The weirdness of 2016 isn’t reserved for only for the Presidential election. A debate between Maryland candidates for U. S. Senate last night was crashed by Green Party candidate Dr. Margaret Flowers.
The debate which was being held at the University of Baltimore was limited to candidates polling at 15 percent or higher, so only Republican State Delegate Kathy Szeliga and Democrat Congressman Chris Van Hollen were on the stage. Clearly there was a plan to disrupt the debate as Green Party activists delayed the start of the debate prior to Flowers awkwardly mounting the dais.
The debate got off to a shaky start, when audience members asked for Flowers to be included. Then Flowers suddenly got up out of her seat in the audience and walked on stage. She shook hands with the two other candidates before standing in the middle of the stage, where she said she should be able to debate.
“I think it’s important for voters to understand the differences between myself and Congressman Van Hollen and Del. Szeliga,” Flowers said. “Otherwise, they don’t really know. I mean, you say you’re a public university and you want to educate the public, but without having a full public discussion that doesn’t actually happen.”
As Flowers made her case, both Szeliga and Van Hollen said they would agree for her to participate, but debate organizers said only candidates polling at 15 percent or higher were allowed.
“And this is how you’re treating a candidate,” Flowers shouted, as she was led away.
The whole scene was reminiscent of Dennis the peasant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Help, help, I’m being repressed! Come see the violence inherent in the system! It was difficult not to chuckle when one of the police officers addressed the stage crasher as “Ms. Flowers” and she loudly corrected, “It’s DOCTOR Margaret Flowers!”
As Flowers—no relation to Bill Clinton’s squeeze, that I know of—was being escorted from the stage, the ever smarmy Van Hollen casually sipped from his water bottle. It was Szeliga who first asked organizers to let Flowers participate.
The Senate race is for the seat currently occupied by Barbara Mikulski who is retiring at the end of her term. Mikulski is a loathsome pork barrel politician but she is celebrated as the longest serving woman in the Senate and the first woman to get there on her own without riding a man’s coattails. The genitalia of a candidate is supposedly very important to Democrats, as is the melanin content of their skin. Yet when Mikulski announced her retirement, the Democrat machine seemed to throw all of it’s weight behind the old white guy Van Hollen, despite the fact that Representative Donna Edwards, a black woman, was also running in the primary.
The Baltimore Sun reported on how this issue played out during the debate.
With the retirement of Mikulski and the departure of Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who lost to Van Hollen in the Democratic primary for Mikulski’s seat, Maryland could be represented in Washington by an all-male congressional delegation next year for the first time in decades.
In a pointed exchange on that possibility, Szeliga accused Van Hollen of “mansplaining” to voters about “what women want and need.”
Prior to that charge, Van Hollen was noting his endorsements from national women’s groups and pointing to his support for Hillary Clinton.
“What a shame it would be if Maryland [voters] did not have a woman representing them in Washington,” Szeliga said. It was a line Edwards of Prince George’s County used frequently against Van Hollen in the primary this year.
Defeating a woman in the primary, opposing a woman in the general election, and smugly drinking his water while watching a third woman candidate getting the bum’s rush from police—this would all be bad optics for Van Hollen if he wasn’t a Democrat.