- - Monday, August 14, 2017

Once considered a potential Democratic challenger to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan next year, John Delaney has set his sights higher — much higher.

The three-term representative of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District is aiming to unseat President Trump with a promise to jump-start the U.S. economy by bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to Washington.

“This is obviously the most important job in the country and probably the most important job in the world,” Mr. Delaney, 54, said in an interview. “I think I’m uniquely positioned to both change the way government operates and to change the debate.”

During his five years in Congress, Mr. Delaney has focused on innovation and infrastructure as major policy. He introduced a sweeping infrastructure investment bill just months into his first term. More recently, he created the Artificial Intelligence Caucus in Congress, to inform policymakers about technological advances and how they impact the U.S. economy and society.

However, his focus has been of little to no benefit in the mostly rural district Mr. Delaney represents. The 6th Congressional District stretches from western Montgomery County, where Mr. Delaney lives, to Maryland’s westernmost counties of Allegany and Garrett. According to 2015 estimates at CensusReporter.org, 12.4 percent of Garrett County’s nearly 30,000 residents and 20.8 percent of Allegany County’s 73,000 residents live below the poverty line. (The state’s poverty rate is 9.7 percent.)

An entrepreneur in his own right, Mr. Delaney started his first company in 1993. His second business endeavor, the commercial lending company CapitalSource, began in 2000 and earned him several awards for entrepreneurial success. Both companies later were traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange.

“I want to talk about the future and not the past. When I’m with people who are not involved in politics, the debate is entirely focused on how technology, automation and global interconnection are changing the world profoundly,” he said. “And there’s almost no conversation about that in national politics. Literally almost zero. And that, arguably, is the most important thing for us to talk about from an economic perspective.”

His relatively short time in politics — and the competition of a celebrity president — have set him up for the first major problem of his campaign: name recognition. After news broke of his announcement on July 28, jokes have rippled through the Twitterverse about the little-known congressman from Maryland.

John Delaney gives up Maryland House seat to play Don Quixote in Iowa till 2020,” @theLadyArcher77 tweeted on Aug. 2.

“I live in MD. I follow politics fairly closely. I had never heard of John Delaney. Don’t be distracted. Focus on Kid Rock,” @Corrozi tweeted on Aug. 1.

Mr. Delaney said that is why he is beginning his campaign so early. He started seriously considering the idea this spring, he said, after getting over the shock of Hillary Clinton’s loss in November’s presidential election. After many discussions with his wife and four daughters, he decided to finish his term in Congress and commit fully to a presidential run.

“I just think the opportunity to do more work to do something really big leads to a better outcome,” Mr. Delaney said. “The time frame seems right to me. There are probably a lot of people running for president right now; they’re just not telling anyone.”

Mr. Delaney’s plan is to tour crucial swing states, starting with a trip to Iowa this month. He said he plans to fund his campaign through supporter donations and his own investments but will refuse any help from political action committees.

No other Democrats have officially entered the race, though former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and a number of others have publicly expressed interest.

Mr. Trump already has taken legal steps to file for re-election and has held campaign-style rallies in several key states since taking office.

Meanwhile, candidates are lining up to replace Mr. Delaney in Congress. The Democrats include state House Majority Leader C. William Frick, state Sen. Roger Manno, state Delegate Aruna Miller and wine mogul David Trone. Matt Mossburg, a Republican and former state delegate, also is seeking the 6th Congressional District seat.

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