2013 | Politics

A Potential Opponent Opts Not To Take On Susan Lee in Primary

Oldak Out, Trachtenberg Still Mulling Run for Dist 16 Senate Seat

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Reggie Oldak, a familiar figure in District 16 Democratic politics who has been mulling a bid for the seat now held by outgoing state Sen. Brian Frosh, said Tuesday she had decided against running – leaving Delegate Susan Lee as the only announced candidate for the Senate nomination in next June’s Democratic primary.

“I’m disappointed. I would like to have done it, but it’s not going to work for me,” Oldak said, citing both personal and political factors for her decision. An attorney, she came close to winning a nomination for delegate in the 2006 primary in Bethesda-based District 16, which also includes portions of Chevy Chase and Potomac.

There are other contenders who still appear to be considering the District 16 Senate race. “I’m still evaluating a few different races, and that is, of course, one of them,” former County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg said, while declining to discuss her other options in detail. She added, “I haven’t made up my mind just yet, but I’m sure I will in another month or so.”

And sources said that Kyle Lierman, who came close to winning a nomination for delegate in District 16 in 2010, is continuing to strongly consider the Senate contest. Lierman – who now works for the White House Office of Public Engagement – is also said to remain a possible entrant into next year’s race for District 16 delegate. At present, there are five announced candidates vying for two delegate vacancies being left by Lee and Bill Frick, who is running against Frosh for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general; one incumbent, Delegate Ariana Kelly, is seeking re-election.

But, with the Feb. 25 filing deadline just three-and-a half-months away, it is anything but certain that Lee will face opposition next June as she seeks to move to the Senate after more than a decade in the House of Delegates. The lack of competition to date for the Senate slot has many local Democratic insiders privately voicing surprise, particularly since the 2014 election will mark only the second time the seat has been open in nearly four decades.

One factor that may be working in Lee’s favor is that, if elected, she would be the first member of a minority group elected to the state Senate from Montgomery County; the dearth of minority senators in a county that is now majority-minority recently was an issue in the maneuvering to fill a vacant Senate seat in neighboring District 15. Lee is the first Chinese-American ever elected to the House of Delegates.  

Oldak cited Lee’s head start in fundraising as a factor in deciding to forgo the contest.       

According to the most recent reports on file with the state Board of Elections, Lee had nearly $190,000 in her campaign treasury as of last January, with about $80,000 of that raised during 2012. Most of the latter amount came in during the last two months of the year, after Frosh had made clear he would vacate the Senate seat he has held for 20 years to run for attorney general.

A former chief of staff to County Councilmember Roger Berliner, Oldak — now senior counsel to the Washington-based National Women’s Law Center — also cited the difficulty of leaving a full-time job to run for the General Assembly, a part-time position that pays $43,500 annually. “It was too much to ask of my family,” she said.

Trachtenberg’s most recent report filed with the state Board of Elections shows nearly $132,000 left in her campaign treasury in the wake of an unsuccessful bid for re-election to an at-large seat on the County Council in 2010.

However, there is skepticism among several party insiders that Trachtenberg will end up running for the Senate seat, given that her interests are said to lie more at the federal and county level than in Annapolis. She was briefly a candidate for the 2012 Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District before withdrawing for health reasons.

Fundraising would not appear to be an issue for Lierman if he decides early next year to mount another bid for state office after three years as a White House aide. In 2010, he raised more than $180,000 within a few months prior to the September primary: It was a fundraising performance attributed in large part to the connections of his father, businessman Terry Lierman, a former high-ranking congressional aide and onetime chairman of the state Democratic Party.