By Justin Chermol
As the Democratic party shifts further left, 2020 candidate and former Rep. John Delaney is betting on a pro-business, big-tent platform to appeal to moderates and Republicans disaffected by the divisive Trump presidency.
"The number one issue Democrats care about is winning," the Maryland Democrat told Cheddar Thursday.
One of at least 16 Democrats running for president, Delaney is not exactly a household name. But, like Trump, Delaney is a former CEO and made his fortune as a businessman. (He ranked among the richest members of Congress in a 2018 Roll Call tabulation.) And unlike Trump, he has a history in politics as a bipartisan pragmatist.
Delaney was the first Democrat to announce a presidential campaign back in July of 2017. He did not run for re-election to Congress in 2018 to focus instead on the White House race, although he remains near the bottom of the pack, according to polls.
When Delaney's tenure in Congress overlapped with the Trump Administration, FiveThirtyEight reported he sided with the president 35 percent of the time ー that's the most agreement of any of the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Perhaps nothing illustrates Delaney's complicated relationship with President Trump as much as his views on China: Delaney agrees with Trump that there's a trade imbalance, but disagrees on the solution.
"I think the President is actually right that we have a huge problem with China," Delaney told Cheddar. "But I think he's diagnosed the problem wrong, and I think the way he is going about it is wrong. The problem with China, in a nutshell, is they've acted like pirates."
He cites issues intellectual property theft, discrimination campaigns, and the construction of illegal islands in the South China Sea.
Before entering politics, Delaney was an entrepreneur and CEO of two companies that he took public on the New York Stock Exchange, most recently an asset management firm, Alliance Partners, LLC. The other was the commercial finance company CapitalSource. In 1995, as chief executive of a third company, HealthCare Financial Partners, Delaney was one of the youngest CEOs to ring the NYSE bell. As the GOP coalesces around an anti-socialist message, Delaney's pro-business bona fides could serve him well in a general election.
"I think capitalism is obviously the best business model," Delaney said.
Delaney said he did not support a higher marginal tax rate, as has become a litmus test for the party's left flank, but would support higher taxes on the wealthy in "a different way."
"Now what we need to do is create parity between people who work for a living and people who invest for a living," the former CEO said.
While in Congress, Delaney founded the Artificial Intelligence Caucus. He uses his past expertise to call for a revitalization of tech in America, with the hopes of expanding this sector beyond Silicon Valley and other tech hubs: "Last year, 80 percent of the venture capital went to 50 counties out of 3,100." He went on to say "that does not lead to an equal country."
His moderate ideology is also apparent in his stance on marijuana legalization. He is all in for medical marijuana, he said, but stopped short of endorsing a federal law to legalize the drug, instead preferring to leave it up to the states. At the same time, he agreed with other Democratic candidates who have framed marijuana a social justice issue:
"It's really contributed to the injustice in our criminal justice system, particularly the racial injustice in our criminal justice system."