Update – March 6, 11:30 a.m. – Add two veteran local officeholders to the crowd of potential candidates eyeing a run for the District 8 congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate next year.
Del. Kumar Barve, D-Gaithersburg, a former majority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates and now chair of its Environment and Transportation Committee, said he is considering a run in District 8, which is based in Montgomery County but also includes portions of Frederick and Carroll counties. “A lot of people have asked me to me to look at this seriously and I am. I am going to make a decision shortly,” Barve said Friday morning.
Meanwhile, at-large County Councilmember Nancy Floreen joined at least two other County Council members in considering a run for the 8th District congressional slot. “I haven’t ruled it out at this point — it’s certainly worth consideration,” said Floreen, adding, “These opportunities occur very rarely.”
There was last a vacancy in the 8th District nearly 30 years ago — in 1986 — when then-Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes vacated the seat to make an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate. The congressional seat was captured that year by Republican Connie Morella, who served for 16 years until being ousted by Van Hollen, D-Kensington, in 2002.
Barve had previously been mentioned as a potential candidate in the neighboring 6th Congressional District — which stretches from Montgomery County into western Maryland — if U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, opts to join Van Hollen in the race for the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Delaney has said he is exploring such a run.
While Barve has lived in the 6th District since the latest congressional redistricting three years ago, he said his residence was previously in the 8th District, while adding, “I grew up in the 8th District, and I work in the 8th District.” The Rockville/Gaithersburg-based state legislative district that Barve now represents is split between the 6th and 8th districts.
Under the U.S. Constitution, members of Congress do not have to live within the boundaries of the district that they represent, but must reside in the state in which the district is located. (Delaney actually lives in the 8th District, just slightly outside the boundaries of the 6th District.)
Barve, first elected to the General Assembly in 1990 — the same year as Van Hollen began a 12-year stint in the state legislature prior to moving to Congress — is now the second senior member of Montgomery County’s 32-member legislative delegation. He also has been regarded as a possible future contender for speaker of the House of Delegates. Because his delegate seat is not up until 2018, Barve could run for Congress next year without having to give up his current post.
Barve becomes at least the seventh member of the county’s state legislative delegation eyeing a congressional run. The list also includes Sens. Richard Madaleno, D-Kensington; Roger Manno, D-Silver Spring; and Jamie Raskin, D-Takoma Park; as well as Dels. Bill Frick and Ariana Kelly, both D-Bethesda, and Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Kensington. But Frick and Manno, while both residents of District 8, are considered more likely to run for a possible opening in the 6th District, which overlaps with their respective state legislative districts.
Floreen joins at-large County Councilmember Hans Riemer and District 4 County Councilmember Nancy Navarro in mulling a run for District 8. A former member of the county’s Planning Board, Floreen — a member of the council since 2002 — has now run countywide four times, which could give her a head start in name identification if she decides to pursue a congressional race. Her current term does not expire until 2018, also allowing her to run for Congress next year without giving up her council seat.
Another member of the nine-member County Council, District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, said in a letter sent today to supporters that he would not be a candidate for the Van Hollen seat. “My own experience has reinforced the belief that those of us privileged to serve you at the local level have an extraordinary opportunity to improve the quality of life for all of us,” said Berliner, who served as a congressional aide prior to his 2006 election to the County Council.
Former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who represented District 5 in the eastern portion of the county before stepping down at the end of 2013, also is considering a run for the District 8 congressional seat, So are former state delegate candidate William Jawando — a former congressional and White House aide — and Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews, a Chevy Chase resident who is a onetime news anchor for WJLA/Channel 7.
Original Story – March 5, 8 p.m. – The Montgomery County-based 8th District Congressional seat doesn’t come open very often; in fact, it last happened nearly 30 years ago. Consequently, Wednesday’s announcement by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, that he is voluntarily giving up the slot to make a run for U.S. Senate may literally represent the chance of a lifetime for those with ambitions of serving on Capitol Hill.
Van Hollen’s announcement has set off a scramble among a group of contenders that already numbers in double digits, a count that could go even higher before the situation shakes out in the coming weeks and months. Insiders estimate that anyone seeking to mount a competitive candidacy in the Democratic primary in April 2016 will have to raise a war chest in the $1 million to $2 million range.
At least a half-dozen members of the county’s state legislative delegation and two members of the County Council are among those eyeing the 8th District — which, while redrawn three years ago to include portions of Carroll and Frederick counties, remains both Montgomery County-based and predominantly Democratic. Van Hollen won re-election by a 3-2 margin last year.
Adding to the political allure of running for Congress next year: members of the General Assembly and County Council can do so without giving up their current posts, which are not up again until 2018.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Takoma Park, has been the most open with his congressional ambitions, saying today he is “actively exploring it with lots of people. I have been heartened by the encouragement I have gotten from colleagues in the Senate and the House.” First elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 2006, Raskin — a professor of constitutional law at American University’s law school who currently chairs the Senate committee that vets gubernatorial appointments — said he intends to reach a decision on whether to run before the state legislative session ends next month.
Another influential member of the county’s Senate delegation, Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Kensington, late Thursday was quoted by the Washington Blade, as saying, “I am seriously considering this unexpected opportunity.” Madaleno, who could not immediately be reached for further comment, is the Senate’s only openly gay member. As vice chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee, he is a key player on state fiscal policy.
Among other state legislators in the potential mix: Sen. Roger Manno, D-Silver Spring; Del. Bill Frick, D-Bethesda, who, as parliamentarian, is a member of the current leadership of the House of Delegates; and Dels. Ariana Kelly, D-Bethesda and Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Kensington. “It’s certainly something I’m thinking about,” said Kelly, a former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2010. Frick, Manno and Waldstreicher have been coyer about their future intentions.
Also looking at the 8th District race are Montgomery County Council members Hans Riemer and Nancy Navarro, as well as former council member Valerie Ervin, who resigned her District 5 council seat in December 2013 to become executive director of the Center for Working Families — an arm of the Working Families Party. Ervin had eyed a run for county executive in 2014, but was thwarted when County Executive Ike Leggett opted to seek a third term.
The mushrooming list of possible Democratic contenders to succeed Van Hollen also includes William Jawando –a former congressional aide and White House official who fell just short of winning a state delegate seat in last June’s primary in a Silver Spring/Takoma Park-based district — and Kathleen Matthews, an executive of Bethesda-based Marriott International.
Matthews, a Chevy Chase resident and former news anchor for WJLA/Channel 7 in Washington, is married to Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.” Kathleen Matthews’ interest in the seat was first reported Thursday by Politico.
Complicating the political jockeying for the 8th District is the prospect that the neighboring 6th District seat, which has included a large swath of Montgomery County since it was redrawn after the 2010 census, could also become open next year.
The current occupant of the 6th District slot, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, declared earlier this week via Twitter: “I’m in public service to get things done and will explore a race for Senate. [Maryland] families want jobs, economic opportunity & real solutions.” It remains unclear whether Delaney is serious about a Senate race next year — putting him on a collision course with his Montgomery County colleague, Van Hollen — or whether he is using the jockeying to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski to position himself for a run for governor in 2018.
The situation may be clarified next week when Delaney will be in Annapolis to meet with members of the county’s Senate delegation. Van Hollen is scheduled to be in the state capital Friday as he seeks to pick up support for his Senate bid.
If Delaney runs for Senate, Frick is said by sources to be strongly inclined to run to succeed Delaney in the 6th District — about half of whose residents are in Montgomery County, but which extends through four other counties to the western edge of the state. Frick’s Bethesda residence is in the 8th District, but he lives about a mile from the 6th District and a portion of the state legislative district he represents overlaps with the 6th District. Frick flirted with running in the 6th District in 2014, when Delaney was dropping public hints about running for governor.
Manno, a former Capitol Hill aide who worked for three members of the U.S. House of Representatives before winning a General Assembly seat in 2006, also may opt to run in the 6th even though he is an 8th District resident. About one-third of his state legislative district overlaps with the 6th District.
Frick and Manno would not be the only potential 6th District Democratic contenders if Delaney takes shot at the Senate seat: Others include Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Potomac; Del. Kumar Barve, D-Gaithersburg, who chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee; Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Germantown; and District 5 Montgomery County Council member Craig Rice, another Germantown resident.
In the 8th District, Rice’s council colleague, Riemer, might benefit from having twice run countywide as an at-large member of the council. However, it is not clear if Riemer would get into the congressional race if Raskin, a fellow Takoma Park resident with whom Riemer has an amicable relationship, runs. “I am certainly looking at it,” Riemer said when asked about the congressional race.
Navarro, whose District 4 includes the northeast section of the county, said she is “definitely going to think about” an 8th District bid. Navarro is one of the few Latino office holders in a county where the Hispanic-American population is approaching 20 percent; if she were to be elected to Congress, she would be the first Latino member from Maryland.
Ervin, who was close to Navarro while the two served on the council, said late Thursday: “I am looking carefully at the opportunity that exists to run, and am taking it very seriously.” She and Jawando are the two possible African-American contenders currently eyeing the Van Hollen seat. Jawando worked in the office of then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and later in the Obama White House. He recently started an organization, Our Voices Matter, aimed at increasing political participation in low-income communities in Montgomery County and the state at large.
“I’m taking a very strong look at it,” Jawando said of the congressional race. “These seats don’t come open that often.” But controversial changes in the 8th District after the 2010 census may have decreased the political clout of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans there. Prior to 2010, the district was about 17 percent black and 17 percent Latino. The corresponding percentages have now dropped to 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in the current district, according to an analysis by Claremont College’s Rose Institute.
In terms of voting strength, Madaleno and Waldstreicher — if either of them runs — may benefit from representing the 18th state legislative district, which stretches from Chevy Chase through Kensington to Silver Spring. Of the eight state legislative districts in the county, it is the only one that lies entirely within the 8th Congressional District.
Asked for comment Thursday, Waldstreicher said only: “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.”