By Adam Pagnucco.
District 18 Delegate candidate Helga Luest, who has accused Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher of asking her to switch races to benefit his Senate candidacy, has circulated a statement against him to other candidates in the district requesting that they sign it. The deadline she set passed and after the statement leaked to the press, the effort collapsed.
Luest has previously accused Waldstreicher of asking her to run in the Senate race to reduce the chances of rival Dana Beyer of winning. Waldstreicher replied in Bethesda Magazine, “These claims are false, defamatory, and born of actual malice… When they go low, I go high—standing up for our community’s progressive values, leading the fight for $15 minimum wage, investing in our schools and resisting the Trump administration at every turn.”
Luest then circulated the statement below to the other candidates for Senate and House in District 18, including the two running against Waldstreicher, and asked them to sign it. We reprint Luest’s proposed statement and her transmittal email below (with the private email addresses of recipients redacted).
Fellow House candidate Joel Rubin pushed back, writing this email to Luest and the other candidates.
Dear Helga – After careful consideration, I’ve decided to neither provide edits to nor sign on to this letter.
I have spent my entire life as a son, brother, grandson, husband, father, nephew, and son-in-law to powerful, smart, amazing women. Professionally, I have dedicated years of my public sector service to programs that advance women’s rights as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Latin America and to women’s economic advancement in the Middle East as a State Department officer. And politically, I have supported women candidates for office both financially and with advice and support. In fact, I was recently endorsed for State Delegate by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky – the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
This is why I’m not signing the letter. Because what I have learned from all these women in my life – not to be bullied – empowers me to say no. Yet that is precisely how you are approaching this letter.
This letter is about an issue that you have with another candidate. You have made your concerns about his behavior clear publicly. And you have gotten significant press coverage about this issue. It is not hidden from public scrutiny. In addition, I have privately spoken with you to express my admiration for your willingness to stand up for yourself on an issue that you find of ethical importance.
Yet instead of making this your own fight, you’re now attempting to re-frame this issue as one about women versus men. And you made it clear in your outreach to me that if I didn’t sign the letter, I would be portrayed as anti-woman. This type of approach undermines your claims of principled behavior. Not only are you using bullying tactics, but you are also engaging in guilt by association and the potential smearing of my reputation because I may not support your personal position expressed in this letter.
I think it’s wrong that someone whom I barely know and met just a couple of months ago on the campaign trail believes that they have the right to define for me what it means to be a supporter of women. My personal and professional track record speaks for itself and runs counter to these claims.
It therefore seems that this letter is more about politics than about principle. It appears to be an attempt to leverage the #MeToo movement for personal political benefit. And that is a real shame.
I prefer to stick to principle when it comes to advancing women’s rights. It is time to build alliances between women and the men who are already on their side.
All the best,
After Rubin’s email was sent, the statement leaked to the press and Luest’s deadline on Wednesday at 5 PM passed with no consensus. Then the discussion ended.
We make no judgment on whether Luest’s account or Waldstreicher’s is closer to the truth. But we understand why Luest’s statement failed to get traction. In District 18, the House and Senate contests are fundamentally different. The House race is a popularity contest. Whichever three candidates have the most appeal for voters will win. Controversy does not facilitate victory. The Senate race is going to be a war. At some point, Beyer and Waldstreicher – neither of whom are the other’s devoted fan – will start launching live fire. Only the strongest will survive. Why would the House candidates want to be in the middle of that?
Here is a prediction: this is not the last time we will hear of this. As Waldstreicher is a three-term House incumbent, he has the advantages of name recognition, constituent service, community relationships and endorsements over Beyer. Since the two have virtually identical positions on issues, Beyer will seek an edge to make the case that she is a better choice than Waldstreicher despite his twelve years of service. Luest’s story will therefore live on – in Dana Beyer’s mail.