Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Wynn brings strong record, solid experience

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In the run up to next Tuesday’s elections, few races have had the full-bore attacks and flimsy claims like those that have emerged in the Democratic congressional primary for the Fourth District.

The incumbent Albert R. Wynn narrowly escaped a major upset by challenger Donna Edwards in the September 2006 primary — less than 2,800 votes separated the two — and Wynn soared to easy victory in the General Election in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 5-to-1.

Because Maryland shifted its primary for 2008 from September to February, it seems the ink was barely dry on the last election’s results before an Edwards-Wynn rematch started. This compressed time frame has intensified some of the acidic exchanges between the two liberal Democrats, brought dueling endorsements from labor unions and mobilized contributors who are expected to donate a staggering $2 million-plus in this contest.

Edwards, an articulate and passionate campaigner, says the time has come for a change and the Fourth District needs a leader who listens and is less tied to special interests. She points to Wynn’s support to tighten bankruptcy rules in 2005 as one indication the congressman sides with big banks over average families, some now snared in the ‘‘mortgage meltdown” brought on by bad lending practices.

Edwards argues Wynn’s support of an energy bill that gives tax breaks to petroleum giants proves he favors big oil over other environmentally friendly energy sources. In painting Wynn’s record this way, Edwards ignores the bigger picture of Wynn’s accomplishments and his stance on key policy issues, both domestic and international.

After seven terms, Wynn had grown somewhat complacent and when Edwards came within a whisker of an upset, Wynn got the message. A humbler Wynn has re-engaged with his constituents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and worked to tone down an image as puppeteer in local politics. In this campaign, he has responded reasonably and without bile to his attackers, highlighting what he sees as distortions and ‘‘convenient misanalysis” of his record.

In the House of Representatives, he is the Democrats’ senior whip, sits on the energy and commerce committee and chairs an environmental issues subcommittee. He has supported small-business contracting reforms, better health care outreach and federal grants to fight global warming and research fuel alternatives. Over the years, he has played a role in securing millions of dollars for projects in his diverse district. Recent legislative efforts have put to rest any skepticism over his ability to reflect the needs and desires of the district.

Has his every vote been perfect? No. But Wynn’s track record doesn’t justify turning him out of office, shows a willingness to consider all ideas, not restricting his thinking to the party lines, and not abusing the power of incumbency. Edwards and Wynn take similar positions on abortion rights, education, foreign policy and the need for reforms in federal immigration policy, among other topics.

While Edwards is a formidable challenger, Wynn remains the most qualified Democrat in the Fourth District primary. Experience makes a difference.