Congressional District 6
Note: Bethesda Beat asked the Republican and Democratic candidates for District 6 individual questions, separate from the questions that went to other candidates in this race and other races.
Age: 76 (born Nov. 14, 1941, Austin, Texas)
Home: Potomac; married, one child, five stepchildren
Education: bachelor’s degree, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, 1963
Professional background: defense specialist (System Planning Corp., Rand Corp., Analytic Services Inc., SRI International); federal government official (deputy under secretary of the Army, 1981—1986; U.S. representative to the Joint Commission on the Environment of the United States and Panama, 1990-1994); national/homeland security consultant (AMH Consulting, Potomac, 1992-present)
Political experience: ran for U.S. House of Representatives in District 6 (2016); co-founder and chair, National Women’s Political Caucus chapters in Northern Virginia and Los Angeles (early 1970s)
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During your 2016 campaign for this seat, you expressed a desire to be appointed to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee if elected. Does that remain your preference?
That’s certainly one of my top three choices. I think I have a lot to contribute to [the] Armed Services [Committee], Intelligence [Committee], Foreign Affairs [Committee]—any of those that revolve around my real expertise. But Transportation is clearly an important one to the district, and I would want to serve on it. It’s the one where I could best help Gov. [Larry] Hogan with his transportation infrastructure improvement plan.
During a radio interview this past summer on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show, you were quoted as saying of President Trump, “I am definitely pleased with many of the things he’s doing, but certainly not all.” Could you be more specific?
The things I am primarily pleased with are economic. We have the lowest unemployment rate we’ve had in a very long time. We’ve got better economic stability and certainly a lot more consumer confidence than probably we’ve had in at least a decade.
I also think he’s done very well in the matters I know a lot about. He has put in one of the best secretaries of defense [James Mattis] that we’ve had in a long time. I’m very pleased with specific things he’s done [abroad], like moving the embassy to Jerusalem, like tearing up the Iran agreement, like opening communications with North Korea.
I’m less happy about the way he has treated our NATO allies. I think he’s absolutely right that they have not contributed what they committed to in the way of defense expenditures and support. I’m not sure I would have been quite as vehement [toward] them in response to that. I’m less happy with his—let’s say personality. I think the tweeting is sometimes a little out of hand. I wish he were a little gentler as a human being. But that’s a personality issue—we didn’t hire him for his personality. We hired him for his policies.
You also said during that radio interview, “I would like very much to get us back to a less divisive world.” Do you think Mr. Trump has exacerbated the worsening of that division?
It’s not only the tweeting that does that; it’s a lot of other things. I think we were divisive, and trending more in that direction, before Trump was elected. That saddens me a lot. The key plank in my platform is to restore civility as much as I can—and I think personally I can.
The nomination process [of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh] was painful to watch. It is clearly additional evidence of the tensions and dysfunction today in Congress. I’m running to counter this—to bring an approach of civility to try to unite us again and to re-establish civil conversations aimed at finding common ground, rather than simply resisting each other. We cannot send a partisan like my opponent to Washington. We must try to come together as a nation. America deserves better.
On the economy, you give the president credit for the current state of affairs. Economic growth has been taking place for more than nine years, well before he took office. What steps do you feel Mr. Trump has taken that have been beneficial to economic growth?
The single thing he’s done was the tax cut legislation [signed last December]. I think that stimulated a lot of investment. The fact that it was a bit of a tax cut on companies allowed the companies to invest better in research and development and things that involved growth.
Maryland is one of several states where there has been criticism of that legislation for the provision that limits deductions on state and local taxes. Do you take issue with that provision?
No, I think it probably is a good move. It only applies to some people—those that pay a fair amount of … state income taxes and property taxes. In that sense, it’s an additional tax on the wealthy, which I guess I don’t disagree with. It will raise my tax bill—I’ll get to buy a larger piece of the next aircraft carrier (chuckles).
When Mr. Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last summer, the late Republican Sen. John McCain was quoted as saying: “… It is clear the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake … . No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” Sen. McCain’s comments were aimed at the president appearing to take the word of Mr. Putin over that of the U.S. intelligence community regarding interference in the 2016 election.
Well, I issued a press statement on that, and I did chide the president for the way he behaved and the things he said. I do think that was a mistake. I have worked with the intelligence community most of my career. They’re not perfect, but in general, I trust their judgment—and I would have supported the intelligence community had it been me.
In your press statement at the time, you said, “I personally believe the intelligence community assessment that the Russian government tried to influence our election in 2016.” As someone with a background in national security, if you were in Congress, what steps would you would be advocating to protect the integrity of the election process going forward?
I agree with the conclusion that the Russians attempted it—I don’t think that’s the first time, and undoubtedly won’t be the last. And I’m not sure the Russians are the only ones. There are a lot of ways they could try to interfere, among them being things that relate to computer hacking and cybersecurity issues. But I think the key is human behavior. I think increasing awareness of potential attempts to connect with human beings involved in the electoral process is probably the most important single thing—more awareness on the part of people in the system of what could happen, what sorts of things the Russians or the Chinese or any other hostile country might attempt to do.
There needs to be more education, there needs to be more communication of things that are found—like I am concerned about the company that Maryland hired that [handles] the voting that turned out to be partially owned by Russia. [Editor’s note: Maryland officials learned this summer from the FBI that, three years earlier, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin had acquired a large stake in an internet technology firm used by Maryland to store voter registration data.] … Awareness of other countries’ ownership interest in companies that deal with election [processes] is important.
You earlier praised Mr. Trump for opening lines of communication with North Korea. Since the summit with Kim Jong Un in June, there has been criticism of the president meeting with the North Korean leader without some specific understandings first being reached. Was it a mistake for the summit to take place that quickly?
No, it was not a mistake. I think it was the only way the North Koreans could conceivably be brought to the table … . I strongly advocated for a summit meeting more than a year before it ever happened. I believed that the interests of both of the parties involved could only be satisfied by a face-to-face meeting. Kim was not going to come to the table unless he specifically met with Trump—and it gave Trump an opportunity to play his role in terms of his negotiation. The fact that it hasn’t succeeded so far doesn’t mean it won’t. I do know that North Korea hasn’t tested anything since the initiation of the effort to do the summit—and in my view, that’s a good thing.
[As a member of Congress], one of the things that I would advocate is considerable increases in our defense capability, specifically the anti-ballistic missile defense capabilities in Alaska and California… . We need to show … not only North Korea, but the world that we will take the measures that we have to take to protect ourselves.
You indicated that you agreed with the president’s move to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement reached in 2015 by the Obama administration, even as our NATO allies are continuing to abide by it. How would you propose to curtail potential threats posed by Iran to international security in the absence of this agreement?
I’ve been opposed to the Iran agreement since Day One; I wrote [about] that, I think, four or five years ago. I think the first thing to do is to try and negotiate a better deal—one that actually does satisfy the needs of ourselves and our allies, particularly Israel. Now, I’m not sure that’s doable today—and we can’t impose the same economic sanctions we did before, because we have in fact given them back a lot of the funds. [Editor’s note: The Iran deal freed up billions of dollars in Iranian assets, although the precise amount involved remains a matter of dispute.] But I think a certain degree of economic pressure is good—and hopefully [will] get them to a negotiating table where they feel they can benefit from agreeing to some better measures.
President Trump also has stirred controversy by withdrawing from the Paris climate accords designed to contain global warming. Do you believe that was a mistake?
Probably not. I’m not an expert in the climate accords and what they contain. But I think he was looking more at what the U.S. has to do for its own [economy] rather than worrying about the rest of the world … . In fact, for my district, coal [mining in Allegany County] is an extremely important part of that [economy] … . We are not the largest generator of the carbon problems in the atmosphere. China is No. 1. They’re not abiding by very much of [the Paris accords]. You go to China, and it’s full of smog all over the place.
As a candidate in 2016 and previously, Mr. Trump described the problem of man-made climate change as a “hoax.” Do you regard it as such?
No, I do not think it’s a hoax. I think that people’s actions contribute to climate change. There are also cycles, and there have always been cycles. But I think there are clearly things that people do that exacerbate the difficulties. [In terms of reducing carbon emissions], I think the move toward more solar energy, particularly in the 6th District, is a very good one. If you go out to Washington County and Allegany County, there are huge solar power farms. I think that’s a good use of land. We ought to do those sorts of things.
I’m strongly an advocate of nuclear power, and I think we are doing very badly in this country toward taking care of our nuclear power. And for some logical reasons: The fact that the Yucca Mountain project to get rid of the nuclear waste was stopped in the prior administration has hampered the nuclear power industry here. [Editor’s note: In response to 1982 legislation requiring a national depository for long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was initially selected as the site for that. Work on the project was halted in 2009 following many years of controversy. The House voted in May to revive consideration of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage site.]
On an environmental matter close to home, you were quoted during your recent radio interview on WAMU as noting, “The Chesapeake Bay is not in my district.” Someone quickly pointed out that the Potomac River, which is in your district, is a major part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
But I think the environmental problems in the Chesapeake Bay are largely caused by the urban areas—primarily Baltimore, and things like the sewage overruns when we have had the flooding. I think the pollution problems in the Chesapeake Bay don’t really stem from [Congressional District] 6.
Several members of the Maryland congressional delegation successfully worked to restore funding for the federal initiative to clean up the Chesapeake Bay after the program was proposed for elimination by the Trump administration. Would you have worked to restore the funding if you had been in Congress?
I would restore it. I think we need to take care of our environment, and that would be part of it.
You have previously noted that, while deputy under secretary of the Army, you were involved in the environmental cleanup of the Edgewood Arsenal of the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, which is along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
Yes, that is where the mustard gas was [stored]. I would like to make a comment on this. … My opponent [Democrat David Trone] has referred to me as being supportive of chemical weapons. That’s not entirely accurate—and I object to his characterization. What I actually did was support chemical warfare defense and biological warfare defense. I helped develop the gas masks and boots and antidotes and things like that. And I also was in charge of the whole program that demolished all of the U.S. chemical munitions—and the Russian ones, for that matter.
In another issue close to home … while discussing strategies for dealing with improvements to I-270 during the 2016 campaign, you said: “My problem with most of the proposals is that they are essentially increasing taxes. A toll lane is by definition, in my view, a tax on people who work.” Gov. Hogan has since come out with a proposal to widen I-270, and help pay for it with toll lanes. Your view of the governor’s proposal, given your past sentiments?
I actually agree with what he’s doing, because I think balancing it out with a private/public partnership helps. It will have the same impact as we’ve had in Virginia: It will relieve some of the traffic congestion. Yeah, toll roads are a tax on the people that use them, but if you relieve the congestion in the non-toll lanes, you’ll do much better.
I’m … concerned with the American Legion Bridge—which, in my view, is an issue that can’t be solved except at the congressional level because it crosses the state line. My personal opinion is that I would double-deck it. I’ve seen double-decking done in both New York and San Francisco, and I know it can be done. [A proposed second Potomac River crossing] would cut through the Agricultural Reserve [in Montgomery County], and there’s vehement opposition to any sort of development in the Agricultural Reserve. I’d be skeptical it could be done in my lifetime—there would just be too much controversy. Which is one reason why I like the idea of double-decking the [American Legion] Bridge if it could be done—because then you aren’t doing any serious amount of taking [of property] in protected areas.
In the wake of several deadly shooting rampages in the past year—both in Maryland and elsewhere in the United States—do I understand correctly that you have advocated increased background checks for gun purchases?
Absolutely. I think today we are not doing nearly enough in terms of background checks and in terms of maintaining a database of criminal and difficult [mental] activity that would eliminate allowing people to buy guns.
I would certainly entertain looking at limits of things that would be called military weapons. The problem in my view is a definitional one: How would you define something to be banned today when somebody could develop something slightly different the next day that wouldn’t be banned under that regulation? I don’t want to go too far in regulating this; it is a Second Amendment issue. I fully agree with [late U.S. Supreme Court] Justice [Antonin] Scalia, who said it’s like the First Amendment—it is not without the possibility of some limitations. But, particularly when we’re getting into an era of 3-D [printer]-created guns, it’s going to be hard to define something that makes sense and has any real effect.
On the latter issue, the Obama administration went to court in an effort to halt dissemination of instructions for utilizing 3-D printers to make guns; the Trump Justice Department dropped that legal effort. Who was correct?
My feeling is that the Trump administration was correct to drop it, because essentially what you’re doing is that you’re limiting intellectual thinking about something, and that’s a little hard to actually implement.
I think the school shootings in particular could best be addressed by … things other than gun regulation. You need to lock the doors; I note that in Parkland [in Florida] and in the Sandy Hook [Connecticut] case, the doors were not locked. Most schools are beginning to lock them. There were even reports in [this morning’s] paper on the active shooter training that teachers are beginning to undergo.
I do not agree with arming teachers; my mother was a teacher, and I would be horrified to see her with a gun. But I do think we need some measures, just like fire drills, where schools rehearse what to do in the event of an emergency. When I was a child in California, we had earthquake drills on a regular basis—because that was a known possibility. There’s no reason not to have those sorts of emergency drills, to lock the access, and to have more mental health attention paid—maybe more resource officers. There are measures other than [those involving] the guns that address the problem.
What do you feel Congress needs to do with regard to the nation’s health insurance system? Two years ago, you indicated that, if elected, you would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act—so-called “Obamacare.”
Under the way Obamacare was written, I don’t think it solved the problem. I would vote to repeal it, but I would like to have something designed to replace it. You can’t go back to the system the way we had before, because I believe the execution of the Obamacare plan essentially damaged the existing system at that point, and so we need to figure out what to do next. One of the things that’s happening in this country is a huge deficit in the number of doctors, and that’s only going to grow worse. I certainly oppose the single-payer system, because that’s going to reduce doctors even more; it will reduce the incentive for people to go into that world.
I think there are things that can be done to change the private market that would make it much better, like allowing the insurance companies to compete across state lines. You end up with a bigger pool [of potential participants], but you also end up with incentives to reduce the cost of the insurance. By definition, competition reduces costs to a more manageable level.
That’s the first thing that I would institute. The second thing I would institute is a better understanding of where the money is being spent today relative to its effectiveness. Because I think the fact that you have an increased number of people who have insurance [under the Affordable Care Act] doesn’t mean they’re getting better care.
In the 2016 campaign, you won an eight-way Republican primary in which you were the sole candidate not to adopt an anti-abortion stance. Is it fair to describe you as a supporter of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision?
In my view, it’s established law. The Supreme Court may review it, or may not. My statement on that [issue] is that I personally would not have one, but I don’t think the government has a role. It’s a difficult issue, and I don’t want the government telling either me or anyone else what to do.
Opioid addiction has been a problem in many sections of the 6th District. Congress recently passed legislation to provide increased funding to programs to combat opioid abuse and to take steps to stem the supply of opioids. If elected, what would you advocate to deal with this problem?
What I would advocate is block grants to localities to design programs that specifically relate to their needs and their assets. My example: In Frederick, there is a facility called The Ranch. It is now a rehab center for young men, and it would not exist except for the fact that there was an old sheriff’s boys’ camp that got abandoned. A group in Frederick took it over and developed it into a rehab center. The largest supporter is the Rotary Club in Frederick, and I credit them with really taking this on as one of their charitable actions. So it’s largely privately supported.
There’s one in Hagerstown that is getting state funding as an example program. That’s the day [reporting] center that is run by the sheriff there. What makes that program work is the relationship between the sheriff and Goodwill [Industries], where Goodwill has guaranteed jobs to the people in the day [reporting] center if they can’t find a job on their own qualifications. My point is that this [should] not [be] a federally controlled program; I think you have to have each community, based on the assets it has and the needs it has, design their own program. So what I would support at the federal level is grants to the localities.
Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, a practice of separating children from parents in families crossing the border was instituted—and then dropped following an intense outcry. Did the administration err in putting such a policy into place to start with?
I would never separate children from their parents. I firmly believe that children belong with their parents; I’d be a tiger mom if anyone tried to take my kid away from me. I do understand why it was done—because there is a procedure for people who come to this country as refugees or seeking asylum. They have to go through the procedure, they have to be detained while that procedure is in place—and [administration officials] sort of weren’t figuring out what to do with families. I would be in favor of family camps, family detention centers. I would not simply release the families on the street, because I do think they need to go through the process of vetting.
Mr. Trump has been insistent on building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico—a plan opposed not only by Democrats but also a number of Republicans, particularly in the border states. Do you think this is a good idea?
I’m not in favor of building a brick wall. I am in favor of a secure border, however—and those two things are not the same thing.
I have developed lots of border security systems for other countries. The Nunn-Lugar program [named for former Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia and Richard Lugar of Indiana] spends roughly half a billion dollars a year helping other countries who request help to secure their borders. This originally started when Russia fell, and there was concern about protecting the Russian weaponry from getting across the border. It has since expanded to where it’s included border control systems in North Africa and Asia—and the U.S. pays for securing borders in other countries. Why aren’t we spending that sort of money securing our own border?
Yes, you might put up physical barriers in some places, but most of this is electronic. You set up electronic surveillance towers at appropriate distances, and then you place response forces so that they are no more than X minutes … away from responding to any incursion across the electronic barrier… . It is not really a physical wall—it is a secure border … . The group I have worked with, as part of my small company, has designed these systems probably for 10 countries in the last five years or so. The latest one I worked on is between Libya and Tunisia: They have more secure borders than we do. And my view is that we ought to use the same technology here.
In addition to beefing up border security, does a solution to the immigration problem require a path to citizenship for those here already? Obviously the fate of the so-called “Dreamers” covered under the Obama administration executive order creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been left hanging for the past couple of years.
For the DACA ones—mostly brought here as children—we need to develop a path to citizenship. It may require time, it may require specific things—like proving you know the language. And I have no objection to working on plans for other illegal immigrants who have become part of our society and been productive members.
Where I occasionally disagree with others is for the people who commit crimes other than immigrating illegally. I am a very strong supporter of the 287(g) program, which is instituted in Frederick County but not in Montgomery County. That is where if there is an ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency] detainer, you release them out of prison to ICE rather than just on the streets. These are people who have been arrested and convicted of other crimes. That has lowered the crime rate in Frederick County way below what it is here in Montgomery County, where we don’t institute that program.
If you’re elected, you’ll be 77 when you’re sworn into Congress in January.
That’s younger than Pelosi. [Editor’s note: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is currently 78.]
And you won’t be the oldest freshman member ever—that title belongs to an Illinois Democrat, James Bowler, elected at 78 in the early 1950s. But you would be among the oldest freshman legislators in history. Should this give voters any pause, and are there any issues involving your health that are relevant to your ability to serve in this position?
None whatsoever. I’m strong, I’m healthy; my doctor would vouch for me if I wanted. I exercise every other day with a trainer. I’m in great shape; I’m out on the road campaigning eight or nine hours every day. My mother was still teaching at 95; she died at 101. My father died at 97. We were just out at my aunt’s funeral; she died at 102 and was sharp until the last week. I have no qualms about my ability to serve.
You signed a term limits pledge in 2016, and you have signed it again this year. So, if you’re elected in November, you would serve a certain number of terms, and that would be it?
The pledge itself does not have a number in it. The pledge says to support the limits that are agreed to in Congress. And I would support it, whether it be two, three or four terms—whatever the Congress as a whole approves.
So if Congress didn’t approve a term limits constitutional amendment, you wouldn’t feel bound to self-limit?
I figure it’s up to the constituents to limit me at that point. I don’t see any reason to make that sort of commitment arbitrarily.
Recognizing you have stated that you wish your opponent, Mr. Trone, the best of health, do you feel he was sufficiently candid in disclosing his condition to voters this past summer following discovery of a cancerous tumor in his urinary tract?
If it had been me, I think I might have had an instinct to react the same way [as he did]. A serious illness like that is a private matter, and I certainly wish him the best. That having been said, I think the constituents would have been better served to have it be a little more transparent. I worry about the implications of not releasing it for a while. It could be construed as a character issue.
I would want my congressperson to be like Gov. Hogan, and be totally upfront instantly on everything like that. [Editor’s note: In the summer of 2015, Hogan revealed that he would undergo treatment for lymphoma soon after he was diagnosed with this form or cancer.] But I understand the instinct not to be.
Age: 63 (born Sept. 21, 1955, Cheverly, Md.)
Home: Potomac; married, four children
Education: bachelor’s degree, Furman University, Greenville, S.C., 1977; master’s degree (business administration), Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1985
Professional background: founder and co-owner, Total Wine & More, a national retail chain, 1991-present; president, 1991-2016
Political experience: ran for Democratic nomination for U.S. House of Representatives in District 8 (2016)
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Much of the work of the House of Representatives is done in committee. If elected, to which committees would you like to be assigned?
Frankly, it’s going to depend on what happens with control of the House. If [the Democrats] are in the majority, [of] which I’m very hopeful, there will be a lot more committee assignments opening up … . We’re looking at trying to be in the front of the line. I think the fact that we’re helping out financially across the United States in over 50-plus congressional [races]—my wife and I—should be a positive. That’s going to give us a little more ability to be successful [in getting] on the right committees.
So the top stretch would be to figure out how to land on [the] Appropriations [Committee]. It’s hard to have happen, but, at the same time, if you don’t set your sights high, you won’t be successful. [Editor’s note: It is unusual although not unprecedented for freshman legislators to be assigned to what are widely regarded as the House’s two most powerful committees: the Appropriations and the Ways and Means panels. The first determines how much money the government receives on an annual basis; the second has jurisdiction over issues ranging from taxes to international trade to health care financing.]
And, assuming your party does not have the House majority in the next Congress, on which committees would you be particularly interested in serving?
[The] Transportation [and Infrastructure Committee] is a big one. You get two committees for sure. Foreign [Affairs] … as a secondary type committee, but Transportation to help fix our infrastructure. The other committee I’m interested in, of course, is Education [and the Workforce]. Education is what has made June [Trone’s wife] and myself successful, so the education committee is the other one we’re focused on.
If your party is back in the majority, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi—who was House speaker from 2006-2010—would again be in line to assume that position, given that she is now House Democratic leader. A number of Democrats running for Congress this year have called for new leadership, and said they would not back her for speaker. Would you?
She’s been absolutely fantastic; she’s been great raising money all over the country, and providing leadership to the party. And we’re so fortunate to have Steny in the No. 2 position. [Editor’s note: Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer is currently minority whip, the second-ranking position in the Democratic leadership.] Leader Pelosi came originally from Baltimore, so we have two awesome leaders of the Democratic Party that really have Maryland in the forefront … . I think we’re going to have to wait and see what comes up at the time we’re elected. She’s been a great speaker in the past, but we have to wait and see what comes down the road.
Like many others in your party, you undoubtedly have numerous differences with the current occupant on the White House. Given that you are touting your ability to work across party lines in your campaign ads, are there proposals and initiatives that President Trump has advocated with which you agree, and feel have been beneficial to the country?
Well, it depends on what day of the week you’re getting him on (chuckles). On a good day, there aren’t many. He has spoken about the terrible situation … with the opioid catastrophe. I believe he’s going to sign the bill for $8.5 billion that’s coming to him. [Editor’s note: The reference is to a bill recently passed by Congress that provides funding increases to existing programs designed to combat opioid addiction, along with instituting several measures designed to restrict the supply and availability of such drugs.] And he’s looked at starting a task force on opioids, but he hasn’t funded it. The fact that he at least said, “Hey, we need a task force here,” is good, but he forgot the funding part.
What would you like the federal government to do that it currently isn’t to combat opioid abuse?
We put together a comprehensive 12-point plan that touches everything from education to research [on] pain treatments to funding treatment centers. The Democrats put together—and it’s now very much bipartisan—this bill that passed. But a big bill needs to go 10 years and $100 billion—that’s what the number is that [Maryland Rep.] Elijah Cummings and [Massachusetts Sen.] Elizabeth Warren have put together. Their bill is a lot along the lines of what we’ve been talking about for almost two years now; they came up with numbers similar to what we came up with.
This is a national problem. I think we can work with moderate Republicans, and maybe even some tea party Republicans—because opioids and fentanyl killed 72,000 people in the last year, 64,000 the year before. This started, of course, in the inner cities, and now it’s spread to everywhere. It doesn’t ask what party you’re in, it doesn’t ask what ZIP code you come from, it doesn’t ask your economic status or your religion … . As you know, I lost my nephew.
[The recent legislation] is a down payment, but you don’t fix a problem that’s been decades in the making in the pharmaceutical industry with a one-shot deal. This is going to take a decade to fix. [Republican nominee] Amie Hoeber’s plan is to quote “leave it up to the local governments” to figure it out. I was in Hagerstown; their local government says they can’t figure this out. I was in Cumberland; they can’t figure it out … . If someone wants to get help and they want it now, they’re not looking to drive to the other side of the state.
On another health-related issue, if you had been a member of Congress in 2010, would you have voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—so-called “Obamacare”—and what, if any, steps do you feel need to be taken to improve its implementation?
President Obama did an awesome job. I was fortunate and honored to be able to host him at my home. Listening to him talk about government in such nuance and depth with great thought—I contrast that to the current president, whose vocabulary reminds me of a fourth-grader and who tries to govern by tweets.
The ACA was a great achievement. Like every policy that is difficult, it’s never perfect on day one. It was a series of compromises, and what was passed wasn’t what President Obama wanted at the end of the day. But to get that done was just fantastic: 31 million more Americans had health care because of it. [Editor’s note: According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of uninsured Americans actually dropped from 48.6 million when the ACA was adopted in 2010 to 28.6 million in 2016, translating into 20 million added to the health insurance rolls. The number of uninsured Americans rose slightly, to 29.3 million in 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, the CDC found.]
Unfortunately, we’re taking a four-year hiatus and we’re going the wrong way … . President Trump and my opponent want to repeal [the ACA]. If that were to happen, millions of Americans would lose health care and be denied health care for pre-existing conditions. We need to continue to improve it until everybody’s covered, because health care is a human right. We also need to get pharmaceutical prices in line. The pharmacy lobby is the No. 1 lobby in Congress: Their PACs gave away $4 billion in the last decade—and you wonder why we have an opioid problem? The pharmaceutical industry prevents the government from negotiating for better prices for drugs [under the Medicare program]. That’s just crazy. Why should prices be lower in Canada than they are here in America?
Do you support a single payer or so-called Medicare-for-all system at the federal level—such as has been advocated here in Maryland by your party’s gubernatorial candidate, Ben Jealous?
I support a public option, for sure. But, at the same time, competition is a good thing. [Editor’s note: A public option, which would have allowed those covered by the ACA to opt for a health insurance plan run by the federal government as an alternative to plans administered by private insurance companies, was dropped from the legislation prior to its passage in 2010.]
Moving to other major domestic issues, one of the few major pieces of legislation passed by this Congress was a tax cut bill pushed by the president. Would you have voted for or against it
Trump’s tax cut was despicable public policy. An analysis I read recently indicates there is going to be a $1.9 trillion hole created in our budget. The top Fortune 500 companies were paying a marginal rate of 35 percent; he lowered the rate to 21 percent. But corporations—and I understand the business side of this inside out—don’t pay a marginal rate; they pay an effective rate because they have deductions. The effective rate in America by the Fortune 500 companies was actually 24 percent; the effective rate in the other G-7 countries [Canada, Japan and four European democracies] was actually 23 percent. Our country was very, very competitive before the tax cut. It shouldn’t have happened. It robbed Middle America, it robbed folks in low-income jobs, it robbed education monies.
There are so many things that could have been focused on—and instead, it was a total giveaway to these big companies. What we said was going to happen is that they would increase the dividends. Well, guess what they did? And the stock buyback—guess what they did? The worst thing right now is more stock buyback, more stock dividends than ever in the history of the country. That’s driving the stock market up, of course. So the top 1 percent is benefiting immensely, Donald Trump is benefiting immensely, and the middle-income folks in America got virtually nothing. My opponent, Amie Hoeber, supports the Trump tax cut, which is absolutely insane.
In light of a number of mass shooting episodes at schools and businesses over the past year—including several in Maryland—do you feel that increased restrictions on gun ownership are needed, and, if so, what steps would you advocate?
It’s a sad, sad day in America when our kids go to school, and they have to worry. It’s really bad that the parents worry, but it’s even worse that our children have to worry whether they’re going to come home that night. We need common sense gun safety measures; we should have done it decades ago. It’s inexcusable that the [National Rifle Association] has a chokehold on the American political process. And that is one reason we’re not taking PAC money, we’re not taking lobbyist money—we never have, we never will, because we want to be nobody’s congressman but the people’s.
Things like universal background checks have to happen. A ban on military-style weapons has to happen. A ban on high-capacity [ammunition] magazines has to happen. A ban on bump stocks has to happen. Amie Hoeber suggested that we should lock the doors in the schools; Trump has suggested we should arm the teachers. Well, the Republican-Trump-Hoeber suggestions are wrong. They’re ridiculous. It’s outrageous that no one wants to stand up to the gun lobby.
Immigration is certain to be a key issue you will be dealing with if you are elected as a member of the next Congress. If you were drafting immigration reform legislation, what key elements would it contain?
Trump has moved us in absolutely the wrong direction on immigration. America’s success is based on our diversity, and our inclusivity. Forty percent of the Fortune 100 companies were founded by immigrants—or second generation right behind them. Immigrants have been phenomenal job trainers, because they look at things differently than you or I might—through a different lens, a different background. And that’s what’s enabled folks to come up with the brilliance of eBay, Google, Apple, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world. So immigration is absolutely crucial to the success of America.
We were taking in 100,000 immigrants a year; Trump cut it to 45,000. We need to increase the numbers from where they used to be and welcome immigrants from all over the world. [Editor’s note: Trump in late 2017 signed an executive order cutting the number of refugees allowed into this country annually to 45,000, down from a limit of 110,000 set by President Obama—and the lowest cap since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. With regard to overall immigration, a recent Washington Post analysis found that the number of people receiving visas to permanently move to the United States is on pace to drop 12 percent during Trump’s first two years in office.]
Yes, we want immigrants here that bring education, that want to invest in America. But what is greater than being able to bring your brother or sister or mom or dad? The president figured out how to get his wife’s mom and dad here. Other folks in America ought to be able to figure out how to get their mom and dad here—and it shouldn’t take 25 years. The system needs a complete overhaul, because the time frame it takes to process immigration and bring those folks into America is just wrong—so ridiculously slow that the folks don’t want to come here, or they’ve passed on before the American government actually gets to them.
So it’s about family reunification. Immigration should be about families; it shouldn’t be about separating families at the border, which President Trump did. Amie Hoeber called the situation at the border—which I call abhorrent and morally wrong—she called it “not a simple thing, not a simple issue.” Well, it is a simple issue. We can’t allow moms and dads to be separated from their kids at the border.
Aside from those at the border, there are millions of immigrants living in this country illegally. Does there need to be some kind of path to citizenship for them, perhaps tied to enhanced border security?
We absolutely need secure borders, and we can do that in a lot of different ways with technology. A path to citizenship is also absolutely needed. We have so many folks here now; if they could seek citizenship, right away their wages would go up 25 percent. Right away, we’d have hundreds of billions dollars more collected in taxes. Right away, they could improve their education. There’s so much more that could be done, so we need a path to citizenship for folks that are here.
Like many other Democrats, you’ve indicated opposition to the southern border wall proposed by the president. Some in your party also have called for abolishing “ICE”—the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Do you agree?
We need to keep ICE, but clearly we need to look at reforming it.
You indicated earlier a possible interest in serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee if you’re elected. What are you feelings about the proposal by Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration for a public/private partnership to widen I-270 and add toll lanes to help finance it?
We absolutely have to address the transportation nightmare that Washington, D.C., is. Total Wine & More operates in 22 states around the country. I have traveled throughout the United States, and we have the worst traffic in America. We need to expand I-270 from Frederick right through the American Legion Bridge. Virginia in the last decade has done nine major transportation projects; Maryland has done two—now the Purple Line and, before that, the [Intercounty Connector]. So Maryland has to quit studying and start doing.
Toll lanes are not the only answer, but they’re certainly one of the answers. But this is a big deal and we’ve got to make a decision and move on it. The federal government is going to have to help out, it’s got to work … with the District of Columbia, the state of Virginia, and the state of Maryland—and we’ve got to get together on it. We have to widen the Beltway with more lanes. It’s [road] transportation plus transit. We need public transit all the way, but at this point in time, the situation has become so unbearable.
And we’ve got to get affordable housing. Something we haven’t touched on, but our teachers are paid $1,700 less now in real dollars than they made two decades ago. They’re forced to live up in Frederick because of the lack of affordable housing in Montgomery [County], and then they’re forced to commute and spend hours on the road. It’s a crazy situation.
Shifting to policy abroad, Mr. Trump’s defenders have argued that he has succeeded in lessening tensions with North Korea and diminishing the threat that it presents to the United States to a degree that his predecessors were not able to achieve. Do you agree with his handling of this situation and, if not, where do you take exception?
The key is that we haven’t seen any results. President Trump comes back and says they [Trump and Korean dictator Kim Jong Un] are friends—and, oh, he wrote a nice letter. And then he tweets about him. But we’ve seen zero results regarding disarmament. We have actually seen some results that indicate they’re continuing to increase their nuclearization on delivery payloads for great distances. So it’s a lot of talk and then more talk, and no concrete results whatsoever have happened.
When you ran for Congress two years ago, you said you would have voted against the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran had you been serving in office. Your quote at the time was: “Sen. [Ben] Cardin got it right—we should absolutely have opposed the agreement. We didn’t push a rogue government, a despicable government to make a good enough deal.” Given that Mr. Trump said he was withdrawing from the deal in order to push for a better agreement, do you feel he did the right thing?
No. I stick by my position before. It was a lousy deal, but once the deal was made, we needed to stick with it and make it better. We should not have broken the deal, which President Trump did. We should have built upon it, and made it more and more enforceable.
Iran is a tremendous danger, and the Middle East is obviously a powder keg, as we’ve seen with the [Jamal] Khashoggi situation in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I think Cardin had it right in saying that Israel is our No. 1 ally in the Middle East, a progressive democracy … that Republicans and Democrat together should always be supporting.
You recently underwent chemotherapy for a cancerous tumor in your urinary tract and surgery for removal of one of your kidneys. While your doctors have now declared you to be cancer-free, should voters in the 6th District have any pause about your having the energy and stamina to assume an elected office that is frequently a seven-day-a-week, arduous job?
No. My success is certainly due to the willingness to go the extra mile, work seven days a week, put in the time. As an entrepreneur, no one is successful unless you’re willing to do that—and entrepreneurship is what I’ve done … . We’re running flat out, seven days a week.
On the bout with cancer, the outpouring of support [from] hundreds and hundreds of people has just been phenomenal, and very humbling. But, I’ll tell you, it really speaks to the importance of the [National Institutes of Health]—and I use that as a proxy for medical research. In the  campaign, I talked about doubling the number of dollars for NIH. The NIH budget this year is $37 billion; in 2003, if you put it in today’s dollars, it would have been $43 billion. So in 15 years, the NIH budget, inflation adjusted, has decreased by 11 percent.
I’ve been down to NIH, and we know what they can do. All across the world, medical research is being stymied, and not being given the opportunities. And, after having this bout with cancer, we can see even more than before the importance of investing in our children’s future [in terms of] health care.
There was some controversy this summer, even within your own party, about the delay in disclosing your condition to voters after it was diagnosed. Your opponent, when recently asked about this, cited the speed with which Gov. Hogan disclosed his diagnosis of lymphoma three years ago. In hindsight, any second thoughts about the manner in which public disclosure of your situation to voters was handled?
None whatsoever. We wanted to have something to tell the public, we wanted to have definitive answers—where we stood [and] what the next steps were. We also wanted to get the doctors at Johns Hopkins [Hospital in Baltimore] to have statements. And we wanted to make sure we talked to friends and family about the situation—and respectfully, so before somebody read something in the newspaper.
We were in the process of doing that, and we had already put together statements. We rolled it out a little bit sooner than we wanted. It’s unfortunate that my opponent wants to politicize my health. I wish Gov. Hogan the absolute best. He’s reached out; he’s had some very thoughtful comments, very kind words and I really appreciate his support in this fight against the situation.
You’ve spent much of your career as president and chief executive officer of a sizable enterprise. Some executives—be they former governors or private sector bosses such as yourself—have found that operating in a collaborative body like the House of Representatives, with 435 members, can be very frustrating. Do you anticipate problems transitioning from CEO to legislator if you’re elected?
What folks don’t understand is that, if you’re a business person and build a company from zero to over $3 billion, I’ve got 7,000 team members around the country. You only are successful if you are collaborative. In business, we work with a team, we work with our suppliers—we have to work with others. That is a trait that all CEOs possess. It makes it 100 percent a great training ground for working in Congress.
A big advantage I’ve got is that I have stores in 119 congressional districts. So if I’m talking to congressmen or congresswomen in Boston or Seattle or San Francisco or Miami, they often shop our stores, they know our business. And I’ve got team members in jobs in their districts, philanthropy in their district—and I’m going to be able to get their ear to talk about things that unite us, both Republicans and Democrats.
Kevin T. Caldwell
has not responded
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Where you live: Rockville
Date of birth: Jan. 6, 1947
Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Self-employed computer analyst; high school math/science substitute for Montgomery County Public Schools and Frederick County Public Schools
Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years: Unsuccessful campaigns: special election for County Council, District 4 (2009); County Council, at-large (2010); Congress, District 8 (2012); Congress, District 4 (2014, 2016)
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1 – Why are you running for this office? (75 words max)
Looking forward to a better future for our children and grandchildren, I’d like to return the U.S. from the oligarchy it now is (https://theintercept.com/2015/07/30/jimmy-carter-u-s-oligarchy-unlimited-political-bribery/) to the democratic republic we ought to be.
2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)
A Sophie’s choice: Global warming, health care for all, income inequality, debt-free public college or university, free trade. Before any or all of these important issues can be tackled, we need to restructure how we elect our representatives. Securing our elections from outside influence, verifiable voting, making the vote a right for all citizens, public finance of elections, Ranked Choice Voting, gerrymandering — this group is the critical issue!
3 – What is one major issue the current Congress has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)
The $1.5 trillion tax cut (over ten years) passed last December will cause even greater income inequality and therefore further social ills. Those funds would have been far better used for: free college ($60 billion over ten years) or erase student debt ($1.4 trillion) or universal preschool ($406 billion in ten years) or repair of roads and bridges ($962 billion), among others. That would keep the funds circulating through the U.S. economy, instead of finding its way overseas.
4 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)
As an IT professional, I have read, analyzed and commented on the functional and technical specifications of some very large computer systems. Some of these documents have been as large as 800 pages long and described very complex relationships between many subsystems and also external systems. As the representative of the citizens of Congressional District 6, I will read, analyze and comment on critical legislation documentation, no matter how voluminous or complex.