Last week John Queen of Chestertown wrote a letter to the editor of the Spy in support of Dave Harden, a Democratic candidate who hopes to replace Andy “Handgun” Harris in the U.S. House of Representatives. The letter suggested Democrats should support Harden over Heather Mizeur because she may be “unelectable” in the conservative-leaning First District.
Queen wrote, “Heather Mizeur simply cannot win a general election in our moderate-to-conservative district. . . What is relevant is that she represented Takoma Park for more than a decade as an elected official and has the far-left voting record to show for it. “
Queen goes on to say, “Andy Harris will have millions of dollars to define her as a far-left Takoma Park transplant whose mindset is fundamentally different than that of the typical First District resident.”
I was saddened to see the letter. Mr. Queen is right that should Heather Mizeur win the Democratic nomination, Dr. Harris will brutally attack her as a socialist, or worse. But what really upset me about the letter is the prospect of two good candidates slugging it out in a primary, thereby increasing the chances that Harris will embarrass us in Washington for two more years.
Thus, the First District has a dilemma. If you agree that we need someone other than an anti-government, election-results-denying right-winger representing us, you want a unified Democratic party. And the only way for the party to unify is to make a difficult choice between two good candidates.
The district must select the better candidate. Who is that? Is it the one who might be less susceptible to Republican Harris’ attacks? Or is it the candidate whose experience and expertise will best serve the First District in Congress?
I have a preference between the two, but this column is not about endorsing one of them. Eastern Shore Democrats–the activists who are the heart of the party—must make that decision. And that decision should be based on which candidate shares our vision of what government should be and how it should serve.
Any democrat facing Dr. Harris faces a tough fight, but I reject the claim that a progressive candidate cannot beat Harris. Want proof? Review the elections of Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia in 2020. Or just ask Stacy Abrams for her opinion. She would tell you voter enthusiasm is everything.
Democratic voters will be less enthusiastic about a Democratic nominee chosen based on who might be less susceptible to attacks from Dr. Harris. If that is the case, Dr. Harris will have chosen his own opponent. If that opponent proves to be Mr. Harden, Harris will attack him as viciously as he would have attacked Ms. Mizeur. I can imagine Harris ads telling us that Dave Harden lived abroad for more than two decades.
Thus, First District Democrats face a difficult choice. Would we be better served by an experienced expert in domestic policy with a demonstrated commitment to improving healthcare, education, housing, racial and social justice, and income equality or a foreign policy expert expert who was raised on the Eastern Shore and whose family’s Eastern Shore roots go back nine generations?
I hope that Ms. Mizeur and Mr. Harden will increase their engagement with Eastern Shore voters and that a nominee will be chosen who enjoys the full support of all who want Dr. Harris out of Washington. Either candidate would be huge improvement over Harris.
I want a new representative in Congress. That means that I do not want to see mudslinging between Ms. Mizeur and Mr. Harden. Any nastiness that either of them might possess should be saved for the general election.
Democrats tearing down other democrats is not the way to win elections.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and other subjects.