Veteran at-large County Councilmember Nancy Floreen said this morning that she has decided not to enter the race for the District 8 congressional seat being vacated next year by Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Notwithstanding an overall field of Democratic contenders for the District 8 slot that continues to expand, Floreen is the latest of a series of County Council members to either disavow interest in the congressional race or to consider it but ultimately decide against running. Her move also appears to eliminate the possibility that any of the current nine council members will seek to move to Capitol Hill in 2016.
A former Garrett Park mayor and onetime member of the county Planning Board, Floreen was first elected to the County Council in 2002; her four successful races were seen as giving her an advantage in the congressional district, which is based in Montgomery County, but also includes portions of Frederick and Carroll counties.
Floreen, who last week indicated she was giving “really serious consideration” to running for Congress, said today: “I am absolutely convinced that I could win this race…I have far better name recognition, I believe, than anybody else.” However, after disclosing her decision not to run at a breakfast gathering of Democratic activists from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area, she added in an interview: “At the end of the day, I concluded—and I don’t mean to use platitudes—that I can really do so much more locally.”
Floreen, 63, chairs the council’s influential Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, and, as the council’s vice president, is in line to assume the presidency in 2016.
“Once I was a member of Congress, I would spend 40 hours a week raising money,” Floreen observed, noting she had been told by consultants that a competitive candidate in the contest to succeed Van Hollen will need to raise $1.5 million to $2 million. But she added: “At large, I represent more people than in a congressional district, so I’m not particularly daunted by any of those factors. For me, it’s not about the campaign, it’s about the job. I can really make a difference here and I’d like to continue doing that.”
Del. Kumar Barve of Gaithersburg, a former majority leader of the state House of Delegates, is so far the only formally announced candidate in the Democratic primary for the District 8 seat, while state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park plans to announce his candidacy in a couple of weeks. A third contender, former District 5 County Councilmember Valerie Ervin of Silver Spring, plans to announce her candidacy soon, while Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase recently signaled her intention to join the contest.
A fifth potential candidate, former Obama administration official William Jawando, is moving toward a run for Congress, sources said. Jawando narrowly lost a bid for state delegate in Silver Spring/Takoma Park-based District 20 in last June’s Democratic primary, after being edged out by a candidate slate organized by Raskin.
Others Democrats said to still be considering the District 8 congressional race include Dels. Ariana Kelly of Bethesda and Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington; former Del. Bill Bronrott of Bethesda and Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews, a former news anchor on Washington-based WJLA-TV/Channel 7. The only Republican to express interest so far in the Democratic-dominated district is businessman Frank Howard, who last fall ran a competitive race for state Senate in a district covering the eastern portion of Montgomery County.
In addition, Oscar Ramirez of Rockville—a local Democratic political activist who works for a Washington-based lobbying firm—also has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the District 8 seat. But Ramirez said this past weekend that he is not running.
Prior to Floreen’s announcement today, two of her County Council colleagues—District 4 Councilmember Nancy Navarro of Colesville and at-large Councilmember Hans Riemer of Takoma Park—had considered running for the vacancy being vacated by Van Hollen, but decided against it. Riemer has since announced he will endorse Raskin’s candidacy.
In addition, two other council members—Roger Berliner, who represents Bethesda-based District 1, and council President George Leventhal of Takoma Park, both of whom are former congressional aides—have disavowed interest in the race.
At least a half-dozen members of the council are considered potential contenders for county executive if, as expected, incumbent Ike Leggett does not seek a fourth term in 2018. Floreen declined comment today when asked whether she might entertain a run for county executive as a future option.