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.
WASHINGTON – When congressional candidates in the 6th District started actively campaigning in January, Milad Pooran wasn’t allowed — he was 6,000 miles away doing critical care transport in Iraq as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves.
A critical care physician who joined the Air National Guard as a third-year medical student, he has been on every continent and now wants to go where even fewer have been before: Congress.
Pooran has jumped into the middle of a heated Democratic primary race against Rob Garagiola and John Delaney in an attempt to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. After redistricting, the 6th District has become more competitive for Democrats.
“I look at public office and running for public office as just another form of public service and civic responsibility,” Pooran said.
He doesn’t have any prior political experience, but said he believes that’s what founding-father Thomas Jefferson intended.
“I think you want people from different segments of the communities: You want physicians, you want teachers, you want industrial workers, you want everyone to be there so they can bring their own talents, their unique experiences. If we had a Congress that was filled with lawyers and special interests we’d get exactly what we have now,” he said.
“When I’m elected to Congress, I will look at every situation that’s presented from a progressive perspective… I’ll look at the issue and say, ‘Will this help the people? Is this a progressive viewpoint?'” Pooran said.
For example, he supports the Affordable Care Act — although he believes it can be improved — and is against privatizing Medicare or Social Security.
He is pro-choice, and opposes any government-mandated regulations on women’s health care, such as waiting periods or government-written speeches doctors must recite to women patients.
“We still have groups of men who sit around and discuss what women’s reproductive rights should be. And frankly I think it’s disingenuous…. We respect the women in this country. They’re smart enough to make decisions about their health care and other issues about their bodies and their life,” he said.
Pooran said the tax code is among the first issues that need to be addressed. The current code is unfair he said, and encourages manufacturing jobs to move overseas. He wants to eliminate loopholes and bring manufacturing jobs back to America. He wouldn’t vote to extend the Bush tax cuts.
With fuel prices over $4 a gallon, energy is on voters’ minds, and Pooran’s. He wants to provide tax incentives for cars and homes that use alternative-fuels, like hybrids. To create jobs, he wants to start research programs into alternative energy solutions such as wind, solar and water.
On education, Pooran said No Child Left Behind — President George Bush’s education reform program — is failing because it’s underfunded. The success of public education is through investments, he said, and added that privatization and voucher programs drain some of that needed funding.
“Education, it’s the ladder into the middle class. I think we have to invest more into not only our primary, but our secondary education systems,” he said.
Pooran emigrated from Iran with his family when he was 6 and has been in Maryland ever since.
He grew up in Beltsville and lived in Baltimore and Montgomery County before settling in Jefferson. He attended the University of Maryland for both undergraduate studies and medical school.
For six years he was at the National Institutes of Health as an immunologist studying HIV and the immune system and also worked with Health and Human Services on biodefense issues and the H1N1 pandemic influenza. But through his service, he found he really enjoys critical care.
He joined the Air National Guard while a med student and has become a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force reserves.
“It’s really been one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” Pooran said.
As a flight surgeon with an F-16 fighter squadron, he had just arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sept 11, 2001.
“I was on the front lines as we started our battle against the scourge of terrorism. It was an interesting perspective to not be in America when that happened, but to instead be in the armed forces and be on active duty,” he said.
Leadership is what Pooran said he brings to voters.
“I think what we’re lacking right now is leadership. I think we have too many people who are afraid to say what they truly believe or are coerced by special interests and powers to vote a certain way and not to follow through with their principles,” he said.
“I’m not afraid to lead. I’m not afraid to make the hard decisions. I think it’s a sense of who am I responsible to and if I’m elected I’m only responsible to the people who elected me and to the United States of America and really no one else.”