Montgomery County, MD, Candidates Needed As Filing Deadline Looms

(My apologies to District 39 for leaving them out of my original report. Thanks to Cheryl Kagan for calling that to my attention. It’s particularly embarrassing to me because I made the same error on my other blog several years ago, leaving out a MoCo legislative district. Sen. Madaleno caught it that time. I have to keep reminding myself that we had a district added due to population growth somewhere along the line. Was it after the 1990 Census or the 2000 Census? Also, it wasn’t so long ago (in dog years) that District 14 was mostly in Howard County. When I was a precinct chairman in prehistoric times, MoCo had six legislative districts, and The City was still the legislative powerhouse.)

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MARYLAND STATE AND COUNTY ELECTIONS are approaching fast, with some offices still lacking for candidates. Let’s take a snapshot of democracy in one Maryland county a scant five months ahead of the June 2014 primary.

As I write this, we have 11 working days left for candidates to file for office, and lots of offices to choose from. The deadline is Wednesday, February 25, at 9 p.m.

Where are the candidates?

In Montgomery County, we’re governed by a nine-member County Council. At the close of business Friday, we had exactly six candidates filed to run for nine Council seats. We’ll take a closer at the County Council situation in a minute.

Also in Montgomery County, we have  seven EIGHT legislative districts for the Maryland General Assembly. Each district elects one state senator and three members to the House of Delegates.

At close of business Friday, we had only one candidate for State Senate in seven of those districts. And one district has no Senate candidate at all.

Long story short, if the election were held today, there would be no real election for State Senate or County Council. You need a minimum of two candidates for each office, or you don’t have a contested election.

Political gamesmanship

Montgomery is a county of one million souls, give or take, and nearly every adult citizen is eligible to run. The filing period started a year ago. You would think that out of a million people, it wouldn’t be that hard to find 18 to run for County Council and 16 to run for State Senate, so that we could have contested elections.

Right now, it looks like we won’t have enough candidates to fill all the offices, let alone have contested elections. But looks are deceiving. The truth is, some politicians are playing games. Call it a game of political chicken, or cat-and-mouse, or hide-and-seek. We can expect a flurry of filing activity in the next week and a half.

County executive

Some current office-holders may legitimately still be trying to decide whether to run for reelection or try for another office. Some delegates and senators are known to covet a County Council seat. Some Council members would like a promotion to county executive. One candidate, Phil Andrews, is giving up his safe seat on the Council to challenge incumbent Executive Ike Leggett. It’s not inconceivable that one more Council member could jump into the executive race.

Speaking of county executive, former County Exec. Doug Duncan has been acting like a candidate for months. Mr. Duncan, why haven’t you filed? What are you waiting for?

For the record, one Republican named Jim Shalleck has filed for county executive. Unless otherwise noted, all the candidates mentioned here are Democrats. At present there is not a single Republican office holder in Montgomery County, and that’s not likely to change in the 2014 election.

The General Assembly

Regarding the State Senate situation: I know that at least one more candidate will file for State Senate in District 17 (Cheryl Kagan) and one more in District 18 (Dana Beyer). That would make two contested Democratic primaries, and most likely six districts with one Senate candidate running unopposed.

The District 19 Senate seat is still not spoken for. Sen. Roger Manno, I’m looking at you. What are you thinking?

The good news is, we have multiple candidates for House of Delegates in all seven eight districts. Most of the contests will be dominated by incumbents, as per usual. Lets go to the numbers:

District 14: Boring. Only four candidates, and the one newcomer will have an uphill battle against the three incumbent delegates. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more Republicans take a fling here. A good Republican candidate, if one could be found, might do well in some parts of District 14. But overall, it’s a Democratic district.

District 15: Probably boring. We have five delegate candidates, four Democrats and one Republican. Advantage goes to the three Democratic incumbents. If a Republican were to win anywhere in Montgomery County this year, District 15 would be the place. But I don’t think so.

District 16: A free-for-all. Five Democrats and one Republican have filed for delegate, and none of them are incumbents. Del. Susan Lee is running unopposed for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Brian Frosh, who’s running for attorney general. Wouldn’t be surprised to see more candidates before it’s over in District 16.

District 17: One seat up for grabs: Incumbents Kumar Barve and Jim Gilchrist are probably a lock. Four other Democrats are vying for the third delegate seat, made available because Del. Luiz Simmons is running for State Senate.

District 18: No lack of interest. Seven Democrats in the delegate race. Advantage incumbents, but an upset is possible in a field of seven candidates for three seats. A Senate contest between Sen. Richard Madaleno and Dana Beyer could spark some interest in District 18. Advantage Madaleno.

District 19: Mystery? Confusion? Three Democrats have filed for delegate. None of them is an incumbent. The incumbent delegates and the incumbent senator have yet to file. What’s going on? Del. Sam Arora has apparently decided not to run for reelection, so there will be at least one open delegate seat. Possibility of a shakeup in District 19. Do you think somebody here might be eyeing a County Council seat? Who knows how many more candidates will file by Feb. 25?

District 20: Lots of possibilities. Nine Democrats and one Green candidate have filed so far. Because Del. Heather Mizeur is running for governor, there’s at least one opening here. Del. Sheila Hixon, chair of Ways and Means, is a lock. Tom Hucker is a lock too, unless he decides to run for County Council. David Moon of Maryland Juice fame has not yet filed. No Republicans need apply in this most solidly Democratic district in the county.

District 39: Maybe the most boring of all. The only Democrats to file here are the all-incumbent slate for Senate and House of Delegates. Unless more Democrats file, District 39 will have a completely uncontested Democratic primary in June. The one Republican candidate for delegate in the district has $118 in the bank.

County Council incumbents, what are you thinking?

Now back to the Montgomery County Council race, as promised. The County Council representing one million people breaks down like this: Four Council members are elected at large, and five are elected from districts.

The Council situation is in flux, with only 11 days left to the filing deadline. Looks like political musical chairs, to me. NOBODY has filed to run in Districts 1 or 3. Districts 2 and 5 have only ONE candidate, and neither of them is an incumbent. Going to be a lot of 11th hour filing in Districts 1, 2, 3, 5. Only incumbent Nancy Navarro in District 4 is a lock. She’s unopposed at this time.

Only three candidates have filed for the four at-large seats. None of the at-large incumbents has filed yet, although all four are thought to be interested in running for something, somewhere. One of them might yet run for county executive.

I suspect that a number of Council hopefuls are hanging back, waiting to see what the incumbents will do. Those considering filing have a choice of running in a district seat or an at-large seat.

(A side note: of the three at-large candidates who’ve filed, I see only one as a plausible  winner. I hate to dismiss any candidate this early in the process. But one of the at-large candidates is a Republican, and another is a Green. The at-large part of the council election in Montgomery County almost rules out anyone who’s not a Democrat.)

And that’s today’s snapshot of democracy at work in one American county. For those reading in other states or other parts of the world, be advised that Montgomery County is in many ways unique. At the same time, it’s similar in some respects to other large suburban counties.

Anyone can run

It’s a free country. If you’re an adult and a citizen, you’re probably as eligible as anyone else, including the incumbents, to run for public office. It’s your right, and by running, you provide a service to the cause of democracy.

All it costs is a $50 fee to file for General Assembly, and you have to file in person in Annapolis. If filing in Annapolis seems like too much trouble, then the job isn’t for you. Being a member of the General Assembly means living out of a suitcase in Annapolis most of the winter.

For only a $25 fee, you could file for County Council at the county election offices on Route 355 between Gaithersburg and Germantown.

For more information on how to become a candidate, see the Maryland State Board of Elections, or the Montgomery County Elections Board.  Good luck to everyone who runs.

It’s now Monday morning. I wonder who will join the political fray by the end of the week.

– John Hayden

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2 thoughts on “Montgomery County, MD, Candidates Needed As Filing Deadline Looms

    • You’d have to come back and live in MoCo, Mark. County Commissioner is not a bad gig. Pay is about $110,000 a year, I believe. Pay for a state legislator is about $43,000, but due to go up slightly.

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