On a day when Western Maryland Democrats saluted many of their political heroes and their rising stars, John Delaney was cheered as both.
Delaney (D-Dist. 6) of Potomac arrived on the stage at the Western Maryland Democratic Summit in Hagerstown Saturday to a boisterous standing ovation from the party officials and activists in attendance.
He was, after all, the man who had ended Republican Roscoe Bartlett’s 20-year reign in the region’s 6th congressional district, opening what those in attendance hope will be a new era of Democratic power in Maryland’s western counties.
But when Delaney got to the microphone, he didn’t urge the crowd on to partisan warfare.
He advocated compromise.
It is important to divide Democratic priorities into two categories, Delaney said.
The first is issues on which Democrats can’t be willing to back down: women’s rights, climate change, pushing for all types of equality.
“These are the issues where we have the high ground,” Delaney said. “We’re on the right side of history.”
But on other issues, particularly economic ones, Democrats need to work with Republicans “because they’re not entirely wrong” on some of those issues, he said.
America’s debt is too high, and the two parties need to find ways to lower it, he said.
They need to work together to preserve America’s free market system, and to make sure regulations do what they’re intended to do without overburdening industry, he said.
“You cannot come to an economic debate with a strong ideological view,” Delaney said.
The first summit was held in 2005, partly as a way to focus on coming up with a candidate in the 6th District who could beat Bartlett, said Tom Slater, chair of the Western Maryland Democratic Caucus that organizes the event.
That same year, a straw poll at the summit was one of the first to show that current Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) had a significant chance to beat incumbent William Donald Schaefer (D), Slater said.
Now the event has become a staple on the calendar for Democrats in Western Maryland, as well as for elected officials from around the state.
Saturday’s event featured speeches and workshops by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D); Franchot; Delaney, U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville and Donna F. Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington; state Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase; state Dels. Bill Frick (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda and Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park; and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D).
Brown won a straw poll in the race for governor’s candidates with 62 votes, followed by Mizeur with 37, Gansler with 25 and Ulman with 17, according to event organizers.
U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Dist. 2) of Cockeysville, who did not attend the event, received one vote.
Frosh bested Frick in the straw poll for Attorney General, with 74 votes to Frick’s 54, while Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Dist. 11) of Owings Mills received nine votes and Ulman one write-in.
The profile of the event has risen to the point that it’s in the best interest of anyone who is interested in running for office to come to the summit, Slater said.
While all of the speakers drew warm receptions from the audience, the promise represented by Delaney’s win was one of the central themes of Saturday’s event.
It was “so sweet” to see his victory on election night, Mikulski said.
“As nice as Roscoe was, he was not a pal and a partner,” she said.
She and Cardin rely on the congressional delegation, who are closer to the voters by virtue of their smaller constituencies, to fill them in on what’s happening around the state.
Cardin urged the crowd not to take the victories of Delaney and Van Hollen for granted in redrawn districts widely considered to favor Democrats.
“You have two of the really great congressmen in the country,” he said.
After his speech, Cardin said the political future of Western Maryland is hard to predict.
The region’s mixed political demographics make it a battleground between the parties, he said.
“That’s good. Mixed is good,” he said.