If presidential election cycles were like Wall Street — and maybe they are, with vigorous, nasty competition, unexpected twists, big money and sharp reactions to major headlines — former Congressman John Delaney rang the opening bell on the 2020 race.
In the now-cramped field of Democratic contenders seeking to become the 46th U.S. president, Delaney was the first to jump into the fray on July 28, 2017 — 189 days after President Donald Trump was sworn in. Delaney, then the representative from Maryland’s Sixth District and with no national profile, announced in a Washington Post op-ed that he would forgo running for a fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives to join the race for the White House.
“The current administration is making us less prosperous and less secure,” wrote Delaney. “I’m running because I have an original approach to governing and an economic policy that can put us on a different course.”
Delaney is perhaps the candidate most familiar with that Wall Street bell — he lists among his top bona fides the co-founding of two publicly traded companies before he turned 40. At one point, he was the youngest chief executive with a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
The first, HealthCare Financial Partners, offered financing to mid-sized healthcare providers. The company sold to Heller Financial for about $483 million in April 1999, according to the Baltimore Sun. He partnered to start a second lending firm in 2000, this time to finance small businesses. Delaney was first elected to Congress in 2012 while he was CEO of CapitalSource, which was eventually merged with PacWest Bancorp.
A New Jersey native, wealthy businessman and proud son of a union electrician, Delaney surprised Maryland Democrats when he first ran after the Sixth District was redrawn in the party’s favor. A Washingtonian profile of Delaney from that year described a “nasty, expensive primary campaign” that ended with Delaney’s besting another candidate seen as the next in line by party officials.
Seven years later, Delaney’s presidential candidacy could again be viewed as unique. He was one of the wealthiest representatives in Congress when he served, according to a March 2018 Roll Call analysis. He declared nearly three years before the 2020 Democratic convention, and has been barnstorming through Iowa ever since in advance of the caucuses in February.
Yet despite his 29 campaign trips in the past two years, he is not polling at the same levels as many of his opponents. The Des Moines Register reported this week that many Iowans still don’t know him or remain undecided about him. A mid-June Iowa poll showed 1 percent of respondents rated Delaney as their top choice, and 1 percent said he was their second.
Part of what sets Delaney apart and makes him a somewhat divisive figure in the progressive crowd are his centrist leanings, though he has said he sees himself as a progressive. Notably, his opposition to the “Medicare for all” policy espoused by other Democrats got him booed by California Democrats this month.
“The current health-care system needs improving, not dismantling — by Republicans or by Democrats,” Delaney wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece on June 6. “That’s why I have proposed a mixed-model universal plan that would guarantee health-care coverage through a government plan but would leave Medicare alone and leave private insurance available for those who wish to buy it, with limited tax credits if they opt out of the new plan entirely.”
Another policy proposal: Delaney touts a $2 trillion infrastructure plan on his campaign website. The plan includes a $200 billion boost to federal highway funding — funded by gas taxes and a corporate tax rate hike — and the creation of a $60 billion climate infrastructure fund to help state and local governments invest in resilience projects.
In a June interview with Vox Media, Delaney outlined his foreign policy plan. He told Vox he believes in pairing free trade agreement with domestic infrastructure programs, he would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and push for the term to be extended several decades, and he wants to combat China’s economic practices, from intellectual property theft to currency manipulation. He also wants to create a new department of cybersecurity, with a Cabinet-level department head.
Delaney preaches bipartisanship, and his voting record in Congress reflects his willingness to work with Republicans. He supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He voted for rolling back banking regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act, though he has defended this vote in a HuffPost interview where he emphasized easing regulatory pressure for small and mid-size banks, echoing his private financing career.
About John Delaney
▪ Current or most recent position: Delaney represented Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District from 2013 to 2019.
▪ Other elected offices: None.
▪ Occupation: An entrepreneur, Delaney founded two publicly traded companies before holding public office.
▪ Education: Columbia University, B.S., 1985; Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1988
▪ Age: 56
▪ Residence: Potomac, Maryland
▪ Family: Delaney is married to regulator attorney April McClain-Delaney. They have four daughters.
▪ Campaign website: johndelaney.com
▪ Small donors: According to the Federal Elections Commission, about 7 percent of contributions from individuals to Delaney’s campaign came from donors who gave less than $200.
▪ Big donors: Delaney’s biggest donor is himself — he’s loaned himself more than $15 million of his personal wealth. Other top donors include Frank Williams, executive at Evolent Health; Chandler Tagliabue, philanthropist and wife of former NFL commissioner Paul Talgliabue; investment banker Craig R. Stine; and agribusiness distributor John Thacher.
▪ Fun fact: A big Bruce Springsteen fan, his favorite song is “Thunder Road,” and he’s seen the Boss in concert more than 30 times.
▪ On the issues: Delaney has taken positions on cybersecurity, infrastructure investment, healthcare and gun regulations, among others. He supports requiring background checks for every gun sale, making Election Day a federal holiday and federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Sources of biographical information: The John Delaney Campaign, The Washingtonian, The New York Times, CNN