The race between state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and challenger Dana Beyer in Maryland’s 18th Senate District has grown increasingly heated ahead of the June 24 primary.
Madaleno compared Beyer to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during a May 29 debate that aired on Montgomery Municipal Cable’s “Political Pulse.” The two also clashed during a District 18 Democratic Breakfast Club forum on Monday.
“She wants to be the person that just makes the big statement that gets attention, but actually spends little time in making the hard decisions about governing,” Madaleno told the Washington Blade in an interview on Tuesday. “You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who would not label me as a liberal, as a progressive in the state Senate. I’m also practical in recognizing that we have to make compromises that get the job done.”
Madaleno told the Blade that Beyer has “gone very negative” during the campaign.
His opponent in recent days has sent two mailers to voters that say Madaleno has “led the charge” against a so-called millionaire’s tax. Beyer has also said Madaleno voted in favor of cutting the state’s contribution to the public teachers’ pension fund.
“There’s nothing in any of my mailers … that is in any way negative,” Beyer told the Blade on Tuesday. “It’s about his record. He’s used it negatively because it’s highlighting what he’s done, which doesn’t fit with his record.”
Beyer provided the Blade with a screenshot of her Facebook page that shows Madaleno’s husband, Mark Madaleno Hodge, questioning why her campaign pays her canvassers $8.50 an hour.
“Economic justice doesn’t apply to you I guess,” wrote Hodge.
Beyer told the Blade her canvassers receive between $10.50-$12.50 an hour. She also categorized accusations that she asked District 18 voters whether Madaleno spent “too much time on gay issues” in a Celinda Lake poll she commissioned before declaring her candidacy in January as “another lie.”
“That was as classic, as detailed, as traditional a persuasion poll as possible,” Beyer told the Blade. “I’m trying to understand the race. I discovered that I could win this race, but it wasn’t on anything gay or trans.”
Madaleno, 48, has represented District 18 that includes Wheaton, Kensington and portions of Silver Spring, Bethesda and Chevy Chase since 2007. He also became the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 2002 when he won a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Beyer, 61, was a senior assistant to former Montgomery County Council woman Duchy Trachtenberg. The retired eye surgeon unsuccessfully challenged state Del. Alfred Carr (D-Montgomery County) in 2010.
Beyer, who is a former member of the Equality Maryland board of directors, is the executive director of Gender Rights Maryland that she founded in 2011.
Beyer: Madaleno introduced trans bill because he’s ‘the gay guy’
Beyer has repeatedly criticized Madaleno over his role in the passage of a transgender rights bill earlier this year that he introduced.
She told the Blade that Madaleno “wasn’t supposed to introduce” Senate Bill 212 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act because she said her organization convinced state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) to do it because he is a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that in 2013 struck down a similar measure. Beyer said Gender Rights Maryland also worked with state Del. James Hubbard (D-Prince George’s County) to put forth the bill in the Maryland House of Delegates because he is a member of the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
“These are people who’ve been with us in the past, who have superb rates of legislative success,” she said. “Rich introduced this because he’s the gay guy.”
Beyer said Madaleno was unable to define gender identity last year during the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on a trans rights bill. She also accused her opponent of disinviting Gov. Martin O’Malley from testifying in support of it.
Beyer told the Blade that she worked with state Sens. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) who ultimately voted for Senate Bill 212 in February.
The three Democrats who sit on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in 2013 voted against a nearly identical bill.
“We got all three of those votes,” said Beyer. “[Madaleno] promoted himself as the lead sponsor because he wanted the credit for it. That’s what he does best — take credit for which he doesn’t deserve credit.”
Madaleno acknowledged he shares Beyer’s “frustration” that it took nearly a decade for a trans rights bill to become law. He accused her of being willing to compromise on a 2011 measure that did not include public accommodations.
Numerous LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken in recent months have said Beyer did not play a significant role in the passage of SB 212 that O’Malley signed last month. They also questioned Gender Rights Maryland’s decision to oppose efforts to highlight efforts to prompt a referendum on the law that ultimately failed.
“Those of us who were actually in Annapolis day in and day out during the session will tell you that it was thousands of supporters, strong leadership from the governor, Lt. Gov. [Anthony Brown], Senate President [Thomas V. Mike Miller], Speaker of the House [Michael Busch], and most importantly, and the glue that held it all together, Sen. Rich Madaleno,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans told the Blade.
Her organization late last year endorsed Madaleno and Brown, who is running against Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“It is unfortunate for our community that Beyer has employed tactics that attack Sen. Madaleno, his intentions and his record,” said Evans.
Jonathan Shurberg, chair of Gender Rights Maryland’s Legislative Committee who is running for the House of Delegates in House District 20, has repeatedly defended the role he says Beyer and her organization played to secure passage of SB 212.
The Blade was unable to immediately reach him for comment.
Madaleno: Beyer is ‘jealous’
Madaleno said that he also played a key role in securing marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state — a point Beyer has acknowledged. The incumbent Democrat suggested during the Montgomery Municipal Cable debate that his opponent is “jealous” of him, noting she described him as “the major stumbling block in getting the trans bill passed.”
“It’s clear that the only thing that triturates us is her belief that she should have the job,” said Madaleno.
Beyer insists her decision to challenge Madaleno is not just about the trans rights bill that O’Malley signed.
She told the Blade she will focus on economic issues, the environment and other progressive issues if voters elect her.
“I’m not running to be the trans senator,” said Beyer. “I’m running to be the senator from District 18 who happens to be a woman, a civil rights leader, trans, intersex, a physician, a surgeon, a writer. I am many, many things and in many respects certainly with respect to being an elected representative, being trans is the least of it.”