As the 2014 political season gets off to an unusually early start, Democrats in Maryland’s First Congressional District are being introduced to two candidates, each of whom wants to challenge the Republican incumbent in the general election more than a year from now.
The two candidates so far –and there is still time for others to announce in this race – are John LaFerla, a Chestertown physician, and Bill Tilghman, a Centreville lawyer. LaFerla has filed for the election; Tilghman says he’ll file in the fall.
Tilghman, who is new to politics, has lived on the Eastern Shore off and on since he was 6 years old. He has worked as a lawyer and businessman for several major companies in the U.S. and abroad. He currently lives on property that has been in his family since the 1600s. More information about him and his positions is on his website, TilghmanForCongress.com.
After teaching, doing research and practicing medicine as an OB/GYN in the Midwest for years, LaFerla moved to Chestertown 12 years ago and has since delivered almost 800 babies there. He is a former president of the Democratic Club of Kent County, a former chair of the Kent County Democratic Central Committee and a member of the Maryland State Democratic Party Executive Committee. He was a candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary and came within 0.2 percent of winning. When the Democratic nominee eventually withdrew from the campaign, it was too late for LaFerla’s name to be placed on the ballot, although he did run as a write-in. More information about him and his positions is on his website, JohnLaFerla.com.
The remaining months of 2013 are critical for both of these candidates as they try to win endorsements and appeal for money to demonstrate that they have what it takes to win in the general election. This means that politically active Democrats in the First District need to focus soon on which of these two candidates to put their efforts and money behind. To help with that decision, questions were put to each candidate. Here’s where they stand on some of the most important issues.
LaFerla: “For District One, the way I would encourage job growth is to (1) create new educational systems that include practical skills; (2) increase access to broadband information technology to ensure our students are competitive in the global economy and give them the means by which they can build their futures here at home; (3) help cities, towns and counties repair and rebuild eroding infrastructure that new businesses can depend upon to move materials, products and employees; and (4) support targeted tax cuts to lower the tax burden on the middle-class, working families, which we know stimulates the economy by increasing consumer spending.”
Tilghman: “I favor the following measures to address the jobs challenge:
“Substantially increase the federal investment in education at all levels so that more young Americans can fill job vacancies in knowledge-intensive industries and do so without starting their working lives with outsized student loans.
“Invest in infrastructure to ensure that our roads, rail lines, airports, etc., are all up to the task of supporting a growing economy.
“More aggressively assert our rights under the World Trade Organization to stop foreign manufacturers from selling goods below cost and create public awareness that reducing trade deficits is a national priority directly linked to creating more jobs.
“Require multinational corporations to repatriate the large amounts of cash they have in offshore accounts and reinvest that money at home or face penalties.
“Simplify the corporate tax code and compel multinationals to start paying their fair share. This will put more cash in the hands of the typical small and medium-size companies based in Maryland’s First District which will use that cash to grow.”
“The ACA brings health care coverage within reach for 45 million previously uncovered Americans and favors preventative medicine over more reactive alternatives – as we all know, excessive use of emergency room services are a significant cost burden on the system. In Congress I will support continued evolution of the ACA.
“The alternative to health care reform is a system that costs us approximately 17.6 percent of GDP – a staggeringly high amount far above the comparable cost in other developed countries, which average around 11 percent of GDP. On those numbers, we are spending roughly $1 trillion more each year than we should. Every single American is directly or indirectly paying for this. Forty-five million Americans are not even covered, our health outcomes and live expectancy are just average and we are falling behind in many significant areas (some surprising, like the number of doctors or hospital beds per capita). Our health care system is a colossal percentage of our economy and growing too fast for us to sustain it. There is simply no credible argument for continuing to live with it as it is.
“I am in favor of the mandate requiring businesses and individuals to purchase health care insurance. The mandate is the very heart of the ACA’s cost-containment promise. Not insuring people is more expensive than insuring them. We all contribute without a lot of fuss to Social Security, starting with our very first paychecks. The health care mandate is no different.
“I am open to working with willing Republicans and Democrats to address some of the open issues with the ACA, including, for instance, its failure to more specifically focus on cost containment, or the burdens it places on small businesses, specifically businesses with full-time, non-salaried employees, like franchises. I favor reasonable tort reform and redesigning the system’s financial incentives by moving toward pay-for-performance on bundled payments and away from pay-per-service.
“Finally, it is important that we closely measure whether the cost savings anticipated from the ACA are, or are not, being realized. If not, then we must keep working until we see them.”
LaFerla: “In contrast to House Republicans, who have voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare, I believe strongly that it is a step in the right direction. Previously, access to affordable health care insurance has simply been out of reach for 50 million Americans. Obamacare is already improving the lives of many in our district and will do more when it goes into full effect in 2014. No longer will millions languish without basic care or medicine, or lose their homes or life savings to pay for it.
“Once the new law is in full force, however, we must turn our attention from the issue of access to that of cost. As a physician and as a public health practitioner, I have first-hand experience in identifying costs that can be reduced while maintaining high-quality care. We need a congressman who will pay attention to the needs of his constituents, not ideological advocacy groups. What we don’t need are decisions made on emotion that ignore scientific facts.”
LaFerla: “Paying attention to the environment does not have to hurt business. Job growth and care for the environment can go hand-in-hand: witness possibilities for public works projects such as that for cleaning up the silt accumulating above the Conowingo Dam. Because there are six states that impact the Chesapeake Bay, the federal government has a crucial role. The congressman from Maryland District One should be the champion for Bay restoration. Like our former congressman, Wayne Gilcrest – who has endorsed me – I feel it’s imperative that we work together to improve the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay. That we work together to solve the silt buildup at Conowingo Dam; that we work together to restore the population of crabs, oysters and other wildlife; that we work together to reduce pollutants, including agricultural runoff and industrial waste. It will take all of working together to protect and preserve the Chesapeake for our children and grandchildren.
“In the past, we have taken for granted clean air and a healthy water supply. But now we know that toxins and waste products have been building up so we must act to protect our world for future generations. The world’s seas continue to rise above historic levels. Pollution and rising sea levels represent major threats to millions of Marylanders, especially on the Shore. We must not wait for the next crisis, the next Hurricane Sandy, but start taking sensible actions now to anticipate future challenges.”
Tilghman: “We have a moral obligation to protect the environment. Global warming is real and I support taking steps to actively address greenhouse gases. American has two environmental success stories that we can build on. We reduced acid rain by 50 percent since 1990 using a cap-and-trade system, which is still very much in effect today. The CAFE standards for the automotive industry have gradually increased fuel efficiency for all automobiles and light trucks and even created new kinds of vehicles – hybrid and electric. There is wide, across-the-board support for these initiatives and no call for their repeal. The key to both is a limited role for government in establishing standards, leaving the greatest possible freedom for private industry to innovate to achieve mandated targets. Carbon emissions can and should be addressed using both of these approaches. We should start by looking at coal-fired power generation and ways to encourage converting these plants to natural gas.
“I strongly support our ongoing efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. As many people know, water run-off from water treatment facilities, storm drains and agriculture is the heart of the issue. Infrastructure and technology are needed to get a handle on these problems – better drainage systems in our fields, GPS-powered fertilizer application, improved municipal storm water drainage and holding systems, and research into how we can better use fertilizers including poultry waste. We all treasure the Chesapeake, so we should all participate in improving it. If every year, year after year, we make the many smaller, local investments needed to address problems, we will succeed.
“I actively support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and its goal of restoring the water of the Bay to 70 percent of its natural state by 2025. We must ensure that the Blueprint is not compromised by congressional hostility, litigation and lobbying, and I will work with energy to see that this does not happen.
“Our current congressman, Andy Harris, has a 7 percent approval rating for his votes on environmental matters. The First District deserves better.”
Tilghman: “The decision whether to terminate a pregnancy must remain a personal decision left up to the woman involved. We do not need the government to tell us right from wrong. This is a personal decision. Women faced with the issue will make better decisions if they are free to decide for themselves.”
LaFerla: “I believe that abortions should be rare, but safe and legal. It is a difficult decision that a woman should be able to seek guidance about from people she trusts including her family, religious leader and doctor, without fear of interference from the government.”
LaFerla: No response on this issue.
Tilghman: “We often hear that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ If we accept that idea, then we must be very clear about which people should have guns.
“I support requiring background checks prior to the purchases of all guns, including purchases at gun shows and online. I also support improving state and federal databases relating to felony convictions, mental health issues and the like, and the free exchange of information among agencies that manage those databases and are charged with performing background checks.
“I support the right to own and use guns for all sporting and recreational purposes, including gun collecting. I support the right to use guns for self-defense and defense of the home.
“I believe the correct approach to military-type guns, ammunition and clips is to first ask whether they have legitimate sporting or self-defense uses. If specialty guns have capabilities or specifications that exceed these purposes, then, with input from responsible gun owners, we should develop guidelines for higher levels of control.
“Gun violence is part of a larger picture affecting disadvantaged communities and demographics. Addressing the issues of these communities will improve many things simultaneously, such as health outcomes, educational achievement, family strength and jobs, and it will also reduce gun violence. The availability for treatment for drug-related and mental health issues is a major factor in this mix, as it community and educational outreach.”
Why Be a Democrat?
Tilghman: “I believe that most successful countries have at their core a powerful public-private partnership which works to solve issues using the special skills represented on each side of that table. Government is no more ‘the problem’ than the private sector is the problem. The problem arises when the two do not work together. The Democratic Party is comfortable working to achieve this special form of teamwork, and I believe that is the most important thing a Democrat can do in 2014.”
LaFerla: “I am a life-long Democrat because I believe that we are all here to help one another, not just look out for No. 1. We are truly all in this together. At an early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic and serving the community through volunteerism. My father, a World War II veteran, and mother raised me and my siblings to value service to our country. It’s an honor and privilege to serve one’s community and it’s why I became an OB/GYN and public health advocate more than 40 years ago.
“I have done volunteer service both in communities where I live and also abroad. In my church I have served on the social justice committee, worked with Habitat for Humanity, and I currently serve on the boards of For All Seasons (which helps victims of sexual, mental, and physical abuse on the Eastern Shore) and Med-Chi (the Maryland State Medical Society).
“America is blessed with hard-working people who are creative problem solvers. Working together, we can and will make a better future for our children, but only if we take responsibility for taking on important problems, meeting them head-on, and making the hard choices that these times so desperately call for. These are the values my parents instilled in me all those years ago, they’re the values I passed onto my children, and they represent the values of the Democratic Party – hard work, commitment to service, and ensuring everyone equal opportunity to reach their goals.”
By STEVE BAILEY