Two financial advisers running for Congress

CFP John Chrin runs as a Republican for a House seat in Pennsylvania; Neal Simon, CEO of an RIA, seeks Maryland Senate seat as an independent

Oct 19, 2018 @ 1:54 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Few lawmakers on Capitol Hill have backgrounds in the financial advice sector, but next month's midterm elections could add two more.

Voters in Pennsylvania could send the first certified financial planner to Congress. In Maryland, the chief executive of a registered investment adviser is trying to win a Senate seat as an independent.

John Chrin, a partner at Circle Wealth Management, is running as a Republican for a House seat in northeast Pennsylvania. He said his experience working with clients on retirement security and other financial challenges is a perspective Washington needs.

"I think of it almost as someone who's a problem solver for anything related to financial wellness," Mr. Chrin said. "How does that help the average person in our district? It's because I know the intricacies of what goes on and how the policies of the government can positively or negatively impact the individuals who have elected me to go to Congress. I think that's a very powerful thing."

In Maryland, Neal Simon, chief executive of Bronfman Rothschild, is making the case that he can bring a new approach to the Senate because he's not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties, which only fight each other, he said.

Mr. Simon asserts he can find common ground in the middle — similar to what he does every day at the helm of an RIA.

"People in the investment-management world tend to be smart and dynamic and have a lot of different ideas," Mr. Simon said. "My job, as much as anything, was to try to pull them together and develop some level of consensus and to get things done, and that's similar to what I want to do in the Senate."

When it comes to an issue that is central to investment advisers, Mr. Chrin said he supports the Labor Department fiduciary rule, which was vacated by a federal court earlier this year, but also knows how to overcome objections to it.

"Why have it just limited to retirement assets?" he said. "And, the push back that you get from companies isn't that they don't want to do that; they're concerned about litigation. If all we did is provide insulation and protection from class-action lawsuits, you got something that's in place. It's done tomorrow. Effectively what you do is move to something that is the CFP fiduciary standard."

Mr. Simon has not focused on the fiduciary issue.

"This does not come up on the campaign trail," Mr. Simon said. "I've talked to tens of thousands of people in Maryland, and they're focused on health care costs, they're focused on creating high-paying jobs, on our education system, on investments in roads and mass transit. It's really these things that drive me in my campaign."

Both candidates have an uphill climb to get to Washington.

Mr. Chrin is a first-time candidate running against an incumbent Democrat, Rep. Matt Cartwright, in a district that includes Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and formerly voted for both former President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump.

"It's one of the largest swing districts in the entire United States," Mr. Chrin said. "This is a portion of Pennsylvania that helped deliver the country to Donald Trump."

Mr. Chrin is banking on the strong economy to help pull him through.

In Maryland, Mr. Simon is taking on an incumbent Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin, who has served in Congress for decades and has a huge financial advantage.

But Mr. Simon is confident he'll do better than everyone predicts. He has raised $1.6 million and his support has risen from 8% to 18% in recent polls — higher than any other independent candidate in the country, according to Mr. Simon.

"I'm an underdog, but we have a chance to win," Mr. Simon said. "What we've done in Maryland has never been done before. People are starved for something different. They're tired of the partisanship and the divisiveness [in Washington]."

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