Wednesday, August 30, 2006
REP. ALBERT R. WYNN has represented Maryland's 4th Congressional District since 1993, and in that time he has never faced a serious challenger. This year, in Donna Edwards , he does. Ms. Edwards, a lawyer and foundation executive with a distinguished record of civic activism, is Mr. Wynn's opponent in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. Tough, articulate and knowledgeable, she is one of the smartest and most impressive newcomers in Maryland politics.
The 4th District, comprising parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, is heavily Democratic, a profile that meshes with Ms. Edwards's long involvement in liberal causes. She has championed a higher minimum wage, campaign finance reform and an array of environmental issues, and she fought for legislation to curtail domestic violence. Locally, she was an ardent opponent of National Harbor, the multibillion-dollar development underway in Prince George's, but she came around to supporting it when she was satisfied that it would include a balance of commercial, entertainment and residential components. Her assent removed one of the project's last major hurdles -- a fact that testifies both to her skill as an advocate and her openness to reasonable compromise.
Ms. Edwards worked for Mr. Wynn as a clerk in the 1980s, when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates. Initially she backed him for Congress, but since then, she says, Mr. Wynn has betrayed the principles that first got him elected. In making that point in a debate with Mr. Wynn this month, she left him out of sorts and on the defensive.
No wonder. As we've noted in the past, Mr. Wynn has often seemed more involved in playing the role of a kingmaker in Prince George's than in his duties in Congress. On key federal issues, he has cast himself as the most bipartisan member of Maryland's congressional delegation. That's great in theory, but too often his votes have been at odds with good government and the interests of his constituents. He has backed the estate tax repeal, a measure that benefits the richest Americans at the expense of the poor and middle class. He supported the Bush administration's energy bill in 2003, offering subsidies to oil and gas companies even as they were headed toward record profits. He has flip-flopped on fuel efficiency standards and opposed campaign finance reform. And he has tried to clear the way for casino gambling in Prince George's. All in all, it is a lackluster record.
On the war in Iraq, Ms. Edwards has scored points by attacking Mr. Wynn as Maryland's Joseph I. Lieberman -- a supporter of the war portrayed as too close to the Bush administration. Mr. Wynn backed the war at the outset, but he has since recanted, saying he was misled by bad intelligence. More to the point of today's debate, both candidates are calling for a U.S. withdrawal, a scenario that we believe would leave chaos in its wake.
Mr. Wynn insists he has been a successful pork-barrel politician; we suspect Ms. Edwards, razor-sharp and relentless, would be at least as effective. We disagree with her on some important issues, but we are convinced she would be the more forceful, principled and effective representative. And while her insurgent candidacy is an uphill battle, it should put Mr. Wynn on notice that voters expect quality representation in Congress, not just a local political boss.
In Maryland's 8th Congressional District, two-term incumbent Rep. Chris Van Hollen , who has earned respect for his intellect and attention to legislative detail, faces only token opposition in the Democratic primary; he has earned reelection. In the 5th District, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer is in a cakewalk to winning his 14th term in Congress; currently the minority whip, he could play a major leadership role if the Democrats retake control of the House.