Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Council District 4 Special Election Preview, Part Three

At this moment, four candidates have declared their intention to run in the District 4 special election: Board of Education Member Nancy Navarro, Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19), former Montgomery County Civic Federation President Cary Lamari and former Red Cross official Chris Paladino.

Nancy Navarro

Last year, Navarro was the favorite until Don Praisner got in. Her campaign attracted more endorsements than the other campaigns combined. She raised more money ($104,221) than the other campaigns combined and starts this race with roughly $40,000 in the bank.

After coming within five points of a quasi-incumbent, Navarro is a battle-hardened candidate who knows what to expect from her opponents. Ben Kramer may peel away a substantial chunk of the business community, but Navarro will still enjoy support from labor, the immigrant and civil rights communities, and large parts of the district’s left. Best of all, her crack campaign operation is easily rebuilt (including the return of super-smart campaign manager David Moon) and she can rely on many of her friends from last year.

What Navarro must do to win
Even though Navarro won almost as many precincts (21) as Mr. Praisner (22), she lost because her precincts had lower turnout rates. Navarro must boost those rates a few points. That means contacting all of the elements of her base multiple times and getting them to come out strong. Navarro is the only candidate who can afford to lose Leisure World and still win, but she must retain the foothold she established there last time.

Ben Kramer

Kramer has run for office three times. He lost a District 2 County Council race to a Republican in 1994, lost an at-large County Council race in 1998 and won the third slot in the District 19 Delegate race by 307 votes.

There are 23 precincts in both State District 19 and County District 4. In 2006, here is how Ben Kramer fared in those precincts:

3rd place: 4 precincts
4th place: 8 precincts
5th place: 8 precincts
6th place: 1 precinct
7th place: 2 precincts

His mean finish was 4.5. He finished 3rd in Leisure World. This is not an encouraging performance, but he is not facing veteran Delegate Hank Heller (D-19) or hyperactive doorknocker Delegate Roger Manno (D-19) in this race. The Kramer family name (also held by former County Executive Sid Kramer and current District 14 Senator Rona Kramer, Ben’s father and sister) provides better name recognition than any other candidate except Navarro.

What Kramer must do to win
Kramer must dominate Leisure World and the Jewish precincts in the Kemp Mill neighborhood. He must then pick up as much support from older voters in other areas who remember his father as well as draw on his sister’s supporters in the eastern side of the district. Kramer will have to rebut charges connected to his commercial property ownership as well as his record in the General Assembly. Money won’t be a problem: Kramer has loaned his campaign fund $130,450 since 2006.

Cary Lamari

Lamari, a former Montgomery County Civic Federation President, ran for an at-large County Council seat in 2006. He finished 11th out of 13 candidates. Lamari stepped down from the last District 4 special election in favor of Mr. Praisner and worked extensively for him at Leisure World. Lamari will be the slow-growth candidate in the race.

What Lamari must do to win
Lamari must re-assemble the Praisner coalition. That means drawing out the slow-growth vote, making the case that he is the best candidate to implement the Praisners’ agenda of constituent service and fiscal austerity, and winning Leisure World. He faces two challenges. First, he must raise enough money to get his message out; the state campaign finance website does not list ANY contributions to him in 2006. Second, winning Leisure World will require significant effort with Kramer in the race. Leisure World gave Mr. Praisner 44% of its margin. If Lamari loses there, he cannot win.

Chris Paladino

Paladino is a former Red Cross official who now runs businesses in the private sector. Your author finds him to be smart and motivated. But he will have to be a quick study to best three better-known candidates who have all run before.

What Paladino must do to win
This is a difficult question to answer without knowing what Paladino thinks about the issues and what targeting he plans to do. He has a very substantial challenge. If Kramer locks up the senior and Jewish vote, Lamari gets the slow-growth vote, and Navarro gets the union member, non-white and liberal vote, there may not be enough votes left to give Paladino a victory. One plus for Paladino is that he plans to put as much of his own money into his campaign to be competitive, but then again, so did Steve Kanstoroom.

Tomorrow, we will ask our spies to size up this race.