Del. Ariana Kelly (D-16) is exploring a bid for Congress. Ariana has represented this district, centered on Bethesda, since 2011.
Del. Kelly grew up in the area, attending Walter Johnson High School. Her political involvement long predated her successful bid for the House. She was the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and the Environmental Health Campaign Director for MomsRising.org. Her past work as the producer for a PBS news program further adds to her communication experience.
In 2010, Ariana won the Democratic nomination for an open seat in the House of Delegates. Her closest competitor was Kyle Lierman, who was by far the best funded candidate in the race. In that race, Kelly benefited from being the only woman in the race. She performed well in a field with many strong candidates, garnering key support from Democratic interest groups.
As an incumbent in 2014, Kelly won the most votes of any House candidate not just in D16 but Montgomery County. This feat is all the more impressive because she was not unopposed for renomination. On the contrary, several strong candidates with good campaigns hoped to win an open seat.
Starting her second full House term, Del. Kelly was elected Chair of the Montgomery County House Democratic Caucus.
Ariana advocates strongly on women’s issues in the legislature. “Advocate” can sometimes sound like code for “someone who takes liberal positions but doesn’t really know or do a heck of a lot.” The opposite would be true in Ariana’s case.
People who speak with Ariana will quickly get a sense of her strong commitment to these issues backed by an intricate knowledge of how government does–and sometimes doesn’t–work. In short, Ariana often focuses on issues that are less eye-catching but make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Last year, HB 1026 mandated six weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave for employees in small businesses. HB 963, also passed during last year’s session, requires hospitals to develop procedures to do rape kits–surprisingly many are not equipped to do this–so victims of sexual assault don’t have to be shuttled to another hospital.
Parents of kids with autism are no doubt very grateful that 2012 HB 1055 required autism therapy to be covered by insurance, saving many parents from financial ruin on top of having the extra responsibility of a child with special needs.
Opportunity and Overlap with Other Candidates
Ariana would be a likely candidate to gain support from NARAL since she has worked for their state affiliate and can claim a level of commitment greater than other pro-choice candidates. She would need the backing of EMILY’s List to gain access to the broader national fundraising network that could help provide the funds critical to what will be an expensive House race.
Both Nancy Floreen, and to a certain extent Kathleen Matthews, show the most potential for overlap with Ariana’s candidacy. While they have distinct profiles locally among people who follow politics, each has the potential to appeal especially to women, who will compose well over 50% (probably close to or around 60%) of Democratic primary voters. Ariana would likely try to set herself apart as more progressive but these distinctions can be very hard to get into the minds of primary voters.
Though Ariana has only been elected twice, she represents the legislative district with the most Democratic primary voters in the Eighth District. Moreover, voters in this affluent district with a large Jewish population vote at a high rate.
Backing from her state legislative colleagues would aid Del. Kelly’s campaign, particularly in the early stages as it would help convince big funders like EMILY’s List to give her campaign a serious look. In short, as with other campaigns, not just experience but having supporters who can validate it would help her gain traction should she take the plunge, and enter, rather than explore a bid.