Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Primaries to Watch V, Part Three

By Marc Korman and Adam Pagnucco.

Here are races Six and Five!

6. District 16 Delegate Open Seat
Previous Rank: #6

The chaos continues in District 16. At times, this has started to shape up as a race between Obama campaign staffer Kyle Lierman and Ariana Kelly from MomsRising. Both have the resources to run competitively and the mail house does not care if it was loaned to the campaign or only raised as a result of family connections. On the other hand, Kelly has not been able to consolidate as much support against Lierman as it appeared she would early on, when she picked up the Apple Ballot and SEIU.

Lierman and Kelly are still the most likely new Delegates, but there are nine other challengers in the race and they are all making waves in their own ways. Hrant Jamgochian can try to leverage the Post endorsement into political victory. Mark Winston and Charlie Chester can still convince voters that their experience is what is needed. Scott Goldberg can make good use of his combination of personality and policy smarts to connect. Bill Farley has demonstrated at least through lawn signs (which cannot vote) a presence far beyond his political base of Somerset. One thing holding back the pack is a serious lack of resources compared to Kelly and Lierman.

Incumbents Bill Frick and Susan Lee are also working really hard to keep their seats, which seems pretty certain but it is never a bad thing to see incumbents work.

Full disclosure, I have volunteered for the incumbents and donated to Bill Frick.

It’s a pity that Hrant Jamgochian, Scott Goldberg and Mark Winston do not live in District 39 as all of them could very well win the open seat up there. Unfortunately for them, they are competing with Kyle Lierman and Ariana Kelly.

Our spies say that Lierman is running the best campaign. He has tons of outside money without resorting to big self-funded loans (as has Kelly), has good mail and has a sophisticated voter outreach operation. None of this is a surprise given the work he did for Barack Obama in 2008. If Lierman was not a candidate, he would be an excellent campaign manager. Kelly has two important advantages: her endorsements (including the Apple) and her status as the only female challenger. She also has enough money to compete with Lierman.

The fact that the Post did not go with Lierman helps Kelly, but the teachers have more critical races than this one to which to devote poll coverage. Since the mail is crazy in this district, that puts a premium on other ways to reach voters. Lierman’s skill set will help in that regard. I still see this as a two-way race, but one interesting new wrinkle is that Kelly has gone negative against Lierman. If the two of them start slugging it out, there is a tiny chance that another challenger could squeeze past them for the open seat.

5. District 19 Delegate Open Seat
Previous Rank: #7

You have to hand it to Bonnie Cullison. If she is half as convincing with District 19 voters as she must have been with the Post to get their endorsement, she should do well on September 14th. But that only works if she is out there hustling as much as the other candidates working for District 19’s two open seats including fellow Apple Ballot endorsee Jay Hutchins, fellow Post endorsee Sam Arora, as well as Hoan Dang and Vivian Scretchen.

The teachers will likely be out in force in District 19, which will benefit Jay Hutchins since he shares their endorsement. Sam Arora has plenty of money and work ethic, but it is probably time to start spending some of it on mail.

Full disclosure, I donated to Arora and have volunteered for him.

Ben Kramer is the only incumbent in the race and is certain to come back. That leaves two seats for three quality candidates: Sam Arora, Bonnie Cullison and Jay Hutchins.

Lots of sources in the district are picking Arora to finish second. He started early, has the most money, has been working the hardest and has performed well in candidate forums. He does not have the Apple Ballot, but he does have the Post endorsement, and this may be one district where the Post is as, or maybe even more, important than the Apple. Arora has been all over Leisure World and his signs sprouted first around the district, but Hutchins has nearly caught up in the sign war. Arora has problems: he started as a complete unknown, has little history in the district before running for office and some say his campaign has petered out a little bit. But most of our informants say that he has run the best campaign of any Delegate candidate and that could get him to Annapolis.

If Arora wins, Cullison and Hutchins will square off for the remaining seat. Cullison scored a huge win by getting the Post endorsement, and her supporters can point to that as a sign that she is not merely a creature of MCEA. Hutchins is hustling and is liked by nearly everyone who meets him. Cullison’s campaign gets low marks for execution and Hutchins has more money, but Cullison benefits from being the most viable woman in the race. Our sources are flipping coins on this one, but the Post could make the difference for Cullison in the end. The result could easily depend on absentees and provisionals.

More tomorrow!