Barely more than a week away till the general election, the 1st District Congressional race has proved to be reflective of others throughout our nation: a young Democrat and veteran facing off against a strong Republican incumbent who occupies a “safe” seat supposedly unwinnable by a Democrat.
Gerrymandering has created this situation where the 1st District is structured to favor a Republican. This tilt is true throughout the state and country, favoring Democrats and Republicans alike.
Since December 2017, I’ve watched former Army Ranger Jesse Colvin grow as a first-time candidate. In recent weeks I’ve spent hours listening to Congressman Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist, and came away impressed with his breadth of knowledge and intelligence.
I’ve listened to Colvin speak numerous times. I’ve questioned him repeatedly. And, as noted, I’ve listened to Harris at a debate and Spy interview. I’ve informed myself.
I believe that the 1st District needs a change in Congress. It needs a person whose military experience during four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has given him insight into a mission-first mindset, one that will enable him to reach compromise across party lines. He will be flexible, not doctrinaire and rigid like his opponent.
In 42 years on the Eastern Shore, I’ve never seen a Democrat who has garnered such enthusiastic support from Republicans and Independents as Colvin. His moderate, sensible personality and policies have drawn support from a politically diverse swath of people in the 1st District. He listens well and speaks deliberately.
Colvin is gutsy and strategic. He has mounted a challenge against a seasoned politician who, up to recent months, likely thought that the young veteran would be easily vanquished. Colvin’s campaign has shown that District voters yearn for change despite the uphill struggle. They want a voice that will question ill-advised policies spewing firth from the chaotic White House.
Colvin is a pragmatist; partisan differences will play second fiddle to “mission-accomplishment,” to passage of laws driven more by common sense and needed empathy, than by mean-spiritedness and pettiness.
Obviously, I’m referring to immigration policies that have destroyed families and sacrificed human sensitivity. I’m referring to tax legislation that seemed driven to please the rich and ignore the middle class. I’m referring to health care and the ridiculous number of attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Most of all, I’m linking Dr. Harris to silence and docility, not brought on by anesthesia, but by blind obedience to an abusive, hate baiting and incompetent President. His supporters have the audacity to conjecture that Colvin would fall under the spell of Nancy Pelosi should the Democrats overcome the Republicans’ 23-seat advantage in the House of Representatives and Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House. Harris belongs to those intimidated by Donald Trump, happy to accept his amoral behavior and trumpet his conservative policies.
In the debate a week ago at the Talbot County Library, Harris proudly exclaimed he opposed the President’s plan to cut funds for Chesapeake Bay restoration. He stood up for the Eastern Shore, he crowed. And so he did. Were there any other notable instances?
In the League of Women Voters-sponsored debate, Colvin admittedly seemed stiff and heavily programmed. He assumed the role of the partisan attack dog. It wasn’t Jesse Colvin at his best. He sacrificed civility for political upper-cuts. Meanwhile, Andy Harris seemed more polished and more knowledgeable. He also seemed to acknowledge Colvin’s ascendant candidacy by his detailed comments and rebuttals.
Though I respect Rep. Harris for his 16 years of Naval Reserve, I believe that four tours of Army Ranger duty in the maelstrom of Mideast conflict and tribal rivalries has hardened Colvin and driven him to favor diplomacy over war—unless absolutely necessary to protect our country’s national security. Gung-ho military ventures are foolhardy.
If we’ve learned anything since the 2016 presidential election, our nation is poorer for the diminution of values so evident in the decision-making by our President and Congress. Transaction matters more than humane reaction.
As most Republicans remain quiescent, our nation’s leader fails to condemn immediately the premeditated killing of a US resident and Washington Post reporter by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince’s henchmen. Economic ties matter more than the primacy of human rights. Again, most Republicans remained silent during the deadly, racist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2017.
Andy Harris has not spoken out. He represents his party and House Freedom Caucus, not the 1st Congressional District when he says nothing. He implicitly condones comments by Trump that sow hatred and bigotry and create a climate for violence.
As a friend wrote me, “Voting for a moderate, principled and patriotic Democrat like Jesse Colvin advances the prospect of a better Constitutional/Madisonian balance at a time of unprecedented capriciousness and egotism in the White House.” This friend has long been a Republican.
Colvin is insistent that his campaign is solely about Andy Harris and his eight-year record in Congress. He’s right, sort of. Were Congressman Harris more independent of President Trump, I would agree with Colvin. But, like his Republican colleagues, Harris has accepted the divisive and derisive comments emanating from a toxic White House and uttered barely a word.
Perhaps the highest compliment paid to Jesse Colvin is the endorsement of him by former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, a moderate Republican who represented the 1st District for 17 years before he was defeated in 2008 by Harris. Our current incumbent claimed that Gilchrest, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine, wasn’t conservative enough.
Gilchrist opposed the Iraqi War. He bucked his party at times. He was fair game for far-right conservatives.
I believe that Colvin would too be an independent voice in Congress. The Democratic Party might not be always pleased with Colvin should he become one of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. He would represent the District and Eastern Shore in the same understated, sensible and pragmatic way that characterized Gilchrest’s time in Congress. He would not be bullied by Democratic heavyweights.
I’m endorsing change and a new, open-minded generation of leadership in Congress personified by young, energetic veterans like Jesse Colvin. They have learned to make decisions under stress. They focused on mission first; political considerations were irrelevant. They understand pressure, unrelenting at times. And they instinctively know they must lead and care about their troops (substitute constituents).
I already voted. Jesse Colvin was an easy selection. He’s earned support from a wide range of people.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.