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Son of District 6, Ewald boasts broad support

February 25, 2000

Ask Democratic congressional candidate John Ewald to list his strengths and he'll tell you it's the fact that he's not tied to the interests of any one town in the 6th District, but is a "son" of the entire district.

As the child of a United Methodist minister who was posted in Flintstone, Hagerstown and Mt. Airy, the 36-year-old Montgomery County school teacher says he got to know the district and its concerns. And after five years of thinking about it, Ewald said "I felt myself being called to public service."

Answering the call is a tradition in the family, said Ewald, noting that his father, wife and father-in-law are all in the ministry and that he's been active himself with a program called Winter Haven, a church-based cold-weather shelter program for the homeless in the Laurel, Md. area.

He's running, he said, because "I'd like to provide active visionary leadership to the district in the areas of education, employment and economic development.

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On education, Ewald said, he would like to "provide equity" all the way from Garrett County in far Western Maryland to Harford County on the Eastern Shore. That means making sure all schools have the same modern equipment and that class sizes are as small as possible.

On employment, Ewald, who once served as head of a professional association for health, physical education and dance teachers, said he would "make sure that the workers have the right to organize."

To bring in business, he would use a variety of incentives, including tax credits, "but not at the expense of a worker's rights and good pay."

Many Maryland businesspeople believe this state is at a disadvantage when compared with Virginia, a "right to work" state where it's more difficult for workers to organize. Given that competition, I asked Ewald if it's possible to persuade industry that coming to a union-friendly state can still be good for their business.

"I think it's possible, but it's very hard work. But both business and labor want good things to happen," he said, adding that his background working on arbitration boards would enable him to reach out to both sides and seek compromise.

Questioned about what in his background would indicate that he could take charge in that way, Ewald noted that while president of the Maryland Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, he doubled the membership for 600 to 1,200 and successfully lobbied the governor to save a teacher specialist position in the state Department of Education.

"It (the position) is called a specialist in health and education, and without it, health and education would not have a strong voice at the state level," he said.

Because he believes in the importance of agencies to oversee education, Ewald disagreed with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's proposal to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. But that's not the only difference he has with the incumbent.

Ewald said Bartlett also voted against an initiative to promote responsible fatherhood, a program to assist the Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide, drought relief for farmers and a bill that would have allowed Maryland farmers to join the Northeast Dairy Compact.

Yes, Ewald said, some of those measures were embedded in the large appropriations bills that Bartlett has opposed in the past because he says they're loaded with "pork."

Ewald says he sought the advice of a sitting member of Congress on how to run against Bartlett, and the member told him that if he publicized the congressman's record, the campaign would take care of itself.

Ewald isn't that naive, and says he knows he has some tough tasks ahead, the toughest of which will be getting out the vote in the March 7 primary. He's also facing a tough Democratic opponent in Don DeArmon, a staffer on Capitol Hill for the past two decades.

Asked why voters should reject DeArmon's experience and choose him instead, Ewald said that if elected, he would be more than pleased to have someone like DeArmon working on his staff.

Voters should choose him, he said, "because I have an active visionary leadership stance, and because they want a voice from the district to speak up for them."

If you'd like more on Ewald's background - his education and family tidbits - visit his web site at johnewald.com. Because his schedule and mine didn't make it possible to meet in person this week, we talked by phone.

That isn't what I prefer for a first chat with a candidate, because you miss the body language that tells you whether they (and their staff) are at ease with a public role and whether they've got a personality that will inspire voters. Ewald knows what he wants to do and isn't apologizing for any of it, least of all his affinity for organized labor. If he looks as good as he talks, he should do well.




Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's opinion page.

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