Voters meet three District 1 candidates

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Mary Handley
From the left, candidates in the Democratic Party’s primary election Jennifer Pingley, Mia Mason and Allison Galbraith want to replace Andy Harris as U.S. Representative for Maryland’s District 1.

CAMBRIDGE — Three women vying to become the Democratic Party’s candidate to run against U.S. Representative Andy Harris in November outlined their views and goals at a meeting with voters in Cambridge.

Rep. Harris, a physician, has represented Maryland’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011. The district encompasses the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties. Before that, he served in the Maryland Senate. He is the only Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation in Washington.

During the April 28 primary election, Democratic voters will choose one of the women who addressed members of the Dorchester Democratic Club of Maryland last Saturday as the candidate to run against Rep. Harris in the general election.

The three are: Allison Galbraith, 37, a small-business owner from Harford County who was runner-up in the 2018 primary and is now second vice-chair of the Maryland Democratic Party; Mia Mason, 39, a veteran of the Navy during Hurricane Katrina who spent 20 years in the military and lives in Frederick County; and Jennifer Pingley, 35, a registered nurse from Cecil County.

They are part of a wave of women who plunged into political activism after Donald Trump became president in 2016. In 2018, a record number of women won election to the House. There are now 102, or 23.4 percent of the voting members.

Dorchester has more registered Democrats than Republicans, but many typically fail to vote, according to party officials. The party hopes that this year, the challenge of denying President Trump a second term in office and replacing as many Republicans as possible in the U.S. Senate and House will galvanize the county’s Democratic voters to turn out in force.

Allison Galbraith, a single mother and self-styled “loud and obnoxious advocate for the Shore,” told the gathering, “I didn’t get into politics for myself. I was concerned about what Representative Harris and the other Republicans would do with the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare].”

Her mother had a series of strokes — and later died — while her father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “Everything to do with” her experience trying to get care for her parents “showed the system was broken,” she told the candidate forum at the Octavene Saunders Empowerment Center. “I was angry, I decided to do something about it.”

She denounced Rep. Harris as “one of the top 12 obstructionists in Congress” who had spent “his time cutting away at women’s health” and she expressed concern over “an elder crisis coming” which “disproportionately affects the Eastern Shore.”

Ms. Galbraith noted that “schools and hospitals are closing” and said she’d like to see measures put in place “protecting the rural areas” and “to keep people from leaving the area.” She wanted to “make sure everyone has broadband” and to develop strategies to deal with “chronic flooding and other environmental problems.”

Mia Mason, who said she joined the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, also had a compelling personal story to tell. At one point, she became homeless and said, “I decided that what had happened to me shouldn’t happen to others, so I decided to become an activist.”

She said she supported the Medicare for All proposal championed by Democratic presidential hopefuls Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and that “laws need to be written to benefit you.”

The veteran singled out “public transportation, a third Bay bridge and protecting the environment” as issues important for the Eastern Shore. “I will help you with your land, your legacy and your vote,” she said, adding, “Exactly what has Representative Harris done for you? The answer is nothing!”

Ms. Mason, who has served in the U.S. Navy, Army and D.C. National Guard, advocated the party’s Green New Deal to combat climate change and said, “We need to make sure our disaster relief efforts are fully funded, which is one of the things [Rep.] Harris voted against.” During Hurricane Katrina, she participated in National Guard operations.

On gun violence, Ms. Mason declared, “I don’t want my weapons of war on the street.” She said, “bringing back the assault (weapon) ban is vital, but I want to go a step above and beyond that.” She advocated the creation of an independent board to conduct background checks on gun purchasers.
Nurse Pingley said that to win District 1, the party needed “Republicans to vote across party lines” for a candidate who appealed “to Democrats and Republicans alike.” A 2020 Gallup poll survey found, for the eighteenth year in a row, that nurses were “the number one most trusted profession” in the U.S.

While she saw “universal health care” as “the ultimate goal,” Ms. Pingley, a mother of two, warned “I’m not sure the Republicans are going to go for it. “ As a start, she suggested “primary care for all,” a “very low-cost, highly effective solution that both parties can get behind.” She saw primary care as “a right of citizenship” and called for “government intervention” to “stop and reverse the rising cost of medications.”

The nurse said she’d like to see a scientist at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, “It just makes sense.” She added: “Around here, the water is going to rise. We need to re-evaluate local measures: Are we doing things that contribute to putting us under water faster?”

While she supported Ms. Mason’s idea for an independent board to vet people wanting to buy guns, she cautioned: “What you find here is part of the reason people shut down, because a certain number of people require hunting to eat. I don’t want to shut that down.”

Saturday’s forum was sponsored by the Dorchester Democratic Club and the Dorchester County Democratic Central Committee. Anyone who wants to join the club and/or volunteer can call: 443-521-3084, or visit the club’s Facebook page.

Allison Galbraith can be reached at FLIPTHEFIRST.com, Mia Mason at MiaDMason.us and Jennifer Pingley at ElectJenRN.com.

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