Leading Environmental Group Backs Aruna Miller’s Candidacy for Congress in District 6

Leading Environmental Group Backs Aruna Miller’s Candidacy for Congress in District 6

Sierra Club endorsement comes as David Trone pours another $3 million into primary bid

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Aruna Miller

VIA MILLER

The Maryland Sierra Club on Tuesday gave its endorsement to state Del. Aruna Miller of Darnestown in the eight-way Democratic primary for the District 6 congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. John Delaney.

The organization, which claims about 71,000 members and supporters in Maryland, cited Miller’s opposition to both so-called “fracking”—a method of extracting natural gas—and a planned natural gas pipeline running under the Potomac River in western Maryland in making its choice.

“…Aruna has shown she will stand up to powerful interests to protect the environment,” Betsy Johnson, political chair of the Maryland Sierra Club, said in a statement. “A mother, immigrant and engineer, Aruna will bring a different perspective to Congress—a welcome change from the dominant voices of this administration.” The Sierra Club also pointed to Miller’s 94 percent rating on the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard since she was first elected to the General Assembly in 2010.

The Sierra Club endorsement is considered particularly influential in Montgomery County, where more than half of the registered Democratic voters in the 6th District reside.

The endorsement was announced a day after the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance filings showed Miller and another contender in the June 26 District 6 primary, Potomac businessman David Trone, financially way out in front of the rest of the Democratic field—thanks in large measure to Trone’s personal fortune and continued backing for Miller from what appears to be a national network of fellow Indian-Americans.

The Sierra Club’s move gives Miller a second major organizational endorsement. She is also backed by EMILY’s List, a Washington-based national political action committee devoted to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights.    

The eight Democrats in the primary contest—who also include state Sen. Roger Manno of Silver Spring—are vying for a district that stretches 200 miles from Potomac and Gaithersburg to the western edge of Maryland’s panhandle. Delaney, a Potomac resident, is giving up the seat after three terms to pursue a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee is expected to face Delaney’s 2016 Republican opponent, Potomac-based national security consultant Amie Hoeber, in November. Hoeber is running against three little-known opponents in her party’s primary.

Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More—a nationwide retail chain selling beer, wine and liquor—pumped a record $13.4 million of his own assets into a bid for Congress in neighboring District 8 in 2016. He finished second in the Democratic primary to now-U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin.

The latest FEC reports—filed Sunday night and covering the first three months of 2018—show Trone funneling another $3 million into his District 6 bid since January. That brings his personal donations to the current campaign to nearly $5.3 million so far. While he has raised $161,300 in outside donations in the first quarter of 2018 and a total of $346,300 in the course of the campaign, about 95 percent of what his campaign has taken in to date has come from his personal assets.

Miller, the first Indian-American woman elected to the Maryland General Assembly, continues to attract a national following. In her latest FEC report, nearly 60 percent of contributions appear to come from Indian-Americans, most of them living outside Maryland. Residents of California and Texas as well as Virginia accounted for many of these donations.

EMILY’s List, known for “bundling” contributions from supporters and directing them to favored candidates, has steered nearly $109,000 in contributions to Miller since she launched her campaign, according to the latest FEC filing. The EMILY’s List donations—also largely from outside of Maryland—account for almost 10 percent of the nearly $1.2 million that Miller’s campaign has raised to date.

Closer to home, Miller received $1,000 from the campaign committee of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who has formally endorsed her. Trone has claimed endorsements from two other prominent Washington-area officeholders: U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, the Democrats’ 2014 nominee for governor, and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who is seeking the governorship this year.

As of the beginning of April, the Trone campaign reported having $1.547 million in its treasury, as compared to about $942,000 for Miller. Manno, who reported making a personal loan to his campaign of $72,000 at the end of last year, was well behind Trone and Miller in cash on hand as of April 1. He reported a little less than $275,000 in his campaign treasury.

Manno raised only about $30,300 in outside contributions—about one-tenth of Miller’s total—during the first quarter of 2018. Overall, Manno has raised about $316,000 in outside donations in the course of the campaign.

A strong ally of organized labor in the General Assembly, he has garnered a large number of union endorsements, including those of two major public employee unions in Montgomery County: UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, which represents a majority of county government workers, and SEIU Local 500, whose membership includes the support staff of the Montgomery County public schools.

The Democratic field in District 6 also includes Andrew Duck of Frederick County, the party’s 6th District nominee in 2006 and 2010; George English of Kensington, a retired economist who has made several previous primary bids for Congress; Chris Graves of Montgomery Village, owner of a solar electric company; Nadia Hashimi, a Potomac physician and writer; and

Christopher Hearsey of Gaithersburg, an aerospace executive.

Hashimi, who reported raising about $61,500 during the first quarter of the year, had $302,500 in cash on hand as of April 1—due in large part to a $225,000 personal loan that she earlier made to her campaign.

On the Republican side, Hoeber reported taking in about $127,500 during the first three months of 2018, including a $60,000 personal contribution to her campaign. She had nearly $120,000 in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Also running in the District 6 Republican primary are Kurt Elsasser of Washington County, a sales representative; Lisa Lloyd of Potomac, a nurse practitioner; and Bradley Rohrs of Germantown, a real estate professional.

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