Potomac businessman Neal Simon thinks the two-party system is the reason for today’s dysfunction in Congress, and that the solution is for Marylanders to elect him to the Senate as an independent.
That was the gist of Simon’s 15-minute campaign kickoff speech Tuesday, which he gave to about 40 supporters in the lobby of the Cambria hotel & suites in Rockville.
“The infighting that consumes our country’s leaders has brought gridlock, stagnation and even shutdowns,” he said. “And we are forced to watch as the parties selfishly chip away at our sense of community and drag us deeper into debt without addressing our most pressing social and economic problems.”
The 49-year-old Simon, who is Jewish, is the CEO of the wealth management firm Bronfman Rothschild and chairs the Greater Washington Community Foundation. He will be challenging Maryland’s two-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin in the November general election. Cardin filed for re-election on Monday. Four Democrats are challenging Cardin for the party’s nomination in June, including Chelsea Manning, the transgender activist who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sharing military and diplomatic documents with WikiLeaks while in the Army. (President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, and she was released from prison in 2017).
Jerome Segal, Debbie Wilson and Richard Vaughn are the other Democrats running against Cardin. Gerald Smith Jr. is the only Republican who has filed in the race.
Simon gave few specifics on Tuesday about what he would do to bridge the partisan divide, but later told reporters that Democrats and Republicans have taken a tribal approach to resolving the issue of immigration. The ideal scenario, he said, is to provide a pathway to citizenship while providing border security.
“It shouldn’t be that hard of an area to compromise, but the parties turn everything into this black and white argument,” he said.
Simon said he has voted for candidates of both parties, although Federal Election Commission records dating back 2007 show that he has given mostly to Democrats, including $4,000 in the 2016 election cycle to then-Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen. When asked, he declined to name specific candidates he had voted for in past elections.
“From the moment I started voting, I always said I wanted to vote for the better candidate,” he said. “I grew up in a household where my father was a Republican and my mother was a Democrat, and I remember John Anderson ran for president [in 1980] and realized that you can be an independent.”
But it was a Republican who Simon pointed to as an example of an effective, non-polarizing leader — Gov. Larry Hogan.
“He’s not viewed by our state as a partisan, and I think we need more leaders like that,” Simon said.