Friday, March 05, 2010

Hutchins Gets Started in District 19

State Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) staffer Jay Hutchins is off and running for a District 19 Delegate seat. He joins a crowded field that may be the biggest we have seen trying for an open seat that is not yet open.

Hutchins has a number of things going for him. First, he is one of the nicest people you will meet on your doorstep. He has an engaging, laid-back and unpretentious style that is a bit unusual in MoCo’s hyper-ambitious political world. Second, he has an appealing biography that includes stints at the Peace Corps and Goodwill in addition to the service on Capitol Hill that is common among many young MoCo politicians. Third, because of his experience at DLLR in multiple roles, he will probably attract some labor support. Fourth, he has campaign experience having run (and lost) in a state legislative race in New Jersey. And fifth, he is known to be on good terms with Delegate Roger Manno (D-19), a popular incumbent who finished first in the 2006 primary.

Out of respect for the incumbents, Hutchins has held back on overt campaign activity, but that has changed. In the last couple weeks, he has established a website and a Facebook group. Hutchins immediately attracted 578 Facebook fans (an impressive number for a Delegate challenger) including Council Member Valerie Ervin, Council at-large challenger Hans Riemer, Council District 2 challenger Sharon Dooley, Prince George’s Delegate and County Executive candidate Gerron Levi and even fellow District 19 challenger Hoan Dang. He has also spoken out for collective bargaining rights for graduate students at the University of Maryland last month.

Hutchins’s biggest problem is that the District 19 Delegate race is VERY crowded. None of the incumbents are leaving yet and we count five active challengers so far, including former MCEA President Bonnie Cullison, 2006 candidate Tom DeGonia, civic activist Hoan Dang, Sam “Hunk of the Hill” Arora and Hutchins. Some of the other challengers have big advantages: Cullison has a lock on the Apple Ballot, DeGonia has experience from running last time, Arora has a hunk of money and Dang outraised both Cullison and DeGonia last year. If everybody stays in until the end, this will be an exciting race.

We are going to be watching MCEA. If the teachers have an endorsement available after backing Cullison and one of the incumbents, they might take a hard look at Hutchins. As a demonstrably pro-union African American with campaign experience, he fits the profile of the kind of candidate they have been looking for. He also has a FAR better chance to win than 2006 District 19 Apple candidate Melodye Berry, who squandered MCEA’s support by raising no money and finishing seventh out of eight. Hutchins should also draw support from the LGBT community since he openly supports gay marriage. LGBTs need to get more backing from African American politicians because that would make life easier for them in Annapolis.

Now that the challenger field is absolutely overflowing, it’s reasonable to ask: what are the incumbents going to do?