Maryland’s newest congressman, John Delaney, took a boat ride down the C&O Canal on Thursday with a handful of environmentalists to learn about efforts to protect the Potomac River watershed.
Also at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Potomac were representatives from groups such as the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, the C&O Canal Trust, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Association, who spoke about their work.
The purpose of the meeting was to acquaint the new congressman with environmental issues in the area and to meet key volunteers, said Kevin Brandt, superintendent of Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Volunteers contribute about 80,000 hours of work each year to the park, he said.
“We could not maintain our level of operations without all those volunteer hours,” Brandt said.
Delaney, 50, beat 20-year incumbent Republican Roscoe G. Bartlett in last year’s election to represent the 6th Congressional District, which was redrawn by Democrats in 2011 and includes portions of Democrat-friendly Montgomery County, where Delaney lives, as well as heavily Republican Western Maryland.
That means balancing those two areas, which often have diametrically opposed agendas. Delaney supports gun control and is a strong believer in the dangers of global warming, stances that have raised eyebrows in Western Maryland. But he also has upset some state Democrats by often voting to the right of the rest of the state’s congressional delegation. On issues such as oil drilling and domestic surveillance, he split with most of his fellow Democrats.
David Moon, who runs the politics blog Maryland Juice and is eyeing a bid for the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014, said that there are constituencies, both within the Democratic Party and across Delaney’s district, that have serious concerns with what they view as pro-fracking and anti-union stances.
After he won the Democratic primary last year, besting a union-supported candidate, Delaney was endorsed by the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO.
What the New Jersey native made clear during the boat ride, and the roundtable discussion afterward, was that he was a strong supporter of the environment.
“I care a lot about the natural world,” Delaney said, who added that global warming was not just a threat to the natural world but to the country’s economy, as well.
Cleaning up the watershed was a job for both government and citizens, Delaney said, adding that he lived half a mile from the park in Potomac.
“I am a big believer in public/private partnerships,” he said. Delaney suggested renting out the national park for events such as weddings to raise revenue.
Delaney has a background in the private sector. In 2000, he founded a bank called CapitalSource, which is to be sold to PacWest Bancorp for $2.3 billion; Delaney’s share of the sale will be about $69 million. Delaney already is one of the richest members of Congress with family trusts and retirement accounts worth at least $51 million, according to a financial disclosure statement released by his campaign last year.