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My Candidate for US Senate

Column By Lily Qi

I would really love to see a woman succeeding Senator Barbara Mikulski.

I admire Congresswoman Donna Edwards for many reasons—her passion, her intellect, and her strong principles. As a single mother, she overcame tremendous odds to become Maryland’s first black Congresswomen. As a woman, minority and immigrant, I find her story particularly inspiring.

But I am voting for Congressman Chris Van Hollen as our next senator because too much is at stake for the State of Maryland to take a chance. More than a compelling story, we need a compelling record of getting things done. I like the way some describe Chris as a leader who wants to DO something. Not to BE something.

Van Hollen

In this increasingly competitive economic environment, Maryland stands to lose big if we cannot protect and enhance our world-renowned research assets that make us the leader in innovation and a super magnet for global talent. We have benefitted tremendously from the foresight and effective leadership of Sen. Mikulski as the powerful chair of the Appropriations Committee. From enhancing Maryland’s transportation infrastructure to protecting the Chesapeake; from funding for federal research institutions to expanding cybersecurity assets in both defense and commercial sectors, Sen. Milkulski has advanced our nation’s best interests AND solidified Maryland’s competitive advantages in cutting edge industries that led to the creation of countless quality jobs. She is not just feisty. She is also effective.

That effectiveness is the key differentiator between the two candidates and a trademark of Chris Van Hollen’s. From serving constituents to advancing critical national legislations, Chris Van Hollen is a head and shoulder above Donna Edwards because of his wonky focus on policy details, his commitment to constituent services, and his willingness to reach across the political aisle and compromise where needed. That is why he was able to play a key role in critical legislations including the Affordable Care Act, the Wall Street Reform law, and the Economic Recovery Act. The qualifications and accomplishments are so stark between the two candidates that he was twice endorsed by the Washington Post in this race, and supported by the top black elected leaders including the county executives of the two largest Maryland jurisdictions, Montgomery and Prince George’s, and the majority of women elected leaders in Maryland.

Congresswoman Edwards has just the opposite reputation and takes pride in her refusal to compromise. Most policy issues that affect our lives are not value issues such as gay marriage, gun control or women’s rights to choose. It takes principled but pragmatic leadership to pass legislations, not just convictions. The brand and image of Washington as a gridlocked city will never change if we continue to send people who are unyielding and uncompromising.

Over the past few years, I have written quite a few pieces to encourage voting and even urged independent voters to register for a political party in order to vote for candidates running for major offices in the Maryland’s closed primary elections. But I have never encouraged anyone to vote for any particular candidate. This time, however, I am compelled to urge voters to choose Chris Van Hollen because our country and our state cannot afford to lose him as a legislator and leader.

As much as we are fascinated by the highly contested presidential races in both Democratic and Republican camps, it is the local elections where our votes will count the most. I salute Emily’s List for advancing women in legislature at all levels and respect its strong support for Congresswoman Edwards. But as the saying goes, all politics are local. We, the local voters, should decide who is best qualified to represent us in the Senate. Chris Van Hollen exemplifies the Washington as it should be—people representing their home states working together across the party lines to advance the common good.

No doubt Chris Van Hollen is a privileged man. He was born to parents in foreign services and went to a prestigious university. Some hold that against him. But he leveraged his opportunities and blessings to the best of his abilities to advance the interests of his community and his country, rather than enriching himself. His is a life of honorable public service, strong convictions and effective leadership, which explains his broad respect by his colleagues in the Congress and fast rise to national leadership. Maryland is truly fortunate to have such a talented legislator. We could not choose our conditions of birth. But we can choose what to make out of them.

To that point, I like the fact that Chris Van Hollen was born in Karachi, Pakistan. While that doesn’t make him an Asian American, he was the first Caucasian to join the Congressional Asian American Caucus. This won’t be the reason I vote for him, but I sure like the choices he has made.


Lily Qi can be reached at qulturematters@gmail.com.