Se­nate can­di­date backs Trump but skips his con­ven­tion

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - By JESSIE CAMPISI

Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

Gov. Larry Ho­gan isn’t the only high­pro­file Mary­land Repub­li­can to take a rain check on the GOP’s na­tional con­ven­tion.

In­stead of trav­el­ing to her party’s gath­er­ing where Don­ald Trump claimed the GOP’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion Wed­nes­day, Mary­land House Mi­nor­ity Whip Kathy Szeliga de­cided to re­main in her own state to fo­cus on her cam­paign against Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kens­ing­ton, for the open U.S. Se­nate seat.

“I am a lit­tle sorry I couldn’t be there,” said Sze-

CLEVE­LAND -—

liga, who rep­re­sents Bal­ti­more County in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates. “But I should be here (in Mary­land) meet­ing vot­ers.”

Szeliga, who joined Ho­gan Tues­day in An­napo­lis at a roundtable dis­cus­sion on help­ing vet­er­ans and picked up the gov­er­nor’s for­mal en­dorse­ment, added that she couldn’t jus­tify the ex­penses for such a short trip. “I couldn’t go back to my donors and ask for $2,000 for it,” she said. “So I made a choice.”

This choice, she said, would earn her points among Mary­lan­ders for be­ing fis­cally con­ser­va­tive, not­ing that she has sig­nif­i­cantly less cam­paign cash than Van Hollen.

The Demo­crat had raised slightly more than $8 mil­lion through the sec­ond quar­ter of 2016, com­pared with her $434,000, ac­cord­ing to OpenSe­crets.org, a cam­paign fi­nance web­site.

Al­though a ma­jor­ity of Mary­land Repub­li­cans – 54 per­cent – opted to sup­port Trump in the state’s pri­mary April 26, some of the state’s Repub­li­cans have kept their dis­tance from the real es­tate mogul.

Ho­gan has said he has no plans to vote for Trump and has been crit­i­cal of him. Szeliga, run­ning in a state that tra­di­tion­ally votes Demo­cratic in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, has said she will sup­port her party’s nom­i­nee, but is con­cen­trat­ing on her own con­test.

That doesn’t sit well with some Mary­lan­ders here.

Some del­e­gates, who wished to re­main anony­mous to avoid an­tag­o­niz­ing another party mem­ber, pri­vately ex­pressed dis­con­tent and dis­ap­point­ment with Szeliga’s and Ho­gan’s ab­sences in Cleve­land at a time when unity is a key goal of their party after a frac­tious pri­mary sea­son.

“Ob­vi­ously, the hope of the con­ven­tion is to es­tab­lish a sense of unity,” Szeliga said. “I’m on ‘Team Kathy.’ I’m very fo­cused on that, and the GOP is fo­cused on ‘Team Trump’ this week.”

Since an­nounc­ing her can­di­dacy in Novem­ber, Szeliga has said she would sup­port “the pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee,” but has openly de­nounced some of Trump’s state­ments.

“I have been an in­de­pen­dent thinker, and I stand by that,” she said. “I’ll con­tinue to be that per­son who calls balls and strikes. Vot­ers in Mary­land ex­pect (that).”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Van Hollen’s cam­paign crit­i­cized Szeliga for any align­ment she has with Trump.

“Del­e­gate Szeliga can run from the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion, but she can­not hide from the fact that she sup­ports Don­ald Trump and what he stands for,” said Brid­gett Frey, Van Hollen’s cam­paign spokes­woman. “(She) would only bring the same dys­func­tion and dis- cord to the U.S. Se­nate, and Mary­land fam­i­lies de­serve better.”

Bill Har­ris, an al­ter­nate at-large Mary­land del­e­gate to the GOP con­ven­tion from Ce­cil County, said Szeliga was “run­ning for a seat that’s been la­beled ‘Demo­crat’ for a long time, and she’s got to work.”

But he had less sym­pa­thy for oth­ers who stayed away, al­though he didn’t men­tion spe­cific names.

“We’re see­ing quite a few ab­sences of elected of­fi­cials,” Har­ris said. “And I think they’re go­ing to pay for it.”

CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE PHOTO BY MARISSA HORN/

Del­e­gate Kathy Szeliga an­nounced her cam­paign for U.S. Se­nate in Novem­ber.

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