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The Baltimore That Raised Me Is America Too

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

It was one of those Baltimore row houses that have come to define the city, three stories high, with a set of white marble steps out front. I will never forget those steps, the ones I had to scrub weekly, brush in one hand, Bon Ami cleanser in the other. And when I was finished, I had to do the same for older neighbors who needed the help. But those folks did their part, my mother reminded me, watching over the neighborhood from their windows when the block’s men, women and children were away working, running errands or attending school.

That’s what neighbors do for neighbors, all over America. And yes, that includes West Baltimore, about which Donald Trump tweeted: “No human being would want to live there.”

To my fellow Americans, especially those amused by the “antics” of the president of the United States, who buy what he’s selling, imagine how you would feel if those people and places that are in your bones were judged subhuman by the person whose job it is be a leader, your leader.

Consider how the language of Trump’s presidential tweets — his talk of infestation and disrespect of the people who are as American as you, as complicated and human as you — is tearing the country apart.

Ask why it is that Donald Trump only relegates black and brown people to the category of not human, how those caught in the opioid crisis of West Virginia and Ohio or the cratering manufacturing landscape of the Midwest, well, those are the Americans who may have been left behind but are worthy nonetheless of his empathy and concern. Is it because they voted for him? Is it because they are white?

To me West Baltimore was home, where I grew up with two parents, two brothers, two sisters and an occasional boarder. The kitchen was the heart of the home; it was where we often gathered to talk — and eat — with family and friends and classmates, around that long table with red and white painted benches. Those from coast to coast, who grew up on farms and in high rises, know and smile at some version of that scene.

I returned to the city to work as an editor at The Baltimore Sun when Harborplace and the National Aquarium sparkled, efforts at revitalization as manufacturing jobs shifted or disappeared. Though I don’t live there anymore, I still visit, to see family and friends and enjoy great times with them — eating a seafood meal, listening to the angelic voices of the Maryland State Boychoir (so proud my great-nephew auditioned and got in), taking in the exhibits at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, named for the late businessman and philanthropist.

The exhibits tell the story of Baltimore and Maryland, and some of it is not pretty. But it explains the racism, the redlining and discrimination in housing, employment, education and more that built a stratified society that is not easy to dismantle, the seeds of many of the conditions that Trump uses as ammunition. It also tells the story of the African American men and women who worked hard and cared and achieved despite astounding obstacles.

What Trump said about the congressional district of Rep. Elijah Cummings is simplistic and ridiculously incomplete — notice he failed to mention Johns Hopkins Hospital, where his HUD secretary Ben Carson built a reputation as director of pediatric neurosurgery and where I was born. The district includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County, with a median income above the national average, one that puts the South Carolina district once represented in Congress by his acting chief of staff and defender Mick Mulvaney to shame if you use that metric.

But there are clearly challenges in Baltimore, generations in the making, that Cummings has tried to work with the president to solve. He even met with Trump early on, and the president seemed to actually listen. That won’t happen again, though. Besides his personal resentment of the man, a black man, who has the audacity to perform his duties as chair of the House Oversight Committee, which includes calling the president and his family to account, being president of all the people — his job description — is not something Trump is interested in.

He is in a reelection battle and needs to rev up his base, and that is all that matters to Trump and his Republican Party.

Trump has reneged on his campaign promises to African American voters — his message of “What do you have to lose?” But Trump has also broken promises to those out of work in Ohio and Michigan, the Iowa farmers suffering from a tariff war, and the West Virginians who put their trust in him.

The racism is indicative of and a distraction from policies that hurt the struggling of every color: the families who would lose food assistance and the children whose free and reduced school lunches would disappear, adding worry and subtracting nutrition needed for learning. All the while, the loosening of regulations hurts the environment and benefits pay-day lenders and those who run for-profit prisons and colleges. And doesn’t Jared Kushner’s family own Maryland apartments cited for rodent infestation?

That won’t stop Cummings from his work. He said: “Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch. But it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”

Though not of his generation, I still grew up in a Baltimore with racial divisions, neighborhoods and schools and most everything else separate and unequal. I could look up to an older sister and brothers who, unlike Trump, did something about the injustice, marching and putting their own lives on the line because of their love for America. Family members teach in the city’s schools, and my eldest brother still works on civil rights issues, now as an advocate and policymaker for access for the disabled on public transportation for the state of Maryland.

I learned every lesson I needed in my neighborhood, from the nuns at St. Pius V, Oblate Sisters of Providence, members of the first successful Roman Catholic sisterhood in the world established by women of African descent. I roamed the stacks of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, established in 1882, especially my home branch, which stayed open during unrest following the death of Freddie Gray, offering safety and solace.

As my world expanded, I remembered everything my parents taught me.

Now Americans are learning about how loyal and resilient Baltimoreans can be, differences vanishing when the city’s pride and personality are attacked. You will get sick of hearing the recipe for a perfect crab cake (easy on the filler).

And pay attention — the next target of Trump’s wrath might take some notes from “Charm City.”

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Currently she is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Your Guide To Super Tuesday IV: Northeastern Edition!

Voters in 5 states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island —are hitting the polls today in yet another “Super Tuesday” primary. If you’re following along, either to keep abreast of current events or for pure schadenfreude, we’ve compiled each state’s delegate math and most recent polling to help keep track.

Connecticut 

Each of Connecticut’s five districts awards three delegates winner-takes-all, and the remaining 13 delegates are distributed proportionally based on popular vote, unless one candidate manages to win 50 percent or more of the popular vote, in which case that candidate wins all 13 delegates. If Trump lives up to some of the more ambitious expectations of him (some polls have him at 52 percent of the popular vote), he could manage to take home all 28 delegates.

Even without a majority, Trump will likely dominate the Connecticut primary. Real Clear Politics, which averages multiple polls to make its projections, has the Republican frontrunner up 26 points, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich likely stealing second: he holds 28 percent of the vote, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz trails at a dismal 19 percent (one recent poll suggests Cruz won’t even break 10 percent in Connecticut).

The Democratic Party regulates primary and caucus rules in all 50 states and is significantly more straightforward, logistically: a majority of the delegates are awarded proportionately, assuming runners up win at least 15 percent of the vote, and the remaining delegates are unbound “superdelegates” and can vote for whomever they choose.

Of the 71 delegates up for grabs in Connecticut, 55 will be awarded proportionately based on today’s vote — both Sanders and Clinton are projected to hit the 15 percent threshold. Still, the race will be a close one. RCP has Clinton leading Sanders by only 5.6 points, and one Public Policy Polling survey published yesterday suggests an even tighter race, with Clinton at 48 percent and Sanders at 46 percent of likely Democratic voters.

Delaware

Sixteen delegates are at stake in the Republican primary, awarded on a winner-take all basis. One of the few polls available in Delaware has Trump leading Kasich by 37 points, with Cruz falling to third place.

With little polling data available, the fate of Delaware’s 21 Democratic delegates is anyone’s guess. Clinton leads Sanders in the only available poll, 45 to 38 percent, but as Huffington Post points out, 17 percent of those polled were still undecided.

Maryland

Maryland will award 38 total delegates in today’s Republican primary: three in each of the state’s eight districts, 11 to the candidate who wins a plurality of the popular vote, and three remaining pledged to support the winner. This winner-take-most set-up will likely favor Trump, who has a substantial lead in the state. RCP has Trump up 14 points, and other polls suggest Trump could lead by as much as 20 points. While there’s not a lot of polling data from Maryland, election watchers suggest Kasich will likely come in second, with Cruz falling, yet again, to third place.

There are 95 pledged delegates up for grabs in the Democratic primary, and early data don’t fare well for Sanders, who trails Clinton by 24 points in the latest RCP poll. The analysts over at FiveThirtyEight put Sanders’s chance of winning Maryland at only 2 percent.

Pennsylvania 

Despite sending 71 delegates to the Republican National Convention in July, the winner of the GOP primary will only gain 17 delegates as the result of today’s vote. Yes, that’s two fewer delegates than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country. Still, Trump will likely win big in the Keystone State, at least in terms of the popular vote. RCP has the frontrunner up 26 points in the polls and a new NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll echoes that sentiment, with 45 percent of likely Republican voters supporting Trump. Cruz trails behind at 27 percent of likely voters, and Kasich is just behind him at 24 percent.

Clinton will likely win a majority of Pennsylvania’s 189 pledged delegates. Polls show her leading Sanders by 14 points (54 percent for Clinton, 40 percent for Sanders), thanks largely to the state’s African American voters. Despite receiving an endorsement from the country’s oldest African American newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, Sanders is still down among likely black voters; in Pennsylvania, only 29 percent of African Americans support the Vermont Senator, compared with 67 percent who support the former Secretary of State.

Rhode Island

Trump will also dominate Rhode Island, where he holds a 25-point lead. One poll has the business mogul at 61 percent, Trumping Kasich’s 23 percent. Cruz is at a measly 13 percent. Still, Rhode Island is another state with incredibly complicated Republican primary rules: six delegates are awarded proportionately by district, provided a candidate wins at least 10 percent of the vote any given district (there are only two congressional districts in Rhode Island). If a candidate wins over 67 percent of the vote, they receive at least two more delegates. Ten of the remaining 13 are awarded proportionately based on popular vote, and the final three are bound to support the winner of the primary.

On the Democratic side, Rhode Island is shaping up to be an intense fight between Clinton and Sanders. There are 24 delegates at stake, and the polls are at a statistical coin-toss. RCP has Clinton up 2.5 points in the polls, however Public Policy Polling puts Sanders at a four-point lead over Clinton’s 45 percent.

The Takeaway

Trump will walk away from Super Tuesday IV with significant backup for his claim of delegate inevitability. If he sweeps all five states, we’ll surely hear louder calls for Cruz and Kasich to drop out of the race. But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon: both candidates have made it clear they’re in it to undermine the will of the an arbitrarily small plurality of Republican primary voters win it in an eventual open convention.

Despite signs that Sanders may pull off one or two upset victories today, he’s unlikely to put a dent in Clinton’s delegate count. One of Sanders’s biggest weaknesses is his inability to sway black voters in places Pennsylvania and Maryland. While he is also unlikely to leave the race anytime soon, Sanders’s progressive faithful may have to resign themselves to an inevitable Clinton candidacy in the near future.

Photo: Migraine. Pexels/ Gerd Altmann

The Other Democrats: Martin O’Malley, Former Maryland Governor

Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland and former mayor of Baltimore, entered the race in May on a wave of high expectation that the young Democrat could be the candidate to challenge Hillary Clinton from the left. Throughout his career, his liberal ideals have made him an object of admiration and a target for skepticism. But Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist has seized that progressive groundswell that might have been his, leaving O’Malley at a dismal 0.4 in the polls. (The one area where O’Malley has been hitting Sanders hard is the Vermont senator’s record on guns.)

For those who may not be familiar with O’Malley, for whom Tuesday night’s debate represents perhaps his last significant opportunity to make an impression on voters, here’s a primer on the man and his politics.

1. He’s been a hotshot in politics for a long time.

Esquire named him “The Best Young Mayor in the Country” in 2002, and three years later, Time called him one of America’s “Top 5 Big City Mayors.” That same year, BusinessWeek said he, along with Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, was one of five new stars of the Democratic Party.

2. He’s not Tommy Carcetti.

Tommy Carcetti, the fictional Baltimore councilman who eventually becomes mayor and then governor in the iconic show The Wire, might be how many people outside Maryland first heard of Martin O’Malley. While there are some parallels — most notably when it comes to O’Malley’s record on crime — many elements of Carcetti are very clearly fictional, and have even contributed to negative rumors during O’Malley’s first campaign for governor.

3. He’s had national ambitions for a long time.

Back in 2007, just a couple of months into his tenure as governor, his bigger aspirations were spelled out in a Washington Post piece: “It’s the worst-kept secret in Maryland that the governor has national ambitions,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, while Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said, “I think it comes into play in everything he does, quite frankly. He’s very much like Bill Clinton in being slow and deliberative and calculating in everything he does.”

Even 10 years earlier, when he was a city councilman, there was speculation about what he would do next.

4. He’s a longtime supporter of the Clintons. He’s even jammed with them.

A proud Irish-Catholic (he graduated from Catholic University), he spent many years performing in a Celtic rock band as an extracurricular activity outside his government work. He played guitar on a presidential delegation returning from Northern Ireland in 2000, which cemented his relationship with the Clintons (Bill being a musician himself). In fact, in an interesting twist, he was one of the first to endorse Hillary Clinton in 2008.

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5. He’s against the death penalty.

Right after taking office as governor, he testified to the Maryland legislature that the death penalty is “inherently unjust” and an affront to “individual human dignity,” although most of his arguments were pragmatic, rather than moral, in nature.

He told Rachel Maddow in 2009, “Time will prove that the death penalty is inconsistent with sound policy. It’s expensive. It does not work. It is not a deterrent. It takes money away from things that do save lives. …I believe it’s fundamentally at odds with some of the most important founding principles of this republic, namely our belief in the dignity of every individual.”

During his tenure, Maryland repealed the death penalty.

6. Although he’s a devout Catholic, he’s deviated from some fundamental Catholic positions, like on abortion and homosexuality.

This has angered some Catholics, with one calling on him to either renounce his faith and leave the Church or call himself “a dissenting Catholic” and abstain from communion.

Yet O’Malley doesn’t see any contradictions in his beliefs: “I found that the passage of marriage equality actually squares with the most important social teachings of my faith, which is to believe in the dignity of every person, and to believe in our own responsibility to advance the common good. Part of that advancement means changing laws when they are unjust, when they are not applied equally to all people,” he told The Des Moines Register.

7. He passed the DREAM Act. 

O’Malley has long been a supporter of immigrant rights, and he has referred to undocumented immigrants as “new Americans.”

In 2011, he signed legislation that let Maryland residents get in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status, as long as they met certain requirements. Despite a Republican-led state referendum on the issue, residents approved the DREAM Act that O’Malley championed.

“By speaking in humanitarian terms, O’Malley is helping to reframe the discussion, and forcing fellow Democrats to clarify their positions,” wrote John Nichols in The Nation.

“We are not a country that should send children away and send them back to certain death,” O’Malley said at a 2014 National Governors Association meeting in Nashville. “I believe that we should be guided by the greatest power we have as a people, and that is the power of our principles. Through all of our great world religions, we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity.”

Photo: A guitar-playing, devout Irish Catholic who is favor of abortion and gay marriage, abolishing the death penalty, and passed the DREAM Act. Meet Martin O’Malley. Gregory Hauenstein via Flickr

This is an updated version of a post that originally appeared on May 29, 2015.

Maryland Governor Announces He’s Been Diagnosed With Cancer

By Luke Broadwater and Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

BALTIMORE — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday he’s been diagnosed with a “very advanced and very aggressive” cancer.

The governor said he learned of the illness last week after returning from a trade mission to Asia. He said the cancer had spread to multiple parts of his body, but he expected to fight and beat the disease.

“It’s one that responds very aggressively to chemotherapy treatment,” Hogan said. “There’s a strong chance of success.”

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, a key part of the immune system. The system, which includes the lymph nodes, spleen and other organs, collects cellular fluid around the body and returns it to the bloodstream. The cancer begins with an abnormal lymph system cell known as a lymphocyte and can easily spread throughout the body through the lymph system.

Hogan hugged family and staff members after making the afternoon announcement in Annapolis.

“This weekend my family celebrated Father’s Day,” the Republican governor said. “For me, even though I had some really tough news to deliver to them, it was a special and heartfelt time to be with family.”

He said he planned to continue to work as governor while undergoing treatment.

“Most likely I’m going to lose my hair,” he said. “I may trim down a little bit. I won’t stop working to change Maryland for the better. I’ll be working hard. … I’m going to miss a few meetings. But I’m still going to be constantly involved.”

Hogan said he underwent a “minor surgery” last week. He said the disease caught him by surprise.

“I had a little bit of pain in my back,” he said. “I though it was a pulled muscle. It turned out to be a tumor. I still feel good.”

Seventy percent of those with non-Hodgkin lymphoma survived five years after their diagnosis, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 2 percent of the population will be diagnosed with the illness in their lifetime, and there were about 550,000 people living with it in the U.S. in 2012, according to the institute.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma makes up about 4 percent of all new cancer cases and 3 percent of cancer deaths, with about 20,000 deaths expected this year, according to the cancer institute. It is the seventh-most common type of cancer.

Several Democratic lawmakers immediately sent Hogan well-wishes.

“I am going to definitely pray for him tonight,” said Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat. “He is a young man and has a big job in front of him, and we need his leadership.”

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(The Baltimore Sun’s Yvonne Wenger contributed to this report.)

Photo via Larry Hogan for Governor.