Most Montgomery County Districts Still Need Political Candidates

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John Hayden photo

The Feb. 25 deadline for candidates to file to run in Maryland’s 2014 state and county elections is near, and the candidate list in Montgomery County is looking pretty thin.

As of Feb. 17, only two of Montgomery County’s eight State Senate seats will be contested. The other six Senate candidates in MoCo will get a free ride.

The two districts with contested Democratic primaries for Senate, as of Feb. 17 are:

  • District 17 (Gaithersburg and Rockville) Del. Luiz Simmons vs. former Del. Cheryl Kagan.
  • District 18 (Silver Spring, Kensington, Wheaton, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park) Sen. Richard Madaleno vs. Dana Beyer.

Six of MoCo’s Senate candidates will run unopposed in the Democratic Primary. Even worse, it looks like all eight Democratic candidates after the primary will be able to take the summer and fall off. Not a single Republican has filed to run for Senate in MoCo. It’s not as if we have no Republicans living in MoCo, but the Republican Party has few candidates who wish to sign up to be sacrificial lambs. The Republican Central Committee may yet twist some arms to field a few more candidates.

Few Candidates Means No Choice For Voters

The lack of opponents in both primary and general elections for State Senate is not unusual anywhere in Maryland, but it’s not good for the candidates, voters, or democracy. Competition would make all the candidates sharper and more forthcoming on the issues. Given a selection of candidates, rather than just one, voters might over time improve the overall quality of the General Assembly.

The two main reasons for the dearth of Senate candidates: gerrymandering and money. Most of Maryland’s legislative districts are drawn so that one or the other party has a clear edge. It takes a brave candidate to run against heavy odds. Did we say money? It can take $250,000 to $1 million to fund a quality campaign in a contested Senate race in Maryland, whether it’s a primary or a general. Raising that amount of money is daunting for anybody, and nearly impossible for any new or unknown candidate. Of course for incumbents who run unopposed, campaign expenses are not much of a problem.

You don’t need quite so much money to run for House of Delegates, so we sometimes have the luxury of choosing from as many as eight or 10 primary candidates for three delegate seats in a district. In the few districts where both Democrats and Republicans can expect some reasonable prospect of winning, the general election often has three Democrats and three Republicans facing off.

Delegate Races Generate More Interest

As it stands now, there’s plenty of room in Montgomery County for additional delegate candidates in some districts.

The two districts with contested Democratic primaries for Senate also have good competition for the delegate seats. District 17 has six Democrats and one Republican candidates for delegate. District 18 has seven Democrats but no Republicans.

Districts 14 and 15 have a minimum level of competition, four Democrats and one Republican in each district. District 16 has five Democrats and one Republican running. District 20 has the largest field, nine Democrats and one Green candidate. No Republicans.

Districts 19 and District 39 are candidate poor. YOU, reading this at home right now, could provide a public service by running for delegate. District 19,  overwhelmingly Democratic, has only four Democrats running in the delegate primary so far, and none of them are incumbents. Think of it. Three wide open seats and no incumbents! It’s a rare opportunity for newcomers. But I can understand why no Republicans want to run in 19. (Two incumbent delegates have not filed.)

District 39 is the district most in need of candidates. Only three incumbent Democrats running unopposed for delegate, and one Republican. District 39 is north and east of Gaithersburg, that is, Germantown and Montgomery Village.

District 39 doesn’t have the long history of Democratic activism that you find in the southern part of MoCo, Districts 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. Unlike Gaithersburg, Rockville, Chevy Chase and Takoma Park, Germantown has no municipal government and is the most recently developed part of the county. With no local officials and few candidates for legislature, there’s not much reason for the newer residents in Germantown to become active in community or politics.

MoCo County Council

I’ve saved the worst news for last. Put your fingers on the wrist of the County Council race, and you can hardly feel a pulse. As of Feb. 17, we have only one Democratic candidate filed to run in each of the county’s five council districts. Not an indication of a healthy democracy. We’re still waiting for at least one more shoe to drop in Council District 3. No Republicans in any of the five districts.

For the four at-large County Council seats, we have exactly three Democratic candidates. They are incumbents Nancy Floreen and George Levanthal, and newcomer Vivian Malloy. Also, there’s one Republican and one Green bidding for the at-large seats. We can certainly expect at least two or three more Democrats for the at-large seats. Several incumbents have yet to file.

Also Doug Duncan has still not filed officially to run for MoCo County Executive.

For information about how to become a candidate (it’s cheap and easy to sign up, costly and difficult to win) look at the Maryland Election Board web site. You can also find information on voter registration and results of previous elections.

To see a map of Montgomery County legislative districts click here: Montgomery_County dist map

– John Hayden

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