Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whispers of the At-Large Race, Part Four

Here are four more actual, potential, or improbable at-large candidates.

Guled Kassim, Silver Spring

Kassim is a Somali immigrant who grew up in Kemp Mill, served in the Marines and became a real estate settlement officer. He is young, good-looking, polite and shows up at a lot of events. In 2006, he ran for Delegate in District 19. Despite being on a slate with incumbent Hank Heller and successful candidate Ben Kramer, Kassim finished eighth of eight candidates in the Democratic primary. Unlike many candidates who lost last time, he has stayed active in politics. His active support of Kramer in the 2009 special election will not play well among progressives. Given his last-place finish in a Delegate race, it is hard to imagine him being a top-tier contender at-large. He has a campaign website up but it does not mention the office he is seeking.

Spy: A U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Continental African, Guled could energize the rainbow coalition that helped Nancy Navarro win in District 4. He would need to overcome anti-Muslim prejudice, which he is easily likeable enough to do if he campaigns hard, especially in the Jewish community.

Spy: Guled Kassim had a dismal performance as a D19 delegate. I can say with complete confidence that he has no chance as an at-large candidate, unless he were to mysteriously come across $300,000. Guled's only hope at public office would have been had he been appointed to replace Ben Kramer in Annapolis. Some had speculated such a deal had been made, but with Kramer’s loss, that door has shut.

Spy: Nice kid, better suited for District 19 than at-large Council.

Ben Kramer, Derwood

Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19) came within 63 votes of becoming the new District 4 County Council Member. No one knows for sure whether he will run for re-election as a Delegate, challenge Nancy Navarro, run at-large or not run at all. He never conceded to Navarro and never endorsed her against Robin Ficker, facts that have not escaped the notice of other politicians and activists around the county. Kramer’s capacity for more self-funding is a mystery given that he has loaned his campaigns a total of $220,450 – money that has not been paid back.

Spy: He would certainly have the money (although, I can’t imagine it’s easy for him to spend all of his own money and never fundraise), but I just don’t think he’s that likeable. He is aloof and comes across as if he thinks he’s better than everyone (I think he does, and that he’s smarter than everyone). Not to mention that he talks about himself in the 3rd person! As your research has pointed out, the General Election electorate is not his base and he’d have a tough time with such a crowded field.

Spy: How much is he willing to invest this time?

Spy: Could he self-finance an at large council campaign? Would he have broad appeal - would he work hard for it? Where is his support group? Does he think he is safe in Annapolis? Guess I have more questions than answers here.

Spy: This just doesn’t make any sense. He was the favorite in an open race special election and lost in many of the places where the Kramer brand should be at its strongest. So he’s going to run against incumbents across the whole county?

Spy: May want another go... but I think he would rather take on Navarro again in District 4.

Spy: Will he run on the Trachtenberg slate? Politics makes strange bedfellows. Easy to imagine him winning the Gazette and Post endorsements as a candidate who wants to “run government like a business” but then losing the Democratic primary.

Spy: The only person that comes close to former Delegate Robin Ficker’s record of unsuccessful bids for public office is Ben Kramer. His track record as a candidate has been awful. In this most recent run, Kramer faced his ideal voting population: older, whiter, more affluent, more Jewish. If he can’t win a council seat under those circumstances, he never will. But this raises a more obvious point. Why so many people (including Ben Kramer himself) thought he would easily win the D4 special election is beyond me, but I hope this last campaign puts the fabled Kramer mystique to rest for good. Perhaps a pleasant side-effect from this could be that Rona Kramer faces a strong challenge in 2010.

Spy: Ben Kramer is damaged goods and shouldn’t even try it.

Cary Lamari, Silver Spring

Lamari is a former President of the Montgomery County Civic Federation and is one of the most prominent and knowledgeable civic activists in the county. He finished eleventh of thirteen at-large candidates in 2006 and ran third in the 2009 District 4 special election Democratic primary. Lamari’s biggest problem is money. In the 2009 District 4 special primary, he was outspent 9-1 by both Nancy Navarro and Ben Kramer. That election, which was limited to an area containing Lamari’s best friends and supporters (including many long-time allies in Leisure World) was probably his best chance to win office.

Spy: Cary Lamari has zero chance of winning an at-large seat. The Civic Federation/civic activist population makes up no more than 5-10% of the Democratic Primary population, and that is on a good day. Lamari may think he can pull off a Marc Elrich-like victory built on multiple runs for the Council, but Elrich has something that Lamari does not. Elrich has traditionally been considered a progressive activist IN ADDITION to being a civic activist. In the 2006 primary that carried Elrich to office, there was a clear progressive wave in the primary that was aided by high-profile, head-to-head primary battles up-ticket. With no such action in 2010 AND the fact that Lamari is not very progressive, he stands no chance. Elrich himself might be in danger of losing his seat and would be foolish to slate up with Lamari.

Spy: Nice guy, but please. The voters have spoken. Replace the battery on your hearing aid and listen to what the voters are saying.

Spy: If Lamari runs for Council At-Large, he will likely take votes away from Elrich (who gets backing from the civics, as well). This would not be good for Marc because he’s going to see some names missing in his supporter list in 2010 that were with him in 2006. Lamari does not have the fundraising capability to raise the money necessary for an at-large bid; he barely had enough for the district race.

Spy: Gaining maturity and stature. If he energizes civic activists to get out and work hard for him, he could pull off an Elrich-like surprise - perhaps at Elrich’s expense.

Spy: Three times a charm? More likely three times and he’s out. Lamari tends to know more than anyone about the county issues during debates, but something about him puts people off and it shows in his election results.

Spy: Cary’s strength is with his neighborhood and with the civics - it did not carry him that far in 2006 when he ran at large. I do not think he can finance an at large race - his campaign was underfunded this time and he came in a poor third on his turf. He may well run as he has inferred that - but I would guess he might again try the District 4 race. He also has thrown his hat in for the last two times for the planning board and that went nowhere. He may well win the Stassen label.

Spy: Will run again. This time at-large. He will lose really big time.

Chris Paladino, Silver Spring

Former Red Cross executive Chris Paladino withdrew from the District 4 race before it started due to family health issues. Paladino really believed he could win and our informants tell us he was ready to sink lots of his own money into the race. But we never got a chance to see him in action as a candidate. His fundraising, issue knowledge, people skills, work ethic and campaign savvy were never tested in the heat of battle. He may challenge Navarro in District 4, run at-large or not run at all.

Spy: Same problem as he would have had in the Special – people don’t know who he is and he’s going to get lost in the crowd. He may be able to fundraise, but he’s not a politician and he didn’t have any campaign plan (or intention of hiring staff) for the Special. He’d really need to hire someone qualified, but still, it’s a longshot.

Spy: For five minutes during the special election, Paladino was on everyone’s mind. But he has no political experience and a countywide race requires it. Either that, or a much bigger bank account.

Spy: Yeah right. Paladino is rumored to have $75,000 in self-financing available, but that is a drop in the bucket for a no-name, unestablished candidate in an at-large race. He’ll need many times more than that. Plus, with some of the other names floating around, he stands no chance. The most important question is will any of the incumbents slate up with him. The answer will undoubtedly be no.

Spy: A Knapp wanna-be without any union support. He sees himself as an entrepreneur and thinks everyone else can do it. Not compassionate despite his Red Cross background; had hoped to get the Praisner endorsement and have that propel him into office. Not aligned with any major interest group unless it might be the Chamber - (which was said to have been poised to support him last time - aligned somehow I’ve heard with Cheryl Kagan - more to learn there). Not curious nor charismatic. Does not understand the multi-layered strata of county politics. Can self finance to over $100,000, so he may be in if he senses an opening. At large - doubt it because he has not ventured out across the county yet. Son is in private school which may hurt him.

Spy: Non-entity with little $ and less familiarity. He is totally unprepared and has even less knowledge. No experience in civic matters. A complete unknown and totally unprepared. They'll make mincemeat of him in a forum or debate.

Spy: Unknown to voters and opinion-makers. Will have trouble raising sufficient money.

We will finish tomorrow.