Milad Pooran was honeymooning in the South Pacific last summer as politicians in Washington were turning a deadline to raise the U.S. debt limit into another opportunity for partisan brinkmanship.
A critical care physician from
"To see in the newspapers the American politicians airing our national dirty laundry was frankly embarrassing," he says. "I didn't think the country was looking at the right issues."
So began Pooran's quest for the Democratic nomination in Maryland's 6th Congressional District, the Western Maryland seat long held by Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlettbut redrawn last year by
Pooran, 35, faces an uphill battle against two candidates with higher profiles: state Sen. Rob Garagiola of
And Pooran had to stop campaigning just before Christmas to deploy with his Air National Guard unit to Germany, where he spent five weeks as a flight surgeon bringing critically wounded troops back to the United States for treatment.
But he has won the support of fellow physician
Encouraged, he says, by internal polls that show much of the electorate still undecided, he has sunk $200,000 of his own money — "basically, all my nest egg" — into his campaign.
Even with the infusion, he lags well behind Delaney, who has loaned himself $1.3 million this year. And the Maryland members of the progressive caucus, Reps. Elijah E. Cummingsand
"It's absolutely a challenge," Pooran says. "But at the end of the day, I think the voters will decide who will best represent them."
With the primary less than a week away, he says his slogan has been "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear."
That would be the driver's-side mirror: He has attempted to run to the left of Delaney and Garagiola.
Pooran describes President
He blames the government's fiscal straits not on entitlement programs, but on tax cuts enacted during the administration ofGeorge W. Bushand "10 years of wars that we borrowed money to fight."
He would make Medicare and Social Security solvent not through "entitlement reform" — raising the age of eligibility or cutting benefits — but by applying FICA taxes to all wages, not just the first $110,100, and also to capital gains.
Pooran describes jobs as "the biggest issue in this country right now." He speaks of expanding the availability of credit to small- and medium-sized businesses, investing in education, research, and infrastructure, and restoring a "robust" regulatory system to protect against a repeat of the financial collapse of 2008.
Colleague Kyle Wiebold says Pooran "has no agenda, other than just wanting to do the right thing."
"He's not beholden certainly to any particular ideology or certainly any interest group," says Wiebold, a registered nurse at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration Medical Center. "He really represents mainstream America. It's almost like a 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,' only with less naivete."
He stresses his ties to the 6th District, which includes Western Maryland and parts of
"I've been within this community," he says. "I understand the needs of this community. I understand the stresses that are out there."
Pooran lives in Jefferson in
He was in
Joe Banks, a medic who worked with Pooran at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad, Iraq, describes him as cool under pressure.
"When everyone else is kind of freaking out and it's real busy, Milad has a way of calming everyone down and doing whatever is necessary to get the job done," he said. "It is inspiring, actually, to work with him."
Born: Jan. 8, 1977, in Iran; immigrated to the United States, Nov. 23, 1983; raised in Beltsville
Education: University of Maryland, 1995; University of Maryland School of Medicine, 2000
Residence: Jefferson, Md.
Occupation: Critical care physician; contractor to the VA Medical Center, Martinsburg, W.Va.; lieutenant colonel, District of Columbia Air National Guard