Mary­land lead­ers take DNC stage, call for party unity on tu­mul­tuous day

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By TERESA LO Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

PHILADEL­PHIA — Three prom­i­nent Mary­lan­ders — for­mer NAACP Pres­i­dent and CEO Ben Jeal­ous, Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings (DMd., 7th), and House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md, 5th) — each preached party unity as fea­tured speak­ers on the first night of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion Mon­day.

“I hail from the great state of Mary­land, where Democrats have shown when we all come to­gether as one, we win more, big­ger and bet­ter vic­to­ries faster,” Jeal­ous told cheer­ing del­e­gates.

That was af­ter yet an­other prom­i­nent Mary­land of­fi­cial, Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake (D), opened the con­ven­tion, step­ping in for the em­bat­tled chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz of Florida.

“I hereby call the 47th qua­dren­nial Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion to or­der,” Rawl­ings-Blake said dur­ing short wel­com­ing re­marks.

Cum­mings is chair­man of the Demo­cratic Plat­form Draft­ing Com­mit­tee, and un­der his lead­er­ship, the com­mit­tee has held nu­mer­ous pub­lic hear­ings to craft what the party has called the most pro­gres­sive plat­form in its his­tor y.

A Bal­ti­more res­i­dent, Cum­mings has rep­re­sented Mary­land’s 7th District since 1996. He has ad­vo­cated for the rights of those fac­ing fore­clo­sure and is lead­ing an ef­fort to strengthen the cur­ricu­lum at the Mar­itime In­dus­tries Academy in his home city.

Hoyer, of Me­chan­icsville, rep­re­sents Mary­land’s 5th District. He is the sec­ond-most pow­er­ful Demo­crat in the House and has co-spon­sored many bills to pro­tect the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and been ac­tive on nu­mer­ous pieces of en­vi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion.

Jeal­ous, a Bal­ti­more na­tive, was the youngest na­tional leader of the NAACP for four years be­fore step­ping down in 2013. He has been a long­time ad­vo­cate of black rights and mar­riage equal­ity.

Jeal­ous orig­i­nally sup­ported Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, but is now en­dors­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Hoyer was the first Mary­land na­tive to speak, con­trast­ing the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic plat­forms.

The Repub­li­can Party’s mes­sage to the Amer­i­can peo­ple was “you’re on your own,” he said, whereas the Demo­cratic Party’s mes­sage is “we’re in this to­gether.”

Hoyer then en­cour­aged vot­ers to “bind to­gether as a coun­try and elect Hil­lary the pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.”

Later on the stage, Cum­mings drew on his fa­ther’s words: “The test of a man is not how much he helps him­self, the true test is whether he helps those less for­tu­nate.” The Demo­cratic Party, he said, has passed this test.

Cum­mings high­lighted the Demo­cratic Party’s plat­form on the Af­ford­able Care Act, civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

“Our party does not be­lieve, but un­der­stands, that black lives mat­ter,” he said to en­thu­si­as­tic ap­plause and chants of “Black Lives Mat­ter” from the crowd. “But we also rec­og­nize that our com­mu­ni­ties and our law en­force­ment work best when they work to­gether.”

Through­out his speech, Cum­mings con­sis­tently men­tioned “our Demo­cratic Party” to draw im­plicit com­par­isons to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion last week, which was marked by dis­sention af­ter some “Never Trump” del­e­gates dis­rupted the con­ven­tion call­ing for a roll call vote, and for­mer can­di­date Ted Cruz failed to en­dorse the nom­i­nee in a high-pro­file con­ven­tion speech.

“Ours is a party of unity and not di­vi­sion,” he said.

Cum­mings also gave a nod to San­ders’ plat­form by men­tion­ing the wealthy 1 per­cent and the mid­dle, work­ing class. His state­ments could be heard over the crowd chant­ing “down with TPP” along with boos from San­ders sup­port­ers ex­press­ing their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with a Clin­ton nom­i­na­tion.

Jeal­ous, the last Mary­lan­der to take the stage, re­minded his lis­ten­ers about re­cent, pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion in Mary­land: abol­ish­ing the death penalty, pass­ing mar­riage equal­ity, de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing low-level mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion and pass­ing gun safety re­form.

He urged vot­ers to join the Demo­cratic Party at the bal­lot box to make col­lege more af­ford­able, raise the min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour and move en­ergy away from coal and gas to­ward wind and so­lar.

“We will move Amer­ica for­ward,” Jeal­ous said, “to be­come the most per­fect ex­am­ple of the unity and dig­nity of the hu­man fam­ily that the world has ever seen.”

Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings Blake kicks off the 2016 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion on Mon­day night. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CNS/HAN­NAH KLARNER

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