2 well-known names lead race for Maryland’s 4th congressional district

While a long list of candidates are on the ballot for Maryland’s 4th congressional district, two familiar names appear to be locked in a close race for the Democratic nomination in a seat expected to stay with Democrats no matter how many seats Republicans might win around the country.

The competitive primary arises because incumbent Anthony Brown has decided to run for attorney general in Maryland.

Overall, there are nine Democrats and three Republicans vying for their party’s nominations in the July 19 primary.

However, the two candidates seen as the front-runners to succeed Brown are former Rep. Donna Edwards, who held the seat before Brown, and former state’s attorney Glenn Ivey, was defeated by Brown in the 2016 primary for the same seat.

The race has drawn a smattering of national attention because of outside money from groups like the American Israel Political Action Committee, which is supporting Ivey, and J Street, a different pro-Israel group that’s supporting Edwards’ effort.

Beyond that, both candidates are touting endorsements from recognizable names in Democratic circles in a district that looks a lot different from it did when Edwards previously held the seat before.

Thanks to redistricting, the district’s borders have shifted. Gone is the huge swath of Anne Arundel County that used to encompass the district as it moved through Laurel, skirting west of Beltsville and College Park before jutting east to Bowie and south all the way down to Oxon Hill.

Instead, the district retains the Democratic heart that voted Edwards into office the first time back in 2008, stretching into a corner of eastern Montgomery County in a much more compact way.

Donna Edwards: ‘The difference is experience’

Edwards made a name for herself as a staunch progressive who rose through the ranks of Democratic leadership in the House after she knocked off incumbent Albert Wynn in 2008. She gave up the House seat to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, ultimately losing the primary to Sen. Chris Van Hollen. In 2018 she ran for Prince George’s County Executive, but came in a distant second place.

4th District Maryland congressional district candidate Donna Edwards.

So why does she want her old seat in Congress?

“It’s really simple. I bring back almost 10 years of experience at a time that we really need it, making sure that Prince George’s County gets its fair share of the billions of dollars coming into the state from our infrastructure dollars,” said Edwards, as she greeted voters at an early voting site in Fort Washington last week. “I’m excited about this run and return to the Congress,” before mentioning for the first of multiple times that she’s endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

She said if elected, she would work to address inequities in health care, education, as well as small business capitalization that revealed themselves when the pandemic hit 2 and 1/2 years ago. She described her experience on the Hill, and the relationships she forged there, as assets that would help address those issues.

She also touted herself as “the most progressive” candidate in the race.

But if Republicans in the House return to power this fall as many forecasts suggest they will, won’t that hinder a lot of her goals? Edwards said she doesn’t necessarily buy the “conventional wisdom” that Republicans will take back the House.

“But having served in the minority, I understand the ways that you have to pull the levers to achieve things for our congressional district and I’m looking forward to going back and applying the tools that I’ve learned and the experience to be able to deliver,” she said.

When asked what sets her apart from Ivey, Edwards responded, “the difference is experience.”

She added, “You can’t trade experience. You also cannot trade the endorsement and support of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who knows me and who has said in her own words that I was one of the most effective members of Congress and I would bring all of that to bear for the people of the 4th District. There’s nobody else in this race that brings that.”

Even though recent polling released by the Ivey campaign purports to show him now leading the race by a small margin, Edwards expressed confidence in where the campaign was at as the primary draws near.

“It shows that it’s a tight race … pretty much neck and neck,” said Edwards. “I think at the end of the day voters in our district want to make sure that at this precarious time … that we send a woman to the Congress from Maryland.”

Right now the state doesn’t have any women in Congress, and citing issues like reproductive rights, Edwards argued “women deserve a seat at the table and I think voters of this congressional district are going to recognize that.”

Glenn Ivey: ‘Look at our track records’

4th District Maryland congressional district candidate Glenn Ivey.

But for all of Edwards’ talk about experience, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey argued he has plenty of experience himself, even though he’s never served in Congress before.

“I worked on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress and three senators,” noted Ivey, who then left Capitol Hill to become the top prosecutor in Prince George’s County.

He cited inflation, gas prices, public safety and police reform as some of the issues he feels matter the most in the 4th District, along with education and economic development.

He also argued that if he’s elected in a year that Democrats lose control of the House, he could still be an effective representative who gets things done for his constituents.

“I think a big piece of what you can do as a member of Congress isn’t related to Capitol Hill,” said Ivey, teeing up a lingering criticism of Edwards going back to her first stint in Congress: constituent services. Edwards herself has acknowledged her office wasn’t always as responsive to the needs of her district as it should have been, though she says she’s learned those lessons and would do better if elected again.

Ivey said he doesn’t buy it.

“I’d encourage people to look at our track records,” he said repeatedly.

“She was there for almost 10 years and never seemed to get it right,” said Ivey. “It’s the services you can provide to your constituents back here in the district. If they had challenges getting their benefits — Social Security, Veterans Affairs, or anything like that, a lot of times they turn to their member of Congress to help them with that.”

Referencing community work he did as state’s attorney, Ivey said, “I know how to do that and get it done.”

He also said serving in a Democratic minority could put his legal experiences to the test.

“If we do lose it and Republicans take over, I know they’ll probably do a lot of investigations of the Biden administration,” said Ivey. “I have experience doing that from my Senate days during the Clinton administration so I can certainly step up and handle that issue as well.”

That said, Ivey conceded some of that will be secondary to the realities the country is facing right now.

“I think for a lot of folks the house is on fire,” said Ivey. “They’re having trouble buying groceries, keeping a roof over their head, buying gasoline. You can almost spend $100 to fill up your tank. It’s a real challenge.”

Citing the cost of college educations, Ivey added “there’s a lot of challenges that people are facing, and so I’d like to get back into the mix and try to help out as soon as possible.”

All candidates

Republican candidates:

  • Eric Loeb, Prince George’s County,
  • George McDermott, Prince George’s County
  • Jeff Warner, Prince George’s County

Democratic candidates:

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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