Shank: I'll compromise, but not betray my constituents


When I first ran for the House of Delegates in 1998, I made a simple promise to the citizens of Washington County: I would listen to the people, and vote according to their wishes. I have kept that promise.

Recently, over a variety of legislative issues, there has been some debate over whether the Washington County Delegation should engage in a more conciliatory, "go-along, get along" type of politics.

Those that promote this theory argue that since we are so outnumbered in Annapolis, we might as well just be quiet and do what the majority wants.

Apparently, some delegation members have already decided that voting for higher taxes and against their constituent's wishes is also the best way to advance their political careers.


They would have us rubber-stamp what the liberal majority in Annapolis demand regardless as to what the citizens back home want. I absolutely and vigorously reject this approach, think it is short-sighted, and will cause great harm to Washington County and the State of Maryland.

Furthermore, it's not why the people of Washington County sent me to Annapolis.

Political dissent is crucial to a healthy democracy. Particularly in an overwhelmingly Democratic state like Maryland, the role of the loyal opposition is imperative to preserve some semblance of political balance.

Some believe that expressing any opposition to the dominant group-think is negative and should be squashed. On the contrary, I believe it is my solemn obligation to the people who elected me to speak out and offer alternatives. This debate is as old as democracy itself: Does a representative serve as a trustee for the people and vote according to their wishes, or does he or she know best and ignore their views and vote without this input?

My views have always been clear; I have always chosen my constituents. I represent the senior citizen having trouble paying their taxes, I fight for the correctional officer who is in harm's way, I speak out for the abused child, I stand up for the small businessman who is overtaxed and over-regulated.

Does this mean I will not compromise with the majority? Of course not, compromise is an integral part of the political process.

This session, I worked very hard in my committee to pass one of Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature public-safety initiatives, increasing the use of DNA evidence to catch violent criminals.

I work all the time to fashion bipartisan compromises on a host of legislation, this is precisely what the public expects of their elected representatives. They don't want partisanship; they want men and women who work together for the good of the state.

My willingness to compromise stops, however, when the majority starts pushing through legislation that my constituents tell me is harmful to our county and state.

I fought hard against the largest tax increase in Maryland's history passed during the special session and I am proud of those efforts. I have consistently said that Maryland does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

I will not turn a blind eye to the truth and vote for something I know in my heart is wrong and will damage my district. In fact, I will summon all my political skills and fight against these taxes and out of control spending with every fiber of my being.

I will do it civilly with respect to the institution which I venerate, but nonetheless, I will fight for my constituents who expect nothing less.

Christopher B. Shank is a member of the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, representing District 2B.

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