2015 | Politics

Raskin Moving to Highlight Support from Women Voters in District 8 Race

'Women for Jamie' recruiting more members, plans rally and fundraiser in September

Jamie Raskin, center with blue tie, at a campaign event on Aug. 8

Edward Kimmel - via Flickr

Facing a Democratic primary field that includes a well-funded woman as a rival, state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park is moving aggressively to accumulate and highlight support from women voters in his bid to represent the 8th District in Congress.

“Women for Jamie” announced its launch late Wednesday by publishing the names of more than 260 members; organizers say they are seeking to add to that number in advance of a Sept. 27 kickoff rally and fundraiser at the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad.

“Jamie is very proud of the support he is receiving from these very impressive women,” his campaign manager, Marshall Cohen, said, adding that creation of “Women for Jamie” represents a “continual organizing effort” that will be “a large part of our campaign moving forward.”

“As the father of two daughters and a son, and as a passionate champion of reproductive freedom, I place the equal rights of women at the very heart of my politics,” Raskin declared in a statement announcing the effort.

The list of women supporters released by the Raskin campaign Wednesday includes several Montgomery County elected officials who had previously endorsed his candidacy—including state Sens. Susan Lee of Bethesda and Karen Montgomery of Brookeville, Del. Sheila Hixson of Silver Spring, and Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill of Bethesda.

Also on the list of Raskin supporters are two of the other three women currently serving on the county school board: Judith Docca of Montgomery Village and Rebecca Smondrowski of Gaithersburg. (The remaining woman member on the eight-member board, Jill Ortman-Fouse of Silver Spring, said Wednesday she has opted not to make any formal endorsements in the 2016 campaign. However, she praised Raskin as “an extraordinary leader” who has been “enormously supportive of women leadership.”)

Other elected officials on the “Women for Jamie” list include Del. Karen Lewis Young of Frederick County and Howard County Councilmember Jennifer Terrasa, the latter of whom does not reside in the 8th District. Cohen said the 260 women now on the list are “predominantly” but not entirely from the 8th District — which is centered in Montgomery County, but also includes portions of Frederick and Carroll counties.

Raskin is regarded as a leading contender in the contest, having raised more than $550,000 between his announcement of candidacy in mid-April and the end of June. Also among the top contenders is Kathleen Matthews, a Chevy Chase resident and former local news anchor. Matthews, most recently an executive with Marriott International, raised more than $500,000 in the month after announcing her candidacy.

At her announcement in early June, Matthews told reporters she had met with officials of EMILY’s List, which aids Democratic women candidates around the country who favor abortion rights. It remains unclear if EMILY’s List ultimately will opt to make an endorsement in the District 8 contest; In races where it does get heavily involved, it has often been a potent force by “bundling” donations from around the country and funneling that money to a particular candidate.

Besides Matthews, two other women are in the seven-person field: Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase and former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin of Silver Spring. Gutierrez raised only $36,000 in her first two months after announcing: Ervin, who did not announce until July 1, is not due to file a fundraising report until mid-October.

The jockeying for support from women voters in the predominantly Democratic 8th District comes amid a subtext of concern among some political activists that Maryland could be without any women representatives in Congress following the 2016 election.

There are now two Democratic women in the 10-member Maryland congressional delegation: Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince George’s County. But Mikulski is retiring, and Edwards is giving up a safe seat in the 4th District to attempt to succeed Mikulski. She faces a formidable rival in Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is vacating the 8th District seat to run in the Democratic Senate primary. EMILY’s List has opted to line up behind Edwards in that contest.

In an interview late Wednesday, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Rockville, gave voice to some of the conflicts felt by women active in Maryland Democratic politics as the 2016 campaign gains steam.

“I regret the possibility” there may be no women in the congressional delegation after next year’s election, Kagan said. But she added, “I strongly believe in supporting the best candidates and not just considering the demographic profile.”

Kagan, who has endorsed Van Hollen in the Senate primary, said she is currently being “helpful and supportive of both Jamie Raskin and [Del.] Kumar Barve” in the District 8 Democratic primary. Barve, a former House of Delegates majority leader, shares representation with Kagan of Rockville/Gaithersburg-based District 17 in Annapolis. Among many local party activists, he is seen, along with Raskin and Matthews, as currently comprising the top tier of contenders for the congressional nomination.

“At this time, I am supporting the candidates I believe are strongest and most effective,” Kagan said of Raskin and Barve, adding, “The campaign will surely evolve, and the option remains” that she could end up endorsing one over the other. Kagan, along with Raskin backers Lee and Montgomery, are three of the four women in the county’s eight-member state Senate delegation. The other, Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery Village, has indicated she does not plan to make an endorsement in the congressional primary.    

The Raskin campaign flier promoting the Sept. 27 rally of women supporters seeks donations ranging from $50 for a ticket up to $2,700 for status as a “host.” Under federal election law, the $2,700 figure is the maximum per election that an individual can donate to a particular candidate.

Listed as “special guests” at the Bethesda rally/fundraiser are Cecilia Marshall, widow of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Mary Beth Tinker, a free speech activist. As a high school junior, Tinker was the plaintiff in a 1969 precedent-setting case in which the Supreme Court ruled she could not be punished for wearing a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War.

Raskin, best known in the state Senate for his advocacy of a series of progressive social issues,  has ties to both women in his other job as professor of constitutional law at the American University’s Washington College of Law.

He worked with Cecilia Marshall in 1999 to establish the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, named for both Marshall’s husband and former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. That program includes an annual award that carries Tinker’s name.   

In addition to Barve, Ervin, Gutierrez, Matthews and Raskin, the 8th District Democratic primary field includes William Jawando of Silver Spring, a former Obama administration official who last year lost a bid for state delegate. David Anderson of Potomac, an official with a Washington-based seminar and internship program, has indicated plans to run, but has yet to formally announce or file with the Federal Election Commission.