Some would say that Maryland’s 1st Congressional District is a unique piece of geography with a wide range of constituency. The district encompasses the entire Eastern Shore as well as portions of Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil and Harford counties.
Since 2011, Rep. Andy Harris has represented the 1st District, the only Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation. In last June’s primary, Harris, 61, a doctor and staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, received more than 85 percent of the vote against his GOP rivals, Martin Elborn and Lamont Taylor.
In the general election in November, the four-time incumbent will square off against Jesse Colvin, who received more than 38 percent of the Democratic vote in a field of six candidates. Colvin hopes to ride what political pundits are calling “the Blue Wave” in midterm elections this year.
A Baltimore native, Colvin, 34, attended the Park School of Baltimore and became a bar mitzvah at Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill. After graduating from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in history and Arabic, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Afghanistan.
Colvin has a master of international affairs degree from Columbia University, and his private sector experience includes Barclays Bank and Toffler Associates, a business management consultancy.
He lives in Perry Hall with his wife, Jordan, and their four-month-old son, Coleman. Jmore recently spoke with Colvin about his vision for the 1st District.
Why should 1st District voters, who largely supported Andy Harris and Donald Trump in 2016, vote for you in 2018?
This election is a referendum on Andy Harris. It’s not left versus right, or Democrats versus Republicans. I’m a Democrat and my wife is a Republican. My platform is grounded in common sense, results and leadership. I think folks are ready for a new generation of leaders who put country over party.
Are you making any progress with voters?
The response we’re seeing on the ground is incredible. We’re really feeling the momentum building. We’re up to 800-plus volunteers.
Something unique is happening in our race. I am humbled to have the endorsement of former Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, who represented District 1 for nearly two decades. We’re also endorsed by With Honor. This organization supports principled next-generation veterans from both sides of the political aisle who will work in a cross-partisan way to create a more effective and less polarized government. At the grassroots level, there’s already a coalition group called Republicans for Jesse Colvin working to persuade other Republicans to put country before party this year.
Why did you sign up for four combat tours as a U.S. Army Ranger in Afghanistan?
The 9/11 attacks occurred when I was a senior at the Park School. It led me to study Arabic in college, spend a semester in Egypt and teach English to Iraqi refugees in Syria. I was against the war in Iraq but living in Damascus, I could see if we got it wrong in Iraq, the violence would spread to Syria and beyond. I thought Uncle Sam needed good men and women, so I joined the military.
Passing the arduous selection for the U.S. Army Rangers meant a great deal because I wanted to work with the best people and on the toughest missions. I led intelligence teams within a special operations forces task force whose work facilitated capture/kill missions of leaders of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups.
I volunteered for four deployments because we were at war. Many of my colleagues were on their 10th deployment or more. If we as Rangers did our jobs well, we prevented lethal Taliban attacks, which meant American conventional military units suffered fewer losses. The work carried with it an incredible sense of purpose and importance.
Back here at home, what are you learning while knocking on doors in the 1st District?
I’ve learned that showing up counts. Listening well counts even more. Folks of all political stripes tell me they are incredibly frustrated with the hyper-partisan state of affairs in Congress. I’ve told folks from day one that it’s not enough to be against something — we have to be for something. What I’m hearing is folks are ready for a new generation of leadership, especially military veterans of combat deployments, who are ready to put country over party.
Your concerns about the 1st District?
What causes me — and every other constituent in our district – [concern] is the opioid epidemic. We are getting hammered. The fatalities in our district are 50 percent higher than the national average. I’ve met more Baby Boomers raising young children because that middle generation — my generation — is just gone. Vanished. My son, who is four months old, and his kids will justifiably damn us if we don’t bring political courage and energy to this fight.
The incumbent takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate [political action committees], including from the pharmaceutical industry. I’m proud that I’m not accepting any contributions from corporate PACs, especially the pharmaceutical industry, because I think those contributions will impair my ability to stand up with integrity to fight things like the opioid epidemic.
What’s encouraging is the number of veterans running for Congress this year. We have plenty of reasons to be frustrated. We were sent into Iraq and Afghanistan with no exit strategies, and many of us lost friends and colleagues overseas or back home to things like post-traumatic stress disorder. But I see a group of young leaders from both sides of the aisle who are focused on results.
Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer