Monday, April 26, 2010

Primaries to Watch III, Part One

By Marc Korman and Adam Pagnucco.

Now that the General Session is over, the politicians are getting into high gear for the election. And so is MPW! Once again, Marc and Adam are going to dissect the ten top primaries in MoCo. (You can see our prior assessments from September and December here.) Let the fun begin!

Off the list:

District 18 Challengers - There are two challengers running for Delegate in District 18 (Vanessa Atterbeary, and Dana Beyer). They are challenging a unified slate with a tough-as-nails Treasurer.

Congressional 4 - Donna Edwards dodged her toughest primary foe when Glenn Ivey declined to run. District 14 Delegate Herman Taylor is poised to announce, but it would take a minor miracle for him to make a dent.

Council 2 - Sharon Dooley has already entered the race. The big mystery is who she will be running against. Until incumbent Mike Knapp makes a decision about whether to run or retire, this race is largely unformed. Craig Rice’s potential candidacy would make for an exciting race but he would need to catch up on local issues and prepare to mount a more aggressive primary campaign than he would need in District 15.

Back on the list:

District 14 Senate

10. Hopkins vs. Berliner, Council District 1
Prior Rank: None

Ilaya Hopkins has been making the rounds and raising money in her bid to unseat first district Councilman Roger Berliner. Hopkins does have a shot at the Apple Ballot, which endorsed Berliner’s Republican opponent in 2006. Berliner’s biggest headlines this year were also somewhat embarrassing, as five votes on the Council passed him over for President.

Hopkins would be an extremely competitive candidate in an open seat race given her personality and civic experience. But challenging an incumbent is a very different scenario. Berliner will likely have far superior resources, name ID, and a record of accomplishment to run on that includes aggressive environmental positions like his recent carbon tax proposal. The Council’s unanimous votes for the White Flint sector plan and Purple Line also help inoculate Berliner from criticism on those major issues, which small parts of his constituency could be angry about.

Finally, Hopkins does not have a long history as a Democrat to rely on in a party primary the way Berliner does. Hopkins is a relatively new and welcome addition to the Democratic fold. On the other hand, Berliner has spent his entire career as a Democrat, including tours on Capitol Hill with liberal stalwarts such as Senator Howard Metzenbaum (OH) and Congressman Henry Waxman (CA). That history can make a difference in party primaries.

Berliner is a Democrat who runs with a big “D” on his chest and that makes Hopkins’s registration history relevant. Hopkins bought her current residence along with her husband on 2/19/98. She filled out a voter registration card as an unaffiliated voter on 9/5/01 and was formally registered with the county on 9/19/01. That means she did not vote in Maryland in the 1998 and 2000 elections. Hopkins voted in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 general elections. On 9/4/07, she changed her registration to Democrat and voted in the 2008 primary and 2008 general. Berliner registered as a Democrat in the county in 1991 and has been a consistent voter since then. We show both candidates’ initial voter registration applications below.

Hopkins has been running an able campaign against Berliner. She has a campaign manager (even if he was caught spying by the enemy), holds regular events, releases videos and has a nice first literature piece. She has a chance to pick up some union support. But Berliner started the year with almost $100,000 in the bank before Hopkins had a campaign account and it’s unclear if she has closed that gap. Even if Hopkins gets the Apple Ballot, Berliner’s occasional conflicts with the unions will probably earn him the Post endorsement. That means Berliner may have to commit a mistake of some kind for Hopkins to win. Judging by last year’s Council President fiasco, that possibility cannot be ruled out.

9. District 39 Delegate Open Seat
Prior Rank: #9

Montgomery Village Board of Directions Foundation President Bob Hydorn started running for Delegate even before an open seat emerged. His official announcement is on May 1st. This could be a problem for Delegate Kirill Reznik, who will be before the voters for the first time. At a minimum, almost 8,000 of the 29,000 registered Democrats in District 39 reside in Hydorn’s base of Montgomery Village. One District 39 activist told me that over 25% of the so-called “super Dems” in the District are in Montgomery Village. It is an active and organized area that Hydorn has worked before. That said, Reznik has been in office for three years and has spent that time wisely talking to individuals and groups throughout his district, advocating good legislation, and preparing for his first election.

Since a seat has now opened, a few other candidates could also enter the race. Adam has spent a lot of time talking about Shirley Rivadeneira. She would be a great candidate, but there is no chance she will run. She just resigned from the Central Committee for a White House job.

Full disclosure, I am Kirill Reznik’s campaign chair.

Hydorn was first out of the blocks. He has an organization and a big geographic base in the district. He is also a former Republican who has Republicans as his Treasurer and campaign manager. That creates an opening for other Democrats to get in. Two possibilities are party activist Francine Towbridge-Winston (who is receiving an award at the party’s spring ball) and MCPS administrator Juan Cardenas, who applied for the 2007 Delegate appointment ultimately won by Kirill Reznik. It is getting late to start a campaign from scratch and that gives Hydorn an advantage.

Surprisingly, I am more bullish on Reznik than his own campaign chair. Like the other appointees, Reznik is highly motivated to win an election in his own right. An open seat will just encourage him to work harder. That’s a mini-problem for Senate challenger Saqib Ali since more joint literature featuring incumbent Nancy King will be passed out on the doors. Delegate Charles Barkley has annoyed the House leadership but that won’t hurt him back home. In fact, if it matters at all, it may actually help!

We’ll have races Eight and Seven tomorrow.