Harris, Mason talk racism, balancing agriculture and the environment

Democrat Mia Mason is challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st District race.

CHESTERTOWN — Republican Andy Harris is facing a challenge for his seat representing Maryland’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrat Mia Mason.

Harris and Mason sat down for individual interviews during which they were asked the same set of questions. Mason’s interview was conducted Sept. 16. Harris sat for his interview Sept. 25.

This is the second article in a three-part series. Previous topics included economic development and COVID-19.

The 1st District comprises the entirety of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties.

Early voting in Maryland runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 2. Election day is Nov. 3.

Question: Issues relating to race and class have been a challenge historically for the Eastern Shore as well as the country as a whole and continues to be a topic of conversation due to ongoing rallies and protests throughout the region. In your opinion, how much of a problem still exists with respect to racism and what needs to be done to help resolve these issues, not only in the 1st District, but also nationwide?

Mason: I think racism is real. It is fueled by the President and Representative Harris. When our communities are out looking for a job it takes a Caucasian applicant about 10 times to get the résumé through and about 15 times more for a person of African-American descent. I heard that on the radio and I was like “wow that is really disheartening.”

There are ways for our employers to not be biased by their (applicants) name, their gender, their sex or their race at all. That is to comply with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and make sure that our civil rights are protected. To be able to do this we must take the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and bring it forward through the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), which has passed the House (of Representatives) and is sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk and get that passed in our first 100 days once elected. So that we can make sure we will no longer be faced with four years of legal battles where the president has fired people by tweet, calls for bans by tweet, wanted to build a wall by tweet, wanted to tell people what they should be doing and hurt people at his rallies.

Rep. Harris did the same thing when he went on his reopen Maryland rally to incite this throughout the entire state of Maryland. So he shares the same views as the President and he (the President) has attacked everybody of nation of origin, color, creed, religion, gender identity and sex, since day one in 2017. We need to make sure that this racism, this fueling (of racism) is ended. There is a lot of reform that needs to happen with diversity by restoring the equity throughout our district and our country. This is why we must stand united with Vice President Joe Biden for his election this coming November.

Harris: So look, racism exists, everyone realizes it exists. The question is whether or not it exists to an extent in this country that is greater than other countries in any way? I don’t think that is true. I think we have led in opposing racism and in dealing with racism.

Are we perfect on this? No we are not perfect, but we are far better than many other places in the world. For instance, in some places slavery still exists and we passed that 150 years ago.

What we have to do first off, we have to realize that in response to the George Floyd killing and other things that peaceful protests are always welcome in this country. No question about it. Non-peaceful protests should not be welcome. This is a country of law and order and we should respect the fact that peaceful protest does not include looting. It does not include what we could call rioting. It does not include destruction and it certainly doesn’t involve injuring other people.

To deal with some of the issues that have been brought up over this past six months, I think what we need to do is we need better training for our law enforcement. Not to defund police, but to actually increase funding to the police departments so that they can have the training, for instance, in crisis deescalation, in cultural understanding. These are things you train your way out of, you don’t defund your way out of.

Are we a perfect nation? No we are not, but we are still the best nation on the Earth and I believe we are one of the least racist nations on the Earth, but there is room for improvement. If we all agree peacefully, we can all do it together.

One issue that has come up on the Eastern Shore is removal of various statues. My position is that we should use the opportunity, instead of taking down these statues, to educate people, to provide historic context, perhaps to put up companion statues that show the contrast and lead to historical education.

I think tearing down statues actually might divide more than it might unite and this is what we see around the country. As statues are torn down it actually creates more division to some extent than less division. We should not deny our history.

Overall, we should be very proud of American history. We have brought democracy and freedom to places on the earth where it has never existed. There are more places where we will bring it to. We have been at the forefront of doing that for two centuries now. We are not perfect, but we are very, very good.

Question: Agriculture is one of the primary industries on the Eastern Shore, but there is evidence that some farming practices have a detrimental effect on the health of the Chesapeake Bay. How do you propose balancing the needs of one of our most important industries with our most cherished natural resource?

Harris: Fortunately, Maryland has been at the forefront of a cooperative partnership between the agricultural community and the environmental community with regard to preserving the Chesapeake Bay. We have nutrient management programs in place for 20 years now. The bottom line is there is no farmer who wants to put more fertilizer on their crop than it needs to have to absolutely grow that crop. Maryland farmers agree with that. The problem is not Maryland right now, the problem is upstream states like Pennsylvania and New York that don’t have those good agriculture practices.

We can’t look to Maryland farmers to solve the entire problem of the Chesapeake Bay. We have to look to a cooperative agreement that does exist between states that is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency. That will drive Pennsylvania and New York to decrease the amount of nutrients that is put in the Susquehanna River, for instance, that then flow into the Bay and contribute to Bay pollution.

We have to thank our Maryland farmers for being that cooperative and keep our eyes on making sure that our neighbors are not affecting the Bay. They (neighbors) don’t live on the Bay, but the actions of those communities upstream from Maryland certainly do affect the Bay.

I think our farmers are good stewards of the land. I think they want to preserve the Chesapeake Bay. It is part of the culture of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I think they are doing a very good job doing it. Our poultry industry is cooperating very, very well. Maryland is not the major problem with the Chesapeake Bay.

Mason: Agriculture is super important, they (farmers) are currently seeing the same prices they did back in the 1970s. I hope to work with the governor and our other Congressional leaders to provide decriminalization and legalization of a product called hemp, which can provide us the manufacturing and stability for jobs there. With the taxes and revenues created by this legalization process, our counties, cities and the state of Maryland can actually revamp the infrastructure of all of these family farms that have been around since the 1700s and provide them with industrial drainage and proper sewage versus dumping it into our rivers and into our Bay.

In Berlin, Maryland we did a recent town hall where their biggest concern was sewage flooding and it wasn’t because of a storm, it was just something that happened whenever it rained.

Learn more about the candidates at www.andyharris.com and mia

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