It’s now been a few days since I went home to be a panelist for the Congressional primary debate for Maryland’s Sixth Congressional Debate. Needless to say, I had a few thoughts about the debate, as well as being a panelist in general. A lot of what follows is from my article that was published in the Montgomery County GOP newsletter (which you can read here) and the rest is mostly drawn from some of the thoughts that I shared on Ryan Miner’s radio show (which had an excellent panel, and you can listen to it here) and what I had to say about it at our College Republicans meeting this past Monday.

This primary has the most candidates of any race in Maryland, so serving as a panelist gave me some insight into what it must be like to be a moderator for a presidential debate (or at least a Republican one). With eight candidates running, it was extremely difficult to ensure that the time was distributed evenly, although I think that we did an excellent job. It was also interesting to me that when I was writing my questions in advance, I kept wanting to ask questions that were more fitting for a presidential debate, simply because they receive so much more air time. All of the candidates acquitted themselves well and I look forward to hearing what candidates in the other debates that will be hosted have to say.

Panelist view
My view as a panelist. Being a panelist had an additional benefit of making sure I was saved a seat (in the front row no less!).

In the aftermath of the wildly successful CD6 Debate hosted by the Montgomery County GOP on January 7th, I would like to share a few of the takeaways that I gleaned from it. Since I had the honor of serving as one of the panelists for the debate, this automatically gave me an interesting perspective on the event. Moreover, it ensured that I was actually able to get a seat, since it was so crowded that night that some people had to listen from the hall!

First, I’d like to mention how truly lucky we are to have the field that we currently do. The fact that eight candidates have filed their paperwork to run against Congressman John Delaney shows how vulnerable he is this cycle. Our candidates have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, each of which helps to make them uniquely qualified to represent all of District 6. Among other backgrounds, we have a national security expert, two Marines (one of whom is currently a delegate in Annapolis), a small business owner and a longtime political activist.
Each candidate has made it clear that his/her goal is to represent all of District Six, from the westernmost sections of Maryland to the appropriate parts of Montgomery County. Taken as a whole, every candidate represents the complete opposite of the district’s current congressman.

It’s no secret that Congressman Delaney is already eyeing the Governor’s Mansion in 2018; however, our candidates have more than a passing interest in serving as a member of Congress for the Sixth District. They each have a deep and wide understanding of the issues important to the district, from fracking to transportation to education, and that knowledge came across on the debate stage last week. Candidates made it clear that they differ from Delaney on most issues, with one of them describing himself as completely and diametrically opposed to his “Yes” vote on the disastrous Iran Deal.

Another lesson that I was able to take away was the remarkable level of excitement to take back District Six. Audience members were encouraged to submit questions, both via Twitter and via notecard, and the substantive nature of every question I saw as I was filtering through them made me realize that the activists present at the event should have been the envy of campaigns in other parts of the country. This is another reason why I am so optimistic going into the 2016 elections. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to get to all of the questions.

It is unfortunate that with a field as large as this, only one of them will win the primary. However, each and every voice on the stage brought something to the table, from the self-described “nobody” Chris Mason to Dr. Scott Cheng to activist Robin Ficker to Commissioner Terry Baker to small business owner Frank Howard to national security expert Amie Hoeber to CPA Harold Painter to Delegate David Vogt. No matter who wins the primary, we will be better served with one of them in Congress rather than Congressman Delaney. Of that I have no doubt. So, let’s keep our eye on the ball and work as hard as we can to flip this district that we should never have lost to begin with!

In closing, I’d like to thank all my excellent fellow panelists and the phenomenal audience. It’s also important to remember that we have a primary debate for District 8 and the U.S. Senate race coming up, and I hope that everyone can attend! Both of these races represent the first time those seats have been open in years, and this cycle is our best chance to put them in play.

Pro-tip: it helps to wear an elephant tie if you’re going to be a panelist at a Republican debate.