Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Primaries to Watch Update, Part Two (Updated)

By Marc Korman and Adam Pagnucco.

Here are races seven, six, five and four!

7. District 18 Challenges
Prior rank: Seventh

Dana Beyer has made headlines recently over an investigation by the County Ethics Commission and her complaint against them. All publicity may be good publicity, but from a political perspective Beyer could also benefit from publicity on some of the other issues she has been active on.

In September, this entry was listed as Dana Beyer vs. District 18 Delegates. But there are now rumors of other candidates contemplating a challenge in District 18. What vulnerability people see in the current line-up is not certain. The newest member of the delegation, appointed Delegate Al Carr, came in a disappointing seventh when he ran in 2006. But he has been holding lots of fundraisers and knows how to find a winning issue.

Dana Beyer’s all-out media sweep about her issues with the county’s Ethics Commission is a serious mistake for a simple reason: no sane politician wants his or her name to appear alongside the phrase “under investigation” in every article written about them. Voters will not remember the specifics of Beyer’s allegations and will have no basis on which to judge their merits. They will only remember that she was “under investigation.” Unless you’re Marion Barry, that’s not helpful. And this story is a self-inflicted wound since the press was not talking about the investigation prior to Beyer’s unveiling of it.

It’s also a particularly bad fit for Beyer’s district. District 18 Democrats tend to go for civil, statesmanlike progressives with steady temperaments. Chris Van Hollen, Sharon Grosfeld, Jane Lawton and Rich Madaleno are all good examples of this kind of politician. None of them have been known for hysterical rantings in the newspapers.

Vanessa Atterbeary could be an interesting first-time candidate. She is a young African-American lawyer who will probably be able to self-finance. Her father is one of the state’s most successful minority entrepreneurs. Like fellow challenger Randy McDonald, she is new to state politics. All the challengers have the same problem: they must persuade district voters to fire one of the incumbents. And the incumbents have given them nothing to aid their case. (Disclosure: I am the Treasurer of the District 18 Democratic Team.)

6. District 14 Open Delegate Seat
Prior rank: Tenth

With Delegate Herman Taylor’s kamikaze run for Congress underway, District 14 has its first open seat since 2002. As Adam previously noted, 2002 candidate Craig Zucker has maintained his profile in the district and is a likely candidate. He was a close fourth in 2002 and raised over $50,000 as a relatively young man in his late 20s. Given his work over the past few years, it seems likely that Craig will only improve on his performance.

But he is also unlikely to be alone in seeking the seat. As I wrote back in September, there is an interest in finding an African American candidate to succeed Delegate Taylor. There are actually three African American Central Committee Members from District 14 all with deep ties in the community and two of them women. I will also throw out a wildcard and suggest that Delegate Taylor could end up back in the state race when he realizes what an uphill climb a Congressional run is.

This race was all the way down at #10 in September. Now that Herman Taylor has handed out business cards about his 2010 run for Congress, it has shot up the list.

Come on, D14 wannabes, wake up! I posted the Herman Taylor for Congress business card almost a month ago and no one is doing anything. Here it is again just in case you forgot about it.

Yes, it’s entirely possible that Taylor will chicken out and go back to the Delegate race. But look at what’s happening in District 19. No incumbents are passing out “Politician X for Congress” cards and challengers are coming out of the woodwork anyway. I want somebody in this district to show me some game or I am sending this race back down to tenth the next time we review it.

5. District 19 Madness (Rumored)
Prior rank: Fourth

So much activity and we do not even know if there will be a vacancy. The list of folks running or considering jumping in is long: Tom DeGonia, a 2006 candidate, attorney in Rockville and former Assistant State’s attorney; Jay Hutchins, a Vice President of the District 19 Democratic Club and Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation staffer; Bonnie Cullison, former president of the Montgomery County Education Association; Sam Arora, the “Hunk of the Hill” and former Hillary Clinton staffer; and Hoan Dang, a Lockheed Martin employee.

These are just some of the folks already making the rounds. Even more activity will ensue once Hank Heller’s intentions are made clear, which may not happen until after the legislative session ends in May. But the intentions of the other Delegates could also set the race in motion. Roger Manno running for the State Senate seat is another rumor that won’t go away. Manno actually outpolled State Senator Mike Lenett in 2006 by 115 votes. There’s also the possibility that Ben Kramer runs for County office.

This race was #4 in September’s list, but given the lack of any movement by the incumbents compared to other districts, it has slid down the list.

This race has more candidates than Tiger Woods has mistresses. Even without incumbent movement, the maneuverings of the challengers are creating a snowball effect causing everyone to throw their cards on the table, possibly sooner than some of them would prefer.

The key figure in this district is Delegate Roger Manno. If he runs for re-election to his current seat, the Delegate race looks like a relatively conventional contest with perhaps one or even two open seats. But if Manno runs against Lenett, incalculable mayhem will ensue. Rival slates, whisper campaigns, negative emails and mailers, slams by proxy and more are all possible. Manno would be a sensational challenger. His supporters love him and would jump into flaming lava pits for him. But Lenett is a cunning, well-funded incumbent with an ultracompetitive nature. A Lenett-Manno faceoff would be a hell of a barn-burner between two legislators whose policy positions don’t differ all that much.

One more thing: any challenger to Lenett must beware of his campaign consultant, David Goodman. Goodman delights in leaping for the jugular of opponents, and Lenett will be sure to let go of his leash when the time is right.

4. District 39 State Senate (Rumored)
Prior rank: Third

Add this to the list of rumors that will not die. Delegate Saqib Ali has been needling State Senator Nancy King since she was appointed to the seat in 2007. Delegate Ali has called her out here at MPW and Adam has listed his many other provocative actions. I am reluctant to give the once and future candidate for the State Senate any more PR until he makes a decision. All we know now is that politics in District 39 are currently operating on Delegate Ali’s timeline.

If Ali challenges King, he will do it from her left flank. He has already criticized her positions on gay marriage, combined reporting and alcopops. Ali could also target King’s 2008 co-sponsorship and vote in favor of the BOAST bill, which would have provided tax credits to fund private schools. That bill is anathema to public school advocates. One potential problem for Ali is that District 39 is not a far-left district and it’s not clear that an ultra-liberal strategy will succeed against a moderate office holder like Nancy King.

Ali has a terrific skill set for politics and is better at using the media to his advantage than any other MoCo office holder. (Who do you think is behind the anti-King letters to the Gazette?) But I think he might be underestimating the incumbent. Nancy King is a clever and capable politician with a base in District 39 going back to her days on the school board. She benefits from the support of the other district incumbents and lots of institutional backing. Ali is telegraphing his intentions and that will only help King raise money and line up her backers. If Ali runs against her, he will find that she is smarter than Ida Ruben and more vigorous than Jennie Forehand. But we love competitive primaries around here, so bring it on!

Tomorrow, we’ll identify the top three primaries in the county.

Update: Another anti-King letter showed up in the Gazette today, this one written by a teacher who opposes the BOAST bill. From a pure tactical perspective, you have to admire Saqib Ali’s proficiency at guerilla warfare.