Kurt Elsasser is a 25-year-old Republican from Hagerstown running to represent the 6th District in Congress, but he’s not like other Republicans, he said.
“I’m running as a Republican and I am Republican … I’m just … evolved to the 21st century,” Elsasser said in a recent interview. “I look at it from a different perspective than an old-time Republican or old-time Democrat. There needs to be bipartisan agreement on a lot of things.”
He lists a couple: family leave and immigration.
“I support family leave,” Elsasser said. “This is a different generation. Men are no longer just the breadwinners.”
On immigration, he says “when it all boils down, aside from government and politics, we’re all human beings.”
While he doesn’t believe people should be in the country illegally, he also thinks politicians need to operate with a basic “moral respect.”
“Should people be able to live here illegally? Absolutely not,” Elsasser said. “But ripping them out of their houses and deporting them? Probably not the best idea either. …That doesn’t give you a good reputation to say, ‘We’re going to rip you out and throw you over the fence.’”
He said the current immigration system is “so political” and complicated that few people understand it. Undocumented residents who are contributing to society don’t understand how to become documented.
Elsasser said he supported welfare reform — “unfortunately, the system gets abused” — to save money, which could be reinvested to simplify the country’s immigration system.
“You have homeless citizens, you have homeless veterans, you have the opioid epidemic … but we can’t get that funding because we’re still paying somebody who’s capable of working but has just made it a career to milk the system,” Elsasser said. “How do we home in on this and break the lies and people who are cheating the system to give it to the people who really need it?”
He thinks hard work should be rewarded, noting that he has “been through a lot,” growing up with alcoholic parents and not much else.
“I am someone who came from poverty. I grew up with plywood floors,” Elsasser said.
Elsasser grew up in Maryland on the Eastern Shore, before moving to Carroll County, where he graduated from high school.
After living in North Carolina during his military career, Elsasser and his wife settled in Hagerstown, where her parents live.
Earlier this year, Elsasser was a finalist for a vacant position on the Hagerstown City Council. That was his first brush with politics, but Elsasser said his age should not deter voters.
“I know that’s a lot younger for people to file to run for Congress,” he said. “But I’m a combat veteran with the United States Marine Corps.”
He served in Afghanistan and was actively enlisted for 3½ years before being medically discharged in February 2013.
The issues he cares about most deeply involve veterans.
“I was someone who felt the effects of congressional budget cuts on the military while I was in,” Elsasser said. “…It’s something as a veteran that I have a soft spot for. I feel like I can push and pursue to make sure what needs to be done gets done.”
He thinks government could be scaled back and he believes in term limits for Congress.
With Rep. John Delaney (D-6th) announcing his candidacy for president in July, there’s a crowded race to fill his seat.
Four Republicans have launched campaigns: Elsasser, Amie Hoeber, Lisa Lloyd and Bradley Rohrs.
And seven Democrats have announced candidacies: Andrew Duck, George English, Nadia Hashimi, Chris Hearsey, Roger Manno, Aruna Miller and David Trone.
The 2018 primary election is June 26, and the general election is Nov. 6.
Members of Congress serve two-year terms and are paid $174,000 a year.