Consistency in the state legislature
In several races for the state legislature, incumbents are encountering energetic challengers who are arguing that the county's delegation is in need of a transfusion.
Montgomery County needs leaders in the General Assembly who have a sense of history but also recognize that change is inevitable to maintain the county's financial health and progressive approach on social issues. The county needs delegates and senators who can ensure a fair share of state funds for roads, schools, health care and more amid one of the toughest budgets in history.
District 14 (all or parts of Burtonsville, Damascus, Laytonsville, Montgomery Village, Olney and Silver Spring)
Incumbent Democrats Sen. Rona E. Kramer and Del. Anne Kaiser and delegate challengers Craig Zucker and Robert "Bo'' Newsome are strong choices to represent the diverse challenges, including transportation, development, crime and education, facing District 14.
Kramer and Kaiser are both finishing their second terms in Annapolis, and have shown their ability to work within the system to push the county's needs to the front of the line.
Kramer understands a core part of her mission is to fight to make sure county tax dollars stay in Montgomery to pay for schools, libraries and transportation services. She also helped pass legislation to protect nursing home residents from sexual offenders, among other legislative victories.
Kramer serves on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, the Public Safety, Transportation and Environment Sub-Committee, and the Joint Audit, Executive Nominations, Spending Affordability, and the Special Joint Pensions Committees.
Kaiser is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, serving as the chair of the Education Subcommittee. She also serves as a Deputy Majority Whip and has been the prime sponsor of 32 bills that are now law during her eight years on the legislature.
As the deputy chief of staff for Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, Zucker knows how crucial it is to keep a close watch on state money. He unsuccessfully ran for a District 14 House seat in 2002, but has built a powerful list of supporters that would give him more political muscle than most newcomers.
Newsome sought the House seat in 2002 and an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council in 2006. Although he didn't win, he knows the issues in his district intimately and has focused his campaign on the need to create local jobs, especially within the biotechnology sector.
District 15 (all or parts of Clarksburg, Germantown, Poolesville, Potomac, Bethesda and Gaithersburg)
Two incumbents and three challengers seek the Democratic nominations for the House of Delegates seats in District 15; the incumbent senator, Rob Garagiola, will face Republican challenger Dwight Patel in the general election. The two incumbents, Kathleen Dumais and Brian Feldman, are smart, hard-working legislators who have gained the respect of their colleagues, as evidenced by their leadership positions, and deserve third terms in office.
Feldman, chairman of the Montgomery County delegation in Annapolis, is a leader in efforts to expand the biotech industry, arguing that it is critical to the state's fiscal future, not to mention the continued role of the county as the state's economic engine.
An attorney and accountant, he understands the complexities of the state budget and has the skills to lead Maryland through the coming budgetary challenges.
Dumais, a family-law attorney who serves as House parliamentarian, makes sure the state protects families and children. She was able to get support for passage of several bills this year targeting sex offenders and fought to help pass legislation to curtail gang violence in schools.
The third seat should go to Aruna Miller, a transportation engineer with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Despite being a newcomer to politics, Miller's years of professional experience give her a unique perspective on the role of transportation in strengthening the economy. While she supports completing the InterCounty Connector, she believes equally in the importance of transit projects such as the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway.
District 16 (Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac)
District 16 has 13 Democrats vying for a seat in the House of Delegates. Two-term incumbent Susan Lee and Bill Frick, appointed to the House in 2007, are joined in the race by 11 challengers at least half a dozen of whom could serve with distinction.
Lee is a forward-thinking legislator who has spearheaded bills aimed at identity theft and cyber attacks on government. She is set to serve as chairwoman of the new Nanobiotechnology Task Force, which will bring legislators and scientific innovators together and could bring research and businesses to the county. She deserves another term.
While Frick has an admirable interest in providing constituent services, his legislative victories have been small. A longtime county resident who considers himself a team player, he brings no unique expertise to Annapolis. Two other candidates are better-equipped to serve the state and the district.
As transportation issues loom large, Mark Winston's four years as chairman of the Maryland State Transportation Commission would serve him well in Annapolis. Winston has also worked on housing issues at the county level. He combines decades of experience with an unusually thoughtful approach to issues.
Hrant Jamgochian, health policy director for United Way Worldwide, also possesses timely expertise. His knowledge of the recent national health care overhaul could help bring more federal dollars and assistance to Maryland.
District 17 (Gaithersburg, Rockville and Garrett Park)
The District 17 state Democratic Senate race pits two former colleagues against each other incumbent Sen. Jennie M. Forehand and former Del. Cheryl C. Kagan. In the delegate race, the three Democratic incumbents will face three eRepublican challengers Nov. 2.
Forehand, of Rockville, has steadily served for 16 years. Kagan, who left her District 17 delegate seat after two terms in 2002, mounted an aggressive, early campaign to unseat the incumbent. Both have similar views on major issues on the state and district level.
Forehand, who was a delegate from 1978 to 1994 and was elected to the Senate in 1994, has seniority and is chairwoman of the Committee on Federal Relations. The relationships she has forged make her an important, productive force, one with an unassuming style. She acknowledges her age 74 and sees herself as an energetic voice on issues facing a graying population. Forehand is respected by colleagues and has done good work on human trafficking, identity theft and transportation and her ability to work behind-the-scenes has benefited the county.
Kagan is attuned to the district, but has not made the case to replace a quietly effective incumbent whose wisdom, stature and maturity are assets.
District 18 (Wheaton, Kensington and Chevy Chase)
Over the next several years, District 18 will face several challenges: the potential construction of a Purple Line linking Bethesda and New Carrollton, the traffic nightmare that the expansion of the National Naval Medical Center will bring and the redevelopment of Wheaton, among others. All four seats in the district's state delegation are up for election: one senate seat and three delegate seats.
In the Senate primary, Democratic incumbent Rich Madaleno is one of the state's most well-respected legislators on budget matters. His work to close tax loopholes is commendable and he has emerged as a civil rights leader, seeking an opinion from the state's attorney general on same-sex marriage. Madaleno's efforts on an early compromise to cope with teacher pension funding was not well-received, and may turn out to be a political liability, but he showed immense courage and foresight in being proactive, rather than waiting for state leadership to force the issue.
In the Democratic delegate race, four challengers have emerged to face incumbents Al Carr, Jeff Waldstreicher and Ana Sol Gutierrez.
Gutierrez and Waldstreicher are able legislators and both have assets that well serve their constituents. Gutierrez has been an advocate for Latino issues at the local and national level and speaks for an important constituency in her district. She is also a firm supporter of the Purple Line. Waldstreicher has more of a political bent, but is sharp and nimble in navigating the legal maze of Annapolis. A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Waldstreicher was instrumental in pushing through a ban on texting while driving, which will help save lives and money.
Dana Beyer, a retired eye surgeon whose crystal-clear views on everything from the state budget to transportation are refreshing compared to experienced politicians who too often regurgitate tired party line statements, deserves the third seat. Beyer favors a zero-based budgeting process, a public health option, federal funding for Metro and incentives to encourage the development and use of energy-saving technology, all positions relevant to her constituency.
District 19 (all or parts of Aspen Hill, Olney, Wheaton, Laytonsville and Gaithersburg)
The District 19 Democratic primary features six candidates for three House of Delegates seats and two candidates for one Senate seat. There is no Republican primary.
In the state Senate race, challenger state Del. Roger Manno makes the most sense. Incumbent Sen. Mike Lenett has some positives going for him, including his efforts to protect the environment. But a number of political observers say he is a divisive force that has trouble working with the district's delegates and others. That's not a good prescription for protecting Montgomery County's interests. Manno is conscientious legislator who is willing to do the behind-the-scenes legwork on less sexy issues, such as teacher pensions.
For delegate, incumbent Benjamin Kramer gets the nod for one of the three seats. Kramer has been out front on some important issues, such as exposing the dangers of road salt on drinking water. He also understands the needs of the business community.
Challenger Sam Arora is another good choice. He grew up in Derwood and knows the district, which stretches from Wheaton to Laytonsville. Arora took a bold stance against accepting special interest money. He understands the importance of confronting Maryland's structural deficit.
The final choice for delegate is challenger Bonnie Cullison. She has much experience in education, including as a teachers union official. Cullison is used to listening to and respecting other perspectives, but not afraid to take a tough stance when it's needed. Cullison's challenge will be in balancing her strong connection to teachers with the needs of the county and state, particularly on a coming debate about who should pay for teacher pensions.
Dist. 39 (Montgomery Village, Washington Grove and parts of Germantown, Darnestown, North Potomac and unincorporated Gaithersburg)
Sen. Nancy J. King and first-term Del. Saqib Ali are both vying for the District 39 Senate seat in one of the county's most contested races. Both also fought for the seat in 2007, when P.J. Hogan left the Senate to work as a lobbyist for the University System of Maryland, and King was ultimately appointed.
King, who was elected as a delegate in 2003 and previously served on the Montgomery County Board of Education, has earned the respect of her fellow legislators and deserves to return to office. She has been an advocate for the public school system and her efforts to preserve public school funding including sponsoring a bill that waived the county's maintenance of effort penalties for fiscal 2010 are commendable.
While Ali is energetic and said he's an independent voice in Annapolis who can get things done on behalf of his constituents, many of his colleagues say he's so independent that he hasn't been able to build productive relationships.
In the Democratic delegate race, four challengers have emerged to face incumbents Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik, and to fight for Ali's vacated seat.
Barkley and Reznik are quietly effective legislators who each sponsored several bills that passed during the most recent session. Barkley, a retired educator who has served in the House since 1999, has significant knowledge of the state budget from time spent on the House Appropriations Committee. Reznik, who was appointed delegate in 2007, has backed several autism-related bills and been an advocate for health care issues.
The third seat should go to Bob Hydorn, a vice president of Fitzgerald Auto Malls and president of the Montgomery Village Foundation, an umbrella homeowners association for the Village's 40,000-plus residents. Hydorn favors an alcohol tax that generates funds for health care, resources for small businesses, increased funding for public safety officials and expanded access to trade education, all positions relevant to his constituency.
District 20 (Silver Spring and Takoma Park)
Three Democrats are challenging three of their party's incumbents in the District 20 race for the House of Delegates; incumbent Democratic Sen. Jamie Raskin is unopposed.
Incumbents Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur are clear choices to return to Annapolis. Incumbent Sheila Hixson deserves the third seat by a nose.
Hucker has been a key voice on the House Environmental Matters Committee, whose responsibilities include land use, planning and transportation. He supports increasing the alcohol tax and one of his priorities is better stormwater management to reduce pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.
Mizeur, with a strong record in supporting health care, family planning and education, favors increasing the alcohol tax and the gasoline tax to increase revenue. She also opposed shifting teacher pension obligations to the counties.
Both Hucker and Mizeur are backers of the Purple Line, while they differ a bit on the Intercounty Connector. Hucker is concerned the state is not doing enough to be responsive for homeowners in the way of the project, while Mizeur has opposed the highway outright, citing adverse environmental impacts and the need for more emphasis on alternative transit solutions.
Hixson is well known, with 34 years of experience in state politics and 17 years as chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee. A strong supporter of education initiatives, Hixson has also backed the ICC, slots and biotech tax credits. However, when asked about issues such as east county development and measures to resolve the budget crisis, she was unspecific and spoke in generalities.
Still, her experience and connections in Annapolis make her a stronger choice than any of the challengers.
Maryland Comptroller Peter V. R. Franchot is unopposed in the Democratic primary, but three Republican candidates are vying to beat him in November.
The best candidate, with the most direct experience relative to the position is William H. Campbell. A Columbia resident, Campbell, who has not held elected office, believes Franchot's performance has been poor, particularly on efforts to decrease the size of state government and reduce a structural budget deficit. Franchot, as the chair of the Board of Revenue Estimates, has not ensured estimates reflect economic realities, which leads to overspending, Campbell said.
Campbell has served as the chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Coast Guard and Amtrak. His campaign literature states he has been responsible for annual budgets of as much as $65 billion far larger than the state's budget. He has earned a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and completed an executive program in finance at Harvard Business School.
Campbell said he would work on the state's pension fund, which has been underfunded. He also proposed reducing the size of government by reviewing all funding, including mandatory programs. Campbell is broadly opposed to tax increases and said an often-discussed gas tax hike needs more debate about how those funds would be used.
Campbell favors a permanent reduction of the state sales tax, to 4 percent. Also, he believes combined reporting, a measure to increase the taxes corporations pay, would drive more businesses from the state.
Over the summer, Gazette editors have interviewed scores of candidates to arrive at "Our Opinion" endorsements, an editorial page tradition for decades.
Candidates without primary competition will be invited to speak with the editorial board before general election endorsements.
More information about the races and candidates, including verbatim responses to our questionnaires and one-minute videos, as well as previous endorsements, including those for County Council and congressional races, is online at www.gazette.net/votersguide2010.