Just days after Delegate Luiz Simmons formally announced he would seek the District 17 Senate seat in next June’s Democratic primary, the jockeying is intensifying for what may turn out to be the only competitive 2014 contest among Montgomery County’s eight Senate districts.
The District 17 slot has been held for the last two decades by Sen. Jennie Forehand, who in recent weeks has appeared conflicted in her public comments about whether she will, at age 77, seek re-election in 2014.
Late Friday, former Delegate Cheryl Kagan – who narrowly lost to Forehand in the 2010 primary, and who has previously acknowledged she is thinking about another Senate run — launched a Facebook “fan page.” Meanwhile, yet another potential candidate, Montgomery County Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski, is said to be eyeing the Senate race in District 17, which encompasses much of Rockville and Gaithersburg, along with portions of North Bethesda and Garrett Park.
Kagan’s new Facebook page contains recently published accounts of Kagan being encouraged to run, and a post by Kagan declaring: “Now that the Rockville & Gaithersburg elections are over, the focus turns to Annapolis and who can best represent us in the state Senate.”
Although Kagan, when contacted, would say only that an announcement of her intentions would be coming soon, she and her supporters sought to turn the launch of the Facebook page into a cyberspace straw poll.
The Kagan camp was boasting that, in just over three hours after its launch, her Facebook page had accumulated as many “likes” – 135 — as a counterpart fan page launched by Simmons six months ago, in May. “The social media primary was won in less than 3.5 hours. Thank you, @facebook friends,” Kagan declared Friday night via Twitter.
As of Sunday evening, the Kagan page had slightly more than 400 likes, as compared to just under 175 for the Simmons page.
A Senate bid by Simmons — a Democratic member of the House of Delegates since 2002 after earlier serving a 1978-1982 stint as a Republican – had been expected for months by District 17 party activists. Simmons, an attorney, formally launched his candidacy last week with an endorsement from U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, whom Simmons endorsed in Delaney’s initial bid for Congress last year.
Both Forehand and Kagan lined up behind Delaney’s opponent in the 2012 Democratic primary, then-state Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola. Kagan served in the General Assembly from 1994 to 2002, after earlier working for several Washington-based advocacy organizations.
Smondrowski was elected to the District 2 seat on the Board of Education last November. She is also a former legislative aide to District 19 Sen. Roger Manno.
In an email, Smondrowski said she has made no decisions about her political future, adding: “I really love what I’m doing now, but also [am] looking at the different options, as many of them don’t come around that often.”