WASHINGTON – The silence from Thomas E. “Pinkston” Harris speaks loudly about how his race against one-term Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes is going.
Harris and Sarbanes are the only two candidates running for the 3rd District, which includes Howard and Anne Arundel counties and parts of Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district 243,830 to 116,012, according to the latest state figures.
Harris has not returned repeated calls and e-mail messages, and his voice mailbox is full.
Sarbanes, 47, a native of Baltimore, has the advantage of a winning name — he’s the son of retired longtime U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes — the power of incumbency and a stout war chest of $346,000 in cash.
Harris hasn’t filed a campaign finance report since June, but at that time had no money.
Sarbanes won his first election to the House of Representatives in November 2006 with 64 percent of the votes, replacing now Sen. Ben Cardin. In February, he won the Democratic primary with 89 percent of votes.
Sarbanes serves on the House Education and Labor Committee, Natural Resources Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
He has passed multiple bills to further Chesapeake Bay restoration and preservation and sponsored the No Child Left Inside Act, which encourages environmental education. The latter bill, which passed the House, may end up as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Recently, the economy has forcefully shifted his interests.
“It’s pretty clear the economy is the No. 1 issue for everybody right now. Until we deal with this financial crisis before us, it’s going to be hard for anyone to focus a lot of attention or even think about focusing resources on some of the other big issues out there,” Sarbanes said.
Sarbanes voted for both versions of the bailout rescue plan, keeping in touch with his constituents through a 12,000-plus, e-mail contact list. His pro-rescue plan stance got 6-to-1 positive feedback.
“I tried very hard to engage my constituents,” Sarbanes said. “I have a great advantage over most of my colleagues and that is that I am able to come home every night from Washington. … I can get in the car at the end of the day, head home to Baltimore, on the way I can stop off at my district and talk to people and get kind of a reality check of what’s really happening out there.”
Health care is another issue Sarbanes sees as a priority in this election, particularly considering 48 million Americans go without coverage.
“Everybody kind of agrees that the health care system is broken,” he said. “I expect that issue will come back as a top-priority issue.”
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s stance on health care is just one of the reasons Sarbanes is endorsing him and trying to get constituents involved in the Obama-Biden campaign.
Meanwhile, Harris, 56, has been unreachable.
“Unfortunately, he’s been one of those more enigmatic guys,” said Justin Read, executive director of the Maryland GOP. Ready said Harris has not been returning many phone calls.
In the February primary, Harris won with 39 percent of votes.
According to his Web site, pinkharrisforcongress.com, Harris lives in Baltimore City and is a special education teacher in the public school system and runs his own insurance brokerage. He was raised in a small town in Alabama and grew up in a home with no running water or electricity and travelled by way of way of mule and wagon, says his Web site.
“I think looking at John McCain’s platform, (Harris) is running a lot like that,” said Ready. “He’s also running on his story, too, which is one of being successful, being African American and he’s a business owner, he’s a small business guy. So he’s really kind of lived the American Dream.”
Harris is running on the platform of the “Eight Deadly E’s:” energy, economy, earmarks, early Congressional retirement, enemies, equality, empty health care promises and evil lawyers. He is strong against terrorism and supports the controversial interrogation technique called water-boarding. Harris also opposes affirmative action, according to Ready.
Harris blames lawyers for the “outrageous cost of health care” and is campaigning under the slogan “Vote for Thomas ‘Pink’ Harris because I’m strong against terrorism. Sarbanes is weak.”
Harris, a father of two, received his bachelor’s degree from Delaware State University and was a graduate student at Coppin State University and Johns Hopkins University.
Harris may benefit from confusion with District 1 Republican candidate, Andy Harris, who is running in a heated race against Democrat Frank M. Kratovil, Jr.
Libertarian candidate, Sebastian Sassi, planned to run against Sarbanes and Harris on a pro-gun platform. But, Sassi failed to submit his certificate of nomination before the deadline.