in the Democratic primary, stepped in as a write-in candidate. Voting for Rosen was essentially throwing away a vote.

“It shows how uninformed people are when they go to polls,” said LaFerla’s campaign manager, Erik Gulbrandsen. “I honestly don’t know what it is; I wouldn’t call it apathy, because they did go out and vote.”

With fewer than two months to run a write-in campaign, Gulbrandsen blamed time constraints and limited resources for the public’s failings.

“I think that with only a month and a half to do the campaign, there is only so many people you can reach,” said Gulbrandsen.

In total, there were three write-in candidates who won 5.3 percent of the vote — LaFerla was the only one with backing from one of the two major parties.

The Maryland Board of Elections is still tallying how many votes each got, so LaFerla’s total is unknown. But with all things considered, 33 percent of the vote going to the Wendy Rosen’s name and a few write-ins may illuminate a chink in Harris’ armor.

“For us, we see it as a question of ballot access,” said Matt Verghese, political and communications director for the Maryland Democratic Party. “If we had a Democrat with a great campaign, had the chance to debate the issues with Harris, I think we could clear 40 to 45 percent.”

The congressional redistricting map, which voters approved with Question 5, made District 1 significantly more Republican, making Harris all the more formidable. But with every Democratic congressman and senator winning reelection; Democratic challenger John Delaney unseating10-term-incumbent Roscoe Bartlett in District 6; and sweeping success of Democrat-backed ballot measures, the party is brimming with confidence for 2014.

“It’s a very Republican district, but the voters are pragmatic, said Verghese. “We need the time to organize on the ground; you can see our party did well, given time and preparation.”

But conventional wisdom suggests that the best time to unseat a congressional incumbent is after their first term. That coupled with the high voter support, suggests Democrats dropped the ball.

“I believe that there was an incredible opportunity this year that our party missed,” said Rosen.

Harris Poised to Become New Face of Maryland Republicans

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – Less than two weeks from Election Day, tension and uncertainty are mounting, but if the stars align in Congressional Districts 6 and 1 and the U.S. Senate race, Rep. Andy Harris may soon be the highest-ranking Republican in Maryland.

Circumstances aside, the question becomes how Harris will use his leadership role to make Maryland more of a two-party state.

“Andy Harris is an experienced leader,” said Tony O’Donnell, Maryland House minority leader. “He was in the state Senate for a long time, the leadership of the caucus, and the minority whip.”

Harris was state Senate minority whip from 2003-2006. He serves on several congressional committees, and is chairman of the Space, Science and Technology Subcommittee of Energy and Environment.

“I think Andy will be a bigger force in Congress this time,” said Louis Pope, national committeeman of the Maryland Republican Party. “He’s a sharp guy, articulate, and has a great perspective. He’ll be a huge asset to Speaker (John) Boehner and Congress.”

“Andy is helping to encourage and recruit good candidates,” said Pope. “He is the perfect person to talk to people who are considering running for office.”

To promote party parity, Harris has given generous contributions to other Republican candidates, including O’Donnell, who is running for the District 5 congressional seat against House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer.

“Andy is a terrific fundraiser,” said first-term Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick County. “He sticks to conservative principles, which I like. I compromise when I can and hold my ground when it’s necessary; Andy does the same thing.”

National Journal gave Harris a conservative composite score of 67 percent in 2011, which establishes where he ranks ideologically in the House based on his voting record, landing him in the ideological middle of House Republicans.

“Andy Harris represents the national party more so than views of Marylanders,” said Michael Cain, director of The Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “He is a product of the modern political party. He replaced a moderate Republican (Wayne Gilchrest) who sat for many years.”

The new congressional redistricting map has ushered in approximately 4,000 more Republican voters and reduced Democratic voters by nearly 15,000 from 2010 levels , making Harris’ district that much more out of sync with the populous and heavily Democratic Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, as well as Baltimore.

The redistricting map has not been as kind to District 6 Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. Once a safe Republican seat, fortified by a nearly 50,000 Republican voter advantage in 2010, the pendulum has swung to give Democrats a 47,000 voter advantage. That advantage is nearly 11 percent of the district’s population, leaving Bartlett on precarious footing.

What seems clear from polls and pundits, is that Harris will most likely emerge from this election with even more stature in the state’s Republican Party.

“It’s really a question of whether he is more concerned with his political position or expanding the party in the state, which I think they work at cross purposes,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“If he is only worried about his seat, then there is no need to moderate,” said Eberly. “If they are about ideological purity, then they will probably continue to lose all the time.”

Many Republicans disagree. Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex X. Mooney said, “I do think his conservative principles are admirable and accurately reflect his district. I think you can stick to principles and win an election.”

Harris will most likely win. The redistricting widened his sphere of likely supporters, but his Democratic challenger, Wendy Rosen, withdrew last month due to allegations of voter fraud.

Her replacement, John LaFerla, was nominated too late for the Board of Elections deadline for ballot recognition, relegating him to write-in status. Besides a few other write-in candidates and a Libertarian candidate who has yet to sell his candidacy sufficiently for many voters to take notice, Harris is running relatively unopposed. With such a secure district, Harris has the opportunity to come to the center a bit.

Nationally, many voters have begged for bipartisanship to ease congressional gridlock. The Real Clear Politics voter average approval rating of Congress is just 15.4 percent as of Oct. 16.

Harris’ resolve appears unwavering, and if re-elected he plans to double-down on the principles that got him to Washington.

Disappointed with Congress’ inability to “solve the spending problem in Washington,” Harris plans to push for vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget, which passed in the House, but died in the Senate.

Back in Maryland, it is principles again that will be Harris’ lighthouse.

“We’re going to talk about the need for fiscal discipline,” said Harris. “I think that brings many of the independent-minded folks in Maryland and the Democrats, who had been called the ‘Reagan Democrats,’ back into the Republican Party.”

There is still debate over whether that is the best way to attract moderate voters. It is widely believed that ideology wins primary elections, while general elections are won with a more centrist migration.

“Andy Harris is not the guy to carry that out,” said Matthew Crenson, a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, “because he is an ideologue, which is not the kind of person that will draw in people.”

Harris is in a delicate balance between representing his largely Republican district and the entire state, which is largely Democratic. Making Maryland a two-party state may lie beyond his capacity as congressman.

“I don’t think a single person can do that,” said Cain, “especially not a congressional seat. A governor or senator has more ability because they are statewide.”

“However, he can have a very important role,” Cain said, “he can influence the direction of the party, policy, and decision.”

With Rosen Out, LaFerla Jumps Write In

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party has a new challenger to Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, after voter fraud allegations ended the previous candidate’s bid, but the odds of his beating the incumbent are slim.

The party had scrambled for a replacement since its primary winner Wendy Rosen had to drop out of the race on Sept. 10, after confirming reports that she had voted in two different states in more than one election.

Now, after a week-long search, the party has thrown its support behind John LaFerla, the 63-year-old gynecologist from Chestertown, who had lost in the primary to Rosen by just 57 votes.

In addition, LaFerla has won the backing of the former Republican congressman from the district, Wayne Gilchrest, who lost to Harris in the 2008 primary election.

But because LaFerla is late entering the campaign he will have to run as a write-in candidate, a distinct disadvantage.

“We’ve talked to the State Board of Elections, and unfortunately we’re past the date, which leaves us with no legal means to add someone to the ballot,” said Matthew Verghese, the Maryland Democratic Party political and communications director. “The party understands the reality of waging a write-in campaign.”

LaFerla, however, is up for the challenge, said his campaign chief.

“Obviously, John is ready to go,” said LaFerla Campaign Manager Erik Gulbrandsen. “He had been thinking about a run in 2014, depending on the outcome of this election, so for us it’s just a matter of turning back on the lights.”

That campaign readiness, plus his demonstrated popularity among primary voters, made LaFerla a good substitute for Rosen from a party perspective.

“John has not only the confidence, but the grassroots activists to hit the ground running,” said Verghese. “He is articulate, in his heart he understands what he’s fighting for. He’s trying to build a better tomorrow.”

However, it may not be enough. According to Saint Mary’s College of Maryland Assistant Professor of Political Science Todd Eberly, a write-in campaign in District 1 is particularly problematic because the usually Republican district was made more so after redistricting this year.

“It’s unlikely. The only time a candidate will win a write-in campaign this important is if there is a closely fought primary, and the losing candidate had substantial support,” said Eberly. “This is what happened in Alaska in 2010 when Senator Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary but ran a successful write-in campaign in the general election.”

Murkowski’s 2010 victory over Tea Party favorite Joe Miller was only the second time that a write-in candidate had won a senatorial election; the other time was Strom Thurmond, D-S.C., in 1954. Thurmond switched party affiliation 10 years later.

“Write-in campaigns can succeed as well in states or districts where one party dominates and the party’s nominee dies or suddenly withdraws.”

Fortunately for Harris, none of these conditions are much of a factor.

“Andy Harris will continue to work hard throughout the district offering solutions to restore our economy and our nation,” said Harris’ campaign manager Kathy Szeliga in a press statement.

Another write-in candidate has also emerged in the race — Douglas Rae, owner and head baker of the Evergrain Bread Co. in Chestertown.

“I became interested in running when Wendy Rosen withdrew, which left the field right open for someone my age, 24, to get more involved, and to inspire others my age to get involved. I think people have become disconnected with the democratic process, and I’m trying to show them, through running, that you can make a difference,” Rae said.

He said he’ll use news coverage and social media — he announced his candidacy on Facebook — to try to keep the cost of campaigning to his budget of $200.

“From what I understand, it costs $5 million to get a congressman elected, which I think is a waste — there are so many more useful ways that money could be spent.”

There had been some speculation that former congressman Gilchrest was considering running, but it is something that he says he was never seriously considering.

“It wasn’t the (write-in) campaign that dissuaded me,” said Gilchrest, a program director at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. “It was the fundamental dysfunction of the way Congress is. I am much more productive doing what I am doing now.”

Instead, Gilchrest said he is supporting LaFerla, rather than fellow Republican Harris.

Rosen withdrew from the race, with a strong push from the Democratic Party, once news broke that she had voted in Florida and Maryland in more than one election.

“Today, the Maryland Democratic Party took immediate and decisive action and demanded the withdrawal of Wendy Rosen … after allegations of electoral law violations were brought to our attention,” said Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis in a news release.

“Any effort to corrupt or misuse the electoral process is reprehensible, wrong and must not be tolerated.”



Rep. Andy Harris Blasts Democrats on Taxes

Capital News Service

TAMPA, Fla. — Rep. Andy Harris blasted state and national Democrats as being obstructionist and too dependent on raising tax revenue to close their deficits, during a speech at the Maryland delegation’s breakfast Wednesday morning.

Harris’ words were echoed by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who joined Harris in touting their party’s vision of a lighter tax burden and decreased government spending, embodied in the budget plan introduced by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Harris echoed a President George H. W. Bush campaign promise from 1988 when he defended congressional Republicans.

“The first thing we did in the House (of Representatives) is that we said, ‘No new taxes,'” Harris said. “Do we think we should increase revenue? Of course we do — by lowering taxes like Ronald Reagan did: You grow the economy; you don’t raise taxes.”

Harris was first elected to the House in 2010 after narrowly losing in 2008 to Frank Kratovil.

“That election night in 2008 wasn’t so good for me,” Harris said. “It wasn’t good for America. We took a turn that was hopefully not irreversible.”

Republicans feared Democrats would attempt to unseat Harris when Maryland’s congressional districts were redrawn last year. Democrats instead chose to target Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s 6th Congressional District.

Harris faces Democrat Wendy Rosen in his first re-election campaign this fall. Even though the seat isn’t expected to be in play this fall, Harris distanced himself from the idea of a do-nothing Congress.

“The House has spent 18 months now sending bills to the Senate,” Harris said. “The problem is not the House. The problem is the Senate.”

Harris faulted Senate Democrats for refusing to compromise with House Republicans.

“The Ryan budget is the Republican plan to begin negotiations,” Harris said. “We have a Senate majority leader who refuses to take action. We have to elect a Republican majority to the Senate and retire Harry Reid from majority leader.”

Mead contrasted Maryland with his home state and criticized Gov. Martin O’Malley for not considering other methods of generating new revenue for the state.

“We have no personal income tax, we have no corporate tax, and despite that, we’re rated as one of the next five boom states in the country,” he said, to sounds of wonder from the crowd. “I also want to say that I don’t get credit for that. The private sector gets credit for that.”

Mead acknowledged that revenues are down in Wyoming, but said the response should be to cut government agencies — which he praised for doing “good, conducive work” — and not raise taxes.

“While you may think that raising taxes is raising revenue, more often than not, raising taxes is lowering revenue — in addition to making everyone miserable,” Mead said.

Harris Orders Filmmaker Ejected From House Fracking Hearing

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – The director of the Oscar-nominated, environmentalist documentary “Gasland” was arrested Wednesday for filming a hearing on fracking, a natural gas extraction technique, led by Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris, of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

Filmmaker Josh Fox was questioned about credentials for taping the event in the Rayburn House Office Building. He had none, and after he declined to leave the hearing with his camera, two Capitol Police officers handcuffed him and led him out of the room. Fox was later charged with unlawful entry and released to face an October court date.

The move drew protests from Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., who asked for the committee rules to be suspended to allow Fox to record the hearing.

The committee recessed for a half-hour, then returned to vote along party lines to reject the motion. Miller then unsuccessfully moved to delay the hearing.

House rules require permission of the chairman or credentials from one of the galleries that govern the media to videotape a hearing. Fox asked about credentialing before the hearing, but did not get those credentials.

Harris said after the hearing that he “might have been predisposed” to suspend the rules were it not for the fact video of the hearing can be viewed on the committee website.

In an interview with The New York Times, Fox said his First Amendment rights were violated by the committee’s action.

“No one on the Hill is exempt from the Constitution,” Mr. Fox told the Times. “Period.”

Afterward, Miller’s office took Fox’s side, saying when Miller was chairman of the subcommittee in the past, he never requested that documentary filmmakers leave the hearing room.

Miller’s Press Secretary LuAnn Canipe said her boss considers Harris’ action “extreme.”

Freelance journalist Kerry Meyer was also turned away for trying to film the meeting. He was fooled into thinking that he had been hired by ABC according to Zach Kurz, the committee’s communication director. Meyer left the meeting without resistance.

ABC News confirmed to the committee that it did not send a journalist to film the hearing.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial extraction technique for natural gas that is under discussion for use in Maryland. It has been used in other parts of the country, and its environmental consequences were the subject of Fox’s “Gasland” film, which has drawn fire from the natural gas industry.

When the hearing finally began, Harris opened with an attack on President Obama by saying “in a remarkable display of arrogance and disregard for the plain facts, the president last week proclaimed his support for expanded shale gas production, while at the same time allowing every part of his administration … to attack these practices through scientific innuendo and regulatory straightjacketing.”

Obama, in his State of the Union speech, supported fracking saying, “The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cheaper and cleaner, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.”

The hearing was called specifically to look at an Environmental Protection Agency report investigating complaints by residents of Pavillion, Wyo., that their water quality decreased after fracking for natural gas began in the town.

The EPA determined that Pavillion’s wells contained levels of the carcinogen benzene 25 to 50 times the acceptable level, and that the contaminants are “most likely” the result of fracking.

Harris questioned EPA Administrator Jim Martin aggressively.

“You’ve already testified you’ve read the report,” he told Martin sarcastically, when Martin struggled to recall the exact language that it contained.

“The whole point of this hearing is to say, ‘Look, you’re jumping the gun,'” Harris said.

Martin said results of the study do not apply to the Marcellus Shale formation, which runs through northwestern Maryland, because it is has different geology.

Harris called on Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley to lift his moratorium on fracking because the natural gas “is in the most economically depressed regions of the state.”

Harris said is concerned the governor will use the study to oppose fracking in Maryland even though the EPA said it is not supposed to be interpreted that way.

Another Doctor Challenges Dr. Harris For 1-D

Congressman Andy Harris, whose district includes the entirety of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has yet another Democratic challenger in his 2012 bid for reelection, a fellow physician. Dr. John LaFerla of Chestertown officially filed his candidacy forms for the U.S. House of Representatives with the Maryland State Board of Elections. Along with Cockeysville businesswoman Wendy Rosen, LaFerla is the second Democrat signed up to run against Rep. Harris, R-Md.-1st.