Political Veterans Eyeing Open Council Seat

Andrews' Bid for Executive Yields Rare District 3 Vacancy

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It’s been more than three decades since the County Council district centered in Rockville and Gaithersburg has been an open seat – and the rare vacancy is prompting several veterans of county politics to take a close look.

In interviews, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow, former Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Richard Parsons and Gaithersburg City Councilmember Ryan Spiegel all said they are considering a run in next year’s Democratic primary for the District 3 County Council seat.  Also eyeing the contest is Guled Kassim, a local Democratic activist who previously has run for state delegate.

The seat is being vacated after 16 years by Councilmember Phil Andrews, who has  vowed he is in next year’s county executive race to stay – notwithstanding last week’s decision by incumbent Ike Leggett to seek re-election. In 1998, Andrews ousted the late William Hanna, who had represented the district since 1982.

Spiegel, an attorney who turns 35 this month, appears to be the closest to jumping in among the potential council candidates. “I am very seriously exploring a run,” he said, adding he is “aiming to make a formal decision by the end of the summer, at the latest.” A Gaithersburg council member since 2007, he narrowly lost a bid for state delegate a year earlier.

Among his motivations for running: “With all due respect to the incumbents who are all close friends and good colleagues, I think we could see some improvement in the working relationships of the council – not only internally, but externally,” declared Spiegel — an allusion to the behind-the-scenes conflicts among members that regularly course through the Stella Werner Council Office Building in Rockville.

Krasnow, who served as Rockville’s mayor from 1995-2001 after two terms on the city council, has spent the last nine years on the staff of the Montgomery County Planning Commission – including the past 13 months as the board’s acting director. Krasnow said she expects to spend this summer helping to orient the newly appointed permanent director, Gwen Wright.

“I do hope in the fall I can really focus my attention on whether I am going to stay at the commission or whether I am going to run for office,” said Krasnow, who turned 62 on Tuesday. “The good news is that the primary is not until a little over a year from now. I’m eager to talk further with some people about possibly running.”

She added: “If you look at what the [County Council] does, they spend a tremendous amount of their time working on issues like master plans and bus rapid transit and all the things that I’ve been doing — so I think what I’ve been doing for the past nine years well prepares me for stepping into a role on the council.” 

Parsons, a Derwood-based consultant who is also a former executive director of the state Democratic Party, said he, too, hopes to reach a decision by fall. “Several people have approached me about” running, he said. “Family considerations are causing me to weigh whether this is the right timing.”

Parsons, 51, is close to former County Executive Douglas Duncan, who is challenging Leggett in next year’s primary; Parsons said he and Duncan “have had just the briefest of conversations” about next year’s council races. “I’d love to see someone with some kind of real world business experience on the council,” said Parsons, contending that the dearth of small business owners in the current body leaves “kind of a gaping hole.”

As Parsons considers the race, the current CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Gigi Godwin, quashed speculation about a run. “I’m very flattered – I’ve had people ask me about this over the past six months – but the truth is that I am not considering a run for that seat,” she said.

Kassim, 38, has perhaps the most unusual biography of the potential candidates: His family emigrated from Somalia to Montgomery County when he was 10, and he later served in the Marine Corps for eight years. “Now is the time for us …to make a decision about how much we really want mass transit-friendly options, especially along the I-270 biotech and life-science corridor,” he said.

Two others mentioned as contenders for the District 3 seat, Rockville Councilmember Tom Moore and Gaithersburg Councilmember Michael Sesma, are facing re-election to their current jobs this fall. “I am flattered my name is being tossed around, but I’m not going to be running [for District 3],” Moore said. Said Sesma: “I can only worry about one election at a time. At this time, District 3 is not on my radar.”

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