Del. Ben Kramer Credit: From Maryland Manual

Updated at 9 a.m.

Del. Ben Kramer of Derwood, who for months considered running for Montgomery County executive, said late Thursday that he will seek the District 19 state Senate seat instead. Kramer announced his decision a day after Sen. Roger Manno, who holds the seat now, said he will run for Congress.

Del. Bonnie Cullison, who had eyed the Senate seat, said she now has decided to seek re-election and back Kramer to succeed Manno in next year’s Democratic primary.

“I was wanting someone with experience in our Senate seat,” Cullison, a Silver Spring resident, said in a phone interview. She said Kramer, in his third term in the House of Delegates, “has represented District 19 well. He works very hard in Annapolis.”

Cullison was elected to her delegate seat in 2010.

Kramer plans to travel to Annapolis Friday to file for the Senate seat. Both his father, former County Executive Sid Kramer, and his sister, current Maryland Secretary of Aging Rona Kramer, served in the Maryland Senate.

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Asked why he did not run for county executive—a post his father held from 1986 to 1990—Ben Kramer replied, “I gave it very serious consideration, but I just … think circumstances are best if I continue my work in the Legislature.”

Kramer’s announcement also came a day after another potential contender for county executive, Potomac businessman David Trone, opted instead to run for the District 6 congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. John Delaney, who has launched a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Trone is expected to face Manno, of Silver Spring, as well as Dels. Bill Frick of Bethesda and Aruna Miller of Germantown, in next June’s Democratic primary. Andrew Duck, who has run unsuccessfully for the 6th District seat three times, is the only candidate officially filed.

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Republicans Amie Hoeber, who lost to Delaney last year, and Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation Secretary Kelly Schulz have expressed interest in running.

With both Kramer and Trone out of the county executive race, the Democratic primary remains a contest among three incumbent County Council members—Roger Berliner of North Bethesda and Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of Takoma Park. A new county term-limits law prevents all three from seeking another council term.

Two other possible Democratic contenders, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Rockville and former County Council member Mike Knapp of Germantown, continue to mull entering the executive contest.      

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Also in the county executive race is Republican Robin Ficker of Boyds, an attorney and perennial candidate who was the chief sponsor of the ballot referendum that led to last year’s term-limits law.

In an interview, Kramer acknowledged his decision to run for the Senate seat rather than county executive surprised many people. “They were all commenting, ‘Well, Trone’s out of the executive race, so that opens it wide up for you’,” he recounted.

Early Wednesday, after Trone announced he was running for Congress, Kramer told Bethesda Beat that he would not make a decision on his political future until after Labor Day. But, later in the day, he said, Manno called him to say he was formally announcing for the District 6 congressional seat.

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“I had actually made the decision that I would not decide until Labor Day with regard to the county executive race because I also had not envisioned Manno running for Congress,” Kramer said. “I know he had discussed it, but I wasn’t sure that he actually would. When he did, I then went ahead and made the decision” to run for Manno’s Senate seat.

Kramer, who oversees the property management company his father started, said the time commitment to be county executive played a role in his decision to seek to stay in Annapolis.

“At the end of the day, I think the demands of the county executive office are such that it just did not make sense for me,” he said, adding, “I had some great ideas that I think would be very effective as county executive, and I think there are significant opportunities to kind of pick up where Ike Leggett has left off.”

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Kramer and his father have been among the staunchest supporters of Leggett’s three successful runs for county executive.

“But I also very much enjoy my work in the Legislature, and I still have work that I think I’d like to do there,” added Kramer, who has been known in the General Assembly as something of an outsider with an independent streak. “And I have very strong relationships in the Legislature with my colleagues, and the time demands are just not as stringent as they are as county executive.”

In 1990, Sid Kramer was denied renomination to a second term as county executive in a bitter primary, prompting some insiders to suggest that Ben Kramer’s interest in being county executive was partly about redemption. In an interview late last year, Kramer vehemently denied this was a motivation.

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Asked Thursday about the reaction of his father—who turned 92 last month—to his decision to run for state Senate rather than county executive, Kramer replied: “Dad has always said that, with regard to his time in elected office, he was never happier than when he was in the Legislature. When I told him last night the decision I had made, he smiled and said, ‘I think that is absolutely the right direction.’”

Thursday’s statements by Kramer and Cullison clarify what was a fluid political situation in heavily Democratic District 19, which extends from Silver Spring through the middle of the county to the outskirts of Rockville and Gaithersburg.

With both Cullison and another member of the District 19 delegation, Del. Marice Morales of Silver Spring, planning to seek re-election, it will leave one vacancy—the delegate seat being relinquished by Kramer—up for grabs in next year’s primary.

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A line is already forming for that slot. Attorney Vaughn Stewart of Derwood, treasurer of the District 19 Democratic Club, announced for delegate this week. Current Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee member Marlin Jenkins and former MCDCC member Charlotte Crutchfield—both Silver Spring residents—are eyeing the race.

Crutchfield, who chairs the county’s Merit Systems Protection Board, narrowly lost a bid for delegate seat in the 2014 primary. She said this week she has a “very strong interest” in running again.

Two other aspirants, software developer Brian Crider of Rockville and former health care operations manager Jade Wiles, have filed to run for delegate in the District 19 primary.

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