Monday, March 19, 2018

Maryland House District 12: The Challengers - Part One

First, I am trying out this speech-to-text dictation software.  Please bear with me.

Note: for the full, completed questionnaires, please visit Scott E's Blog here: District 12 Completed Questionnaires

This essay will focus on House District 12 Challengers, not the incumbents who are seeking re-election to the House.  There are a couple of mentions of Dr. Clarence Lam in this post, who is running for the open District 12 State Senate seat.  And Dr. Terri Hill and Eric Ebersole make cameo appearances, but I will focus on their questionnaires in a separate post…along with Lam.  Mary Kay Sigaty, running against Lam in the State Senate primary, informed me that “time did not allow her to participate with my questionnaire.”

I will post the completed questionnaires soon.  For right now, the questions the candidates received can be found at the end of this post.

Before I get too far along, I would like to thank the three Democratic non-incumbent candidates that took the time to respond to my questionnaire.  In no particular order, they were Mark Weaver, Jessica Feldmark, and James Howard.  But first a few brief words on the other HD 12 candidates…

I have visited the campaign websites of Jonathan “Jon” Bratt and Malcolm Heflin.  While they both possess interesting qualifications for local office, I do not know either of them personally.  Heflin, at least on social media, appears to be running a more active campaign than Bratt. I didn’t hear back from either candidate regarding the questionnaire.  Therefore, I am ruling out both of them for any endorsement consideration.

Dario Broccolino, also unresponsive.  Furthermore, he is also supporting Rich Gibson’s Republican opponent in the State’s Attorney race…which won’t help him with Democratic primary voters. Pass.

So, assuming votes for both Terri Hill and Eric Ebersole, that leaves (at most) three options for the third position. 

Mr. Weaver’s responses were concise. I think the progressive instincts are there, at least they were expressed clearly in some instances.  By adding examples and/or offering solutions on all of the questions, as he did for the Concentration of Wealth, Gender Equality and LGBTQIA questions, that would have given readers a better sense of his worldview. 

Weaver was vague on the Social Democracy question (in fairness, some of the other candidates opted to re-frame this query as a social justice question whereas a logical starting point for a response should tie into economic matters).  Clarence Lam, Terri Hill, and James Howard addressed the fundamental economic issue, at least briefly.

Some of Weaver’s responses could have pivoted to policy solutions, the Class War reply could have been a bit more detailed.  The Liberty & Equality and Class War responses felt a bit reductive. 

In short, while Mr. Weaver appears to be at least a legitimate state legislative candidate, I haven’t seen enough that would convince me that he is more deserving of my vote compared to the other two challengers who sent in their completed questions:  Feldmark and Howard.

Turning to those two, let us compare and contrast their responses:

Concentration of Wealth (Question 1) and Class Warfare (Question 5):

First, Mrs. Feldmark combined the Concentration of Wealth and Class Warfare questions into one mega-question.  She argues that the increased concentration of wealth is “corrosive to our democracy.” She points the finger at “strategy policy decisions” and (briefly) offers a general path forward, recognizing the challenges involved with “the role of money in our current political process” when it comes to bringing about progressive change.  Overall, I thought hers was a solid response but another sentence of supporting detail, on the solutions side, would have made it a stellar reply. 

Dr. Howard offered up a more nuanced approach, stating that this increased concentration of wealth is “evidence of corrosion to our democracy” and “corrosive to our society.”  Dr. Howard’s response implies that the corrosion to our democracy has another cause, with the increased concentration of wealth being a symptom.  His was a thoughtful reply but I would have liked another sentence on the underlying cause (and a little more on how it can corrode “society” as distinct from our “democracy”) before shifting into the proposed treatment(s).  Further, he flat out rejected the premise to the Class Warfare question. I disagree with his perspective on this case.  From this author’s point-of-view, there has been class warfare in this country, it began before we became an independent nation, the rich and powerful seldom lose, and they take deliberate and concrete steps to keep it going as it works in their interests. 

Social Democracy (Question 2):

Feldmark: pivoted to discuss “the government’s role and responsibility to promote social justice.”  Not 100% on point with the intention of the question, but fair enough.

Howard: Noted that the “Nordic countries…can be a model.” An “A” response, even allowing for the wiggle room in his reply. Although he did identify himself as a “Third Way Democrat” in an era where the Clinton and Blair legacies in this regard are being viewed more critically, and where more traditional left policies and figures (such as Corbyn and Sanders) are enjoying a resurgence in support.

Racial Discrimination (Question 3):

Both delivered thoughtful replies.  I thought Feldmark’s use of the House Bill 512 example was timely and helped ground her argument a bit more solidly whereas Howard went a bit more Big Picture re: discussing threats to “Civil Rights-era laws” due to those pushing “political decisions.”

Equality and Liberty (Question 4):

Ideally, I would have liked to have seen someone articulate a point of view where the promotion of equality, skillfully implemented, increases effective liberty.  For example, a single-payer health care system that helps prevent families from enduring intense economic hardships due to exorbitant medical bills gives such families more control over their destiny, more freedom to pursue other life and career paths without the fear of crushing debt forcing them to remain stuck working long hours in the hopes of, perhaps one day, paying off said bills.  Former Deputy Labour Party leader Roy Hattersley wrote about this (occasional) false dichotomy in his book, “Choose Freedom.”  But yes, there are times when the equality and liberty principles come into conflict, which requires sound decision-making…and sometimes a need to strike a “proper balance between the two” as Lam wrote.

Feldmark’s response, basing “equality” on “equity” and offering up a mention of “balancing” “negative and positive liberties” was slightly more meatier in terms of a theoretical framework than Howard’s, although his response that “it is a core governmental role to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to advance and equal protection when they fall” is a very good speech line.

Gender Equality (Question 6):

Flipping the roles from Question 3, Howard offers up a compelling and specific present-day example (child marriage) while Feldmark speaks in broader terms about how “reproductive freedom is not enough without access to reproductive healthcare.”  This is, as she observes, a tie-in to the effective liberty point raised in the Equality and Liberty question.

LGBTQIA Concerns/Safeguards (Question 7):

Howard’s answer on “access to resources” and “enforcement” was more concrete than Feldmark’s stated willingness to “continue the fight” and “stand up as allies.” Both are important viewpoints, personally, I found the “policy”-centric response to be a little weightier than the “values”-focused reply.

So what does this all mean?  From a decidedly progressive point of view – I believe that Feldmark “won” questions 3, 4, and 5.  I think Howard “won” questions 2, 6, and 7.  Question 1 – as they approach it in different ways, is darn close to a draw.

In short, we have two excellent candidates in Feldmark and Howard.  Either would make a great Delegate.  Am I endorsing anyone today? Well that’s a good question.

Hold on.

Hello?  Is someone at the door?

I don’t know, sounds like moaning.


Wait…it can’t be…


1)         Do you consider the increased concentration of economic wealth in the United States to be corrosive to our democracy?  If yes, how should this issue be addressed? If not, why not?
2)         What are your thoughts on social democracy? 
3)         Racial discrimination continues to plague our nation.  This is evident in our workforce (hiring practices, income disparities, opportunities for advancement, etc…), in the administration of our criminal justice system, in systemic efforts to disenfranchise voters based on race, in the relative dearth of substantive environmental protections for communities where people of color constitute a large percentage of the population, and in other facets of American life.  What steps can and should be taken to address these issues?
4)      Thinking about the principles of liberty and equality, and this can apply to any given challenge (fiscal, social, etc…), how can they both be promoted to ensure that the “unalienable rights” of all Americans are protected?
5)      Let’s assume that something called “class warfare” exists.  If so, who has been winning? For how long? And in whose interest is it to continue the war?  
6)      Considering the UN’s sustainable development goals which refer to gender equality as a “fundamental human right,” how is America performing when it comes to promoting gender equality and what specific steps can and should be taken to secure true gender equality in the United States?
7)      Many LGBTQIA Americans have expressed concerns that the current Administration (and those who view the world similarly) are dedicated to rolling back recent legal protections fought for, and recognized, in this country.  What steps can and should be taken to safeguard the rights of LGBTQIA citizens to participate fully in the “pursuit of happiness” stated in our Declaration of Independence?  

Stay tuned, as more will follow(?)

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