ANNAPOLIS – During his years as a nursing assistant at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Jim Corwin was always willing to roll up his sleeves and do whatever it was that needed doing — even if it meant changing bedpans.
Though he’s now a top physician and a respected member of the Maryland community health department, his wife, Susan, says he’ll never forget his roots.
“It is who he is,” she said. “He wouldn’t ask anybody else to do something he wouldn’t be willing to do something himself.”
This election season is no different for Corwin, 49, whose dissatisfaction with the Bush administration and Republican U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest has inspired him to lead the fight against the eight-term incumbent in the general election.
During the past six years, Gilchrest has strayed from his traditionally moderate stance on issues like the environment and fiscal policy and has become a “pawn” for the Bush administration, Corwin said. Gilchrest’s support for the Bush tax cuts and the Bush-Cheney energy bill show just how “complacent” he has become, he said.
Corwin’s humility surprised Ann Marie Remillard, chairwoman of the Ann Arundel County Democratic Central Committee, when she met him in July 2005.
“He wasn’t the kind of person who came right out and said, ‘Hey, I’m a doctor. I’m God’s gift to mankind’ . . . he has something to offer to the community, he’s very humble and he has the drive to do more.”
Corwin’s been “serving the underserved” for nearly 20 years working as a doctor at community health centers in Caroline County and Baltimore City. Though he doesn’t have experience serving in public office, he says his work in community health has helped prepare him for the switch.
“The political process goes on in other places besides government,” he said. “This is really just a transition into public office.”
He started out working at a community health center in Denton, and for the past nine years he’s been medical director for Baltimore Medical System Inc., a private non-profit corporation that runs a chain of primary health care centers.
“He’s a man of integrity,” said Clara DelGallo, 59, who worked closely with Corwin as a member of the corporation’s board of trustees. “Sometimes I think the politicians have lost the ability to care, and I think he’ll be refreshing.”
Corwin is a self-described family man. His wife and four children are his “pride and joy,” and they’ve rallied behind him in his quest for public office.
“At first when he first announced it, it was really sudden. He’s never run for anything,” said Julie Corwin, his youngest daughter. “But now that it’s gone on more, it’s fun.”
As a senior at Severna Park High School, Julie, 17, joins her dad on the campaign trail whenever she can. People often recognize him on the street, she says, and sometimes it’s kind of like walking around with a “mini-celebrity.”
“To me people will be like, ‘Are you related to that Corwin guy?'” she said.
Since Corwin entered the political arena, Julie and his wife, Susan, have helped him campaign by setting up signs at their home in Severna Park and accompanying him on the campaign trail whenever they can, while his three other children, Michael, 26, Deborah, 23, and Ben, 18, cheer him on from other parts of the East Coast.
The toughest part of his campaign so far has been dealing with the “negativists” who say it’s too hard to unseat an incumbent. But he’s confident that they’ve got it wrong this election because “times are different . . . There’s so much frustration with the Republican Party and the Bush administration,” he said.
He’s hopeful voters will walk into the booths on Election Day remembering Corwin as a physician of 20 years who’s always advocated for the best interest of his patients and whose unwavering loyalty will translate seamlessly from his patients to his constituents as the 1st Congressional District’s congressman.
But since that may be a lot for them to carry around in their head, he suggests something a little more simplistic. “Corwin’s a good guy. Give him a chance.”