This morning, I profiled the incumbents in the District 18 delegate race. Now, I assess the strength of the four challengers.
Rick Kessler has $69K in his campaign account after having raised $84K last year. $5K came from people with the Kessler surname. Rick’s donor list reads more national and Capitol Hill than the incumbents, though he has many local donors.
His donors tended to have the opposite profile of Al’s, as many gave larger amounts of $250 or more. Another $6K arrived from PACs, including $4K from Dow Lohnes, a law firm. $1K from Rep. John Dingell’s (D MI) PAC, and $1K from Rep. Frank Pallone’s (D NJ) PAC. Dingell is a past boss.
Rick strikes me as the greatest threat to the sitting delegates. He has been active in the district for a long time and is well-liked with Central Committee Member Vic Weissberg chairing his campaign. Beyond raising the second-highest sum of all candidates, Rick knows how to run a campaign and will do well at the doors. The sitting delegates will no doubt be unhappy at the thought that he can raise even more money during the legislative session but they can’t.
Elizabeth Matory has $16K left in her campaign account, though she has raised $26K. Relatives account for a little less than one-fifth of all of her donations. Liz has received some support from two in-district local elected officials, Kensington Mayor Fosselman and Kensington Councilmember Paul Sexton.
She has a degree from Columbia, a law degree from Howard, and is completing her MBA at Maryland, and works in nonprofit fundraising. Nevertheless, I suspect that the main problem for this otherwise appealing candidate is a lack of funds. Liz has yet to raise enough to mount a competitive campaign against three incumbents.
Emily Shetty has just $10K in her campaign account. Roughly one-quarter came from people who share her surname. Emily works at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with Lisa Fadden, extremely talented, well-liked, and well-connected in Montgomery politics. She also served recently as the Program Director for the MoCo Young Democrats and previously worked as the legislative director for now retired New York Rep. Ed Towns.
Unfortunately for Emily, she is not well-known in the district and does not have the funds to compete. On Facebook, she has been friendly with Rich Madaleno’s opponent but seems reluctant to turn it into a slate, likely because it would close off a lot of avenues not just in this campaign but the future.
Natali Fani-Gonzalez has raised essentially no money–she filed an affidavit attesting to having raised and spent under $1K. A Latina, she filed in the mistaken belief that Ana was not going to run and would support her bid. Natali attends a lot of events but there is no sign of a campaign that would raise her profile among voters.
UPDATE: I have learned once again not to estimate age based on photos (face palm). Natali Fani-Gonzalez may be unhappy not to be described as young (as in the original version of this post) in our youth-oriented culture but she is older than I realized.
Also more successful. Natali is a businesswoman who heads a public relations firm that works for a variety of progressive organizations from unions to promoting healthcare. Perhaps most prominently, she previously worked as a lobbyist for CASA de Maryland on the highly successful push for the MD Dream Act.
She still needs a lot more money that she reported in January if she wishes to run a viable campaign for this seat but also has the resume of a potentially strong candidate.
Only Rick Kessler seems positioned to have a real shot at toppling an incumbent. The other challengers may influence the outcome by taking votes from this or that candidate but it’s hard to see their path to victory.
Even Rick has a tough road because he has not only to attract votes but also see one incumbent’s votes reduced sufficiently to become endangered. But Rick has key ingredients–an attractive candidate, sufficient funds, and knowledge about how to campaign–to capitalize on opportunities. Rick’s chances will rise if the three incumbents ultimately fail to form a united slate as it would render the situation more fluid.