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Donna's Back

The most compelling rematch from the 2006 elections is just about to get going. It's the Democratic congressional primary in the Maryland suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C.
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The most compelling rematch from the 2006 elections is just about to get going. It's the Democratic congressional primary in the Maryland suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C. In a summer of sequels, this one should be on the marquee: "Donna's Back."

Last year, in the 4th Congressional district, Donna Edwards, an attorney, civic activist and true progressive came within 3,000 votes of beating seven-term incumbent Rep. Al Wynn (DINO-MD). Her campaign was under-funded, received almost no coverage in the local papers, and yet with a couple of more weeks, political experts said, Edwards could have won in a very large district that encompasses part of the majority-black Prince George's County and suburbs in neighboring Montgomery County that extend from the Washington, D.C. border to far-out suburbs. Edwards, like Wynn, is from Prince George's County.

This is truly an election of contrasts. On one hand there's Donna -- lively, energetic, a dedicated advocate for the public interest. Then there's Wynn -- ponderous, thuggish and resting comfortably in the back pockets of every well-heeled special interest in Washington.

The last time around, Donna made the war a central issue of the campaign, attacking Wynn's support for the Bush Administration. She also made sure everyone knew of Wynn's close ties to the big phone and energy companies and his votes to hurt families across Maryland. Wynn is a "Democrat" who voted for the bankruptcy bill championed by credit-card companies to destroy working people who had a history of bad luck. Wynn consistently supported the war in 2002 and 2003. He sided with Verizon and the other big telephone and cable companies to back legislation that would hurt his own constituents. He voted for tax breaks for big oil companies and opposed legislation to raise the minimum wage.

Not content to carry Verizon's water in Washington, he also lobbied hard in the state legislature against legislation by state Rep. Herman Taylor (D-Dist. 14) that would have required Verizon to report where it deploying high-speed Internet services.

Then there's Donna, who comes from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, opposing the war and standing up for families.

Since the election, Wynn has gone into all-out defensive mode. He shows up anywhere in the big district that four or more people are gathered. His voting record, to some degree, is a mirror image of the past five years. After being scared out of his wits by Donna, he has abandoned his five years of support for the war. He joined the Out of Iraq Caucus and even cosponsored a resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. It's not that these are bad ideas necessarily, but with Wynn you get the idea it's only a matter of convenience and political survival, not of true conviction. It's too little, too late.

If any more proof was needed, Wynn's kick-off event recently showed that he really hasn't changed his views in any substantive way. The guest speaker was Harold Ford, Jr., a former Congressman, now a Fox News contributor and spokesman for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Ford reiterated his support for the war, while Wynn characterized opponents of the war, like Donna, as "dealing in clichés."

The first election went totally under the radar of the MSM, although perceptive bloggers picked up on it. It wasn't until August that the coverage began, and it took an incident in which one of Wynn's congressional staff beat up an Edwards volunteer before a debate that anyone took notice of her. Edwards was appalled at the Wynn staff, who by all accounts except Wynn's, were the aggressors, taking Edwards signs out of the ground and then attacking the Edwards volunteer who asked them to stop.

Wynn sloughed it off and couldn't be bothered with the behavior of his crew. He told a local newspaper, "Apparently, there was a little skirmish. My people acted in self-defense. Their people got the worst of it." Chastising his people for getting into a fight isn't part of the field manual for the Wynn campaign.

All of that history makes the current events very puzzling. Last year, state Rep. Peter Franchot was elected as Maryland Comptroller, the no. 4 elected official in the state. Through his terms in office, Franchot carved out a career as a progressive, conscientious legislator. For some ungodly reason, Franchot endorsed Wynn, who has voted against everything Franchot has stood for -- a true sellout of his constituency. His obligation should be to those who elected him.

There will be a lot of action around the country this year, certainly in the presidential race and in some Senate campaigns. But keep an eye on this one. Donna kicks off her campaign June 30, and then the fun will start in earnest.