Dels. Shelly Hettleman and Dana Stein, both District 11 Democrats, stood at the corner of Greenspring Valley and Falls roads across the street from Greenspring Station Monday for a typical morning of waving signs before the primary election on June 26.
But early in the day, a vehicle pulled up near Hettleman and her husband Jeff and angrily and repeatedly shouted “Heil Hitler! You do not represent us!” She shared the incident on her personal Facebook page Monday afternoon.
“I was just so stunned, I didn’t say anything,” Hettleman told the JT. “I felt a little concerned for my safety, it wasn’t fight or flight, but I did think ‘is this guy going to get out of the car?’”
Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said his organization was horrified by the incident.
“I think we’ve all been troubled by the coarsening of political debate we’ve seen over the last couple years,” he said. “Things have become too personal and in many cases too offensive. I don’t think anyone would question that what she heard yesterday crossed every imaginable line.”
Hettleman, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2014, said while she has received nasty comments from constituents on social media over policy disagreements, it has been only recently that she has experienced such aggression and vitriol face-to-face.
“At the post office last week I happened to be wearing my delegate badge, and there is a man who recognizes me and says in a pretty nasty way that he didn’t like my mailers and told me that I only care about women,” said Hettleman. “I said ‘I think education and the environment and healthcare also apply to men.’ He pushed and pushed, until I politely said ‘thank you’ and was able to extricate myself.”
Hettleman said that calling out incidents like these will be key in avoiding them in the future.
“I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with the positions that I take, and having an honest discussion about their policy differences. That’s what this is about,” she said. “But I think the vitriol and nastiness that is out in public discourse right now is really frightening, and we’re better than that.”