July 12th, 2010
05:38 PM ET
12 years ago

Freshman Dem: 'We're losing faith' in officials

Bel Air, Maryland (CNN) - If Republicans take back control of the House of Representatives in November their path back to power starts just a short drive from Washington, in Maryland's first congressional district.

In what's shaping up to be one the most competitive House races this year, Democratic freshman Congressman Frank Kratovil is fighting to keep his job. He's facing public anger at congressional spending, and an opponent who is trying to tie him to President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as their popularity has dropped. That could spell trouble in a district that John McCain won by almost 19 points in 2008.

In an interview with CNN Friday Kratovil dismissed polls that show he's extremely vulnerable, but acknowledged that voter anger about government red ink is part of a broader distrust with politicians running Congress.

"I think it's not just frustration with the spending. There is a frustration with government in general," Kratovil said. "I mean we're losing faith in our institutions, we're losing faith in our elected officials," he added.

The Congressman spent the July 4th congressional break criss-crossing his district that stretches along the eastern edge of the state selling his record on jobs, but deliberately downplaying his party label.

Kratovil will likely face the Republican he beat by less than 1% of the vote in 2008, state Senator Andy Harris. Harris works as an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins. He was already named one of the Republican's "Young Guns," which means he has national party backing, money, and is positioned to get big name surrogates to campaign for him this fall.

Meeting with a group of local business leaders Friday in Elkton to discuss issues like trade and taxes, Kratovil repeatedly referred to himself as an "independent" and sounded more like a visitor to Washington, instead of the incumbent. He talked about his "first impressions of

Washington DC" and slammed the "process" his own Democratic leaders use to pass legislation as broken and too driven by politics.

Republicans are zeroing in on Kratovil's vote in early 2008 for the stimulus bill as evidence that he's just another big government Democrat.

Harris told CNN that Maryland voters don't think the stimulus worked and Kratovil's vote puts him out of step with the district.

"We've spent a trillion dollars of money we didn't have, it's gone and there's nothing to show for it...and people look at that, and they say 'in my household I can't pay for that. How come the government is doing that?'"

But Kratovil argued there's little difference between a moderate Democrat like himself and the moderate Republican who represented the district before he did for nine terms. He repeatedly touted a survey from Congressional Quarterly listing him as one of the most independent
Members of Congress, but his Republican challenger links him directly to President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Voting with the President, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi 85 percent of the time is not an independent voice. I think people are tired of what's going on in Washington, they're tired of the leadership in this Congress and of this President in not getting us the jobs we need, not fixing this economy, and I think that's what this election is going to be about," Harris told CNN as he made the rounds at the Talbot County Fair on Friday.

Kratovil defended his vote on the stimulus, pointing out that a Republican county commissioner recently thanked him for helping steer federal money to pave a road on the Eastern shore. He reminds people that he does break with his party, voting against health care reform, and that he's a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition that focuses on reigning in federal spending.

"You can't cut off spending completely and have the economy collapse again. But at the same time, long term, we've got to make some tougher decisions and to do that we have to have some mechanisms in place that force us to do that," Kratovil said.

After meeting with business leaders in the morning, Kratovil spent Friday afternoon walking down Main Street in Bel Air, a Republican-leaning town where most local retailers report that business is up this summer.

The Maryland Democrat believes voters will decide his fate this fall based on how they feel about their own economic situation. He distanced himself from Pelosi, who he says is "obviously not popular" in his district.

"Just because I'm a Democrat doesn't mean at times my party isn't wrong, and it also doesn't mean that the other side from time to time doesn't have a good point or a good bill or a good idea. We need more people that are gonna be willing to recognize that and cross party lines, and we can have that in both parties."

Kratovil carefully dodged a question about whether he'd vote for Pelosi again to serve as Speaker of the House if Democrats retain control, saying he's focused on his own election and will wait to see who runs for Speaker. But he clearly doesn't think the current Democratic leadership team reflects the views of moderates like him. "I do think that leadership-wise the Democratic party would be better if in some of the leadership positions there were some more moderate people."

A senior Republican campaign official maintains this midterm election is a national one and that Harris will unseat Kratovil by focusing on the need for Republicans to regain control of the House of Representatives so they can be a check on President Obama's agenda.

Kratovil says the national mood will be a factor in his race. But he argued that if voters don't elect more political moderates like him, they will only end up with the same system that is frustrating so many people this election season.

"People complain about how Washington is broken and how it's so partisan and all of that and yet what we do is we then continue to send the same kind of people; far left and the far right."

–Brianna Keilar contributed to this report

Filed under: Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Beech

    Kratovil sounds like he hears the voters in his district which is big stretch from the House and Sentate DNC leadership. Too bad Kratovil is going to get caught in the swift current with the patronizing congressional members that are about to become unemployed.

    July 12, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. JES

    This is what happens when youdon't lisen to the voters.

    We are sick and tired of a one way street it's time to take back our government from the people who only serve themshelves.

    All the spending that you are dong isn't working just makes me sick.

    July 12, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  3. gt

    any one who votes 85 % with dirty harry and nancy ... needs to be fired.

    July 12, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  4. Kevin

    Don't worry about losing seats to the Republicans. Your liberals which means you just use Felon votes to cheat your way in.

    July 12, 2010 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  5. rdepontb

    Rep Kratovil is not Obama's man, is not Wall Street's person, is nothing but an outstanding, upstanding American. He has Democratic values at heart-helping out the little guys and small businesses that dot his district in Maryland. That's what he was elected to do, and he listened and voted in favor of legislation that served his constituency.

    To hear that he is being maligned for any of these things, whether the comments seeks to paint him as anything but serving his electorate to the very best of his abilities and virtues, is simply frustrating. Let's finally support someone who supports the public good, for a change.

    July 12, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  6. KPATL

    Oh yeah and in the article I just mentioned they closed the discussion with only 156 responses, I guess they didn't want any opposing views being voiced over the DNC responses.

    Any other message other than "Obama is the Greatest" is not allowed....

    July 12, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  7. Hugo

    You know, I've bashed both the Democrats and Republicans pretty good on here over the last few years but I really believe it is the system that is failing us. We have a bunch of self regulating regulators that are predominantly lawyers that truly answer to no one. They vote themselves entitlements at our expense, they have the best our money can buy them in pensions, healthcare, and all round job perks. They no longer answer to our Federal laws that were set in place to keep them from going awry and we now have a polarized free for all leading our Nation into a dismal economic abyss. I mean how much of our money do they waste in one day, think of it. Campaigning, jetting home after their strenuous three day work week, boozing it up, brunches, parties, golfing, junkets. Over 6 million are unemployed and they haven't even skipped a beat. I say let's give them a lesson in November and hold them all accountable for running our Nation amuck. It did not start with Bush and it has not ended with Obama, America's citizenry needs to step up for our Nation, for our children and for our future!

    July 12, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  8. Reid

    The problem with the "Democrats" is that there is no such thing as a united Democratic party. The party is made up of many seperate groups, all of which complain and bitch like crazy when they don't get 100% of what they want, therefore doing the Republicans work for them. It's no wonder that people have such a negative viewpoint of the party when ALL of the Republicans are complaining and the idiot Liberals in the Democratic party (Feingold) block the party from getting work done. They could have passed Health Care reform without damaging themselves so much that a Republican got himself elected senator from Massachusetts, but Liberal kvetching, as usual, and their "if I don't get my way, then nobody get's their way" attitude epitomized in the Clinton campaign for President, is a perfect example of why the Democratic party has such a difficult time governing.

    July 12, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  9. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Go back and double-check your history books. I didn't realize that all of a sudden, after President Obama took office, that America has a crisis with corrupt politicians in Congress taking boatloads of $$$ from lobbyists.

    July 12, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  10. BeverlyNC

    With the Republican-controlled Supreme Court and their democracy and election-damaging decision to let corporations be "people" and give unlimiiteed funds to Republican candidiates – you will see huge corporate buying of elections.
    Democrats get most of their money from the PEOPLE. No American would give money to a Republican so their buddies who buy their votes in Congress also buy elections for them.

    Thank you Supreme Court for your political and anti-democratic decision. How much money did the corporations pay you???

    July 12, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  11. marxist dogs are out of control

    No Frank, it is not frustration, it is outrage. Outrage at you being a lap dog of Pelosi. She is a vile and nasty beast and you have planted your face squarely up her rump. Shame on you.

    July 12, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  12. roro

    People are tired of the constant obstructionism and obfuscation by the GOP. They are the ones who should be voted out of office. There needs to be term limits on these people who are in office for decades, but can't seem to get anything done. I suggest 3 four-year terms for both the Senate and House, and done. This way they're not always running for office, and maybe they'll get something done for a change. Also, all campaign funding should be limited to small citizen contributions, and there should be a limit for all candidates. Otherwise, it's only the rich who can run, or those who are in the pocket of the big corporations. No more lobbying!!!

    July 12, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  13. Len Jurena

    Repuplicans almost destroyed USA and its' standing in the world. Pray to GOD they never get back in control of anything political in Federal Government. They hate Obama because he's trying to close all the loop-holes they litigated and legislated so that they could steal from the less fortunate and stand on their neck in victory behind closed doors and behind their laws..

    July 12, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  14. James M. Holmes

    Kratovil is just another DINO – another corporate stooge who cares more about corporations than the American people. He will lose because, like too many Blue Dogs before him, he thinks if he acts "Republican Lite" that the crazies over on the right will actually vote for him. We don't need anymore Dems like this!

    When will some Dems learn that people are sick of weasils like Kratovil? Republicans killed this economy, but Kratovil still cowers at their talking points? See ya, try growning a backbone Kratovil!!!

    July 12, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  15. NVa Native

    In a district that voted for McCain/Palin by 18% and he miraculously won by less than 1% – this Democratic politician now thinks he's in trouble?
    He was in trouble the day he took office!
    How far does he think "moderate" will get him in an area that was so enthrawled for the McCain/Palin circus?? An 18% Republican majority is a furtile tea-bagger swamp where a moderate of either party would not survive.

    July 12, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  16. Four and The Door

    "We've spent a trillion dollars of money we didn't have, it's gone and there's nothing to show for it...and people look at that, and they say 'in my household I can't pay for that. How come the government is doing that?'"
    The Stimulus Bill was absolutely not about jobs and if anyone really believes it was, they need to look closer at what it was spent on. It was at best a crap shoot hoping that if the economy really did right itself and create some jobs along the way they could take credit for it. Look at what the money was spent on. Sure, some short term jobs like teachers and firemen and police. But there was very little to actually change what was broken in the economy. Jobs come from business growth and new opportunities. This was not what that spending was about at all. This is why Republicans were correct to say no. It turns out, that was the correct answer.

    July 12, 2010 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  17. Not Republican

    19% for McCain in '08?

    Apparently that district is cerebrally challenged to begin with. And it will explain why those 'swing voters' can't remember who wrecked this country from 2001-2008? Deficit spending? Bush's tax cuts for the obscenely rich. Wall St corrupton? Banking insolvency? Bush's deregulation of such.

    Of course the average bone-headed Republican, and even more bone-headed Tea Partier can't remember that far back.

    Without Obama, we would all be in bread-lines. He was given a thankless task (i.e. saving the country from absolute ruin) and yet the ignorant want to swing back to the same idiots that caused this mess.

    July 12, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  18. Papasan in AZ

    Every Politician that holds up the Unemployment Extension should have there paycheck withheld, that is Vote them out in November. If Washington can’t see the need in the Unemployment Extension, As Americans we should see no need in employing them as our representatives. All that said I highly recommend that every unemployed American bombard Washington with every means accessible till they pass this Extension.
    Remember to plan for the worst and hope for the best, likely Americans will have to get through this with out the help of Washington.

    P.S. Politicians do not care about average Americans!

    July 12, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  19. jules sand-perkins

    More PR.
    The Freshman Dem spotlights himself as a centrist.
    Now we know.

    July 12, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  20. Ed FL

    As a lifelong straight Demo ticket voter i look forward to losing the house. The Rangels,Frank and a dozen or so more old hanger ons need to be shown the door . Hopefull the Dems as a minority can get as much done as they have accommplished as the party has in the Majority. We Really need to get rid of Pelosi and REID and if the President doesnt get off his high horse and think about the people instead of his ALL STAR tours he will be gone also. ANY DEMOCRAT can beat the Chicago White House.

    July 12, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  21. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    The sad thing is that Frank Kratovil seems to be moderate, sensible, Democrat who, it looks like, will be a victim of his own party's far-left extremists.

    July 12, 2010 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  22. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    "I think it's not just frustration with the spending. There is a frustration with government in general," Kratovil said. "I mean we're losing faith in our institutions, we're losing faith in our elected officials," he added...

    Maybe if our elected officials did stuff that helped Joe 12-pack instead of their corporate masters, we could get behind them. Just a thought. Have a nice day!

    July 12, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  23. ConstitutionalPatriot

    We need a constitutional amendment that allows a police force of some sort to enforce the Constitution just like all the other laws they push on us. It should be deadly serious as in any lawmaker that knowingly or deceptively tries to introduce legislation that is unconstitutional with a fair amount of leeway for errors and mistakes, is simply taken into custody and executed by firing squad. This is a good idea and in order to avoid shoooting a lot of congresspeople we would also need to pass a law that says any legislation proposed must expressly state where the Constitution grants power to the federal government to pass such a law.If we followed the Constitution over the past century we would never have gotten into the huge mess we face today. They have no problem brutally enforcing their laws on us, it is time to enforce the most important law which is our Constitution! This would put the neocons and progressive nutjobs out of business and force them to spread their tyranny elsewhere!

    July 12, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  24. JonDie

    The Republican plan, which is to destroy the Republic by undermining the public's faith by creating strife and hatred along with chaos and anarchy, is working.

    July 12, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |