CRISFIELD- As expected, former Salisbury Mayor and current city councilman Jim Ireton will run for Congress in Maryland’s first district.
Ireton, who certainly sounded like his mind was made up on a potential run during an interview with The Dispatch two weeks ago, made the official announcement on Tuesday morning in Crisfield. He will be one of two Democrats and three Republicans already filed to dethrone Republican incumbent Andy Harris, who has not officially filed for re-election to date. Ireton will be up against Democratic candidate Joe Werner, who is an attorney in the primary on April 26th, while three Republican contenders: former state lawmaker Michael D. Smigel Sr., Maryland State Police Commander Sean M. Jackson, and Jonathan Marvin Goff Jr., who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in 2014, are expected to battle Harris.
Ireton’s decision to announce his candidacy in Crisfield was not happenstance, and he came out of the gate throwing jabs at the incumbent’s voting record.
“I’m here right now in Crisfield because Andy Harris was not,” said Ireton in his speech to supporters. “He turned his back on this city when people needed him the most.”
Harris voted against $9.7 billion in federal relief money after Crisfield was pummeled by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“In your time of need, he refused to approve the aid needed to help Crisfield rebuild”, said Ireton. “More than three years later, Crisfield is still struggling to get back to what it was. You elected a representative – a voice for your interests in Washington – and he told you ‘No’.”
Ireton went on in his announcement speech to criticize Harris’ voting record on issues impacting farmers, such as the $950 billion farm bill Harris voted against in 2014, and Harris’ vehement opposition of the Affordable Care Act, which Ireton says has helped more than 55,000 people on the Eastern Shore of Maryland get health insurance who didn’t have it before.
“We need a Congressman working on problems, not just voting ‘no’,” said Ireton. “We need a Congressman who will go to Washington to make a difference, not just to make a point.”
Democrats hold seven of the eight congressional districts in Maryland, but Harris has held onto the seat that represents the Eastern Shore and parts of Harford, Carroll, and Baltimore Counties with a firm grip, winning re-election in 2014 with almost 70 percent of the vote.
Republicans took control of the seat in the 2010 election as Harris defeated the incumbent, Democrat Frank Kratovil. Then, in 2011, the General Assembly redrew the district, helping Harris establish a strong foothold in the region.
Yet, while Ireton has opened his candidacy by firing away at Harris has been mum on his potential opponents in the upcoming primary and anyone that the Democrats might bring into the proverbial ring.
“Right now, I am focusing on taking care of the First Congressional District, especially cutting taxes and regulations that strangle our economy.” Harris said in a statement.
Depending on the primary results, the matchup between Ireton and Harris creates the potential for more of a political street fight than the usual ‘horserace’ analogies that are often used during campaigns. Both Ireton and Harris couldn’t be more different ideologically and are each known for being extremely outspoken and willing to take the proverbial gloves off in the political arena.
“People in Ocean City need to ask themselves this question”, said Ireton, “if a storm were to hit Ocean City and cause as much damage as Sandy did in Crisfield, would Andy Harris vote no? There are 7,000 people in Worcester County that have health insurance now that didn’t have it before and the incumbent wants to take that away. We need someone in Washington that won’t just say no for the sake of saying no.”