Updated 3:30 p.m. Nov. 24. – A poll commissioned by the campaign of state Sen. Jamie Raskin gives the Takoma Park resident a 30 percent to 21 percent lead over former Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews of Chevy Chase in the contest for the District 8 Democratic congressional nomination.
But, with more than five months to go until the April 26 primary, the poll—results of which were released Monday morning—shows nearly three in 10 likely voters are undecided, indicating the seven-way Democratic contest to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen remains up for grabs. Van Hollen is vacating the seat after seven terms to run for Senate.
The only other candidate in double digits in the poll—conducted for Raskin by Washington-based GBA Strategies—was state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase, with 11 percent. Del. Kumar Barve of Rockville was next with 5 percent, followed by David Anderson of Potomac, an official of a Washington internship and seminar program, with 3 percent and former White House aide Will Jawando of Silver Spring with 2 percent. Former State Department official Joel Rubin of Chevy Chase, who entered the contest only six weeks ago, garnered less than 1 percent, with the remaining 28 percent of those surveyed undecided.
The poll of 500 likely primary voters was conducted by live interviewers via landline and cellphone from Oct. 28 through Nov. 1. The survey has an error margin of 4.4 percentage points, less than Raskin’s 9-point lead over Matthews—prompting GBA Strategies, in a memo accompanying the poll findings, to declare, “Raskin holds a clear lead in the race.”
Matthews' campaign manager Ethan Sussles responded to the poll numbers by saying Matthews has the momentum in the race, as shown by her recent endorsement by the influential women's political group EMILY's List.
"This poll shows that a majority of Democratic voters are looking for a fresh approach and Kathleen has a track record of getting things done, putting women and families first, and the international experience we need in these challenging times." Susseles responded, in an email. "In the same way she's been meeting with thousands of voters these past 6 months, Kathleen will spend the next 5 months meeting people across the 8th District and discussing her platform of creating an economy that works for everyone, safeguarding our families, and protecting our environment."
The Barve campaign declined to comment on the poll.
While Matthews and Raskin have widely been viewed as the frontrunners in recent months, Gutierrez’s double-digit showing was something of a surprise. As of Sept. 30, her thinly funded campaign had taken in barely $90,000 in outside contributions, supplemented by a similar amount in personal loans she has made to the campaign since announcing in May. By comparison, Matthews had raised more than $1 million as of the end of September, with Raskin closing in on the $1 million mark.
Gutierrez, the only Hispanic-American candidate in the Democratic primary, may be benefiting from having held public office in Montgomery County for most of the past 25 years—first as a member of the county Board of Education and, since 2002, as a state legislator. Her name was recognized by 42 percent of those surveyed, not far behind Matthews, with 53 percent name identification, and Raskin, with 49 percent.
Gutierrez said in a statement the poll shows she's gaining traction with voters.
"Its foolish and premature to think this is a two-person race; as the poll demonstrates, this race is far from over," Gutierrez said. "Voters here in the 8th District are not simple; they evaluate candidates’ records and make informed choices. Furthermore, both women and men know that there are two women in this race, but only one who has a long voting record and real results."
Notwithstanding that he has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1990—and has held leadership positions in Annapolis for more than a decade—Barve registered only 30 percent name identification in the poll, followed by Jawando with 22 percent. Jawando, who made an unsuccessful run for the House of Delegates in 2014, received a boost Friday when he received the endorsement of the political action committee of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The predominantly Democratic 8th District, while containing portions of Carroll and Frederick counties, is centered in Montgomery County—which is expected to produce as much as 85 percent of the vote in the April Democratic primary. Except for Gutierrez, when she ran twice for school board more than two decades ago, none of the Democratic candidates have ever appeared on a countywide ballot. Consequently, fundraising will be key, as the candidates seek to become known outside of their home bases in an expensive advertising market.
According to the memo from GBA Strategies, Raskin, first elected to the Maryland Senate in 2006, is viewed favorably by a 5-1 margin among the half of the electorate now familiar with him; Matthews receives a 2-1 favorability rating among the half of likely voters currently acquainted with her. The memo does not contain the precise percentage breakdowns of their favorable-unfavorable scores, but does state, “…Raskin receives the votes of 74 percent of voters who view him favorably, while Matthews garners the votes of just 48 percent who view her favorably.”
While this year marks her first run for elected office, Matthews spent nearly 25 years as a local TV reporter and news anchor at WJLA/Channel 7 prior to going to work at Marriott International in Bethesda—and the Matthews campaign has been counting on her visibility from that period to boost her politically. “…Many voters like Matthews from her time as a newscaster,” the GBA Strategies memo acknowledged, although it said the poll found Raskin ahead by a wide margin among those voters familiar with both frontrunners.
Meanwhile, although the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsement of Jawando—the only African-American in the contest for the District 8 Democratic nomination—is not a major surprise, it appears to be part of a growing effort by the CBC to promote candidates in districts that are not majority-minority. While Montgomery County is now majority-minority when African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American residents are totaled, the 8th District is only about 12 percent black, with the Latino population comprising another 14 percent of the district.
According to a report last week in Politico, the CBC has believed that, in recent years, the House Democrats’ campaign arm has done little to boost African-American candidates in such districts. “There has been a strained relationship between the CBC and the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] over the years,” Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, the CBC chairman, was quoted as saying. “We felt the DCCC had not been reaching out sufficiently to recruit African-American candidates and to support CBC members who were vulnerable.”
In the statement endorsing Jawando, Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the CBC PAC chairman, declared, “The 8th District seat is a vital pick-up seat for the CBC in 2016 and the CBC PAC fully supports Will's campaign.” While the CBC PAC itself can give only $5,000 during the primary, the endorsement may encourage the donation of funds to Jawando from the campaign committees of individual CBC members.