Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th October 2008
By Montgomery County standards, it qualified as a political earthquake: the respected Takoma Park/Silver Spring “Progressive Neighbors” PAC steering committee did not endorse Chris Van Hollen in his bid for re-election to Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives. As their election issues flier — to be distributed by volunteers before and on Election Day — states,
Progressive Neighbors is split between endorsing the incumbent Chris Van Hollen and Green Party challenger Gordon Clark. We appreciate many of the stands Van Hollen has taken but have been disappointed by his lack of progressive leadership on issues that Clark is championing such as ending the War in Iraq and single payer, universal health care.
The organization’s web site front page adds, “The positions of both the incumbent Chris Van Hollen and Green Party challenger Gordon Clark were considered by the steering committee, and the committee came to a split decision.”
I spoke with Progressive Neighbors steering committee member and contact person Wally Malakoff, who said he agreed with the position the group took: “Van Hollen has taken good positions, but could be more aggressive” in pushing them, while Clark is a “good, articulate spokesman” for progressive positions. He said that the steering committee solicited member opinions via email and also considered those responses — roughly evenly divided — in coming to its decision.
The two candidates submitted letters to the Progressive Neighbors steering committee — first one by Van Hollen requesting endorsement, and then a response by Clark– both of which are now posted on the Progressive Neighbors web site.* Given that Van Hollen had to miss the only debate he was willing to schedule with Clark, the letters are perforce the only debate the voters of the 8th Congressional District will get to judge.
There are a lot of specific points made by both candidates in their letters. Instead of dwelling on these specifics, I’ll try in the following to get across the themes of both candidate’s positions accurately. In case it needs restating, I should make it (even more) crystal-clear that I support Clark.