As November 8 draws nearer, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) and state Del. Kathy Szeliga (R) continue their battle for the vacant MD Senate seat, which opened up due to the retirement of Senator Barbara Mikulski. Recent polls show Van Hollen holding a comfortable 30-point lead over Szeliga, according to the RealClearPolitics Average.
Van Hollen, a seven-term Democrat in the House, has long been the favored candidate for many in this election. The son of a Baltimore family, he has become a prominent leader in the Democratic Party, serving as the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. Before the general election, he faced a fierce yearlong primary election against Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D). The bitter and highly profiled race ended in the spring with Van Hollen winning with 53 percent of the vote.
Szeliga is a Baltimore County lawmaker and the minority whip in the Maryland House of Delegates. She easily defeated 13 other candidates in the Republican primary election. Maryland, a highly Democratic state, has not elected a Republican senator since 1980. However, Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s upset win in 2014 hints the possibility of another shocker.
When it comes to positions, Van Hollen and Szeliga differ vastly. While Van Hollen’s positions include protecting the environment, expanding ObamaCare, reforming the criminal justice system, and promoting his “Action Plan” economic agenda, Szeliga believes in securing borders, prioritizing national security, and repealing ObamaCare.
In the first debate, hosted by The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU-FM, the major two party candidates debated each others’ legislative records and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Szeliga labeled her opponent as a Washington insider who has failed to address prevalent issues, such as the national debt and suburban traffic, in his 14 years in Congress. “It goes back to election-year promises,” Szeliga said during the debate.
Van Hollen criticized Szeliga’s voting record in Annapolis, citing her opposition to minimum wage increases. He also noted that Szeliga endorsed Trump while Governor Hogan decided otherwise, making sure to highlight Trump’s controversial figure.
“[Governor Hogan] made the decision not to support Donald Trump because he decided, in this case, to put country over party and not elect somebody who is erratic and could be dangerous,” he said.
In the second debate, the only televised debate in the race, the candidates sparred over a range of issues, from healthcare to the economy. They also attacked the presidential nominees for their opponents’ parties, with Van Hollen mentioning Trump’s unfitness for the presidency and Szeliga calling out Clinton for her use of a private email server.
The debate between the two was briefly interrupted when Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers stepped on stage and demanded to have a spot in the debate. Although both Van Hollen and Szeliga said they wouldn’t mind Flowers participating, security guards escorted her away.
Senator Mikulski, the longest serving woman in Congress, had previously stated she felt comfortable with Van Hollen as a replacement, although his win would leave the Maryland congressional delegation without a female member for the first time in 40 years.
“Chris Van Hollen and I have exactly the same agenda,” she said the morning after the two major party candidates were chosen. “I’m comfortable not only handing over the reins but riding on the buckboard to help him to get elected.”
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Omisa Jinsi of Churchill High School