Monday, November 09, 2009

Problems on the Left for Kratovil

Bob Stewart, Executive Director of Montgomery County’s giant public employees union MCGEO, has sent out an open email to the Democrats and the rest of labor blasting Congressman Frank Kratovil for not supporting health care reform. This is a sign of big problems to come for the freshman.

After Kratovil announced his opposition to the House leadership’s health care bill, Stewart sent out this email to the state’s Democratic and labor leadership.

From: Bob Stewart
To: [Recipients]
Sent: Fri Nov 06 16:34:36 2009
Subject: Kratovil Vote On Health Care Bill

Just spoke to Congressman Kratovil’s office (202) 226-8629 for the 3rd time today asking for Tim McCann [Kratovil’s Chief of Staff] to return my call. He was “not available.” I finally left a message.

At the suggestion of your Chair early on last year, the campaign called and requested assistance - we gave it in his race for Congress against Andy Harris. In fact Majority Leader Hoyer made an urgent request for the entire Maryland labor movement to come to Frank’s aid…..and they did! “Priority # 1 in the state”, it was said, knowing everyone else was safe and that Obama would easily carry Maryland.

Remember, it was a very close race which Frank “squeaked out” in an Obama surge which even reached the Eastern Shore. The way I see it, if not for President Obama and Labor’s help, Congressman Kratovil would not have won. Remember also that this is the Congressman who was “hung in effigy” in August by the Tea-baggers, birthers and assorted other right-wingers. Running scared and showing fear by voting how they want him to will probably not get them to vote for him next year.

Unable to reach Mr. McCann, I finally asked how the Congressman was going to vote and was told he was going to “Vote No” on the Health reform Bill. We are smart enough to know that if we can’t count on the Congressman to vote for Health Care Reform this year, then why delude ourselves into thinking that we could count on him to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act next year!

President Obama took Majority Leader Hoyer’s 5th Congressional District last year by 65%.


Next year when Frank is running for Congress, maybe Majority Leader Hoyer will have some free time to help Congressman Kratovil out — we will be focused on other races!
Frank Kratovil is walking an electric tight rope with the alligators chomping below. He won his seat in Congress last year over State Senator Andy Harris (R-7) – a man even some conservatives can’t stand – with just 49% of the vote. At the same time, John McCain beat Barack Obama in the district by 58-40%. As of the 2008 general election, the district had 200,216 Democrats, 193,584 Republicans and 74,639 unaffiliated or others. Kratovil is the first Democrat in the seat since Roy Dyson (1980-1990), but at that time the district included swing counties like Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s. Redistricting replaced those counties with right-leaning precincts in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties and helped Wayne Gilchrist (1990-2008), Kratovil’s moderate Republican predecessor, stay in office.

Since his victory, Kratovil has had an unpredictable voting record. His pattern so far is to waver over every tough vote so much that when he finally takes a position, neither side is impressed enough to give him credit. Kratovil voted against the stimulus package when it came out of the House but voted for it after it was reconciled with the Senate. Kratovil remained on the fence on the cap-and-trade bill up to the last minute before voting for it. After being hounded and hung in effigy over health care, he voted against it in the House. In explaining his no vote, Kratovil cited praise for his position from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. But given his record, he could very well vote for a health care bill once it comes back from the Senate.

Kratovil is trying to give right-of-center independents enough reason to support him for a second term. Unlike most Maryland races, his contest will likely be decided by independents because the Democrats are not numerous enough to give him an easy win. But his choices are not that easy since a great deal of his financial support comes from liberals and left-leaning groups outside his district. So far in the 2009-2010 cycle, he has raised $841,882. His top twenty contributors include the Operating Engineers Union, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Carpenters and Joiners Union (where your author works), the Iron Workers Union, the National Education Association, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, the Teamsters Union and the United Transportation Union. His fifth biggest industry of contributors is public employee unions, who have collectively given him $28,500. In terms of geography, contributors in the liberal Washington, DC Metro Area have given him $60,033, including $7,300 from Chevy Chase and $5,800 from Potomac.

But liberal support extends far beyond just money. Maryland progressives had two action priorities last year: first, helping Obama win Virginia, and second, helping Kratovil turn the Eastern Shore blue. Montgomery County liberals donated endless hours of phone banking for Kratovil in 2008 and took regular trips to the Eastern Shore. Obama will not be on the ballot next year, leaving Kratovil as a potential sole beneficiary of liberal activism. But health care is the number one priority for the left, and for the moment, Kratovil is on the other side. Liberals work hardest for candidates they believe in and get excited about, like Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Donna Edwards and Jamie Raskin. How many liberals are excited about Kratovil now?

All of this means Frank Kratovil has a problem. Because if people like Bob Stewart stay home next year, Kratovil could be headed home too.