Today, on the fifth anniversary of my Huffington Post column, I’m honored to announce my candidacy for the Maryland state Senate. The primary falls on June 26, 2018.
We need to reclaim our country. We need to stand, forthrightly, for the American creed – the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - life, liberty and equality. These can no longer be simply words in a dog-eared elementary school text, or an oft-avoided high school civics class. These must be our operating principles, for we live in dangerous times.
During good times, during the years where the American genius for maintaining a political equilibrium was operative, this urgency was absent. A candidate would focus on the issues within the jurisdiction of her desired office. The issues for a state legislator would be limited, and distinct from county or federal office. Today we no longer have that luxury.
Maryland is a powerful blue state, a bastion of liberal democracy. We have a Republican governor – and we need to change that because the Governor of Maryland is the most powerful governor in the country as he sets the state budget which the legislature cannot increase – but with our Democratic legislature we stand proudly for liberal democracy. We are fortunate to have a proactive Attorney General who has joined with like-minded colleagues to push back against the Muslim ban, in support of DACA residents, and against White House corruption and violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. With the continuing spread of autocracy by executive order, however, we must do better. We are now the front line against the kleptocratic state, both geographically and philosophically.
I am running to serve my district, my county and state in Annapolis because I believe I can contribute constructively to make Maryland a place that will attract a new generation, with ideas to propel us into national leadership, for the next generation economy. My work in the arena of venture capital has enlightened me to the breadth of creativity that awaits state leadership focused on making Maryland an even more welcoming home for the innovative economy of the present and future.
Over the past two years I’ve been blessed with two beautiful granddaughters, and this has helped both to motivate me to reclaim my patriotism and redouble my efforts to leave them a better world than the one in which I grew up. That world, the heyday of the middle class imbued with the prospect of a better life for all, and not just white, Americans, is one which we must recreate.
That world didn’t happen by natural historical evolution, but because returning veterans, who fought to save freedom, were committed to building a better world for themselves and their new families. It required investments and a tax policy which were designed to work for all, and not just the fortunate few. We are capable of recreating that world, and making it work for everyone.
By everyone I mean everyone. I’ve suffered my share of discrimination and sexual abuse, and I am fully cognizant of the multiplicity of identities of which I am composed. Parent, child, sibling, friend, female, trans, bisexual, Jewish, white, intersex, Marylander, physician, surgeon, activist, advocate, New Yorker – the list goes on, but it all ends in American. Like a liberal education at its best, all of those identities have made me who I am today. As a result, I have been able to struggle and thrive in an environment, created over the last 75 years, that generally has respected the fundamental rights of most of its citizens. As President George W. Bush said last week, “Any form of bigotry and white supremacy is blasphemy to the American creed.” Freedom requires engagement by all of us.
Moving forward, that respect must become real for all. We must educate our youth to accept everyone, regardless of identity, and to not be tolerant of racism and bigotry. We must teach them to be proud of themselves and to respect others, and to understand that the operating system of this country provides them with the best hope of creating a more perfect union, founded on free expression and democracy. We must fight to create a system where teachers are treated as an honored profession, from whom much is expected but to whom respect and fair remuneration will be given. We must house our students in decent facilities throughout the state, and provide them with the time and space to become thoughtful citizens with critical faculties, safe at least during the school day from the demands of social media. Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, we must provide our growing senior population with the tools and support to age gracefully, safely, and in the best possible health.
I have been fortunate to be able to provide quality health care as a physician and surgeon, both here and abroad, and to work to improve the public health as an advocate in Annapolis and while serving on the staff of Councilmember Trachtenberg of the Montgomery County Council. That has been the passion of my life, and I’m honored to have played a role staffing the passage of the ban on artificial trans fats in my county which has saved hundreds of lives a year, and which, as the ban becomes increasingly national in scope, is now saving tens of thousands across the country. I have fought to remove other poisons from our lives, be they pesticides on county playing fields or atrazine from the crops we eat. My life was radically changed by a drug my mother took in the hope of preventing miscarriage, and her decision has powered my commitment to save future generations from the inadvertent and potentially disastrous consequences of the chemicals we use to better our lives. Today, here in Maryland, those chemicals include opioids, and dealing with that crisis will require a strong state effort, since the feds continue to sit on the sidelines.
We must keep working towards a single payer program for national health care, because there are forces at work that are trying to deny any and all care to tens of millions. This battle continues, and, ironically, because of the backlash, I believe we are closer to creating a Medicare system that will cover all of us. Like everything in our politics, this won’t simply happen because we wish it so. It will take tenacity and leadership, a willingness to take chances and risk the consequences. I am willing to take on that challenge, and will work for that future as Maryland’s only physician Senator.
We must continue to stand tall and openly against bigotry and harassment in all its forms, by joining in social media campaigns but, more importantly, in personal interactions. Finding one’s courage is not easy – it took me forty years – but it’s the only thing that ultimately works. We in the LGBTQ community have long known that the most important action anyone can take is simply coming out. This does not appear simple for those struggling, but once on the other side it becomes quite evident that it was the most important action. This holds for issues of racial and gender bias as well, and I will continue to passionately do my best to create that better world, as I have as an LGBT advocate, Vice Chair of the Civil Rights Coalition of Maryland, and member of the Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence.
One example in my career, of which I am particularly proud, was working with Councilmember Trachtenberg to create the Family Justice Center in Rockville. The center was built during the recession in 2009, and has since provided services to over 8,000 Montgomery County families which have been victimized by family violence. That this program was created during a major recession is testament to the tenacity and foresight of those who were willing to step forward and do the right thing for those in need, even during difficult times.
That story is indicative of a truth which many of us have learned ― that we are formed by our experiences and we can then use those experiences to tackle the problem on behalf of ourselves and others. We can transmute the personal pain to perform a public good. My boss channeled her history of abuse, as did I and others who were involved in the project, and as can anyone with timely, compassionate support. We, like many, took that journey alone, but we learned through our trials that we can help build a better way to assist others.
Government is essentially neighbor helping neighbor, and that is a fair definition of pragmatic progressive politics as well. During these dark times, it is incumbent on all of us to awaken to the threats to our civil rights and those of our neighbors, but also to the future of our children and grandchildren. We cannot let the nihilists in the White House, and their enablers in Congress and state legislatures across this country, win by default. We must fight where we can do the most good to ensure a future of life, liberty and equality for all. That is why I am running for the Maryland state Senate, to do my part as a long-time member of my community to defend and rebuild our liberal democracy.