Jamie Raskin beat big money to become the Democratic nominee from a Maryland congressional district that is now all but certain to elect a “qualifications matter more than money” representative to the US House of Representatives this fall. And when he gets to the Capitol next January, Raskin promises to amplify and extend the struggle for democracy in America.
That’s a tall order, to be sure.
But Raskin, a Maryland state senator and an American University professor of constitutional law, the First Amendment and the legislative process, has been at the center of struggles for voting rights, campaign finance reform, and fair elections for decades. Now, having won an intense primary contest to replace Congressman Chris Van Hollen (who on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s open US Senate seat), he is ready to take the struggle in the Capitol.
Raskin will arrive with fresh inspiration to make the fight. Before Tuesday’s Maryland primary, he was outspent 6-to-1 by a businessman who steered more than $12 million into the race. A second candidate also appears to have outspent Raskin. Yet the passionately progressive legislator prevailed with a campaign that relied on more than 11,000, mostly small, donors and with a declaration that “an election is not an auction.”
Raskin is not alone in advancing this votes-must-matter-more-than-dollars message. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has made it central to his small-donor funded presidential run. And Congress has a number of rock-solid champions of democracy—including ardent Raskin backers such as Michigan Congressman John Conyers and Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan. But no one would argue that either chamber has a sufficient contingent of advocates for the principle that government should be “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
If as expected he wins in November (in a 2-1 Democratic district against a Ted Cruz-backing right-wing Republican) Raskin will not merely increase the numbers for the House’s real-reform caucus. The veteran legislator, whom The Washington Post recognizes as the Maryland Senate’s “constitutional authority,” will add what Pocan refers to as “tremendous energy and tremendous intellect” to the fights to absolutely guarantee voting rights and fair elections.