Democratic Committee Backs Fraser-Hidalgo For Vacant Dist. 15 Delegate Seat

Boyds Resident Will Be Second Hispanic-American In MoCo Annapolis Delegation

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Businessman David Fraser-Hidalgo, a one-time Montgomery County Police officer who was born in Ecuador, late Tuesday received the recommendation of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee for a vacant Maryland House of Delegates seat in the District 15.

On the second ballot of the evening, Fraser-Hidalgo, a Boyds resident, won a bare majority of the 24-member committee, capturing 13 votes. The MCDCC’s vice chair, Venattia Vann of Germantown, received 10 votes. The remaining vote went to Joseph Foley, who runs a Potomac-based lobbying and public affairs firm. Unlike the other seven candidates seeking the vacancy, Foley pledged to be a “caretaker” who would serve during the General Assembly’s 2014 session, but not seek election to a full four-year term next year.

Fraser-Hidalgo’s name will now be forwarded to Gov. Martin O’Malley for appointment to the seat, but that is considered little more than a formality. Once appointed, Fraser-Hidalgo, 43, will become the second Hispanic-American in the Montgomery County legislative delegation, joining Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Chevy Chase.

District 15 extends from Potomac through northwest Montgomery County to the Frederick County line. Fraser-Hidalgo ran for a delegate seat there in the 2010 primary, and his subsequent activities on behalf of the party gave him a boost among District 15 Democratic activists. He also claimed the endorsements of the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Business Foundation of Maryland.

On the first ballot Tuesday night, Vann led with 11 votes to nine for Fraser-Hidalgo, two for Foley and one apiece for Hamza Khan and Jinhee Wilde, both Potomac residents. Khan, a political operative, and Wilde, a Rockville-based attorney, were dropped prior to the second ballot as the low vote-getters. Both ballots were split largely along racial lines, with Vann, who is black, receiving solid support from the committee’s 10 African-American members.

Tuesday’s action ended a four-month long process of political musical chairs triggered by the June announcement by then-state Sen. Rob Garagiola that he would resign his seat. The MCDCC last month recommended then-Delegate Brian Feldman be named to fill Garagiola’s slot, and O’Malley’s subsequent appointment of Feldman created the vacant delegate seat.

During Feldman’s pursuit of the Senate seat, several minority group representatives sought to run an alternative candidate, complaining that Montgomery County – while now majority-minority – had yet to elect a minority to any of the county’s state Senate seats. This increased political pressure on the committee to name a minority member to the delegate vacancy. Of the eight candidates who applied for the vacancy, six are from minority groups and three – Fraser-Hidalgo, Wilde, and North Potomac resident Anis Ahmed, who works in the county’s Office of Human Rights – are immigrants who were born abroad.  

In a surprise, former Delegate Saqib Ali – who, along with Fraser-Hidalgo and Vann, had been seen among the frontrunners for the appointment – failed to receive any votes from committee members. Ali, who represented neighboring District 39 from 2006-2010, was shifted into District 15 by redistricting.

Ali had been actively seeking for the delegate appointment since June, and, in recent days, he garnered endorsements from two labor groups with large local memberships: the Service Employees International Union and the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO). But, according to sources, there was heavy lobbying against him by several of his former colleagues in the General Assembly – who, among other things, have never been fond of the ambitious Ali’s penchant for calling attention to himself. His 2010 primary challenge to state Sen. Nancy King in District 39 also has left bruises.  

Despite being shut out in the committee vote, Ali – who already has filed for the District 15 seat with the Maryland Board of Elections – confirmed afterward that he plans to run in the June primary, creating one of several political hurdles for Fraser-Hidalgo in the coming months.

Ali may be just one of several aspirants for the seat seeking to appeal directly to the voters next year. Kevin Mack, a staff member for U.S. Rep. John Delaney, is expected tor run, pending clearance from U.S. House officials. In addition, the primary field may also include Khan and Lori Askinazi of Potomac, a Democratic precinct official who applied for the delegate vacancy.

Fraser-Hidalgo, whose 2010 delegate bid left him with an empty campaign treasury, will have to start raising money quickly. Once he is seated in January for the 2014 General Assembly session, he is barred by law from raising money until the session adjourns in April, barely two months prior to the primary.

“It’s pretty wide open in June,” said one political insider.

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