Salisbury’s Ireton amps up possible bid for Congress

Salisbury City Councilman and former mayor Jim Ireton has been traversing the state, meeting with business leaders and residents, as he considers a bid for the U.S. Congress.

“There is an urgent need for thoughtful, reasoned, intellectual representation,” said the 45-year-old Democrat, who was mayor from 2009 to 2015.

Although he hasn’t yet filed, he said he put 630 miles on his car in the past two weeks, visiting areas including Queen Anne’s, Harford and Kent counties, and will continue traveling.

The deadline to file is Feb. 3.

Ireton, should he prevail in a Democratic primary, would face U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, 58, a Republican who represents the 1st District of Maryland.

Harris, a physician, was elected to Congress in 2010, and had served in the Maryland State Senate since 1998. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

District 1 encompasses Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset, Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, as well as parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties.

The primary election will be April 26. Voters may register until April 5.

In 2014, Harris won overwhelmingly against Upper Shore resident Bill Tilghman, a Democrat, by a vote of 176,342 to 73,843.

In the 2014 primary, Tilghman defeated John LaFerla; Harris beat Republican Jonathan Goff Jr.

Harris’ chief Republican primary opponent at this stage of the race is former state delegate Mike Smigiel.

Ireton said that during his touring he has found that most cities in Maryland are similar, with the same convenience stores and pharmacies on street corners. The residents have like desires, too, and many strongly disapprove of Harris, he said.

He said “everybody yelling screaming at each other on TV” is not only distasteful to voters, who often tune out because of it, but also not the solution to problems.

“While all this yelling is going on, our communities are finding themselves crippled under the epidemic of heroin … solutions to problems are out there but a lot of people don’t want to find them,” he said.

“I’ve been involved since 1990 …  so it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that I would file for Congress,” he said, adding he can’t yet commit, until plans are firm and finances are in place.

“Everything we hear from Mr. Harris is freedom and liberty, but it’s freedom and liberty as long as you agree with him,” Ireton said.

“I’m interested in a discussion about the vote against hurricane relief when Crisfield was under water. The people in Maryland are looking for somebody who will make a difference,” he said.

Ireton, a teacher, was elected to a four-year term on the City Council in November, and would not be required to resign in order to campaign, only if he won. If he lost, he would continue serving on the City Council.

Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee member Gains Hawkins said that while the group would not endorse one Democratic candidate over another, or immediately endorse the first one to file, he feels Ireton would be a good choice.

“Jim did a first-rate job as mayor and was very supportive of social justice, of building neighborhoods that were all inclusive,” Hawkins said.

“He focused on tolerance rather than the intolerance that is associated with many of the Republican presidential candidates, and I would say of Andy Harris. He has not been supportive of people in challenging socio-economic backgrounds as evidenced in his lack of support of Obamacare and other safety net issues,” Hawkins said.

He said he doesn’t know of any other Democrats planning to run for Congress.

Ireton vowed that running wouldn’t detract from his work on the City Council. “I haven’t missed a meeting yet,” he said.

If he files, he’ll invite Harris to debate him.

“If he goes at me about Salisbury he’s going to be disappointed because the record of Salisbury shows its success. I would just say to him, be very, very careful. We have a strong sense of loyalty. And we are in need of an Eastern Shoreman to represent the Eastern Shore.”

Harris could not be reached for comment.

The incumbent congressman will be appearing in Fruitland on Monday night at a constituent town hall meeting. The forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Black Diamond Lodge on Route 13.




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