Harris launches 2010 campaign on earmark, deficit themes
Like other Republican candidates around the country, Andy Harris is stressing fiscal responsibility as he attempts to unseat Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in this fall’s election.
Harris vows to abstain from earmarking if he becomes the congressman from Maryland’s first district, which covers the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.
“Some people run and promise to be independent,” Harris said in an interview. “A no-new-earmarks pledge clearly makes you independent from both political parties right now.”
If he wins, and keeps his promise, Harris would become one of a relative handful of senators and representatives who shun the earmark system.
All current members of the Maryland congressional delegation, Democrat and Republican alike, aggressively and unapologetically seek federal earmark funds for pet projects in their district and the state. During 2009, they succeeded in steering hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to Maryland.
But Harris says those efforts reflect an “inside-the-Beltway” mentality that most Americans don’t share. Increasingly, he said, voters “view earmarks as political payoffs.”
The earmark process, which has been criticized as wasteful and potentially corrupt, results in fewer dollars coming back to Maryland than taxpayers sent in the first place, according to Harris. Earmark money, and unspent funds from last year’s stimulus law, would be better off left in Washington to help reduce the federal budget deficit, he said.
The 12-year state Senate veteran from Baltimore County is giving up his office in the legislature for another try at the House seat he nearly won in 2008. He could still face a September primary contest against Republican state Sen. E. J. Pipkin, who has yet to announce his plans.
On Tuesday, Harris will make a day-long swing across the district to let people know what he’s been doing for months: running for Congress again.
He’ll formally declare his candidacy in Bel Air, where he is to receive the endorsement of Harford County Executive David Craig, a fellow Republican. In 2008, Craig supported then-Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a longtime incumbent who lost to Harris in a highly divisive Republican primary that, some believe, kept Harris from winning the general election.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the national party's House campaign arm, has been working to bolster Harris' 2010 campaign and limit any damage from a contested primary. In addition to his 10 a.m. kickoff event in the Harford County seat, Harris has stops scheduled in Annapolis, Easton and Cambridge.
A physician who works as an obstetric anesthesiologist, Harris, 52, said he hopes to join the Republican drive to seek repeal of portions of a new health care overhaul law, if, as many expect, Congress enacts the legislation early this year. He described as “absolutely crazy” a provision of the legislation that would tax medical device companies, and he said he would favor the creation of bipartisan commissions to deal with the long-range funding problems of Medicare and Social Security.
The New York native is pledging to impose a term limit on himself, promising to spend no more than a dozen years in the House. He’ll also push, he said, for a constitutional amendment to term-limit Congress, an idea that failed to win sufficient support after Republicans gained control of the House in the 1994 election.
One point that Harris said he’ll be making throughout the district is that “the most important vote that most congressmen cast is for the Speaker of the chamber.” Like all other House Republicans, he’ll vote “’No’ on Nancy Pelosi” because “her far-left agenda is not what’s good for the first district of Maryland,” he said.
Harris said that as a member of the Maryland legislature he tried to take positions based “on principle, not on party.” But he could not come up with any issues during the current Congress on which he would have bucked the Republican Party, which has voted with near-unanimity against the initiatives of President Barack Obama and the Democrats.
“I’d have to think about that,” he said, “because their agenda has been so radical.”