Del. Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington, who has been mulling whether to run for the open 8th District congressional seat for the past four months, has decided to pass on the contest.
Meanwhile, former County Council member Valerie Ervin of Silver Spring, who has been indicating plans to run since Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen said he would vacate the seat to run for the U.S. Senate, formally announced Wednesday that she is in the race.
The latest developments mean that the field for the District 8 Democratic nomination, to be decided in a primary election in late April 2016, appears to be largely set. No Republicans yet have announced in the Democratic-dominated district, which is centered in Montgomery County but also includes portions of Carroll and Frederick counties.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement by Ervin, who held the District 5 County Council seat from 2006 until her resignation at the end of 2013, the candidates who had announced for the District 8 seat included state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park; state Dels. Kumar Barve of Gaithersburg and Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase; former Obama administration official and 2014 delegate candidate Will Jawando, a Silver Spring resident; and former Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews, who lives in Chevy Chase.
Del. Ariana Kelly of Bethesda, who also had indicated in recent months that she is thinking about entering the congressional race, Wednesday said in an interview that she will not run. “We have a very robust field, and I am excited about a number of the candidates in it,” Kelly said. She also felt that issues of priority to her are being addressed by other candidates. “There’s been a discussion about economic justice, women’s economic issues and family security issues, and that’s very important to me,” she added.
Members of the state Senate and House of Delegates can run for Congress next year without having to relinquish their current offices, which are not up for election until 2018.
In an email scheduled to be sent to supporters Wednesday afternoon, Waldstreicher—elected last year to his third term in the House of Delegates—declared, “I am not running for Congress—I love this county and have too much work to do locally.” In particular, he cited overcrowding in Montgomery County public schools and recent problems caused by the aging infrastructure of the Metrorail system.
“I want to thank the many friends, family members, and business & labor leaders who enthusiastically asked me to put my name forward…I have no doubt that this opportunity may yet rise again,” the 35-year-old Waldstreicher added.
Waldstreicher said earlier this year that he was thinking about running for the congressional seat to ensure economic issues of concern to him were addressed. “There are certain issues I care deeply about—economic justice, income inequality, the strength of our labor movement—and it’s important to me that, in any race for a congressional seat, we’re talking about these issues,” he said in March.
Ervin, who made little secret of her desire to run for county executive in 2014, left the council several months after Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced he was running for a third term, effectively blocking her and several others from seeking the county’s top job. She left the council 18 months ago to become executive director of the Center for Working Families, which is affiliated with the Working Families Party. She relinquished the latter post prior to announcing her congressional bid.
“While we have made great strides here in Montgomery County and across our district, there is still so much work we need to do,” said Ervin, whose announcement was accompanied by the release of a campaign video. “Now it’s time to take our fight for working families to the halls of Congress—to get real things done to advance fair wages, strong communities and equal opportunity for all.”
Ervin spent two years on the Montgomery County Board of Education before her election to the County Council, and was president of the council in 2011. She worked as a union organizer prior to running for office.
Because Ervin waited until July 1 to launch her candidacy, she will not have to file a campaign finance disclosure statement required by the Federal Election Commission until mid-October. This gives her the next three months to raise funds to demonstrate the financial viability of her campaign.
Insiders suggest that winning the District 8 Democratic nomination will require a campaign budget of at least $1 million and possibly as much as $3 million, given the cost of TV advertising in the Washington area market.
Ervin went on Facebook last week asking supporters for small donations, and said her campaign has filed the necessary paperwork with the FEC to establish a campaign committee. Under FEC regulations, candidates for federal office must establish a campaign committee within 15 days of raising or spending at least $5,000.
While Ervin will not have to file a campaign finance report covering the second quarter of 2015—the three-month period from April 1 through June 30—the other five candidates now in the race are required to do so. The results they disclose in a couple of weeks will constitute an informal primary of sorts, with their fundraising hauls helping to establish a pecking order for the candidates among party activists and the media.
Gutierrez, Jawando, Matthews and Raskin all filed their candidacies between April 1 and June 30, meaning that the forthcoming finance reports—due into the FEC by July 15—will be the first they have filed as congressional candidates. Barve filed his candidacy in early March; he consequently filed a disclosure report April 15, showing him raising about $66,000 in a three-week period following his announcement.
There is particular interest among insiders in Matthews’ forthcoming FEC report in gauging the degree to which Matthews—a one-time news anchor for WJLA-TV in Washington—is prepared to invest personal financial resources in the race. She is married to MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews.
Kathleen Matthews and her husband also are well-connected in the Washington government and lobbying community—high-profile lobbyist Heather Podesta last week sponsored a fundraiser for Matthews, Politico reported—and this could help to provide a fundraising advantage over other candidates in the field.
Valerie Ervin’s campaign launch video: