Joseph Hennessey Credit: Provided photo

Chevy Chase attorney latest entrant in District 16 delegate contest

Joseph Hennessey, a 52-year old Chevy Chase-based attorney who specializes in international litigation, is the fourth non-incumbent to take aim at an open state delegate seat in next June’s District 16 Democratic primary.

Prior to attending law school at the Catholic University of America, Hennessey was a staffer for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs—the international arm of the Democratic Party—and was an election observer abroad. More recently, he has been active in several campaigns—including Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid last year—as a legal observer and polling place monitor.

He said his participation in the Women’s March On Washington in January helped lead to his decision to enter the contest in Bethesda-based District 16, which also includes parts of Chevy Chase and Potomac.

“When I was at the women’s march … I was struck by two things,” Hennessey, who filed for the seat Tuesday, said in a phone interview. “One was the really palpable sense of fear on the streets that day. And the other thing was the enormous number of people who showed up.”

He added: “I think what we’re seeing is an immunological response to Donald Trump, which is healthy. … A lot of people are coming out of the spectator stands and taking the field, and I’m one of those people.”


Dels. Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman are seeking renomination in the three-member district.

Hennessey joins civic activist Jordan Cooper, attorney Sara Love and teacher Samir Paul in taking aim at the seat now held by Del. Bill Frick, who is running for his party’s nomination for county executive.

Love formally kicked off her campaign Wednesday, and Paul follows suit this Sunday.


Louis Peck


Victims’ rights advocate pursuing legislative opening In District 18


Helga Luest, who has lobbied the Maryland House of Delegates as president of a victims’ rights organization, is hoping to win election to that chamber.

Luest, a Rockville resident, filed late last week in District 18, where two delegate seats will be open in next June’s Democratic primary: Del. Jeff Waldstreicher is running for state Senate, and Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez is seeking a County Council seat.

Currently a manager at Bethesda-based Abt Associates—where she edits SAMHSA News, a publication of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—Luest previously headed Witness Justice, which she founded in 2001. It was a response to an episode eight years earlier, when Luest was severely beaten by two assailants while visiting Miami. She was 24 at the time.


“It was really life changing for me and a big part of what motivates me … because I believe one of the most important parts of healing is when you can do something positive with what happened to you,” Luest said in a phone interview.

“I work with agencies and policy makers at the federal level, and I think that vision affords something kind of unique to the state of Maryland and District 18,” Luest added. She accused the Trump administration of “the destruction of important programs and services.”

Besides Del. Al Carr, who is seeking re-election, Luest joins a field of announced candidates that currently includes University of Maryland project manager Mila Johns, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Emily Shetty and former congressional aide Jared Solomon. Town of Chevy Chase Council member Joel Rubin is considering running.


The district stretches from Bethesda through Chevy Chase to Silver Spring, taking in Kensington, Wheaton and part of Rockville.

Photo via Helga Luest’s website

Louis Peck



Cherri Branson files to run for at-large County Council seat

Montgomery County Procurement Director Cherri Branson last week formally filed to run for one of four at-large County Council seats in 2018. Three of the at-large seats will be open in the election due to term limits preventing three incumbents from seeking another term.


Branson, a Democrat, has served as procurement director since County Executive Ike Leggett appointed her to the position in 2015. She oversees more than $1 billion county contracts.

She was an interim District 5 County Council member in 2014 after the council appointed her to the position following the resignation of Valerie Ervin. She stepped down following the election of Tom Hucker to the seat.

The Silver Spring resident said in a statement that if she were elected, she would be prepared to do the job immediately.


“Residents deserve someone who will be ready [to] serve on ‘Day One’ with extensive experience in every facet of this job—legislation, policy and constituent service,” Branson said in the statement.

She also worked for 23 years on Capitol Hill.

Branson joins the growing field of Democratic candidates that now includes the following who have formally filed to run for an at-large seat or have told Bethesda Beat they plan to run:

  • Gabe Albornoz, the county’s director of recreation
  • Marilyn Balcombe, the president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce
  • Del. Charlie Barkley (D-Germantown)
  • Shruti Bhatnagar, of Silver Spring
  • Brandy Brooks, a Wheaton activist
  • Ron Colbert, a federal contractor and basketball coach
  • Bill Conway, a Potomac attorney
  • Hoan Dang, a Wheaton community organizer and federal contractor
  • Loretta Jean Garcia, a Bethesda attorney
  • Paul Geller, the former president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs
  • Evan Glass, a nonprofit director
  • Richard Gottfried, a union member from Rockville
  • Neil Greenberger, a county spokesman
  • Seth Grimes, former Takoma Park City Council member
  • Ashwani Jain, a political organizer
  • Will Jawando, a former Obama administration official
  • Melissa McKenna, former vice president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs
  • Danielle Meitiv, a Silver Spring science consultant
  • Hans Riemer, the only at-large council incumbent up for re-election
  • Darwin Romero, a construction manager
  • Mohammad Siddique, of Montgomery Village
  • Chris Wilhelm, a teacher at Northwood High School

Tim Willard, a former archivist from Kensington is seeking the Green Party nomination, and Republican Robert Dyer, a local blogger who has run in previous at-large races, has told Bethesda Beat he is considering entering the race.

Branson photo via Montgomery County website

Andrew Metcalf