The LGBT community is debating the question of whether a member of the community should challenge an incumbent who is also a member of the community and has been very supportive and successful in fighting for our issues. That is the crux of some hard feelings generated by Dr. Dana Beyer, a transgender activist, who has thrown her hat into the ring challenging incumbent Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno. Beyer’s move was quickly criticized by two of her former colleagues at Equality Maryland.
Beyer is a graduate of Cornell University and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine. She is an ophthalmic surgeon and physician and grew a small business. She was a senior policy and legislative adviser to Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and a program consultant with the Children’s National Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. She is also the mother of two and a well-known community activist.
The work of both these candidates and so many others who fought for the civil and human rights of all people means that a member of the LGBT community running against someone else from the community will become much more the norm. In this case, most would agree that the interests of the LGBT community will continue to be well served by either candidate.
I am not endorsing Beyer or Madaleno. I consider myself a friend of both, respect both, am proud of what both have accomplished for our community, and don’t live in their district. But I took the opportunity to sit down with Beyer to ask her what would lead her to challenge Madaleno. Asked whether there is anything he hasn’t done for our community that would cause her to run, she agreed there isn’t much. I asked if there wasn’t another race she could have entered since she has for many years been interested in elective office and she explained that she has more of an interest in the issues being debated in Annapolis, such as a progressive tax-code, economic justice, transportation and education. She also said that Madaleno hasn’t been supportive enough of home rule, and his positions on matters of economic justice are a major problem for the district and the county. Beyer brought up a series of issues that among others will be the focus of her campaign and that she hopes voters will make their choice on. (These are her thoughts and in no way am I agreeing or disagreeing with them.)
A big issue for Beyer is whether local counties have the right to make decisions on caps for per student funding of education. She says she would have voted against the 2012 budget reconciliation act because it included an MOE (Maintenance of Effort) clause giving the state the right to force a locality to spend money they believe they don’t have. Beyer believes this doesn’t allow them the freedom to determine their own budget priorities. She also opposed the transfer of the teacher pension responsibility from the state to the county, which Madaleno supported. She is for building the Purple Line and fighting for all mass transit improvements and says that Madaleno supports the lawsuit filed by those trying to stop the Purple Line. She supported the Montgomery County Council’s vote to not grant tax abatement to Lockheed Martin for its training academy and says Madaleno then went against home rule when he supported the state’s effort to grant the tax abatement.
Based on these issues and her background it would seem that an activist of Beyer’s stature has a right to run and bring her concerns to the electorate letting them decide who should represent them. Again, I take no position on whether she should run this particular race or not but it is clear that if the electorate is happy with Madaleno, then she will lose and that is what every candidate running against an incumbent must be prepared for.
Running against an incumbent is always more difficult than running for an open seat but in politics, especially in areas with no term limits, no incumbent should take the voters for granted or feel entitled to their seat.