This story was updated at 2:40 p.m. Jan. 12 to correct the school Jaye Espy's daughter attends and 10:20 a.m. Jan. 13 to correct a reference to STEM education.
When education consultant Jaye Espy of Potomac files Friday for District 15 delegate, it will be her first run for elected office. But Espy, 47, was all but born into politics—as a member of one of Mississippi’s leading political families.
Her uncle, Mike Espy, served in Congress before being appointed agriculture secretary by President Bill Clinton. Her father, Henry Espy, was the first African-American mayor of Clarksdale, a city in the Mississippi Delta, and her brother last year was elected Clarksdale’s mayor after 16 years as a state legislator.
In addition, one of her great-grandfathers created Mississippi’s first hospital for African-Americans in the era of racial segregation, according to Jaye Espy, who said she had timed her filing for delegate in conjunction with Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.
Espy first came to Washington to attend Howard University, and returned to the area eight years ago after working for the College Board in Atlanta.
“I deliberately chose Montgomery County,” said Espy, who initially lived in Bethesda before moving to Potomac. “Because I worked at the College Board, I knew where the best school districts were.”
She worked in the Obama administration—first in the Education Department, and later for a White House initiative on historically black colleges—before starting an “education equity and access firm” last year. She has focused on increased opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for minority students.
Espy, a divorced mother of two, acknowledged that education policy was a major factor in her decision to run for the General Assembly. But she also said the issue of mental health—and ensuring that schools have sufficient resources to deal with it—will be a priority in her campaign.
Espy said her daughter, attending Montgomery College after graduating from Churchill High School, is autistic—and, while high-functioning, is also prone to depression.
“As I look at the high-performing schools that we have, and those students who put pressure on themselves to do so well that they can’t take the pressure, I’m very sensitive to that—especially since it occurs in my house,” Espy said.
Espy is the seventh filed or announced Democratic candidate taking aim at the open seat now held by Del. Aruna Miller, who is running to succeed U.S. Rep. John Delaney.
Also in the June 26 District 15 primary:
- Anis Ahmed, who works for the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights
- Hamza Khan, a political consultant
- Kevin Mack, Delaney’s district director
- Tony Puca, a party activist
- Lily Qi, an assistant chief administrative officer for the county
- Andrew Van Wye, a former legislative researcher for D.C.-based CQ/Roll Call.
Dels. Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo are seeking re-election in the three-delegate district, which stretches from Potomac to the Frederick County line.
Republicans Laurie Halverson and Harvey Jacobs are guaranteed to be on the November ballot, as long as there are no more than contenders in the GOP primary.
– Louis Peck
District 16 Delegate Field Gets Clearer as Real Estate Agent Casper Opts Against Running
After mulling a bid for state delegate from District 16 in recent months, real estate agent Bonnie Casper said this week that she has decided against running, citing personal obligations.
“I will continue to be active and make a positive contribution,” Casper, immediate past president of the Maryland Association of Realtors, said in a statement.
Bonnie Casper. Credit: Long & Foster Real Estate website
With the filing deadline for the June 26 Democratic primary less than two months away, Casper’s decision firms up the field of non-incumbent candidates taking aim at the seat now held by Del. Bill Frick of Bethesda, who is running for county executive.
Filed or announced for Frick’s open seat are civic activist Jordan Cooper of Bethesda; writer/consultant Nuchhi Currier and attorney Joseph Hennessey, both of Chevy Chase; and attorney Sara Love and teacher Samir Paul, both Bethesda residents.
Bethesda-based District 16 includes portions of Potomac as well as Chevy Chase.
The other two delegate seats in the district are held by incumbent Democrats Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman, who are seeking re-election. Both are Bethesda residents.
Meanwhile, health care advocate Hrant Jamgochian of Bethesda—who ran competitive primary races against Kelly in 2010 and Korman in 2014—is passing the word in party circles that he won’t make a third try for delegate this year, but instead plans to seek a seat on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee.
Jamgochian did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Casper, a Potomac resident who was a congressional aide and a staff member for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before going into real estate, did not offer an immediate endorsement of any of the declared candidates.
“In this time of stress for our nation, I hope that candidates for public office will squarely and constructively stress the important issues of income disparity, economic growth and security, the maintenance and enhancement of our infrastructure, and the quality of public education,” she said in her statement.
No Republicans have yet filed for the state Senate or House of Delegate seats in District 16, where Democrats enjoy a nearly 3-1 advantage in registration.
– Louis Peck
Van Hollen Gives Up Committee Assignment in Boost to New Senate Colleague
Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen has carried a heavy workload in his first year in the Senate, serving on four committees: Appropriations, Agriculture, Banking and Budget.
This week, he gave up his seat on Agriculture. He didn’t have a reduced load for long, as he was quickly assigned to the chamber’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.
Van Hollen’s departure from the Agriculture panel appears related to another portion of his job portfolio: He is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In that role, he must work to hold onto the seats of 26 of his party colleagues up for election this November—while attempting to pick off a few of the eight Republican-held seats up for grabs.
Van Hollen’s Agriculture panel slot went to Sen. Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat sworn in a week ago after her predecessor, Al Franken, resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.
Smith, appointed by Minnesota’s governor, faces the voters this fall. She has never been elected in her own right, and is considered by political handicappers to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats on the ballot in 2018.
The Agriculture Committee soon will take up the Farm Bill, which reauthorizes crop subsidy programs. As the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, from her home state, noted, Smith “can try to use her work on the farm bill to earn support in rural Minnesota as she seeks to hold the Senate seat longer than a mere number of months.”
Van Hollen, a longtime Montgomery County resident, sought to reassure Maryland farmers that he wasn’t giving them short shrift. A news release from his office noted that he retains the right to rejoin the Agriculture panel when there is next an opening.
“… I will continue to fight for Maryland’s farming community in the U.S. Senate,” he vowed.
The rationale for Van Hollen joining the EPW Committee is less clear than the impetus behind his departure from the Ag panel.
The Van Hollen release noted that the EPW panel “has jurisdiction over many areas vital to Maryland, including the Environmental Protection Agency and many of the programs to protect the Chesapeake Bay.”
However, the release did not mention that Van Hollen’s home-state colleague, Democrat Ben Cardin—who is gearing up to run for a third term in 2018—already is a senior member of EPW. It’s unusual to have two senators of the same party from one state on the same committee.
A query to Van Hollen’s office did not produce a definitive answer as to whether an assignment had been available to another panel on which Maryland is currently not represented.
The EPW slot represents a return of sorts to Van Hollen’s political beginnings. Serving in the Maryland General Assembly in the 1990s, he won plaudits from environmentalists for the successful fight to ban oil drilling in the Chesapeake Bay.
– Louis Peck
Mossburg Bows out of Congress Race
Matt Mossburg, who represented Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly two decades ago, is ending his bid for the 6th District seat in Congress.
He said in an emailed statement on Friday that he instead plans to focus on the opioid epidemic.
Mossburg, who is recovering from an opioid addiction, said in his statement: “It has become increasingly clear that running for Congress is actually a liability when it comes to advocating for treatment and recovery options. People don’t want to hear Republican or Democrat when chances are either they or someone they know is struggling with addiction.”
In the statement, Mossburg, a Republican who lives in Frederick County, said he will work in Annapolis during the Maryland General Assembly session “to develop and advance bills that will help make Maryland a leader in combatting the opioid epidemic.”
Mossburg served in the Maryland General Assembly from 1995 to 1999.
His departure from the race leaves three Republicans competing for the party’s nomination: Amie Hoeber, Lisa Lloyd and Bradley Stephen Rohrs.
Six Democrats are running in a primary: Andrew Duck, Dr. Nadia Hashimi, Chris Hearsey, state Sen. Roger Manno, state Delegate Aruna Miller, and David Trone.
– Andrew Schotz