Only One in 227 Years… and Fighting. The drama that needlessly surrounded the statewide run of Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) vs. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was entirely avoidable. It began February 11, when the Congressional Black Caucus PAC showed how fast it could be to endorse a candidate and rushed to endorse former Secretary of State Hillary (Iraq War, Clinton Crime Bill, NAFTA…) Clinton. But that was followed by slow methodical processless weeks of pondering whether or not to endorse Edwards. The decision ended with her receiving no support from the CBC PAC. Whether there is a formal issue based scorecarded criteria regarding CBC PAC endorsements remains the stuff of deep mystery.
What isn’t a mystery is this: The CBC PAC has sent money to candidates who do not agree with anything close to what can be defined as “progressive.” Examples include former Republican turned Democrat in Nebraska Brad Ashford, departing “Democrat” in name only Rep. Gwen Graham, Rep. Ami Bera, Domenic “everyone knew he would lose but the DCCC” Recchia, and Rep. Kyrsten “I vote with the GOP a lot” Sinema.
If the above folks are worthy to receive checks from the CBC PAC yet Donna Edwards isn’t, someone needs to seriously check themselves. The decision isn’t about whether you’re in love and will soon marry. The decision is about a check under $5,000 at a PAC with over $700,000 in total receipts and over $80,000 donated. It’s about who will better represent the issues the PAC cares about. And if Emily’s List can figure that out why can’t the CBC PAC? Edwards has been a clear progressive member of the House. Because of that, she was chosen by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for a position at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and was in the mix to become the next DCCC Chair before Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Texas) was selected by Pelosi in November 2014.
It was no surprise that the PAC’s decision not to support Edwards would lead to an examination of their decisions and the CBC PAC Board as well as who sits on it and where they earn their incomes. That was the logical result of the Edwards non-endorsement, particularly since one of the Board members is former Rep. Al Wynn, who was forcibly retired by Edwards as the U.S. Representative of Maryland’s 4th Congressional District in 2008.
The question becomes: Should members of the Black Caucus decline supporting someone they agree with on all the major issues because they don’t like person? On the question of another progressive Democrat entering a U.S. Senate that has only included one African American woman in 227 years, the answer should not have been difficult to come by.
The other question is: What’s so great about Rep. Chris Van Hollen? Particulary as it pertains to the black agenda? It was the forgettable reign of Van Hollen at DCCC that touched off a debate over the lack of minority hiring at DCCC after the Democrats lost 63 seats while he was Chair during the 2010 elections.
The truth is neither Edwards or Van Hollen enjoys a particularly deep list of accomplishments to point to in a House overtaken and ruled by historic gridlock and partisanship. Yet for the Washington Post, various Black electeds in Maryland and some Black Caucus members, Van Hollen was the automatic default selection for reasons having little or nothing to do with detailed accomplishment or legislative prowess.
There will be some members of the Black Caucus staring into the abyss of a huge political miscalculation should Edwards make history tonight.