Monday, August 30, 2010

Primaries to Watch V, Part One

By Marc Korman and Adam Pagnucco.

A major fundraising report is in, the Washington Post has given its blessings from atop the mountain, mailboxes are filling up, and people who do not read this blog are finally starting to pay attention. So it is time for another installment of “Primaries to Watch.”

The problem with a list like this is it rewards bad behavior. The relatively tame District 14 and 17 State Senate challenges are not as fun to watch next to the madness of the District 16 or 19 Delegate races or the increasing nastiness of District 19 or 39 State Senate. But these races are supposed to be interesting, so here goes.

10. Hopkins vs. Berliner
Previous Rank: #10

Hopkins is hitting Berliner harder and harder through her mass emails, really taking it to him on one of his strongest issues, energy. She has attacked his loan program for home improvements, his public comments on Pepco, and his passage of a carbon tax. But it is probably too late to really change the overall momentum of the campaign. Hopkins does not have much presence outside of her geographic base of East Bethesda where she will likely do well. Berliner retains all the advantages of incumbency including a fundraising edge and most endorsements.

The Gazette endorsement is a nice feather in Hopkins’ cap and if she is thinking about her political future, she should figure out how to use big endorsements and other attributes from losing campaigns a la Laura Berthiaume (she got the Gazette in her 2006 Delegate race and later was elected to the School Board) or Ryan Spiegel (he got the Post in his 2006 Delegate race and later was elected to the Gaithersburg City Council).

More likely, Hopkins will spend the next few weeks continuing to hammer pretty hard at Berliner and try to pull out an unlikely win.

Full disclosure, I donated to Berliner in 2008 and serve on the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board with Hopkins.

Ilaya Hopkins had a lot of potential at the beginning of this race, but Berliner has totally overwhelmed her. He has run a classic incumbent campaign of reporting early money, rolling up lots of endorsements, taking the high road as she has gone negative and using his status as an incumbent to get into the Washington Post on the Pepco issue. This contest stopped being competitive when Berliner got on the Apple Ballot and now none of our informants believe Hopkins will win. She has to be kicking herself for missing out on the District 16 open seat. Hopkins would have been one of the favorites in that race.

The fact that we still have this contest at number ten illustrates how bored we are by the District 15 and 39 House primaries. Those races are midget wrestling compared to the titanic King-Ali and Lenett-Manno cage matches.

9. Council 2 Open Seat
Previous Rank: #9

There are five candidates in the race, but this one is really a three-way contest between Delegate Craig Rice, former Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson, and civic activist and prior candidate Sharon Dooley.

The stars may be aligning for Rice. He has the financial edge, strong endorsements, and is apparently the only candidate doing serious door knocking. Still, Hanson should have some latent name ID and people should be impressed by his experience. Dooley will be the only woman in the primary and has garnered substantial votes in the District before.

The winner here will face a spirited race against Robin Ficker, making this one of the more serious fall contests in the County.

Full disclosure, I have been doing some volunteer work for Craig Rice.

Craig Rice is now the favorite. He has the edge over Royce Hanson and Sharon Dooley in money, endorsements and prior electoral performance. Hanson last ran for office in 1978 (losing a Democratic County Executive primary to Charlie Gilchrist) and has half of Rice’s cash on hand. Dooley was crushed by incumbent Mike Knapp in 2006 and hasn’t changed much since then. She has almost no money. Rice worked very hard to beat popular Republican incumbent Delegate Jean Cryor in the last cycle and his Legislative District 15 precincts accounted for about 40% of the votes cast in Council District 2 in 2006. Additionally, MCEA will knock itself out on poll coverage in this district because Rice could be a swing vote on budget issues. All of this puts Rice over the top.

More tomorrow!