Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Chevy Chase) is jumping into the race for Montgomery County Council.
Gutierrez said in an interview with Bethesda Beat Tuesday that she will not seek re-election to the District 18 seat she’s held since 2003 to run for the council.
She said she would like to make the switch because she feels that progress on issues she cares about has been slow at the state level.
“I’m hoping at the local level, with a smaller set of colleagues—nine on the council, compared to 141 in the House—it will be possible to make change and to promote better opportunities, jobs and all the other things our community needs,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez’s candidacy was first reported on Tuesday by MarylandReporter. She filed to use the county’s new public election financing system with the Maryland Board of Elections Monday. She said she chose to run in District 1 rather than at-large, where three of the four seats will be open due to term limits, because District 1 is her home and she previously represented much of the district as a school board member.
Gutierrez joins a still growing field of Democrats vying for a seat now held by Roger Berliner, who is running for county executive and can’t run again for the council due to term limits.
Former Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman, former Planning Board member Meredith Wellington, attorney Reggie Oldak, community activist Bill Cook and Andrew Friedson, a former adviser to Comptroller Peter Franchot, are all running for the Democratic nomination for the seat. Republican Richard Banach, of Chevy Chase, has also filed to run for the seat.
The primary election is June 26, 2018.
Gutierrez, 75, served on the county’s Board of Education from 1990 to 1998 prior to winning election to the House of Delegates in 2002. In the General Assembly, she has served on the Appropriations Committee since 2007.
She said both elected positions have given her experience in balancing budgets.
She noted that the council struggled to find sufficient funding for its goals prior to raising property taxes 8.7 percent last year. She described the council’s decision to raise taxes as “a very difficult and important step.”
“The tax issue is still very, very much in front of taxpayers,” Gutierrez said. “I think we need to demonstrate that we have good government in place that’s going to be transparent and responsible. Fiscal management is important to the county and it’s important to me.”
She describes herself as a progressive who supports a $15-per-hour minimum wage and immigrant rights.
After immigrating to the U.S. from El Salvador, she attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and received a chemistry degree from Penn State. She later earned advanced degrees in information systems from American University and applied engineering at George Washington University.
Prior to joining the school board, she was a deputy administrator in the federal transportation department during the Clinton administration. She ran unsuccesfully for the District 8 Congressional seat in 2016, which was won by Jamie Raskin.
She said she considered running for the state Senate seat in District 18. Richard Madaleno, who holds the seat now, is running for governor. However, she decided Senate service didn’t appeal to her.
“The idea of having to follow [Senate] President [Mike] Miller in what he considers are his priorities is not really inviting to me,” Gutierrez said. “I have a passion for issues that unfortunately are not in the vanguard in the rest of the state.”
She said, for example, that she was proud of the House for passing the Trust Act in the 2016 session—a bill that would have prevented local or state governments from using their resources to aid immigration enforcement. However, she was disappointed to watch the bill die in the state Senate.
When asked about the recent decisions by the County Council to increase density and allow hundreds of new housing units in the recently updated Westbard and downtown Bethesda sector plans, she said she believes the planning process needs to be improved.
“I’m not certain the more recent decisions have been as thoroughly vetted and considered as they need to be,” Gutierrez said.
She added that she would advocate for a balanced process to make sure infrastructure and the school system can keep up with new development.
She plans to formally file to run for the District 1 Council seat next week.
Gutierrez’s entrance to the council race will leave two open seats in District 18, which includes Kensington, Takoma Park and parts of Silver Spring. Incumbent Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Kensington) plans to seek the District 18 Senate seat. The third incumbent in the district, Al Carr (D-Kensington), plans to run for re-election.
Democrats including Mila Johns, Emily Shetty and Jared Solomon plan to run for delegate in the district.