Donna Edwards (D-Md.) is the new face of politics – progressive, passionate, and ready to shake up the old guard in D.C. She’s also the first African-American woman to represent Maryland. Todd Beeton, Dave Johnson, and I, a couple of "dirty fucking hippie" bloggers, had the chance to sit down with her to discuss how a coalition of unions, including the SEIU, helped to propel her to victory over Al Wynn and why her campaign resonated so strongly with the people in Maryland.
"My personal experience forms my perspective on political issues," Edwards explains. She’s a single mother, she’s been in dire financial straits thank to exorbitant hospital bills, and she’s affected by the economics of the times.
Edwards is at the forefront of the SEIU’s Accountability Project, and has the support of affiliated unions and grassroots organizations’ drive to put "ordinary" people back in office. Back in 2006, before she gained the support of the SEIU, she lost by 2731 votes. "That’s one union hall away from a win," she says. And Edwards was taken by surprise when she discovered, early one morning, that the union had taken it upon itself to start an ad campaign supporting her candidacy. "The SEIU stepped up, knocking on doors," and manning phone banks to get out the vote. In 2008, she won by 20 points. "The depth and breadth of the win [is attributable] to accountability."
Edwards notes that her congressional race generated strong national interest, thanks, in part, to her outsider status. Moreover, her startling win and strict adherence to a philosophy of refusing corporate money has garnered the interest of incumbent Democrats, who may have finally woken up to the fact that their ride may no longer be free.
She notes that because she has spent so many years working on the issues important to union members, "I don’t have to make up why I’m a friend of organized labor. It’s who I am."
Here’s to hoping that Donna Edwards is the first in a long line of progressive wins.
[Disclaimer: hotel and airfare paid for by SEIU]