Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Can She Pull a Raskin?

By Marc Korman.

There are lots of rumors about races in 2010, but the first one to really get started is the State Senate race in District 17. There, former Delegate Cheryl Kagan is mounting a challenge against State Senator Jennie Forehand. The Gazette covered the story a few weeks ago.

Senator Forehand is in her fourth term in the State Senate, which was preceded by four terms in the House of Delegates. Forehand has indicated she is seeking a fresh term in 2010. She has never had a serious primary challenge for her senate seat. Her closest call came in 2002, when she won 82% of the vote.

Delegate Kagan served in the House of Delegates for two terms from 1995 to 2003. She declined to seek reelection in 2002 and Luiz Simmons took her seat. Now, Kagan is back to try and knock out the long time incumbent. She is native to the area and a political and non-profit consultant.

At the last campaign finance filing, Kagan had $44,224.76 in the bank. She raised over $19,000 during the past year. Since her campaign went public during the 90 day legislative session, she may have raised even more while Forehand was constrained by the fundraising ban. Forehand has a $71,044.34 balance, plus almost $6,000 in the D17 slate account. Forehand has not geared up for a race yet, having raised nothing in the period before the last filing.

Incumbents are generally heavily favored for reelection and as a result, there are very few primary challenges. Montgomery County’s notable exception is Jamie Raskin’s successful race against Ida Ruben in 2006. The question is whether a Kagan/Forehand race will shape up like that one on one race or be more like the District 19 senate race in 2006. In that case, long serving Senator Len Teitelbaum reversed his plans to seek reelection in the face of a spirited challenge. The race became a free for all that included two sitting delegates and a central committee member, Mike Lenett, who won the seat. If Forehand were to decline another campaign, it is unlikely Kagan would be left alone to claim the seat. Delegate Simmons is the most commonly cited potential candidate, but there could be others.

Part of Raskin’s strategy for victory was painting Ruben as out of touch, past her prime, and not in line with the district. For example, at one meeting Senator Raskin attended he contrasted his displeasure with the Iraq War with Senator Ruben’s alleged support, as demonstrated by a resolution she introduced regarding the US Armed Forces in Iraq.

It is not clear that Senator Forehand offers a similar record for Kagan to highlight or even if Kagan is interested in going that route. But without drawing some sharp contrasts, it is difficult to see how Kagan can take down a long serving incumbent who will likely be running on a slate and enjoying the support of leadership in Annapolis. But Kagan is no slouch. As a former delegate she knows the issues, understands the political process, and has a vast local network. For the first time in her career, Forehand may have a serious challenge.