Raskin faces new scrutiny after win
Some say loss of Ruben will hurt area
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006
And the election wasn’t as close as many expected. Raskin of Takoma Park beat Ida G. Ruben of Silver Spring by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.
While Raskin, 43, and his supporters see the change as an infusion of energy into the district and an opportunity to bring new, progressive ideas to Annapolis, others see a looming power deficit in District 20 with the loss of an experienced incumbent who had brought attention and funding to the Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring area over her three decades in the House and Senate.
‘‘In a single election, Takoma Park went from being in one of the most senior districts” to one of the most junior districts, ‘‘which will undoubtedly have an impact on the people in District 20 to ... effect anything in the legislature. And, I believe that will be fairly dramatic,” said Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter, a Ruben supporter.
Porter said the city ‘‘really benefited from [Ruben’s] seniority and political savvy.” District 20, she said, took a significant hit with the loss of Ruben, 77.
‘‘For me, this has nothing to do with being anti-Jamie Raskin,” she added. ‘‘I think he will be a fine senator. He just doesn’t have 30 years experience.”
Charles Atwell, owner of Innovative Business Interiors in Silver Spring and former chairman of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, took a more optimistic view: ‘‘There’s a 32-year legacy she leaves behind, and a fresh start for District 20.
‘‘Ida was president pro tem of the Senate. ... It’s certainly an important position and regarded by many as important, so we lose that,” Atwell said, who said he didn’t know Raskin but looked forward to working with him on business issues.
While Atwell credited County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) with securing county money for Silver Spring revitalization and keeping the project on track, he said Ruben ‘‘led the charge” at the state level and praised her for ‘‘bringing home the bacon” to help pay for the multimillion-dollar effort.
But Atwell said, ‘‘Silver Spring isn’t finished. We have a ways to go,” and the district will need Raskin’s help.
‘‘To some degree, a freshman legislator needs to be brought up to speed,” Atwell said. ‘‘I think his aides and ... community will have a role in that. ... We don’t have a history of being a shy community.”
Raskin, whose campaign office was on Georgia Avenue, calls himself ‘‘a great champion” of Silver Spring revitalization and said he hopes to continue what Duncan and Ruben started. ‘‘But, I want to make sure small business and less affluent people have a place in the downtown,” he said. ‘‘The measure of success in revitalization isn’t in how many new businesses we can bring in, but that the downtown remains open to people of different income levels.”
Raskin, who will not face a challenger in the November general election, plans to hold meetings throughout the district to discuss local issues, like business, public transportation and revitalization, and statewide issues, like lowering the voter registration age to 16, providing universal health care, closing the achievement gap in schools and reducing greenhouse gases.”
Raskin said such meetings, rallies, door-to-door canvassing and community involvement were hallmarks of a campaign that he called a ‘‘grassroots movement.”
He said he realized early on that Ruben was ‘‘dominant in traditional political channels.” Fund-raising and name recognition were going to be obstacles. So Raskin held events and brought in big names, like Jim Hightower, Thurgood Marshall’s wife and Jesse Jackson Jr., to attract attention to his campaign ‘‘and prove I could be just as influential,” he said.
He held his first event during a snowstorm at Mayorga Coffee Factory in south Silver Spring and invited poets and writers, such as local author George Pelecanos. Then he went to others ‘‘who were estranged from power” and politics, and created events that targeted those communities.
He and his campaign team, including a cadre of 20-something students from American University’s Washington College of Law where he is a professor, also knocked on more than 10,000 doors.
Many supporters said Raskin’s ideas made up for his lack of experience. They said they wanted to shake things up in District 20 and elect a candidate who would fight for progressive legislation.
‘‘We need progressives with a capital ‘P’ — aggressive progressives, kick-[butt] progressives,” said Takoma Park resident Scott Denman during Raskin’s election night party at Mayorga Coffee Factory. ‘‘We’re at a time when we can’t have Democratic politics as usual. Ruben and [Albert] Wynn need to go the way of the dinosaur.”
Eric Schaeffer, also of Takoma Park, said he wanted to see more of a fight on the issues he cares about.
‘‘We really need to go somewhere else on the energy climate issue⁄rate payer issue. I’m trying to be charitable about deregulation. Maybe that was a mistake but a mistake that has to be fixed,” he said. ‘‘I’d like to see our legislators be leaders on that.”
But others, like Takoma Park resident Catherine Tunis, a community activist and Ruben supporter, remain bitter.
‘‘I feel very sad. I don’t believe Jamie will be nearly as effective [as Ruben]. ... I don’t think he can deliver when he’s alone in Annapolis,” she said.