During his two years representing Maryland’s 1st District, former Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) pushed two core issues: he was “independent”, and that he was fiscally conservative. During this period of time Kratovil voted for President Obama’s stimulus plan and Obama’s budget bill; costing the American taxpayer trillions of dollars both now and into the future. While Kratovil could (sorta) claim that he was independent from his own party, his record showed that he only opposed his party’s leadership on major votes where his vote was not needed to pass legislation with Democrat votes (e.g. ObamaCare).
In his runs against Kratovil in both 2008 and 2010, current Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) was portrayed by many in the media as an arch-conservative (or wingnut, if you prefer) and as someone who would be a lap dog for the GOP establishment. After four months in office, Harris has shown himself to be a different kind of representative; one who votes his conscience, the best interest of the country, and the best interests of his constituents. The want or will of the House GOP leadership doesn’t appear to hold much sway with Harris to this point in his (admittedly short) Congressional career.
The Washington Post has developed a database tracking the members of the U.S. House and comparing each member’s votes with the votes their respective party caucuses. Harris’s record is surprising:
- Of the 435 members of the U.S. House, only 35 (Democrats and Republicans) vote with their respective parties less than Harris.
- Of the 242 Republican members, only 11 votes with their leadership less often than Harris.
- 111 members received the endorsement of various Tea Party groups. Of these, only three show a more independent voting record than Harris.
This last fact was the one that I probably found most surprising. Well respected conservatives such as Michele Bachmann, Jeff Flake, Duncan Hunter, Mike Pence, Marlin Stutzman, and Allen West have all voted more consistently with their leadership than has Harris.
To be sure, a willingness to vote against one’s own party doesn’t necessarily make you a great representative. We should also note that we haven’t agreed with every vote Harris has made since being sworn in last January. However, independent judgment and a commitment to a core set of principles show a strength of character that is sorely lacking in too many of today’s elected officials (Democrat AND Republican).
The voters of Maryland’s 1st District should be proud (and thankful) that Harris has been willing to put principle, and his promises to voters, ahead of the whims and inside-the-beltway judgment of his party’s leadership. We recognize that there are still 20 months remaining in Harris’s current term. We just hope Harris continues to show the same resolve in those 20 months that he has shown in his first four.