By Melissa Brown
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
It isn’t easy to pronounce Chrysovalantis Kefalas. That is why he tells people to call him “Chrys.”
Kefalas, the deputy legal counsel to former governor Bob Ehrlich, is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate to fill the seat that Barbara Mikulski (D) is vacating in 2016.
The 35-year-old lawyer from Baltimore sees himself as a different kind of candidate because he has not held elective office before and believes he can rise above the sometimes nasty political climate in Congress these days.
He is focused on creating a smart national defense policy and increasing cyber security. He also wants to end the war on drugs and work on more treatment for drug addiction.
“I’m not a career politician,” Kefalas said. “I’m just going to be me, unfiltered, direct and unafraid to cut through the crap and get things done.”
While working in the Ehrlich administration, Kefalas helped the governor move Maryland towards treating drug addiction as an illness instead of a crime.
“Looking around at folks who are currently serving in office and vying for Senate, I thought my experience in fighting for equal rights was uniquely positioned to better their performance and deliver for the people of Maryland,” Kefalas said.
Other potential candidates for the Republican nomination are former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Douglas and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-1st District. Kefalas faces a big challenge if he wins the nomination running as a Republican in heavily Democratic Maryland. He would face off against either Donna Edwards or Chris Van Hollen, two representatives from the Washington suburbs who are vying for the Democratic nomination.
Legislative experience isn’t the only thing that sets Kefalas apart from the other candidates. Kefalas is also hoping to be the first openly gay Republican elected to the Senate.
“No openly gay candidate, period, has ever won a major party’s nomination in the state or nation,” Kefalas said. “My candidacy represents a test: Can we focus on who the candidates are and who they represent and what they bring to the table? I think my candidacy ends identity politics.”
Kefalas supports marriage equality, which he began fighting for in 2008. “I support equal rights and equal dignity for people to marry the person they love,” Kefalas said. He said he belongs to a political party that generally opposes same-sex marriage because he believes in the GOP’s principles of “individual liberty, equal rights [and] free enterprise.”
Mark McDonald, a senior political science major at Goucher College who is interning with Kefalas’s campaign, said he believes Kefalas is the best candidate for the Senate seat because “he isn’t doing this for a certain political purpose, he’s doing this because he loves the state of Maryland and his country.”
It won’t be easy trying to win the nomination for a party that has a long history of supporting traditional marriage.
Michael Esteve, a candidate for the Bowie City Council and the chair of the Maryland Chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said not all Republicans are against gay rights.
“The party has always had a dynamic relationship with LGBT issues,” Esteve said. “When you look at the way the gay marriage referendum went in Maryland, three of the largest Republican counties in Maryland voted for Mitt Romney but also for gay marriage.”
Regardless of the issue, though, supporters say Kefalas is willing to acknowledge when he believes the GOP is wrong or falls short.
“He isn’t afraid to criticize failed policies the Democrats implemented and he is most certainly not afraid to admit where his own party has failed to act as well,” McDonald added. “He is focused on finding solutions to the important issues.”
As the election draws closer candidates on both sides of the aisle are fundraising. According to the Federal Election Commission, in July 2015 Kefalas has raised over $80,000 while Van Hollen had almost $4 million in contributions.