Del. Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington Tuesday came out on top of what was the county’s most visible—and arguably its nastiest—state legislative race this year: the battle for the District 18 Senate seat held for the last 12 years by Democrat Rich Madaleno.
Meanwhile, Dels. Marice Morales of Silver Spring and Shane Robinson of Montgomery Village became the county’s first sitting legislators in eight years to be ousted from office, losing their seats in District 19 and District 39, respectively.
With 31 of 33 precincts in District 18 reporting early Wednesday, Waldstreicher had bested Beyer—a longtime political activist seeking to become the first transgender member of the Maryland General Assembly—in the primary contest to succeed Madaleno, who failed in a bid to become the Democratic nominee for governor. Waldstreicher garnered 50 percent to 37 percent for Beyer, a Chevy Chase resident, and 13 percent for Michelle Carhart, a Rockville business owner.
With no Republican opponent in November, Waldstreicher is assured of being the next senator for District 18, which extends from Bethesda through Chevy Chase to Silver Spring, while also including Kensington, Wheaton and a portion of Rockville.
Meanwhile, in neighboring District 19, which stretches from Silver Spring north to Gaithersburg, Morales conceded defeat in a Democratic primary in which the other incumbent seeking re-election, Del. Bonnie Cullison of Aspen Hill, finished first with 20.6 percent of the vote, followed by former Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee member Charlotte Crutchfield of Silver Spring with 17.6 percent.
The third Democratic nomination went to attorney Vaughn Stewart of Derwood with 16.9 percent; Morales finished 450 votes behind Stewart, with 15.7 percent. It was Crutchfield’s second run for delegate, after losing narrowly to Morales in the District 19 primary four years ago.
Morales was one of just two incumbents in the county delegation to fail to land the influential endorsement of the Montgomery County Education Association this year. She is a former aide to District 19 Sen. Roger Manno of Silver Spring, who was a major booster of her candidacy four years ago; this time around, Manno was focused instead on an ultimately unsuccessful bid for Congress.
With all precincts reporting in District 39, which extends from Gaithersburg through Germantown to Clarksburg, Robinson finished fourth for the three available delegate nominations with 4,677 votes, for 19.4 percent of the overall vote. Robinson, currently chair of the Montgomery County House delegation in Annapolis, was 150 votes behind fellow incumbent Kirill Reznik of Germantown, who had 4,811 for 19.9 percent of the vote. In first place was communications/public relations specialist Lesley Lopez of Germantown with 5,142 votes for 21.3 percent, followed by union organizer Gabriel Acevero of Montgomery Village, with 4,874 or 20.2 percent.
Acevero claimed victory in a live Facebook video late Tuesday. “We showed the political machine tonight—that’s exactly what we did,” he declared. He was referring to a controversial decision a year ago by Robinson, Reznik and Sen. Nancy King of Montgomery Village to form a slate of candidates that included Lopez—passing over Acevero in the process.
Robinson conceded via Twitter shortly thereafter, declaring: “Well, I lost and it’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to come back, but the voters have spoken and I’m very proud of @Lesley Lopez, @gacevero, and @Delegate Reznik. I’ll do whatever I can to support them. Onward and upward for D39!”
Yet another close race for delegate took place in Bethesda/Chevy Chase-area District 16, where the two incumbents, Dels. Marc Korman and Ariana Kelly, ran first and second on their way to renomination. But for the third delegate slot—given up by Del. Bill Frick to pursue an unsuccessful run for county executive—the outcome was uncertain, with Montgomery Blair High School teacher Samir Paul leading attorney Sara Love by less than 120 votes, with 20.5 percent of the overall vote for Paul and 20.2 percent for Love.
Paul refrained from declaring victory, pending the count of absentee and provisional ballots over the next week. “Whatever happens in the next few days, I’ll never forget the passion of supporters who are #Paul Aboard,” he said via Twitter early Wednesday. “Every single vote counts, and we’ll keep at it until we get a final result.”
Madaleno’s decision to leave set up what turned out to be the county’s most heated state legislative contest of this year’s primary season between Waldstreicher and Beyer, who had sought to oust Madaleno four years earlier. As of mid-May, Beyer—a former eye surgeon seeking to become the second transgender individual elected to a state legislature in the U.S.—had pumped $316,000 of her own money into the contest, an amount similar to what she had loaned to her campaign against Madaleno in 2014.
Waldstreicher came under repeated criticism during the campaign. Beyer early on accused him of trying to convince her to run for delegate on a slate with him as a way of getting her out of the Senate contest, and later criticized Waldstreicher for absenteeism from his legislative duties in a mail blitz. And a candidate for delegate in District 18, communications specialist Helga Luest of Rockville, repeatedly charged that Waldstreicher had sought to get her to switch to the Senate race in order to siphon votes from Beyer.
After denying Luest’s charges, Waldstreicher sought to lower his profile late in the campaign: He was a no-show in three successive candidate forums and events in the weeks leading up to Primary Day.
Waldstreicher’s decision to run for Senate, combined with the move by four-term Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase to seek a seat on the Montgomery County Council, created a wide-open Democratic primary contest for House of Delegates in District 18—with two of three available seats up for grabs, and a total of eight candidates, including Luest, seeking them. Final unofficial results Tuesday showed the one incumbent seeking re-election, Del. Al Carr of Kensington, finishing first, with the other nominations going to Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Emily Shetty of Kensington and former congressional aide Jared Solomon of Chevy Chase.
Carr had 22.1 percent to 19.7 percent for Shetty—making her second run for delegate after a 2014 bid—and 17.6 percent for Solomon. In fourth place behind the winners was public health organization official Leslie Milano of Chevy Chase, with 14.2 percent, followed by Town of Chevy Chase Council member Joel Rubin and former University of Maryland terrorism analyst Mila Johns, with 11.3 and 9 percent, respectively. Both Rubin and Johns pumped more than $100,000 each in personal funds into their respective campaigns.
In terms of General Assembly contests, there also was political upheaval outside of District 18, with six of the county’s seven other legislative districts facing Democratic primaries for delegate in which an open seat at stake attracted crowded fields of candidates.
The primary contest in District 39 became contentious fully a year before Tuesday’s primary. With Del. Charles Barkley of Germantown giving up his seat after 20 years in Annapolis to run for County Council, the remaining incumbents—King, Reznik and Robinson—proceeded to tap Lopez to run with them. Several months later, retiring County Executive Ike Leggett responded by endorsing Acevero, while accusing the District 39 incumbents of utilizing “smoke-filled room” tactics.
The reasons for Robinson’s loss in District 39 after serving two terms were not immediately clear; the demographics of the district—which is now majority-minority with large African-American and Hispanic-American populations—may have been a contributing factor. Acevero, president of the county’s Association of Black Democrats, is a native of Trinidad and Tobago.
The slate organized by the District 39 incumbents came under fire for lack of ethnic diversity because Lopez, while raised by a Hispanic-American stepfather, is not herself of Hispanic origin. Barring a major surprise in November—in which the Democratic legislative nominees are heavily favored over a number of Republican challengers—Morales’ defeat in District 19, combined with the departure of Gutierrez, will leave Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo of Boyds as the only Hispanic-American member of the county delegation.
Fraser-Hidalgo—diverted from political and legislative activities in recent months by his wife’s terminal illness—finished third in the primary in District 15, which stretches north from Potomac to the Frederick County line. Fraser-Hidalgo had 16.9 percent of the vote, while his incumbent colleague, Del. Kathleen Dumais of Rockville, led with 22.3 percent, followed by Lily Qi of North Potomac—a top aide to Leggett—who won 17.8 percent. Pending the results of the fall election, Qi would take over the seat of Del. Aruna Miller, who made an unsuccessful bid Tuesday for the 6th District congressional seat of outgoing U.S. Rep. John Delaney.
Kevin Mack of North Potomac, Delaney’s district director, finished fifth among nine candidates in his bid for a delegate seat in District 15, behind Amy Frieder of Rockville, a former Obama White House aide. Also in District 15, Sen. Brian Feldman of Potomac easily turned back a primary challenge by Hongjun Xin, a Potomac businessman, by a more than 6-1 margin.
In other Democratic legislative contests Tuesday (there were no Republican primaries in districts where the GOP is fielding candidates):
—Incumbent Dels. Anne Kaiser of Silver Spring, Eric Luedtke of Burtonsville and Pamela Queen of Olney were easily renominated in District 14—which covers much of the county’s eastern section—over a challenge by federal employee Paul Ransom of Fairland. Kaiser chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, making her among the most influential members of the county’s House delegation.
—Another legislator with clout, Del. Kumar Barve of Rockville, ran first in a six-way delegate primary in Gaithersburg/Rockville-based District 17. Barve, who chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee, headed a slate that included Del. Jim Gilchrist of Rockville and Rockville City Council member Julie Palakovich Carr. Barve had 26 percent to 24.6 percent for Palakovich Carr and Gilchrist with 20.1 percent. Gilchrist had been considered vulnerable: He was opposed by District 17 Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who endorsed attorney Julian Haffner of Gaithersburg over Gilchrist. Haffner had 13.4 percent, trailed by county Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski with 10.8 percent.
—In Silver Spring/Takoma Park District 20, Sen. Will Smith of Silver Spring and Dels. David Moon of Takoma Park and Jheanelle Wilkins of Silver Spring added Takoma Park civic activist Lorig Charkoudian to their slate in the closing weeks of the primary. It escalated tensions in a contest in which Charkoudian and Silver Spring civic activist Darian Unger were the leading contenders for the seat left open by retiring Del. Sheila Hixson. Moon and Wilkins were renominated, and Charkoudian captured the third nomination with 18.8 percent. Unger, who also ran for delegate four years ago, again fell short, finishing fourth with 14.4 percent.
While overshadowed by the six-way race for the Democratic nomination for county executive and the record 33 Democrats vying for four available nominations for County Council at-large, this year’s local contests for the Maryland General Assembly were not only often heated; they also continued what has been a broad transformation of Montgomery County’s delegation in Annapolis in recent years.
Even before the polls closed, it was guaranteed that at least one-third of the county’s 24-member contingent in the House of Delegates would be new—due to two retirements (including Hixson, leaving after more than four decades in the legislature) and six current delegates leaving to pursue other elected offices.
Combined with six other delegates who were first elected in 2014 or have been appointed since, it ensures that more than a majority of the county delegation sworn in next January will have spent four years or less in Annapolis. The number of freshmen could expand further if county Republicans are able to pull off some upsets in November; all 24 House seats and eight Senate seats allocated to Montgomery County are now held by Democrats.
Come January, the county’s Senate delegation will have just two members elected or appointed prior to 2014. The recent turnover accelerated this year with decisions by Madaleno and Manno to give up their seats to pursue the Democratic nominations for governor and the 6th Congressional District, respectively. That came on the heels of veteran District 16 Sen. Brian Frosh of Chevy Chase being elected state attorney general in 2014, with Frosh’s long-time colleague, District 20 Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
With Madaleno’s departure from the Senate, King—appointed to that chamber in 2007—becomes the county’s senior senator. She is reported to be in the running to chair the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee, of which Madaleno had been vice chair in recent years. King was not opposed for renomination Tuesday, and is an overwhelming favorite to win re-election in November over token Republican opposition.
Aside from the District 18 battle, the other open Senate seat in this year’s primary was in neighboring District 19, where Del. Ben Kramer of Derwood—first elected to the House in 2006—Tuesday had no opposition in his bid to succeed Manno. Like King, Kramer has Republican opposition in the fall, but is expected to have little trouble moving on to the Senate—where his father, former County Executive Sidney Kramer, and sister, current Maryland Secretary of Aging Rona Kramer, both served.