Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Primaries to Watch Update, Part One

By Marc Korman and Adam Pagnucco.

All right everybody, it’s time to update our intel on the most interesting actual and potential primaries in Montgomery County that we are watching. Just like last time, Marc and Adam are going to co-write this mini-series. New information has prompted us to reorder our rankings of the most compelling races.

Off the list: District 14 Senator Rona Kramer vs. Eric Luedtke
Prior rank: Second

This race drops off the list because the challenger, Eric Luedtke, has decided not to run. Luedtke, a teacher and activist, began raising money and making the rounds. He was expected to mount a challenge against incumbent Senator Rona Kramer from the left on issues such as the death penalty. But going against a self-funding incumbent was an expensive proposition and Luedtke decided not to take it on. Expect to see his name on the list of potential candidates in District 14 for a long time. Full disclosure, I donated to Luedtke’s campaign.

Luedtke is not running against Kramer, leaving the county’s most anti-labor and anti-environment Senator safe. Difficulty in raising money was one of the big reasons why Luedtke opted out. This illustrates a growing problem in state and county politics: a candidate must increasingly be independently wealthy, incredibly well connected or have lots of rich friends to have a shot at office. Luedtke, an outstanding progressive activist and a winner of our Young Gun awards, had none of those advantages. But just like Marc says, Luedtke will be a player in county politics for the foreseeable future.

10. Council District 2 Maneuvering (Rumored)
Prior rank: Off the list

Near the top of the list of Montgomery County political rumors that will not die is the future of Councilman Mike Knapp. Each month brings a new rumor that Knapp is retiring, running for County Executive, or running for reelection. If he hangs it up, Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce Marilyn Balcombe is almost certain to run. Sharon Dooley, who ran against Knapp in 2006, is a potential candidate whether there is an opening or not.

Mike Knapp could make a lot of money if he returned to the private sector, where he founded multiple businesses. It must also be really tempting to leave Rockville’s Drama Queens behind for a saner life. But Knapp might not be done with politics yet. His ten-point Economic Development Strategy looks like a policy platform for a County Executive race and set tongues wagging when it was released. It’s also entirely possible that Knapp will run for his current seat again. Knapp just held a fundraiser at Loiederman Soltesz Associates in Rockville, so he is keeping his options open.

Marilyn Balcombe will not challenge Knapp if he runs for re-election, but I expect her to run if he leaves. Civic leader and MPW contributor Sharon Dooley, who lost to Knapp by 28 points in 2006, might get in no matter who is running. There’s no reason to believe that Knapp is vulnerable if he wanted to return in District 2. But if he left for whatever reason, the race to succeed him would be wide open.

9. District 39 Open Delegate Seat (Rumored)
Prior rank: Ninth

The potential State Senate race in District 39 will be discussed later in the series, but if Delegate Saqib Ali runs for the State Senate, he will leave behind an empty Delegate slot. Bob Hydorn, President of the Montgomery Village Foundation Board, has given early indications he will run if there is an open seat or not. If there is not an open seat and the current incumbents run as a slate, there is likely to be no movement here. If there is an opening, more candidates could take a look at the race. Delegate Kirill Reznik, appointed to the seat in 2007, needs to work hard because he has not run before. Full disclosure, I serve as District 39 Delegate Kirill Reznik’s campaign chair and voted for him in the 2007 Central Committee appointment process.

Central Committee Member Shirley Rivadeneira has everything it takes to be a dynamic candidate. She is a well-spoken, super-smart, appealing young Latina with great progressive credentials. But she would have to resign her job at the U.S. Department of Labor to go to Annapolis, so her candidacy in the event of an open seat is not guaranteed. Furthermore, she will not challenge a united slate.

Bob Hydorn is much more inclined to run. His dislike for Saqib Ali creates the possibility of a challenge even if the incumbents all run again. Hydorn would have to raise money, pick up endorsements and gain exposure outside Montgomery Village to have a shot at knocking off an incumbent. That’s easier said than done in a bad environment for fundraising.

If the slate sticks together, I don’t see the incumbents as particularly vulnerable – not even appointee Kirill Reznik. Reznik has compiled a voting record that is consistent with his district and is working to build a base of support. Appointees who do those things usually return to Annapolis.

8. Reggie Oldak vs. District 16 (Rumored)
Prior rank: Eighth

When Reggie Oldak ran in 2006, she was an underdog competing against a close partnership of Delegates Marilyn Goldwater, Bill Bronrott, Susan Lee, and State Senator Brian Frosh. Oldak came in a strong fourth and scored the endorsement of the Washington Post. Ever since she was not appointed to succeed Delegate Goldwater, the rumor has been that she would run for the seat in 2010.

Some view Delegate Bill Frick as vulnerable because he has not run before, but he has also been working the district very hard and raising money. Delegate Bill Bronrott has not recorded a contribution since 2006, though his January finance report may tell a different tale. He has also been an active player on the Purple Line and if he chooses to, has a lot to crow about with the project heading to the Federal Transit Administration. Delegate Susan Lee had a balance of over $100,000 last January and has continued fundraising all year.

If Oldak gets into the race, she will certainly be a serious candidate. But she may find herself facing the same dynamic as 2006, a close slate that has not given their constituents any reason to vote against them. Full disclosure, I am a Central Committee Member for District 16, voted for Bill Frick in the 2007 appointment process, and have donated to him.

This race is all talk and no action. Reggie Oldak does not appear to be doing anything to put together a potential Delegate challenge at the moment. And none of the incumbent Delegates look vulnerable. The only drama here is whether superstar-in-the-making Bill Frick finishes first. Wouldn’t “Pick Frick” be a great election slogan?

We’ll cover four more races in Part Two.