On Monday evening, 10 residents of Maryland’s 18th legislative district explained during a community forum why they should be chosen to fill a Democratic ballot vacancy for the House of Delegates.
The 18th district, which encompasses Wheaton, Kensington, most of Chevy Chase and parts of North Bethesda and Silver Spring, has three delegate seats. Dels. Al Carr and Emily Shetty, both of Kensington, and Jared Solomon of Chevy Chase currently represent the district in Annapolis.
But on Friday — the filing deadline for Maryland elections — Carr decided to drop his re-election bid, opting to run for the County Council’s new District 4 seat. That district includes North Bethesda, Kensington, most of Silver Spring and all of Takoma Park.
Carr’s decision came too late for other candidates to file on time, so the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee solicited applicants to fill the vacancy. On Monday, the following people fielded questions on the central committee’s community Zoom call about how they would serve constituents in the 18th district if chosen to be the candidate:
- Cecily Baskir (D-Chevy Chase)
- Carlos Camacho (D-North Bethesda)
- Marla Hollander (D-Kensington)
- Aaron Kaufman (D-Chevy Chase)
- Marc Lande (D-Chevy Chase)
- Leslie Milano (D-Chevy Chase)
- Jose Ortiz (D-Kensington)
- Joel Rubin (D-Chevy Chase)
- Ron Sachs (D-Silver Spring)
- Michael Tardif (D-Chevy Chase)
The central committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to select a candidate from those who are interested or possibly someone else to be on the ballot alongside Shetty and Solomon. In the Republican primary, George M. Cecala is running unopposed for the seat.
During the forum, all 10 residents highlighted issues facing District 18, including affordable housing, food insecurity and the need to narrow the gap between the district’s highest-earning residents and those living in poverty.
Here’s a bit about each candidate who spoke Monday:
Baskir said that four of her top issues are education, civil rights, mental health and climate change. She served as mayor of Chevy Chase from 2020 to 2021. She says she became politically involved while working years ago on organizing community residents to provide input on the downtown Bethesda sector plan.
Camacho is a former Peace Corps member who taught English to secondary school students in Mozambique. He said that up until recently, he was a legislative analyst for the Montgomery County Council from 2020 to 2022.
Camacho said one of the reasons he wanted to run for the open seat is because he doesn’t believe that the “top-down” form of governance is effective, and that more can be done around community organizing, and incorporating more voices into the political and legislative process.
Hollander, who works as a nonprofit and community consultant focusing on health care issues, said that Montgomery County offers plenty of social and economic opportunities for residents. But the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the inequities some people face in accessing food, quality education and transportation, she said. Hollander said she has a family member with disabilities and more must be done to accommodate those with disabilities and the challenges they face.
A political organizer and a former legislative staffer in Annapolis, Kaufman said he would bring a “unique perspective” to the General Assembly because of his disability. Kaufman said he has cerebral palsy and that no other legislator, to his knowledge, uses a walker as he does to get around because of that condition.
Kaufman also said he would focus on issues including creating combined reporting for corporation taxes, providing enough support to eliminate the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration waiting list for those with mental or physical disabilities and fighting climate change.
Lande, who ran unsuccessfully for delegate in District 18 in 2018, said one of his key issues would be working to destigmatize those who seek help for mental health issues.
He also said his first priority if sent to Annapolis would be to seek passage of a bill or resolution that supports efforts to end Russia’s war with Ukraine, and call for peace. Lande said he doesn’t support sending National Guard troops to help fight the war.
Milano, president of the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County, came in fourth place in the 2018 Democratic primary for the 18th District, finishing behind Jared Solomon.
Milano said it’s important to realize what the roles of state delegates are, and what they’re not. Some of her top issues, she said, include creating anti-violence initiatives, combating climate change and implementing anti-poverty programs and policies.
Ortiz, a small business owner and adviser to former Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez in the 18th District in Annapolis, said he was focused on helping other small businesses throughout the district.
His issues include enacting gun control policies to protect public schools and ensuring livable wages, affordable housing and a better health care system for residents.
Rubin, the vice mayor of the town of Chevy Chase, worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2020 and ran for a delegate seat in the district in 2018, finishing fifth behind Milano in the primary. He said he tried to file for the open seat created by Carr’s withdrawal, but couldn’t fill out the paperwork in time.
Issues such as climate change and overall sustainability are important, he said, noting that future development must be sensible and that the necessary infrastructure must be in place before new housing or projects are approved.
Sachs, a news photographer who was a longtime president of the White House News Photographers Association, said he was interested in helping people with special needs, reducing road traffic and improving public education in the county.
Sachs added that state legislators must do everything they can to lower prescription drug prices, especially for seniors and others who need medication on a regular basis.
Tardif has been chair of the digital media and communications team for the Montgomery County Democratic Party since 2018. He said he would continue efforts to increase voter engagement at the state level.
He added the county is facing a “housing crisis” and that state lawmakers also need to look at improving transportation access, child care and opportunities for family leave and explore other areas where inequities exist throughout the district and the state. The district can be a leader in those areas for the state, he said.
Once the central committee chooses a candidate, that person must file the necessary paperwork and pay the required fees to be placed on the ballot for the Democratic primary, alongside Shetty and Solomon. The primary is scheduled for July 19.
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org