CUMBERLAND — Del. Joe Vogel said addressing climate issues and energy needs should translate into job opportunities for Western Maryland.
Vogel, 26, a Democrat, announced in the spring his intention to seek the 6th Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. David Trone. Trone announced in May he would not seek reelection and would instead run for U.S. Senate and the seat held by Sen. Ben Cardin, who is retiring after serving 16 years.
At age 25, Vogel won election in November 2022 to Maryland’s House of Delegates for the 17th legislative district that encompasses Rockville and Gaithersburg. Vogel said in a phone interview from his home in Gaithersburg that he hopes to serve the 6th District, which includes Allegany, Washington and Garrett, as well as portions of Frederick and Montgomery counties.
“Someone will have to manufacture those solar panels, those wind turbines and batteries,” he said. “There is no place in America that has a better culture and better workers than Western Maryland.
“One of the bills that I sponsored in the legislature was to help these climate startups to grow and create new businesses in Maryland and to employ people here. I saw a story where West Virginia is getting a ton of jobs from a new plant working on climate technologies. Western Maryland can be at the heart of addressing the climate crisis and we can do that in a way that can bring jobs right here.”
Vogel was born in Uruguay in 1997. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old due to his father’s job as a diplomat for the International Monetary Fund.
Vogel became a U.S. citizen in November 2016 and served on student council in high school.
“I wanted to be a doctor growing up. And I was really involved in different community service efforts,” he said. “I looked at the impact that public servants can make and I continued to get involved in politics and public service.”
He said Congress was not part of his plan.
“When the opportunity opened up, recognizing the urgency I bring to these issues and looking at the rest of the field, I said I’ve got to do this because we need someone who is going to be outspoken on these issues,” Vogel said.
Vogel said he is frustrated by the division in politics today and career politicians.
“We are seeing how broken and divisive it is. We need people who are in it to champion the issues and do the work. Nothing gets done. So the urgency I bring is the urgency of a new generation. But we are building a multi-generational campaign saying ‘enough.’ Enough of the division, toxicity and hatred in our politics.
“The purpose of government is to help solve problems, to work together with the community and mobilize the resources.” Vogel believes things will improve for Western Maryland.
“Cumberland and Allegany County’s best days are still ahead. One promise I make is I will never give up while we go through a difficult period. Those 700 jobs at the (Luke paper) mill are jobs that need to be replaced. A job isn’t just about income, it’s about community. We have to continue to invest.”
In the Maryland House of Delegates, Vogel mounted efforts to address a nationwide teacher shortage, support local newspapers and fight the state’s fentanyl overdose crisis.
Vogel said there is enough fentanyl in the United States to kill “every single American living here.”
“The only bill that passed the legislature last session on fentanyl was a bill that I sponsored. One of the biggest bills on mental health was the bill that I sponsored. Those bills, it was across party lines, received nearly unanimous support.
“I am running for Congress because we are in the midst of an emergency,” he said. “Why did it take until I got to the legislature until we passed a bill like this on fentanyl? Why are we waiting so long on mental health?”
Vogel said drug tests were missing fentanyl and the new bill adds fentanyl to those list of drugs.
“Now hospitals are to report and get the accurate numbers of all drugs but also fentanyl. We were undercounting. If we are not testing for fentanyl in our hospital we don’t know how large this problem is. We need to make data-informed public policy,” he said.
Vogel wants to increase investment in intervention, treatment and rehabilitation.
He has also been trying to save local news outlets who have suffered at the hands of the internet.
“I’m a big fan of local papers everywhere. We are bringing back a bill in the upcoming legislative session. Last year our approach was to try to create a tax credit for small businesses that chose to advertise in local news sources to try to boost their revenue. But there are some challenges there from an implementation standpoint, so we are going to try a different approach this year, which is something New York has done.”
Vogel said the bill will require that a certain percentage of state and local advertising go to local newspapers throughout the state instead of just social media.
“To lose a local news source is devastating. We talk so often about protecting and preserving our democracy. Part of that is oversight and accountability,” he said. “The founding fathers recognized the value of an independent free press in our democracy to hold our leaders to account and keep the public informed. Corruption flourishes when there isn’t that investigatory power.”