This is one in a series of interviews with candidates vying in Tuesday’s primary for their party’s nomination to represent Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, now held by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick.
ANNAPOLIS – When Kathy Afzali ran for delegate in 2010 she unseated the incumbent, Joseph Bartlett. Now she’s aiming to do the same to his father, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.
“I think there is the misnomer in politics that there are somehow sacred cows and there are things you don’t do. You never run against an incumbent. Well, if that incumbent is, in my view and others’ views, not doing a great job, we owe it to the citizens to have the best people that we can have,” she said.
Afzali is a Republican and self-described soccer-mom who, after one year in state office, is fighting for a federal one.
A former Broadway dancer, she grew up in suburban San Francisco and moved to Maryland with her husband, David, in 1994. She has been a real estate agent and a businesswoman in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.
Her husband of 20 years, an Iranian immigrant who came to the U.S. as an exchange student and stayed because of the 1979 revolution, has greatly influenced her immigration policy. She says one of her first orders of business in Washington would be to overhaul the immigration system.
“It is a complete bureaucratic disaster and that’s a passion of mine,” she said. “The reason we have illegal immigration is because it is such a pain to try to immigrate legally.”
Interstate-270 revitalization is also a key issue. Afzali said the federal government funds 80 percent of the highway, and she wants to use her power in Congress to get more money to improve the heavily-congested highway.
“We pay the taxes towards it, where is our share of the pie? This is not pork,” she argues. “Pork is a museum that I want to rename ‘The Kathy Afzali Petite Blonde Museum.’ That’s pork.”
Energy is also a big issue for the delegate, particularly to create jobs. She believes that alternative forms of energy are very important, but until those are developed, natural gas could be extracted from Western Maryland.
“I recognize that there are environmental factors, and we want to address those environmental factors, but 40 years of natural gas. 40 years! Do you know what a treasure trove that is? And also, jobs!” Afzali said.
Like most Marylanders, the economy and jobs are her most important issues. She said she would not vote to raise the debt ceiling, would introduce a flat tax and would work to eliminate regulations that deter private-sector growth.
“People have really decreased their spending and are really getting smarter about saving and watching their dollars and cents and I think government needs to take the same approach,” she said.
In a tough election, Afzali’s critics have picked on her Middletown residence, which is no longer within the district boundaries. It lies under 3 miles from the 6th District line.
“I didn’t leave District 6, District 6 left me,” she said. “They chose to split up my district and tear us all apart and try to kind of sack the district with Democrat precincts, which was done specifically and demographically to wipe out Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.”
Afzali advocates for independent commissions for congressional redistricting in every state to prevent gerrymandering from either party. She did not vote for the current congressional redistricting plan.
Her critics also attack her lack of experience. She’s spent just over a year as a delegate, her only political office.
“It’s not rocket science,” she said. “What I bring to the table is my private sector experience and I think that is of more value than any political experience at all… I think that I’ve proven that in the first year that I was here.”
In her first year in Annapolis, she sponsored or co-sponsored 49 pieces of legislation.
Afzali has introduced laws to put harsher restrictions on undocumented immigrants, sex offenders and drunken drivers. She has also tried to define marriage as between one man and one woman and establish a personhood amendment — a pro-life amendment that would end abortion and the death penalty.
From 2003 to 2006, before becoming a delegate, she was a bi-weekly columnist with the Frederick News-Post. She wrote about her marriage, feminism and current issues in a personal, unapologetic and confessional manner.
“Someday I’ll run for president. Don’t laugh. Maybe the day I am elected common sense will return to government,” she wrote in 2005. “PS: If you doubt a woman could be president because of hormonal fluctuations, I have one thing to say: God help any terrorist who takes a hostage when I’m retaining water.”
Afzali says she knows she’s not what people expect in a politician.
“I am really an everyday person; I’m just somebody who works very, very hard and people deserve that in their elected officials.”