Illustrations: Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen. Caricatures by DonkeyHotey with a Flickr Creative Commons License and cropped by MarylandReporter.com
By Glynis Kazanjian
Democratic primary voters should find little difference in political ideology between the two candidates running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, according to outside analysts.
Both U.S. Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen are ranked “hard core liberals” by On The Issues, a political website that analyzes policy issues supported by federal, state and local politicians.
Both Edwards and Van Hollen are considered reliable Democrats, who vote with their party 100% of the time, according to The Sunlight Foundation, a national, non-partisan organization that focuses on transparency and accountability in government and politics.
Edwards, of Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, is considered one of the most liberal members in the House of Representatives, ranking among the top 10% of all members, according to GovTrack.us, a government transparency website that tracks legislation in Congress and legislators’ voting records. She is also considered the most liberal of Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation.
While both politicians share very similar political views, Van Hollen is considered slightly to the right of Edwards because of his willingness to work across the aisle with Republicans.
Sponsoring bills with Republicans
In the 113th Congress, which ran from January 2013 to January 2015, 29% of the 325 bills Van Hollen cosponsored were introduced by someone other than a Democrat, and 37% of bills in which Van Hollen was lead sponsor had Republican co-sponsors.
In contrast, Edwards, has a 0% rating for writing legislation that was also co-sponsored by a Republican, and she is tied for sixth lowest among all House Democrats for co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation.
“Edwards tends to gather co-sponsors only on one side of the aisle,” GovTrack reported.
In a potential larger field of candidates, though, both Edwards and Van Hollen would be considered to the left of center. Prospects like Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, 2nd congressional district, of Baltimore County and Rep. John Delaney, 6th, of Montgomery County and western Maryland, are shown to be a little more bipartisan.
Ruppersberger ranks the highest amongst Maryland’s delegation for co-sponsoring legislation across the aisle. In the 113th Congress, 46% of the bills Ruppersberger co-sponsored were with members from parties other than Democrats; Delaney came in second at 34%.
“What’s interesting about bringing a Ruppersberger and Delaney dynamic [is], it introduces a more moderate candidate to a Maryland that recently rejected Anthony Brown,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, 7th, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. John Sarbanes, 3rd, have also been reported as considering running for Mikulski’s seat.
Most progressive to most conservative
On a spectrum of most progressive to most conservative, Edwards, Cummings, Van Hollen and Sarbanes – in that order – are considered the most liberal, according to GovTrack, while Delaney and Ruppersberger are considered more moderate.
“Make no mistake about it, Delaney and Ruppersberger are still Democrats,” Kromer said. “They’re just more moderate Democrats.”
According to OpenCongress, an affiliate of the Sunlight Foundation, Ruppersberger votes with his party 94% of the time and Delaney votes with party 85% of the time.
Still blue state
Kromer, who oversees political polls produced by Goucher every spring and fall, said while she thinks there’s an outside chance voters could elect a Republican to the Senate, she still thinks Maryland is a blue state.
“While you hear a lot of talk that Maryland is a purple state now, I don’t think we’ve gotten to that point,” Kromer said. “It’s still a blue state, but I think it will be interesting to see what type of blue state candidate will rise up through the Democratic party.”
Kromer believes the difference between a liberal candidate versus a moderate candidate will boil down to the type of initiatives the senator would throw their weight behind.
“There are two different ways to look at it,” Kromer said. “Does it matter in terms of party line vote, probably not. The difference is, the things they emphasize will be different. A more progressive candidate like Edwards or Van Hollen might throw their weight behind or spearhead different initiatives than a Ruppersberger or Delaney.”
For example, Ruppersberger, who is rated as a “populist leaning liberal” instead of a “hard core liberal,” does not support amnesty for illegal aliens.
Delaney comes from a business background with a history of creating thousands of jobs as chief executive of financial services companies he has founded and taken public.
“It will be interesting to see who Maryland prefers to send,” Kromer said.