Rep. John Delaney, a 54-year-old moderate Maryland Democrat and former banking executive, said Friday in a Washington Post op-ed that he is running for president against Donald Trump, entering the 2020 race a full three years before the election.
"It is time for us to rise above our broken politics and renew the spirit that enabled us to achieve the seemingly impossible," Delaney said in the piece. "This is why I am running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States."
Delaney, a congressman with no national profile outside Washington, DC, will forgo both a run for Maryland governor in 2018 and a run for reelection in the state's 6th congressional district, focusing solely on 2020. ("No games, no cat-and-mouse, no backup plan at the 11th hour if a focus group goes badly," he wrote Friday.)
His entry comes about 20 months before the point at which Democratic candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton announced their campaigns in 2016.
Maryland Democrats had heard rumors for weeks that Delaney was increasingly considering a presidential bid. A number of Maryland news outlets and blogs have been closely monitoring developments on the Delaney story, with one site, Maryland Matters, dubbing Friday "D-Day" in Maryland politics, "the day that Rep. John Delaney announces his political plans for 2018 — and perhaps beyond." Maryland Matters and Bethesda Magazine reported first this week on Delaney's mounting interest in 2020 and on Friday's forthcoming op-ed.
The news makes Delaney the first Democrat to openly declare his interest in a presidential bid. It also puts a centrist, pro-business, self-funding Democrat out early in a primary that will come down in part to the progressive voters that backed Bernie Sanders and nearly upended Hillary Clinton's chances at the nomination.
"As a progressive businessman, I’ve made it a priority to be solutions-oriented and have been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress," Delaney's announcement reads. "I’ve done this by simultaneously celebrating the power of our free-market economy while also insisting that there is a role for government to set goals and rules of the road and take care of those who are left behind."
In Congress, Delaney caucuses with the centrist "New Democrats," and considers himself to be socially liberal but fiscally prudent. Since his election in 2012, he has championed a wide range of legislation, including measures to create access to universal pre-K, form an independent commission for redistricting, reduce the corporate tax rate, institute a federal tax on carbon pollution, and establish a new aid program to provide financial assistance and benefits to coal workers.
In the Washington Post piece, Delaney identified a number of priorities for his campaign "focused on the facts and the future": job creation in an economy driven by technological innovation and globalization; infrastructure investment; small businesses; and changes to programs in education, health care, and immigration.
"My approach goes beyond party and partisanship; I am first and foremost an American," Delaney said. "I believe in a common national identity. I love our ambition, our values, what we represent to the world and our ability to use our greatness for a good and noble purpose. It is my love of country that compels me to behave differently in politics — work to do big things, seek solutions and compromise, respect the privilege of public service and be optimistic about the world."
In Delaney's view, Democrats close to him said, there is room in the race for a candidate who can run as a job creator who understands the need for regulation in business but also the value of the free market — a strong general election candidate if he can weather a primary, as a person familiar with his plans put it on Thursday.
Asked about the idea of a New Democrat entering the 2020 race first, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee Adam Green replied, "John who?"
Another consideration for Delaney, whose estimated net worth is more than $91 million, came down to a question of self-funding: If he's going to spend millions of his own money, better to do it on a national level, as two Democrats put it.
"He was never gonna run for governor," said a top Maryland Democrat, noting that the sitting Republican in office, Gov. Larry Hogan, has a strong approval rating and would be tough to beat for any Democrat. "It sounds crazy, but it’s not as crazy if you take a second to think about it. There is no Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama this time."
Even with more than three years to go until the next presidential election, Delaney has been considering the idea of a 2020 bid for a number of months now.
His political advisers have included strategists at SKDKnickerbocker, the prominent Washington firm, as well as friends from a large cross-section of the political word. The invite list for his annual Christmas party ranges from financial executives and leaders in the Catholic Church to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.