Democrats Contend for Uphill Climb to Run Against Rep. Harris for Congress
CECILTONâ€” Democrats hoping to take on the uphill battle to reclaim the Congress seat now held by Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) brought their spirited primary campaign to Cecilton Wednesday night.
Dr. John LaFerla, a Chestertown physician, and Wendy Rosen, a Baltimore County businesswoman, answered questions from members of Cecil County and Kent County Democratic clubs and a small audience of voters at the Cecilton firehouse, in southern Cecil County. A third candidate in the primary, Kim Letke, of Harford County, did not attend the forum.
LaFerla emphasized his â€ślifelong Democratâ€ť status, challenging Rosenâ€™s change of heart to the Democratic Party after being a registered Republican until a few years ago. Rosen countered that the last Republican presidential candidate she had voted for was Ronald Reagan in his first term, â€śand I didnâ€™t make that mistake again.â€ť She said her past party affiliation would make her a better candidate to challenge Harris because she would appeal to Republicans and Independents, as well as Democrats, in a November general election campaign.
The redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly several months ago turns the First District into a Republican bastion in terms of voter registration and any Democrat will face a difficult, uphill battle against Harris. Even before the redistricting, Harris trounced one-term Democrat Frank Kratovil in 2010 in a largely conservative district. The district includes all of the Eastern Shore but with the re-drawn lines, adds part of heavily Republican Carroll County as well as parts of Baltimore County and Harford County.
LaFerla joked about his â€śhome field advantageâ€ť during the Cecilton forum, noting that he has been an ob-gyn practitioner in Kent County and also has provided services at clinics in Caroline and Talbot counties on the Shore. Harris is also a physician, an anesthesiologist from Baltimore County who also maintains a residence in Cambridge.
LaFerla is challenging Harris on womenâ€™s health issues with a new mailing that cites Harrisâ€™ votes opposing abortion and emergency contraception and reducing â€śwomenâ€™s access to preventative health care services.â€ť During the forum, he criticized current debates over contraception and insurance coverage for such services opposed by Republicans, saying, â€śWhat they want is the total subjugation of women.â€ť
Rosenâ€™s campaign emphasizes her work in promoting American-made products and artisan crafts through a consulting business and a non-profit trade alliance. She said she has created new jobs for American workers through her efforts and would work to â€śre-create a new economy.â€ť
She noted that small businesses provide most of the new jobs being created now and Shore businesses need access to services that more urban areas take for granted, such as expansion of broadband Internet services and â€śre-building our vocational schools.â€ť Rosen also said she supports â€śshop localâ€ť programs to keep consumer dollars in the local economy.
Responding to a question about the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allowed business and labor interests to create political advocacy groups with no limits on the amount of money they can raise and whose donors are shielded from disclosure, LaFerla said the decision was wrong to equate corporations to individuals whose free speech rights are protected by the First Amendment. â€śIâ€™ll believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one,â€ť he said. He added he would support a Constitutional amendment to overturn the decision.
On the federal deficit, Rosen said, â€śI donâ€™t like corporate welfareâ€ť and voiced support for a minimum corporate income tax to close loopholes that allow some corporations to shield overseas income and pay no taxes. LaFerla said he would promote an agenda of â€śefficiency, fairness and productivity,â€ť including ending waste in government agencies, more fairness in the tax code and incentives for greater business productivity.
Rosen said she would be the more effective foe against Harris since she is working â€ś24/7â€ť on her campaign and traveling extensively in the far-flung district, while her primary opponent is still seeing patients and is not devoting full-time to the campaign. LaFerla countered that it was impossible to knock on every door in the district and that he would focus on getting out the message through mailings and other means that Harris is an â€śextremistâ€ť whose views do not reflect those of district residents on the Bay and other issues.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, Rosen had raised a total of $45,056, including a loan to her campaign of $20,500, and had $21,025 cash on hand as of 3/14/12 going into the final weeks of the primary campaign. LaFerlaâ€™s last filing with the FEC showed finances through 12/31/11, listing $6,298 raised as of that date including a $2,500 loan to his campaign and a cash on hand balance of $4,637. His new glossy mailer indicates more money has come into the campaign since the December filing.
The Democratsâ€™ fundraising pales by comparison with Harrisâ€™ warchest, which had $551,741 cash on hand as of 12/31/11. He has raised a total of $851,339 so far and spent $339,900 on his campaign operations, according to FEC records.