Democratic and Republican primary voters in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District could not have picked candidates with more divergent views than state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin and Emmitsburg lawyer Dan Cox.
Cox (R) dismisses forecasts about the consequences of climate change as an unscientific pretense for more government and corporate intrusion into people’s lives. Raskin (D) regards global warming as the world’s most urgent public policy issue and wants to tax carbon polluters to pay for renewable energy development that, he says, “will be the salvation of our species.”
Raskin wants a single-payer system of universal health care, contending that it “works all over the world.” Cox warns that such a system would “force America into socialist Marxism.”
Cox promises to sponsor legislation to help arm and train all able-bodied citizens for homeland defense. Raskin pledges to work for an assault-weapons ban and universal background checks.
Raskin’s view of the world — and his lengthy record as a liberal lawmaker in Annapolis — are expected to prevail in the 8th District, where a rare open seat was created by the decision of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) to run for the U.S. Senate.
Democrats hold a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans in the mushroom-shaped district that runs through portions of Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties to the Pennsylvania border. (State Democratic lawmakers gerrymandered the boundaries after the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Raskin, a three-term incumbent, voted for the second round of adjustments.)
That means to have any real chance, Cox would need to catch fire with the district’s 100,000 or so registered independents — an unlikely prospect, given his hard-right ideology.
While Raskin has the backing of virtually every major player in the state’s Democratic establishment, Cox has not been endorsed by popular Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has given his blessings to Senate nominee Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) and two other GOP House candidates, Amie Hoeber in the 6th District and Mark Plaster in the 3rd District.
Cox, who declined repeated phone and email requests for an interview, defeated four GOP primary opponents to capture the nomination, winning 44 percent of the vote out of 46,500 cast. He has told audiences that improvements to roads and mass transit are among his priorities, along with protection of Social Security and fortification of the U.S.-Mexico border.
He has pledged to support the “Five for Freedom” plan of former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), which calls for eliminating the Internal Revenue Service and the Departments of Energy, Education, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development. Cox also favors a 10 percent flat tax for incomes over $36,000. He remains steadfast in his support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Trump totally destroyed Hillary in the debate tonight,” he tweeted last Sunday after the second faceoff between the two White House hopefuls. “It wasn’t even remotely close. I’m surprised she stayed on stage.”
Cox has also thrown a series of demonstrably false charges Raskin’s way, calling him an atheist, a socialist and endorsee of the Communist Party USA.
According to the biography on his campaign website, Cox grew up on a farm in Taneytown, in Carroll County, and received his law degree from Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach. He worked for 1996 Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes and as an aide to former Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.).
Still boyish at 41, he tells audiences he has “eight reasons for running” — his eight children, ages 8 months to 19 years.
Raskin, 53, finished first in a packed and costly nine-way Democratic primary, winning about a third of the 130,000 votes cast. His chief competitor, Potomac wine magnate David Trone, spent a record $13.4 million of his own money to finish second.
Raskin, who lives in the liberal Montgomery County enclave of Takoma Park, raised $2.1 million through June 30. Cox, in contrast, raised $30,000 through June 30.
Since the primary, Raskin has tried to grow his support in the more moderate Frederick and Carroll County portions of the 8th District, where Trone beat him by more than a 5-to-1 margin.
Raskin has pitched himself as an advocate for farmers in the heavily agricultural region that is home to many of Maryland’s vineyards. At a Thursday debate in the Northern Frederick County town of Thurmont, he cited passage of a bill he sponsored allowing direct shipment of wine to and from Maryland.
He is also reprising the core issues of his primary campaign, promising to bring the Annapolis Democratic agenda to Congress, including prison reform, a ban on assault weapons and an increased minimum wage.
Raskin is calling for a “Green Deal,” an environmentally sustainable public works program to heat up the economy by repairing roads and other infrastructure. In one of the few areas of common ground with Cox, he wants to amend Medicare Part D to allow the government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies.
A longtime law professor at American University, Raskin remains an implacable critic of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows unions, corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited sums supporting or opposing candidates.
He promises to advocate for the Van Hollen-sponsored DISCLOSE Act, or the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, which would require groups spending more than $10,000 to file an FEC report within 24 hours of the expenditure, and that all leaders of those groups stand by their radio and TV ads and say they approve the message. It would also mandate that top financial contributors be disclosed in the ads.
Raskin grew up in a rowhouse in the District’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. His father, Marcus Raskin, was co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. Barbara Raskin, his mother, was a novelist and an organizer of the National Writers Union. He is married to Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin.
Also on the ballot are Green Party candidate Nancy Wallace and Libertarian Jasen Wunder.
Like Raskin, Wallace, a former environmental lobbyist, views climate change as the most urgent issue. “We face planetary death,” she told the audience in Thurmont. “I’m sorry, those are just the facts.”
Wallace wants to launch a national mobilization to convert all electricity to renewable sources by 2020. She also emphasizes cost-free higher education and the importance of rolling back “the culture of violence” against women and girls. Wallace says she would make male contraception a part of any single-payer health-care system so that men are empowered to make their own decisions about having a child.
Wunder, a pediatric paramedic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, takes the traditional libertarian positions on minimal taxation, personal and economic freedom, non-interventionist foreign policy and tolerance of others’ personal choices.
“Don't worry gay community,” Wunder said in a Facebook post. “The Democrats will take your guns away to keep you safe and the Republicans will not let you get married. . . . Vote Libertarian!”