District 17 Sen. Jennie Forehand, who has served in the state General Assembly for more than one-third of a century, is uncertain about whether she will seek another term.
“I haven’t made my mind up for sure,” Forehand, 77, said late last week. While declaring that “I really, really hope to run again,” she quickly added, “But I’m not positive yet. And I’ve got a few months until I have to make that decision.”
If she does run, there is a widespread expectation among party activists that Forehand will face a primary challenge next June from veteran Delegate Luiz Simmons. Simmons Tuesday said only that he is “inching toward a decision” about a Senate bid, and will decide by the end of October. Simmons did say that whether Forehand seeks re-election is not a factor as he weighs the race.
The prospect that Simmons will vacate his delegate seat already has attracted three candidates to the latter contest. Former congressional aide Andrew Platt and Laurie-Anne Sayles, vice president of the Montgomery County Young Democrats, have announced for delegate, and former Rockville Mayor Susan Hoffmann expects to do so this month. District 17 encompasses much of Rockville and Gaithersburg, along with portions of North Bethesda and Garrett Park.
Forehand, who narrowly beat back a primary challenge from former Delegate Cheryl Kagan in 2010, was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1978, and moved to the Senate in 1994. Among the county’s legislators, only Delegate Sheila Hixson, D-Silver Spring, has served longer: The 80-year old Hixson, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, recently filed for re-election.
While Forehand was vague when asked what was prompting her to consider retirement, the prospect of another primary challenge appeared, if anything, to be motivating her to run.
“There are some people who I think would not represent the district as well as others –as well as I have,” said Forehand, without being more specific. “I’m concerned about that.” Known as an advocate for the Intercounty Connector and for her efforts to promote the county as a hub for the biotech industry, Forehand later added: “…If I don’t run, I want to be sure that the person who follows me is somebody’s who’s respected and appreciated. And I’m not sure about that yet.”
Simmons, noting he and Forehand were elected to the House of Delegates together in 1978, said: “I have an affection for Jennie, and respect her years of service. But there are some very substantial differences between us.” He declined to comment further, but added that, if he runs for Senate, “I will explain in excruciating detail what those differences are.”
Simmons, 64, was a Republican when first elected in 1978. He left the legislature to run unsuccessfully for county executive in 1982, and later became a Democrat – twice losing bids for delegate before returning to the General Assembly in 2002.
Kagan, 52, a delegate from 1994-2002 before opting not to seek re-election, is again eyeing the Senate seat after her 52-48 percent loss to Forehand in 2010. But sources said she is more likely to run this time if Forehand retires.
“I have been fielding a lot of calls,” said Kagan. “I’m flattered so many people believe I can be effective again in Annapolis, and am carefully considering the possibility of running for the Senate.”
In the contest for delegate, Platt, 24, has been running for months in anticipation of a vacancy. Raised in Gaithersburg, he has a master’s degree in legislative affairs from George Washington University, and has worked for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House. He recently picked up the endorsements of two members of the county’s legislative delegation: Delegates Kirill Reznik, D-Germantown, and Shane Robinson, D-Montgomery Village.
Sayles, 32, who grew up in Prince Georges County before moving to Montgomery County six years ago, recently received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Baltimore, and works for an employment services firm. Sayles, who is African-American, acknowledged that the limited number of minority group members in the county’s legislative delegation “was part of my concern” in deciding to run.
Hoffmann, 69, who works for the Montgomery County Recreation Department, served on the Rockville City Council from 2001-2007 and then one term as mayor – before being narrowly ousted in 2009 by current Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio in a contest that centered on the city’s growth policies. Hoffmann, who previously ran for delegate in 1990. also worked for the county in conjunction with efforts to market the Silver Spring redevelopment.
Platt and Hoffmann estimated that up to $100,000 would be needed to run a competitive race for delegate. Financing could also be a significant factor in a Senate primary – since both Forehand and Simmons, as incumbent legislators, are barred by law from raising money during the 2014 General Assembly session.