In his analysis of the Montgomery County Council District 1 race, Adam Pagnucco pointed out correctly that Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez (D-18) is completely outclassed on the fundraising front. She is unknown in much of D1, as the great majority of it is outside of District 18. Moreover, the portion of D18 that is Ana’s strongest base, though not her Chevy Chase home, lies outside D1.
Adam speculated that Ana might drop back to the delegate race. I suspect not. At this point, I imagine that she might prefer to retire or at least to go out in a long-shot race that gives her a better platform for her issues, especially on immigration and progressive policies designed to help poor and working Montgomeryites.
District 1 Race is a Bad Fit for Ana
Even taking this into account, the D1 Council race is a poor choice. This is a crowded contest with several highly qualified, well-funded candidates, so candidate debates may end up being more like those in a delegate contest. Additionally, even some of her usual supporters within D18 have decided to support other candidates rather than Ana’s surprising bid.
It’s also just a bad fit. Over the years, Ana has made little bones about her lack of interest in the local concerns of D1 residents. D1 residents are very pro-immigrant but there are a lot of local issues on which Ana has visibly little passion. The rationale for electing a councilmember who emphasizes immigration, as a glance as Ana’s twitter feed reveals, is not high because Nancy Navarro has occupied that niche and this is simply not a contested issue on the strongly pro-immigrant county council.
The barrier is not that Ana is Latina in a predominantly white district. African-American Craig Rice represents the whitest district in county and has no problem being simultaneously a proud African American and a strong local advocate. The idea that elected officials must match the predominant race or ethnicity in a district is grotesque.
Nevertheless, as in her quixotic congressional bid two years ago, Ana is destined to come towards the back of the pack in this group of candidates. She lacks the resources, the name recognition, or the strong rationale that would propel her candidacy forward.
District 18 Senate Race is Far More Intriguing
If Ana wants a platform, she’d be better off taking a flyer on the D18 Senate contest for a number of reasons.
Unlike on the Montgomery County Council, there is a real niche to fill in the Maryland Senate. Sen. Victor Ramirez is leaving the Senate to run for State’s Attorney in Prince George’s. The Senate will lose one of its strongest advocates on immigration and sole Latino voice. Though Maryland voted strongly for the Dream Act, immigration is contentious at the state level with Gov. Hogan more willing to make Trump-like noises on this issue than others.
Ana has already represented all of D18 for years and done well in delegate primaries. Though Jeff Waldstreicher spent far more money and campaigned far harder in 2014, he received only 122 votes more than Gutiérrez. In 2010, Ana beat Jeff by 483 votes to come in an easy first place.
Ana and Jeff ran on a slate together in these elections, so it is hard to gauge their individual support. Jeff campaigns much harder but Ana has a real following. She does well especially in the Wheaton and Silver Spring portions of the district but also gathers many votes near her Chevy Chase home.
If Ana ran, there would still only be three candidates in the race, which would prevent her voice from being crowded out. A conviction politician unafraid to stand up for what she believes, she will stand out. Moreover, her entry would completely scramble efforts by Jeff Waldstreicher and Dana Beyer fight to claim the progressive mantle.
Entering this race wouldn’t destroy any relationships. It is well known that Gutiérrez is no fan of her colleague, Del. Waldstreicher. I don’t know how she feels about Beyer but she supported Rich Madaleno steadfastly when Beyer challenged him four years ago.
Waldstreicher and Beyer will both run expensive, hungry campaigns. However, that leaves Gutiérrez able to position herself as more grassroots candidate who can’t dump thousands of her own money on a campaign like Beyer and is not beholden to the donors who Jeff has pursued with vigor. However, she’d need to cultivate local support, especially since Jeff positions himself as a good constituency service politician.
While most endorsers will overlook Gutiérrez for the D1 Council race, she would have to receive serious consideration in D18. Despite being way behind in the fundraising, she would have a shot based on name recognition alone. Endorsers would also have to explain why they are overlooking the more senior female delegate to endorse the younger Waldstreicher.
A Note on the Purple Line
Unlike in past D18 races, the Purple Line should not be an issue. In previous elections, there was no “right” position on the Purple Line in D18, as supporters and opponents both have prospered. (I was a strong opponent but now hope it goes well since we’re about to spend billions on it.) Ana gained friends as a steadfast supporter.
Jeff and Dana’s positions are both more complex. Jeff positioned himself as an opponent but my conversations with people on both sides of the issue reveal that he bent over backward to curry their support without altering his public position. Pro-transit groups accused Dana of being opposed to the PL despite her statements of support. As a result, neither Jeff nor Dana gained allies from either supporters or opponents.
Regardless, to the extent it matters, it feeds the narrative of Ana as an authentic, conviction politician among both voters and, more importantly, among candidate validators and endorsers.
The Bottom Line
My guess is Ana sticks with the D1 race. I haven’t asked and she certainly doesn’t look to me for advice.
But if she switches horses, it would be far more interesting if she ran for Senate than sought another term in a crowded contest for the House with no incumbent slate. Though it would be a tough race and both Waldstreicher and Beyer possess real strengths in terms of money and drive, there is a path in D18 for Gutiérrez that just doesn’t exist in the D1 Council race.
Note: At various times, I have supported and given donations to Beyer, Gutiérrez and Waldstreicher. I have not donated or supported any of their campaigns this year.