Crypto-curious Dem on the ballot in hot Maryland primary

Quick Take

  • Maryland Democrat Glenn Ivey is pushing for “even-handed” crypto regulation as part of his Congressional campaign in the D.C. suburbs.
  • Crypto executives have taken notice: Web3 Forward PAC, funded indirectly by players from FTX, Blockchain Capital and Multicoin Capital, spent $109,000 to boost Ivey’s campaign.
  • The primary is particularly important because the winner is very likely to win the general election this fall.

A crypto-curious Democrat could take one step closer to Congress this week, when Maryland voters head to the polls for a House primary in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Glenn Ivey, a former Hill staffer and Prince George’s County state attorney, faces former Rep. Donna Edwards in the Democratic primary for Maryland's 4th Congressional District on Tuesday.

The razor-thin race won’t hinge on crypto policy — candidates are focused on more mainstream Democratic issues. But Ivey's position on crypto is still relevant because the election comes at a time when regulation is heating up in Washington and crypto moguls are pouring cash into the American political system as a way to wield influence. And the winner is likely to win the general election — President Joe Biden won 82 percent of the vote in the district in 2020. 

Ivey is part of a growing contingent of crypto-curious and crypto-friendly candidates running in the 2022 midterms. Peter Thiel-backed GOP Senate hopefuls J.D. Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona talk about crypto on the trail, as does Vance’s Democratic opponent Rep. Tim Ryan, and former Bitcoin Foundation Executive Director Bruce Fenton who is running as a Republican for Senate in New Hampshire. 

Ivey is far from an outsider candidate. His roles in government include chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and assistant U.S. attorney under U.S. Attorney Eric Holder. Ivey was endorsed by The Washington Post Editorial Board in May. Plus, Ivey’s wife, Jolene Ivey, is a member of the Prince George's County Council, and his son serves as a Maryland state lawmaker.

“I oppose efforts to ban cryptocurrency,” Ivey wrote on his campaign website. “This innovation should not be stifled before it has a chance to mature and add value to the U.S. economy. It is important that we not over-regulate emerging technologies that have the potential to become a critical driver of American growth, innovation, and global competitiveness.”

Ivey’s campaign declined to answer more specific crypto policy questions, like whether he supports the sweeping crypto bill released by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cynthia Lummis last month. Instead, a spokesperson directed The Block to the crypto platform on Ivey’s website. The page acknowledges the technology is new and that the “full scope of its applications is not yet fully understood.” 

“America should be careful not to cede global financial and technology leadership in this sector by making it impossible for home-grown innovation to flourish,” Ivey wrote. “In Congress, I will work closely with industry experts and other leaders to make sure that regulation is thoughtful and even-handed.” Ivey did not report owning digital assets on a financial disclosure.

Ivey and Edwards lead a field of nine candidates running in the primary, after Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown gave up his seat to run for state attorney general. The newly-redrawn district includes parts of Prince George’s County, among the wealthiest majority-Black counties in the United States, and Anne Arundel County.

Edwards was first elected to the House seat in 2008 and gave it up to run for Senate in 2016. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

The race is close: a Change Research poll from June showed Ivey leading Edwards with 33 percent of support versus 28 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, Jewish Insider reported. The poll was commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, which backs Edwards. Right now, there are no women in Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation. 

“Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be the next Congress person,” said Susan Turnbull, who served as the Maryland state Democratic Party chair from 2009 to 2010, and was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018. Turnbull has donated to Ivey’s campaign.

“The primary is the race, and that's why I think there is an extremely aggressive TV buy by both campaigns, and also by outside independent expenditures on behalf and opposing both candidates,” Turnbull added.

Outside groups have spent nearly $7.9 million on the 4th District primary. The bulk of the spending — $5.9 million — came from the United Democracy Project super PAC, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit that tracks political spending. The group has spent heavily against Edwards and is linked to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Ivey’s crypto platform has drawn a crypto PAC into the race, too. Web3 Forward reported spending $109,000 to support Ivey in the final weeks. It’s a relatively small expenditure compared with spending by the United Democracy Project and other outside groups, but it signals the crypto industry is keeping an eye on the candidate.

Web3 Forward had two donors on its second-quarter fundraising report. The PAC reported receiving $1 million from GMI PAC in two installments in May and June, and Solana Labs COO Rajiv Gokal gave $5,000. (Web 3 Forward and GMI PAC did not comment). 

GMI PAC, Web3 Forward’s primary funder, is a super PAC launched by CMS Holdings co-founder Dan Matuszewski, Framework Ventures co-founder Vance Spencer and FTX Digital Markets CEO Ryan Salame. The PAC has received cash from executives at Coinbase, BlockFi, BKCM and Blockchain Capital, along with Multicoin Capital and Messari.

Ivey has also drawn attention from crypto policy advocates in Washington. DeFi Education Fund Policy Director Miller Whitehouse-Levine lauded Ivey as “open-minded” on decentralized finance issues. The organization aims to educate policymakers and counts Uniswap among its funders. 

“The U.S. would be well-served with leaders like Glenn Ivey who take an open-minded approach to digital assets and are eager to act so that the U.S. remains a leader in this emerging space,” Whitehouse-Levine told The Block in a statement. “We're also encouraged by the increasing number of candidates who are willing to work with DeFi leaders to build a responsive regulatory regime."

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