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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Meet the state lawmakers running for Congress: Del. Joe Vogel

Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) at his desk on the House floor. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Eight state legislators are running in congressional primaries in three separate districts this spring. Maryland Matters is checking in with all of them to discuss how they are balancing their legislative work with the imperative to be out on the campaign trail, along with the issues they are emphasizing in the General Assembly and on the campaign trail.

This is the second installment of our series. We’ll also have deeper looks into the congressional races and more information on other candidates as we get closer to the May 14 primaries.

Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) appears to resemble a teenager when he sits among his colleagues on the House of Delegates floor. He turned 27 years old on Jan. 4, making him the youngest member currently serving in the General Assembly.

But Vogel is guided by his lived experiences, which came into play last week when he spoke in support of House Bill 558, a measure to create a health education framework in the state. Some of the topics the bill addresses include family life and human sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientation, and mental and emotional health.

“I grew up seeing a whole lot of curriculum and content in my schools about straight, heterosexual couples. That didn’t make me straight,” he said before the House voted 97-36 in favor of the bill. “If I had gone to school at a time when my curriculum reflected my identity, reflected who I was [and] respected me, it would have had a profound impact on my life.”

Less than two years ago, Vogel made history as one of two members of Gen Z (those born from 1997 onward) elected to the General Assembly. The same year, he graduated from Harvard University with a masters degree in public policy.

Vogel wants to continue making history as the first openly gay man to represent Maryland in Congress. He’s one of 16 Democrats competing in the May 14 primary to succeed Rep. David Trone (D) in the 6th District.

Beyond his status as one of the first openly gay members of the General Assembly, in his legislative work and on the campaign trail, Vogel often amplifies the intersectionality of his Jewish and Latino ethnicity. His grandparents fled Europe just before the outbreak of World War II, and his family immigrated from Uruguay to Rockville when he was a toddler because of political repression there.

Although Vogel is younger than his opponents, he has experience working on Capitol Hill, as an intern for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and on national campaigns, including those for Cory Booker, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and on the campaign staff of state Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), who represents the same legislative district as Vogel.

“I’m one of the most experienced legislators running in this race,” he said in a recent interview. “Watch the work that I’ve been able to do here in the legislature. Watch the work that I’m continuing to do here in the legislature.”

The 6th congressional district includes Western Maryland and portions of Montgomery County. The seat became open due to Trone seeking the U.S. Senate seat after longtime Sen. Ben Cardin (D) chose to not seek reelection.

If Vogel succeeds in the primary, he will face one of seven Republicans competing, a field that includes former Dels. Dan Cox and Neil C. Parrott. One Green Party candidate and one unaffiliated contender also plan to run in the Nov. 5 general election.

Various national and local Latino organizations, local officials and unions have endorsed Vogel’s candidacy. He’s No. 2 when it comes to fundraising in the Democratic primary.

“Joe Vogel doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk — literally,” Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement. “When flight attendants took to the picket lines to fight for fair contracts, Joe walked alongside us. He stood with us, and we are proud to stand with him. Congress needs more members who will take real action on behalf of working people.”

On the campaign trail, Vogel highlights some of the legislation he sponsored last year that was signed into law. House Bill 811 was one of the first bills in the nation requiring hospitals during toxicology screenings to test for fentanyl. The bill is named after Josh Siems, a Baltimore native who died on his 31st birthday in October 2022.

Another bill he sponsored last year that became law was the creation of a Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention, which seeks to analyze and prevent hate crimes and study related laws.

This year, Vogel is the primary sponsor of 18 bills, with several focused on health, employees’ rights and education.

A few of the bills that have already been reviewed by various House committees include House Bill 535; which would establish a task force to address lack of access to attainable housing for educators; House Bill 699, which would require law enforcement agencies to notify property owners to remove graffiti or symbols of hate from their properties; and House Bill 949, which would allow state employees to use up to four hours of leave for a cancer screening.

Vogel spent this past weekend campaigning in Oakland in Garrett County, Cumberland and LaVale in Allegany County, and in his home county, with stops in Clarksburg and Gaithersburg.

Vogel praised his legislative and campaign teams for keeping his schedule together as he balances his legislative duties, including serving on the House Ways and Means Committee, with the demands of the campaign. But Vogel said he also made a promise to his constituents.

“I made it very clear to my constituents that my top priority is legislating,” he said. “I’m not missing session days. We’re doing what we can to make it all work.”

Read our previous story on Del. Mike Rogers (D-Anne Arundel) here.


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Meet the state lawmakers running for Congress: Del. Joe Vogel