On January 6, the police officer came face to face with experienced MLAs in the race for the upper house.

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Democratic voters in Maryland's state capital and affluent suburbs south and west of Baltimore will face a difficult decision Tuesday when choosing their potential next member of Congress.

They can choose between the former police officer launched to national stardom after protecting the Capitol during the deadly riot of January 6, 2021, or one of their state legislators who has championed local livelihoods like health care, green Have passed bills focusing on the issues. Jobs, floods, and the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

After January 6, Harry Dunn became one of the faces representing hundreds of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect the Capitol when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed Joe Biden's 2020 certification. Attacked while demanding to stop. Win the election. Dunn gave emotional testimony during the January 6 hearing of the investigating television committee, became a fixture on the cable news circuit, and wrote a book about the ordeal and her life last fall.

“I would be a liar if I didn't tell you that I'm anxious and a little stressed about this whole process. I mean, I literally walked away from a long-term career in the federal government,'' Dunn, 40, said in an interview with NBC News on Friday.

Campaign signs at the Broadneck Library in Annapolis, MD.Scott Wong/NBC News

Dunn continued, “But at the end of the day, if I had a chance to try to do something to stop Donald Trump's agenda, I wouldn't be able to help myself.” “He said he wanted to be a dictator,” she said. , and you have members of Congress who will support him in this. So I think right now, we need fighters, and I think I'm the right person for the job.

A native of Maryland, Dunn doesn't live in the state's deep blue 3rd Congressional District — he says he lives about 9 miles outside it and his family lives there — but the former policeman's national stature and celebrity have fueled his wealth accumulation. Has helped in increasing it to staggering levels. The political newcomer has raised about $4.6 million since announcing her bid in January to replace retiring nine-term Democratic Representative John Sarbanes, more than her two top primary rivals, state Senators Sarah Elfreth and Clarence Lamm. is less than the cash raised by.

As Trump seeks a political comeback this autumn, Democratic voters here are grappling with the question of whether they want to be represented by a man who actually fought off rioters to keep Trump in power or by experienced legislators. Want to choose from those who have a track record of working in the district.

There is a lot of goodwill in Elfreth. She's worked really hard in the General Assembly, so she's kind of an insider,'' said former Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md. “And then you have Harry Dunn, who has captured the national imagination. And they have to figure out how to turn that into a political victory.

'I voted for him, not against him'

Outside an early voting site at the Broadneck Library in Annapolis, Kathryn Schulke said she and her husband had cast their vote for Elfreth, who had tried to help her family find vaccines during the pandemic.

“I actually called one day and he actually answered the phone, which completely surprised me,” Schulke, a retired registered nurse, said Thursday. She was having trouble getting vaccinations for her son, who has cystic fibrosis.

Maryland State Senator Sarah Elfreth talks to a voter and her daughters outside an early voting site in Annapolis.Scott Wong/NBC News

“She couldn't really solve the problem for me,” Schulke continued, “but because of her compassion and her ability to listen and her ability to understand and then tell me what she was going through, I probably Elfreth's voter is life.”

“I voted for him, not against him,” he said.

Moments later, Elfreth arrived at the library with a campaign aide to thank voters for attending. There was little foot traffic at the early voting site, but a mother and her two young daughters saw Elfreth and walked by. The mother said one of Elfreth's priorities is protecting the environment, and the state senator pointed out that Democratic Governor Wes Moore had signed her bill into law earlier that day expanding solar energy in Maryland.

“The people I talk to along the way… they really want someone who has a track record of getting things done. Making law is not easy. “There's an art to negotiating and working with people who oppose you,” Elfreth, 35, said in an interview.

These are “people who are on opposite sides of an issue, and how you bring them together and work through the details and find common ground and work on behalf of your constituents. This is no easy feat, and I love that part of the job; I do it well. I pass more bills in the State House than any of my colleagues.”

Maryland State Senator Clarence Lamm, a Howard County Democrat, on March 11, 2020.Pamela Wood/TNS via Getty Images File

Lam, 43, a physician on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, is the only physician and the only Asian American in the state Senate. He is also promoting his legislative record, particularly his work on health policy, including limiting the cost of insulin and expanding Medicaid to ensure all mothers have more access to prenatal and postpartum care. Get access.

“When it comes to a lot of the work I've done, most of it has been in the health care and public health sector,” Lamm said.

Pro-Israel group spends big

Elfreth has raised about $1.5 million as of the end of April, while Lamm has raised about $736,000. 19 other candidates trailed far behind in a crowded field, including state Reps. Mark Chang, Terry Hill and Mike Rogers.

Despite Dunn's huge fundraising advantage, the spending dynamics have changed in recent weeks. The United Democracy Project, a super PAC associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel group, invested more than $4 million in the race in support of Elfrith – most of which went into TV ads airing in the Baltimore market. Was.

Dunn, who has repeatedly expressed support for Israel, said, “Frankly, this sucks.” “Because, yes, I'm working. i have been there [getting] Grassroots support.”

Lamm said, “It is disappointing to see that our democracy is now up for sale, with whatever interests are able to throw millions of dollars behind their preferred candidate.”

Harry Dunn on Capitol Hill in 2022.Jacqueline Martin/AP File

Under federal law, Elfreth cannot coordinate with super PACs, and she said she did not know why she was getting air cover from the UDP, which did not respond to a request for comment.

She said that her and Dunn's positions on the Israel-Gaza war are not very different: “I believe in a long-term, two-state solution, a permanent two-state solution, an end to the violence, the return of the hostages.” Very similar to everyone else.”

In a recent ad, called “Choice”, Dunn's campaign attacked Elfrith for receiving support from a “right-wing super PAC funded by Trump donors” and “voting with Republicans 44 times.” Some of the UDP's largest donors typically donate to GOP campaigns and groups.

Elfreth said he is unapologetic about his bipartisan record and work across the board. “It's funny, because I've been called a lot of names in my life,” she said. “But MAGA Republicans aren't one of them.”

Sarah Elfreth in Annapolis in 2018.Sara L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images file

'Is this America?'

For 15 years, Dunn was a familiar face in the halls of the Capitol, and at 6-foot-7, it was hard to ignore. But he rose to prominence at the national level after giving powerful testimony to Congress on January 6.

The bipartisan panel investigating the riot held a preliminary hearing with four law enforcement officials, including Dunn, to mark the beginning of their fact-finding mission.

“I sat on a bench with a friend of mine, who is also a Black Capitol Police officer, and I told him about the racial slurs I heard,” Dunn told the panel, recalling his experience during the Capitol riots. “I became very emotional and started shouting, 'How.' [expletive] Can something like this happen? Is this America?

Dunn continued to attend almost every hearing of the committee. Throughout the process, he became close with panel members and Democratic members of the House leadership – many of whom supported his candidacy, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

But Dunn said there is more to his candidacy than his actions on Jan. 6.

“You know, I care about affordable health care. I care about affordable housing, I care about banning assault rifles, AR-15s. I care about those things. I care about voting rights. I care about codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law,'' he said. “There are a lot more things than just ‘January’. 6 Harry Dunn.

Dunn said he surprised “a lot of people” during the campaign. “When they say, 'Oh, wow, you're more than just a Trump hater' — I mean, I wear it as a badge of honor,” he joked.

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