The first candidate to formally announce in what could be a crowded Democratic field for the 8th District congressional seat is state Del. Kumar Barve.
Barve made his intentions clear in an email to supporters Monday morning. “I am announcing today that I’m running for the open 8th congressional district of Maryland to help rebuild our middle class, restore hope in the American Dream, and grow our economy so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive and the freedom to live as they wish,” he wrote.
“I made history in 1990 at the age of 32 when I was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates and became the first Indian-American ever to serve in a state legislature.
“For 25 years as a legislator, I have worked to earn your trust. As majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, I helped lead the effort to build the best public school system in America. I worked to foster economic growth through investments in biotechnology and information technology.”
Barve, 56, a Gaithersburg Democrat representing District 17, had served as the Democratic majority leader since 2003 until he was appointed this year to serve as the chairman of the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
Barve’s announcement puts him out early in what is shaping up to be a crowded field for U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s seat in the district, which includes southern Montgomery County and parts of Carroll and Frederick counties. Nearly a dozen individuals ranging from other state legislators to Montgomery County Council members and outsiders have expressed interest in running for the congressional seat, which last opened nearly 30 years ago.
Van Hollen is vacating the seat he has held since 2003 to run for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat. Mikulski announced last week she will retire in 2016.
If elected, Barve would be only the fourth Indian-American to serve in Congress. Only one other Indian-American member, U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (D-California), currently serves in Congress.
Barve was born in upstate New York shortly after his family emigrated to the U.S. from India.
Despite being a leader in the state house for more than decade, Barve may not have the sizable profile of other potential candidates who have won countywide elections because his General Assembly district, which covers Rockville and Gaithersburg, is split between the 8th and 6th Congressional districts. That means he may not be known to some of the voters who will be evaluating him for the U.S. House seat.
However, his leadership position in state government may prove to be an asset in fundraising for what is expected to be an expensive campaign. Political insiders say the race may require $1 million to $2 million to finance.
With reporting by Louis Peck
Editor’s Note: The original sub-head on this story identified Barve as the majority leader, although the article accurately noted he is the former majority leader. The sub-head has been corrected.