Former TV news anchor and Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews officially jumped in to the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District Wednesday, touting her business experience and emphasizing her commitment to progressive policies.
Matthews, who left her job as chief communications and public affairs officer at Marriott last month to prepare for the campaign, shook hands of Metro riders at the Silver Spring station and spoke to a large press gathering.
She shrugged off questions about her lack of political experience and spoke about progressive values, such as raising the minimum wage, achieving pay equality for women and ensuring women’s reproductive rights.
“I think there’s lots of kinds of experience that you can bring to a race like this,” Matthews said. “I bring the experience of 25 years, really reporting on this area, understanding this area, meeting with people and hearing their concerns.”
She also pointed to her work on a sustainability initiative at Marriott and said she was key in the company’s decision to sign on to an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage.
Matthews worked as a news anchor at WJLA/Channel 7 for 25 years before starting with the Bethesda-based hotel giant in 2006.
Her appearance Wednesday morning in Silver Spring attracted a swarm of reporters and news cameras for a primary election that’s more than 10 months away.
Matthews will be vying for the 8th District Democratic nomination against seasoned state legislators including Del. Kumar Barve, D-Gaithersburg, Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Chevy Chase and state Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Takoma Park.
Former Obama administration aide Will Jawando has also announced for the race, while former County Council member Valerie Ervin has told many that she plans to run to replace Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski.
Matthews cited Van Hollen as one of her inspirations, but quickly had to answer a question about her November 2014 campaign contribution of $2,600 to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. Blunt has been a proponent of tourism-related issues that Matthews said were important to her during her time at Marriott.
“I’ve been a lifelong Democrat. I have supported many Democratic campaigns with donations,” Matthews said. “But I’ve also supported people who I believe have supported bipartisan solutions.”
As Matthews announced her candidacy, one of her primary rivals, Raskin , unveiled the endorsement of his General Assembly colleague, state Sen. Susan Lee. Lee, elected to her current post last November after 12 years in the House of Delegates, is said to have briefly considered running for Congress herself.
Lee represents Bethesda-based District 16, which is expected to be a major battleground in the contest for the Democratic congressional nomination. As a press release Tuesday from the Raskin campaign pointedly noted, District 16 contains “the largest pocket of Democratic primary voters” in 8th District congressional seat, which includes much of Montgomery County as well as portions of Carroll and Frederick counties. None of the announced Democratic primary candidates, all of whom are Montgomery County residents, live in District 16.
In a statement, Lee praised Raskin as “my key ally on issues that affect women, families, seniors, and children,” while declaring, “I will be campaigning hard for Jamie Raskin!” Lee becomes the third of Raskin’s seven state Senate colleagues from Montgomery County to get behind his candidacy, joining Sens. Richard Madaleno of Kensington and Karen Montgomery of Brookeville. (Raskin’s announcement of his candidacy in April also claimed Sen. Nancy King as a backer. But sources indicated this was the result of a misunderstanding and that King, a Montgomery Village resident, currently has no plans to make an endorsement in the congressional race.)
Meanwhile, Barve’s campaign released a statement from the former majority leader in the House of Delegates.
“We will all be interested in learning about Ms. Matthews’ views on the important issues facing voters in Montgomery, Frederick and Carroll Counties,” Barve said, according to the statement. “I welcome her to the campaign.”
Matthews said she’ll be seeking as many endorsements from established local Democratic leaders as possible.
She has also met with Emily’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women candidates around the country. Anita Dunn, the Bethesda native and former White House communications director, will serve as Matthews’ chief strategist.
“I have spent a lifetime shattering the glass ceiling,” Matthews said.
Matthews planned to visit Dawson’s Market in Rockville, a Kensington senior center and the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market later Wednesday to meet with potential voters. She’ll host a private campaign fundraiser on Wednesday night.
Two other potential candidates — Dels. Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington and Ariana Kelly of Bethesda, the latter a District 16 resident — have publicly not ruled out running, but have yet to take any formal steps toward starting a campaign.
The 8th District, while significantly redrawn in 2011, remains predominantly Democratic, and, at this point, there are no Republicans known to be eyeing the race. Laytonsville businessman Frank Howard, who had been exploring a candidacy for the Republican congressional nomination, said recently that he had decided against running for the seat. Howard, who mounted a competitive bid for state Senate against Montgomery last year, did not rule out another run for office in 2018.
Politics editor Lou Peck contributed to this report