Credit: Via Maryland Department of Planning

The Maryland Sierra Club on Monday issued its endorsements for two state Senate and seven House of Delegate seats up for grabs in this year’s Democratic primary thanks to an incumbent retiring or seeking another office. The organization’s latest selections include Del. Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington in the hotly contested race for the District 18 seat now held by Sen. Richard Madaleno, who is running for governor.

Politically, District 18 is the most wide-open state legislative jurisdiction in the county this year, with two of its three seats in the House of Delegates also being vacated—due to Waldstreicher’s Senate run and veteran Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez pursuing a County Council seat. In its newly announced endorsements, the Sierra Club backed Emily Shetty of Kensington, vice chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC), and Jared Solomon of Chevy Chase, a former congressional aide, for the District 18 open delegate slots.

In neighboring District 19, the environmental group backed Del. Ben Kramer of Derwood for the seat being given up by state Sen. Roger Manno, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed departing U.S. Rep. John Delaney. Unlike Waldstreicher, who faces opposition from political activist Dana Beyer, Kramer has no primary opponent with barely two weeks left until the Feb. 27 filing deadline. Kramer and Waldstreicher have each served three terms in the House of Delegates.     

In other competitive open seat races in the June 26 primary, the Sierra Club endorsed Lily Qi of North Potomac, a senior aide to County Executive Ike Leggett, for the District 15 seat of Del. Aruna Miller, who, like Manno, is seeking the Democratic nomination for Delaney’s congressional seat; attorney Sara Love of Bethesda for the District 16 seat now held by Del. Bill Frick, a candidate for county executive; and Rockville City Council member Julie Palakovich Carr for the seat of Del. Andrew Platt, who declined to seek a second term in Annapolis.

Also, the club endorsed attorney Vaughn Stewart of Derwood for Kramer’s District 19 delegate seat, and Lesley Lopez of Germantown, who has served as director of communications for several trade associations and advocacy groups, for the District 39 seat now held by Del. Charles Barkley, who is running for a County Council at-large seat.

In a county where support of environmental causes runs high, the Sierra Club’s endorsement has been increasingly coveted by candidates. It is now seen by insiders as ranking not far behind what have traditionally been the two most influential endorsements in county elections: the backing of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) “Apple Ballot” and The Washington Post editorial page.

Most of the MCEA’s endorsements for the county’s open state legislative seats are expected to be rolled out later this month.

Following is a rundown of the endorsement decisions that the Sierra Club announced Monday, which followed an earlier round of endorsements of legislative incumbents seeking re-election that the organization unveiled last October:

District 14 (eastern Montgomery County adjacent to Prince George’s County): Sen. Craig Zucker, who has no primary opposition with the Feb. 27 filing deadline closing in, was among Monday’s endorsements. Because Zucker was appointed in late 2015 upon the resignation of then-Sen. Karen Montgomery, he was not included in the Sierra Club’s October round of endorsements—which was limited to incumbents elected to their current posts in 2014. Also endorsed in the latest round was Del. Pamela Queen, appointed to fill Zucker’s delegate seat when he was elevated to the Senate. The Sierra Club included Dels. Anne Kaiser and Eric Luedtke in its October endorsements. Barring a late entry of candidates against Kaiser, Luedtke and Queen, District 14 will be the county’s only legislative district without a contested Democratic primary this year.

District 15 (Bethesda through Potomac north to the Frederick County line): Qi, currently an assistant chief administrative officer for Montgomery County, is among seven non-incumbent Democrats taking aim at the open delegate seat. Dels. Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo are seeking re-election, and were endorsed by the Sierra Club last fall—as was Sen. Brian Feldman, who has not drawn primary opposition. Feldman, Dumais and Fraser-Hidalgo are running as an incumbent slate, and—at least so far—have opted not to ask any of the non-incumbent contenders to join them as a preferred choice to succeed Miller.

District 16 (most of Bethesda and portions of Chevy Chase and Potomac): The backing of the Sierra Club gives Love her first major organizational endorsement in a contest in which five other non-incumbents also are eyeing the open seat. One of them, teacher Samir Paul of Bethesda, received a boost last month when the MCEA—to which he belongs—endorsed him. Sen. Susan Lee and Dels. Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman are seeking re-election, and received the Sierra Club endorsement in October. As in District 15, Lee—who has no primary opposition—along with Kelly and Korman have formed an incumbent slate, but to date have not sought to tap a non-incumbent candidate for the remaining delegate slot.

District 17 (most of Rockville and Gaithersburg): In October, the Sierra Club endorsed Platt as well as Dels. Kumar Barve and Jim Gilchrist for re-election. In a surprise, Platt announced last month he was not running again, and Barve and Gilchrist moved quickly to add Palakovich Carr to their slate for the remaining delegate seat. She has now received the Sierra Club’s backing in a field of non-incumbent contenders that includes MCDCC Treasurer Julian Haffner and county Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski, both of Gaithersburg. Sen. Cheryl Kagan, endorsed by the Sierra Club in October, is the only one of the county’s incumbent senators who has yet to formally file for re-election. But she has not drawn primary opposition.

District 18 (east Bethesda through Chevy Chase to Silver Spring, including Garrett Park, Kensington, Wheaton and a portion of Rockville): In addition to the new endorsements of Shetty and Solomon—who are among seven non-incumbents taking aim at the two open delegate slots—the Sierra Club endorsed Del. Al Carr for re-election last fall for the district’s other delegate slot. In the district’s Senate race, the organization’s endorsement gives Waldstreicher a boost 10 days after a major county union, SEIU Local 500, switched to Beyer after supporting Waldstreicher in past races. SEIU Local 500 members include the support staff of the Montgomery County school system; another SEIU unit, 32BJ, which represents property service workers in the Washington area, is expected to formally endorse Waldstreicher later this week.

District 19 (Silver Spring north to portions of Rockville and Gaithersburg): Stewart is among a half-dozen non-incumbent Democrats vying for Kramer’s open delegate seat. The Sierra Club’s earlier endorsements included Dels. Bonnie Cullison and Marice Morales, both seeking re-election to the district’s other two seats.

District 20 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park): The Sierra Club’s Monday endorsements included Sen. Will Smith, who was appointed in late 2016 to succeed now-U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin; Smith has not drawn primary opposition. Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, appointed by the MCDCC to Smith’s former delegate seat last year, also was endorsed. She is seeking re-election along with Del. David Moon, who received Sierra Club backing in October. But the organization has not yet endorsed a candidate for the seat opened by the retirement of long-serving Del. Sheila Hixson; an endorsement for that slot is expected in March. Sources said the Sierra Club deliberations had not finished in time to include it in the latest round. So far, there are four non-incumbents who have filed eyeing the nomination for the open seat.

District 39 (North Potomac through Germantown and Montgomery Village to Clarksburg): Lopez is among five non-incumbent contenders. A political brawl has erupted between Leggett and members of the District 39 delegation seeking re-election—Sen. Nancy King and Dels. Kirill Reznik and Shane Robinson. The latter three late last spring opted to add Lopez to their incumbent slate, while Leggett has come out strongly for Gabriel Acevero of Montgomery Village, a field staffer for UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO. The Sierra Club endorsement of Lopez comes a couple of weeks after Acevero announced the backing of SEIU Local 500 as well as MCGEO, which represents a majority of the county government’s full-time work force.

The Sierra Club last fall endorsed Reznik and Robinson for the other two delegate nominations. The group added King to its endorsements Monday. It remains unclear why King, a three-term incumbent who chairs the county’s Senate delegation, was not included in the earlier round. Sources indicated at the time that the Sierra Club had no particular dispute with her record, but that she had not scored high enough on an internal vote rating system to earn a first-round endorsement. King remains unopposed for renomination as the filing deadline looms.