2021 | Politics

Five seek Dumais’ House seat; challenge expected to Amy Frieder’s residency

Vacancy created when Hogan appointed delegate to Circuit Court judgeship

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The number of applicants seeking to fill a District 15 vacancy in the House of Delegates has risen to five, and one of those Democrats has been told she will be challenged on whether she meets the residency requirement.

The vacancy in District 15 occurred after Gov. Larry Hogan named Del. Kathleen Dumais to a Circuit Court judgeship earlier this month. That touched off a process by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee to recommend someone to fill out the rest of her term, which ends in January 2023.

When such a vacancy occurs in Maryland, the party of the most recent state senator or delegate recommends a successor and the governor has 15 days to approve or reject the recommendation.

County party Chairwoman Linda Foley applied for the position. So did former Del. Saqib Ali, who represented District 39 as a state delegate from 2007 to 2011.

Amy Frieder, another applicant, ran to represent District 15 in 2018, but came in fourth, behind Dumais and two other Democrats who currently represent the district, Lily Qi and David Fraser-Hidalgo.

More recently two lawyers, Michael Schrier and Colin Richard, have applied for the appointment, too, for a total of five.

Frieder’s application has provoked the most controversy. She has accused the central committee of unfairly favoring Foley in the process, which is expected to end Tuesday after the central committee interviews each applicant and votes publicly for Dumais’ successor.

Frieder said she had been notified by the central committee on Wednesday that her residency would be questioned because there is no proof she had lived in District 15 for a minimum of six months, a requirement for candidates running for the General Assembly.

“They are looking for ways to disqualify me,” she said in an interview.

A representative of the Central Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

To apply for the District 15 seat, candidates must submit a cover letter and resume to the Central Committee by 5 p.m. Nov. 29. All applicants must be registered Democrats, live in District 15 and be at least 21 years old.

Frieder said that last year she temporarily moved in with her mother, who lives in Rockville and outside the district. District 15 stretches from Potomac in the south to Clarksburg in the north and includes Darnestown and Germantown, but not Rockville.

Frieder said that this summer, she moved to Potomac in a house owned by her partner that is in the district. But she is concerned about how she’ll prove her residency when she is asked about it next week by central committee members.

“I have to think about that, how to prove it,” she said.

At a virtual candidates’ forum Monday, Frieder said she moved in with her mother “for affordability, health, comfort and to be a supportive daughter during the pandemic.” She said her mother was living alone in a condo in Rockville, and Frieder helped her file for unemployment benefits.

During that forum, Frieder, 28, said the appointment should go to a younger person because the average age of a Maryland delegate is 54.

“Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are actually overrepresented,” she said.

Frieder is a research assistant at the U.S. Department of State, enrolled in the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program and a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

At that forum, Foley, 66, said she merits the appointment because, as a party leader, she understands the needs of the district.

“I am the best candidate because I am a proven leader,” she said.

Foley is a former journalist, former president of the Newspaper Guild and a former vice president of the Communications Workers of America.

During the forum, Ali said he was the first Muslim elected to public office in Maryland and the only applicant “who is from an underrepresented minority.” Ali, 46, is of Pakistani and Indian descent.

Schrier is a lawyer and partner with Husch Blackwell, a large corporate law firm. He said he is not “a polished politician” and has never held political office, but has participated in voter protection efforts.

The fifth applicant, Colin Richard, is also a lawyer, working for Happy Money, a financial technology company. He said his background in the financial world would be an asset in representing District 15.

Even if they are not chosen to serve out Dumais’ term, some of the applicants say they are going to run for a full term in the seat in in June’s primary election, which will determine the Democratic candidate for November’s general election.

Ali said he would run in June “regardless of what happens,” and Foley has scheduled a fundraiser next month to run for the seat.

Frieder said she has not made up her mind — she’ll wait for the results of Tuesday’s central committee vote before deciding to run for a District 15 seat again.

Richard said he’s not interested in running for the office in June’s primary and is only interested in serving for the rest of Dumais’ term.