Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why At-Large?

By Marc Korman.

Back in June, MPW covered the rumored challengers for the at-large County Council seats. But with every incumbent expected to run for reelection, why are these candidates looking towards an at-large raced instead of district level runs?

Working off the list of ten rumored candidates previously discussed, here is each challenger and the district they live in:

Rumored Candidate and Council District
Jane De Winter: 1
Peter Fosselman: 5
Larry Giammo: 3
Guled Kassim: 4
Ben Kramer: 4
Cary Lamari: 4
Chris Paladino: 4
Hans Riemer: 5
Steve Silverman: 5
Becky Wagner: 1

Before launching into an analysis, a few caveats. One, some of these rumored candidates have said that they are not running, at least privately. But I kept everyone on the list used in earlier posts. Two, Adam did note in previous posts that Larry Giammo and Chris Paladino could also be candidates for district council races.

One motivation for running at-large could be political perception of where the weaknesses are. As has been covered at MPW, Duchy Trachtenberg has had difficulties with the coalition she brought together to win in 2006. Whether the broader voting public cares or if this will affect the mechanics of her campaign, I leave to others to speculate. Marc Elrich ran for the County Council numerous times before winning his seat in 2006. As of January, he had the least amount of funds raised or on hand of any of the at-large members. On the other hand, George Levanthal and Nancy Floreen are viewed as pretty safe, with $60,000 and $33,000 in the bank respectively. Levanthal was the top vote getter in the 2006 Democratic primary, while Floreen was the top vote getter in the general.

Another reason to run at-large is that many of the prospective candidates have tried and failed to win district seats in the past. Ben Kramer, Cary Lamari, Chris Paladino, and Hans Riemer have all run and lost (in Paladino’s case, he dropped out) in district County Council races at least once. Two other prospective candidates, Guled Kassim and Peter Fosselman, ran and lost a district level delegate race. Of course, that does not necessarily foreclose a later victory. Roger Berliner lost a special election for the district 1 seat in 2000 and came back six years later to knock off the guy who beat him.

Finally, for potential candidate Steve Silverman, an at-large seat would be a return to the office he previously held.

That means that of the rumored candidates strictly for at-large seats, only De Winter and Wagner do not have a previous election indicating they should be looking at an at-large slot over a district challenge.

Both of these candidates live in Roger Berliner’s district (Note: Councilman Berliner is my councilmember and I have worked with him through my capacity on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee). Will one or both of them decide to challenge Berliner instead of entering a crowded at-large field? Will Berliner have difficulty in a Democratic primary if there is no serious Republican candidate as there was in 2006?