Monday, November 30, 2009

District 19 Race Snowballs Early

Three Delegate challengers are now raising money in the District 19 Battle Royal. But here’s the problem: there is no evidence that any of the incumbents are going anywhere.

Sam “Hunk of the Hill” Arora was the first one out of the gate in September. He has now held three fundraisers, one each in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. His latest fundraiser featured former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Interestingly, House Majority Leader Kumar “Bad Boy” Barve (D-17) showed up. Arora is now a registered candidate with the State Board of Elections.

Bad Boy Barve and McAuliffe discuss why Annapolis needs a Hunk.

Multiple sources have received phone calls from former MCEA President Bonnie Cullison, who told them that she is running for Delegate and asked them for money. And now Lockheed Martin auditor and civic activist Hoan Dang has held his own fundraiser in the district.

Dang’s campaign card lacks both an authority line and a union bug.

All of this will surely pressure other Delegate contenders to step up their own activities. They are no doubt assuming that one or more of the incumbents are about to leave. Are they right?

Maybe. Here’s a rundown.

Senator Mike Lenett
Lenett is the most certain of the incumbents to run again for his current seat. He made a pre-emptive strike in October with an extravagant mailer touting his progressive institutional support. In 2006, Lenett helped drive long-time Senator Len Teitelbaum from his seat and knocked off two Delegates in the Senate race, producing a possible MoCo record for incumbent removal in one contest. He is smart, tough and well-financed. He also employs David Goodman, a notably aggressive campaign consultant who helped produce Nancy Navarro’s infamous negative mailers in the 2009 District 4 special election.

Delegate Roger Manno
Manno was the top vote-getter in the 2006 Delegate primary, his first race for office. He has a reputation for good constituent service, introduces and fights for numerous pro-labor bills and has many supporters inside the progressive community. If Manno stays in his Delegate seat, he would be a lock to return to Annapolis. But rumors of his considering a challenge to Lenett will not die, even though he has done nothing publicly to encourage them. If Manno ran against Lenett, that campaign would tie the District 17 Senate race as the premier state legislative contest in Montgomery County.

Delegate Ben Kramer
Kramer made it clear that he would rather be in Rockville than Annapolis by running for the District 4 seat in the recent special election. But above all, Kramer wants to be in public life, having run unsuccessfully for council in 1994 and 1998. The safe play for Kramer is to stay in his Delegate seat, which he won in 2006 without being on the Apple Ballot. Kramer is a late decider and a self-funder, so he may not make his decision until next summer.

Delegate Henry Heller
Everyone assumes Heller is retiring, but he has said nothing about it. The six-term Delegate and former MCEA President (see a trend here?) is retired and lives in Leisure World, so he has nothing else to do other than to be a Delegate. We wonder whether Heller will see the machinations of the challengers as disrespectful, causing him to gear up for yet another race. Heller has deep support in Leisure World and it is nearly inconceivable that MCEA could keep him off the Apple Ballot, so he has a real chance to return even if he does not knock on a single door.

So what happens if all four incumbents run again? Could they run as a slate? How many of the challengers will stay in? Would MCEA target an incumbent to help Bonnie Cullison? At this point, there are more questions than answers.