Maryland has eight congressional seats, but only one of the state’s incumbent representatives is in anything resembling a tough race. Republican Dan Bongino is challenging John Delaney for his 6th district seat. Both candidates were working the crowds recently at the In the Street Festival in Frederick.
Bongino asked his supporters to beat the bushes to find people to vote for him. “Try to get 10, 10 and 10,” Bongino told his supporters. “Try to get 10 people on Facebook to vote. Call 10 and email 10 and we’ll win this thing.” Bongino, a former secret service agent, says he will win in November by knocking on doors throughout the sprawling district. It runs from Montgomery County to Frederick and out to Western Maryland. Bongino has a conservative platform of lower taxes, school choice and a balanced budget amendment.
But he's in an uphill battle. State leaders reshaped the once-conservative district to make it more Democratic. St. Mary’s College political scientist Todd Eberly says that in a mid-term election, you would expect the 6th district to vote 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. But Delaney’s 21-point victory two years ago showed his moderate appeal crosses party lines. "Bongino has to figure out how to peel those Republican or Republican leaning voters away from Delaney,” Eberly said.
Delaney worked the festival, too. He ran into Frederick resident Jim Rodgers on Market Street, and got an ear full about the gridlock on Capitol Hill. “What’s all that fighting about?” Rodgers asked Delaney, referring to partisan gridlock in Congress. “What’s going on? You’ve got to be doing the business of America.”
Delaney agreed that there is too much partisan fighting in Congress, but says that he’s part of the solution. For example, Republicans and Democrats alike have signed on to his legislation to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The money would come from U. S. corporations that are stashing cash overseas. If they bring the money back to the U.S. and put some of it in the infrastructure pot, they would get a tax break. “Democrats have wanted to build infrastructure and invest in infrastructure for 20 years," Delaney said. "We’ve been pushing that. We’ve been 100 percent right. And my Republican colleagues have been saying this international tax system is a real problem. It’s causing bad incentives and we should fix it. And they’re 100 percent right.”
Bongino said that it’s an awful idea. He calls it a “crony bank.” “It’s just going to be rife with corruption, “ he said. “Infrastructure should be funded out of transportation tax dollars.”
In terms of taxes, Bongino promised to work to scrap the federal system and replace it with a consumption tax, in which people only pay taxes on what they buy. Bongino said that the policy will work because it's simple, no one escapes paying, and poor people would be exempt. “Your take-home pay is yours,” Bongino said. “Everything is funded: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. The federal budget is funded through a national consumption tax.”
Delaney said that he’s all for tax reform, but that Bongino’s proposal won’t work. “It’s just a ridiculous idea that will never happen and [it's] even kind of a waste of time to [talk] about it,” Delaney says.
No independent polling has been done on the race. As for campaign money, Delaney has access to plenty. According to Roll Call, he is the third-richest member of Congress. He made a fortune as a financier and is worth about $112 million. But Bongino says he has the money he needs to be competitive. The last campaign finance report shows he had raised about $600,000.