By Adam Pagnucco.
Everybody in this district is broke, including the incumbents. Gone are the days when Jamie Raskin, Sheila Hixson, Heather Mizeur and Tom Hucker were raising money hand over fist and Jonathan Shurberg was writing himself six-digit checks!
If money is not a differentiator, the landscape will favor the three incumbents: Senator Will Smith and Delegates David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins. We anticipate that the three will team up, combine resources, get most if not all of the institutional endorsements and be reelected. That leaves a contest for the open seat being vacated by the Queen of District 20, long-time Delegate Sheila Hixson. Lorig Charkoudian, who runs a community mediation non-profit, has deep roots in Takoma Park and has been an advocate on progressive legislation at the state level (including abolishing the death penalty). She finished second for last year’s Delegate appointment to Wilkins. Howard University professor and volunteer fire fighter Darian Unger ran for the House in 2014 and finished fifth. In that race, Unger was endorsed by the Washington Post, the Gazette, the Volunteer Fire Fighters, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.
The Big Question: will there be a mixed slate featuring the incumbents and either Charkoudian or Unger? Such an event would be a repeat of 2014, when incumbents Raskin and Hixson teamed up with newcomers Moon and Smith to sweep the primary.
We should run a poll of Seventh State readers on whether this district is messier than District 17. Last time, the four incumbents – Senator Nancy King and Delegates Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznik and Shane Robinson – had no primary opponents and cruised to reelection. This year, Barkley’s decision to run for County Council At-Large has opened a seat. MCGEO President Gino Renne threatened to defeat Reznik last May a month after Renne’s employee, Gabe Acevero, began his campaign for the House. Shortly thereafter, the incumbents chose to slate with newcomer Lesley Lopez and it was Game On. Just last week, County Executive Ike Leggett piled on, endorsing Acevero and accusing the incumbents of slating with Lopez in a “smoke-filled room.” That’s an ironic comment from Leggett considering that he was first elected in 1986 as a new candidate invited by incumbents onto a mixed slate.
Putting aside the admittedly fun political food fight, the data above shows one salient fact: no one has any money except the incumbents. That’s a big deal for Lopez as she can benefit from pooled resources with the rest of her slate. Acevero’s path to victory necessitates rolling up lots of labor support – and not just from MCGEO and its affiliates – and raising enough money to break through. That’s not easy to do in this district, which lacks the legions of liberal activists of District 20 and the wealthy neighborhoods of Districts 15, 16 and 18.
The Big Question: will the tumult over the incumbents’ mixed slate filter down to the voters or is it just something that the chattering class (and obsessive bloggers) will yap about? If it’s the latter, the slate strategy could pay off.