NOTE: Mckayla Wilkes has been endorsed by MDC DSA membership in her run for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 5th Congressional District. The primary is April 28, 2020; the incumbent is Steny Hoyer. She has provided this statement for MDC DSA members.
I was born in Washington D.C. at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, now known as the United Medical Center. My father had unexpectedly passed away months before I was born, leaving my mother in the difficult position of raising their child alone. I intimately understand the trials and tribulations facing low-income families in the Maryland’s Fifth District.
I am running for Congress because regular people deserve real representation. I am tired of career politicians working for the people at the top and leaving everyone else to fight just to survive. I am running because there are policy and priority changes we need to make for regular people to thrive: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, affordable housing, union and labor rights, and criminal justice reform. My drive for such change stems from my experience with different structures of power. I understand the real-life costs of policies created by lawmakers who work for corporate and wealthy interests instead of regular people. I have seen my food assistance slip away just as I got a minimum-wage job. I have experienced the cruel and racist injustice of the criminal justice system. I am not only running to win the seat and represent my community, but also to energize those who have become politically inactive or disenfranchised in the district and around the country. I am running to change the way politics is conducted so that it works for the people rather than corporate donors.
I will work with Democrats in Congress to pass Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act. I support policies that would transition every American uncovered by the Veterans Health Administration or Indian Health Service onto one public Medicare insurance plan over the course of two years. I also will work to ensure that Medicare covers prescription drugs, primary care, maternity care, vision and dental care, reproductive healthcare, doctors' visits, mental health, and lab services. I support eliminating premiums, deductibles, copays, and capping the amount an individual could pay for prescription drugs at $200. Finally, I want to authorize Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies.
Climate change is an existential threat, and carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are the leading cause. The consistent rise in average temperature not only leads to more frequent and severe weather events, it also negatively impacts our crops, our economies, and our public health. I will fight vehemently to ensure we get on the right track toward a sustainable future, which includes reaching a just transition to 100 percent carbon-neutral energy by 2035 in all economic sectors.
To combat climate change, I support the Green New Deal, specifically the expansion of public transit, including buses and trains, with dedicated funding. Public transit is especially important for those in Maryland’s 5th district because there is no Metro and very few bus routes in Charles County. Public transportation is essential for increasing access to opportunities and resources for all residents, but especially for marginalized communities. I support expanding public transit because it benefits the environment by reducing the amount of cars on the road, and it benefits the people by providing free or cheap access to employment, healthcare providers, school, groceries, and many other things essential for living a happy and healthy life.
Lack of affordable housing is near crisis levels in many parts of the county, pushing residents out of their communities. Landlords currently have extraordinary discretion over who gets to stay in their housing. Eviction has devastating emotional, social, and economic costs; we must do everything in our power to bring down eviction rates. Part of this effort is organizing tenants into tenant unions, and another part is acting legislatively to reduce the power of landlords. I will fight for a national tenant’s union registry complete with bargaining rights, and a national rent control policy.
Finally, as someone who has been involved with the criminal justice system, I intimately know the critical flaws and have a vision for what needs to be reformed. The over-policing and disproportionate incarceration of black and brown Americans is an extension of white supremacy. The United States' broken justice system ravages our most vulnerable communities, while for-profit prison executives get rich off cheap prison labor. Families are driven to financial ruin by exorbitant cash bail requirements, and many low-income Americans are pressured into taking unjust plea deals because they don't have the resources to adequately defend themselves in court.
I will fight to end the federal prohibition on marijuana, and expunge the records of people convicted of federal marijuana crimes. I will fight to end the exploitation of prison work and modern-day slavery by expanding federal minimum wage and collective bargaining laws to those who are incarcerated. Additionally, I will fight to demilitarize the police, and put institutions in place to give oversight to the communities who are being policed.
I am running as a proud Democratic socialist. Socialism is the ONLY way forward, and empowering the working class is the ONLY way we can hope to correct course. Our children’s future, the health of our communities, and the livelihoods of working families are all on the line. In my community, socialist policies aren’t just an ideological project, they are the difference between life and death. You are either fighting with us, or against us. I am proud to have the endorsement of the Metro DC DSA because it lets voters know which side I’m on.