ANNAPOLIS, MD.—A three-term Maryland Democrat who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress is the first to announce he’ll seek his party’s nomination to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020.
Rep. John Delaney said Friday that he would seek the presidency, rather than the Maryland governorship or re-election to his House seat in 2018.
In doing so, he swiftly criticized Trump’s efforts to dismantle the health care overhaul passed under president Barack Obama as “the most recent example of their brand of destructive partisanship.”
“Partisanship is really destroying our country,” Delaney told The Associated Press in an interview. “We’re not able to get anything done, and if you look at how the future is going to unfold with the changes that are happening in our economy and how those changes are driving global change, there’s so many obvious things … we’re not doing … because of partisanship. We’re not doing it because no one is really focused on the facts.”
He said he wants to bring a new approach to governing and economic policy that addresses the nation’s opportunities and challenges.
Delaney, a former banking entrepreneur, is known as politically moderate with a willingness to reach across the aisle. He has supported a measure to raise money to build infrastructure by allowing U.S. corporations to avoid taxes when they repatriate profits overseas, if they purchase bonds that would be used to build infrastructure.
Delaney said that he’ll go soon to Iowa, host of the leadoff presidential nominating caucuses, and will start hiring a team. He is planning a formal campaign kickoff after the midterm congressional elections next year.
“In between now and then, we’re going to build the infrastructure needed to have a successful campaign, once it kicks off, which includes getting people on the ground in the different states, building grassroots support, getting out and meeting people and building the type of apparatus you need to do something like this,” Delaney said.
Delaney, who had never held political office before winning the congressional seat, surprised Maryland’s political establishment in 2012 when he won a Democratic primary against a popular state senator and went on to defeat longtime Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in a congressional district that had just been redrawn to add more Democrats. The district includes western Maryland and a large section of Maryland’s largest county, Montgomery County, which is a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Delaney said he is entering the presidential race early because he knows he will need time to build name recognition.
“I kind of view myself as sort of a long-distance swimmer, and I view this as a long race, and so, part of the challenge, obviously, in running for president, is to build the kind of name ID you need, so that you’re relevant when the race really starts,” Delaney said, adding: “It’s a lot easier to build name recognition over a year and a half than it is across two months.”
He is one of the House’s wealthiest members and has a net worth of roughly $90 million. He spent about $2 million to help finance his first House race in 2012, and he said he plans to invest in his presidential campaign as well.
“You can never do anything alone in life, right? So, I’m expecting that for this to be successful, I’m going to need a lot of support on the grassroots level, of people who are willing to support me financially. But I’m blessed to be able to support my own campaign, as well, so that we never have to worry about kind of the unevenness of that cycle,” Delaney said.
His earlier consideration of a possible Maryland gubernatorial bid months ago quickly drew interest in his House seat. Several candidates already have expressed interest in running to replace him.
Meanwhile, Republicans said Delaney’s House seat is one of the 32 that have been targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“Congressman Delaney’s retirement only strengthens our resolve to aggressively target this seat in 2018,” said Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the NRCC.