Several Democratic candidates vying for open seats in Bethesda-area state legislative districts are digging deep into their personal assets to boost their competitiveness in this year’s June 26 primary, according to campaign finance reports filed last week with the state Board of Elections.
Political activist Dana Beyer of Chevy Chase, who put nearly $500,000 of her own money into three past bids for elected office, has poured in more this year: She made a $103,100 personal loan to her bid against Del. Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington for the District 18 Senate seat held by Democrat Richard Madaleno, who is seeking his party’s nomination for governor.
A couple of first-time candidates are also spending heavily from their own assets. In District 18, Mila Johns of Chevy Chase, a former research analyst and project manager at the University of Maryland, loaned her own campaign $100,000 over the past year—with $80,000 coming on Jan. 10, the cutoff date for the campaign finance reports due last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in neighboring District 16, attorney Sara Love of Bethesda loaned her campaign $50,000 a month prior to the filing deadline for the reports, which cover fundraising for much of 2017. The loan enabled Love to keep financial pace with another well-funded candidate, teacher Samir Paul of Bethesda, in the competition for the open seat of Del. Bill Frick of Bethesda; Frick is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive.
District 16 encompasses Bethesda and sections of Chevy Chase and Potomac. But it is District 18, which extends from east Bethesda through Chevy Chase to Silver Spring—while also taking in Garrett Park, Kensington, Wheaton and part of Rockville—that is the site of the county’s most wide-open state legislative competition this year for both state senator and delegate.
Del. Jeff Waldstreicher
With Waldstreicher running for state Senate and another incumbent, Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, seeking a seat on the County Council, two of the district’s three delegate seats are up for grabs. Only Del. Al Carr of Kensington, in office since 2007, is seeking re-election.
Carr reported raising about $34,250 over the past year, with a little less than $24,000 in cash on hand as of the Jan. 10 cutoff date—putting him behind a couple of the non-incumbent candidates for District 18 delegate in both of those categories. In recent years, it has been rare to dislodge a sitting member of the state House of Delegates: No incumbent delegate seeking re-election in Montgomery County was ousted in either 2010 or 2014 (although a couple of the county’s state senators were narrowly defeated for renomination in 2010).
This has left seven non-incumbent Democrats taking aim at the two open seats in District 18. Besides Johns, they include Ron Franks of Wheaton, a federal contractor; Helga Luest of Rockville, a manager at a Bethesda-based public affairs firm; Leslie Milano of Chevy Chase, executive director of a public health organization; Town of Chevy Chase Council member Joel Rubin; Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) Vice Chairwoman Emily Shetty of Kensington; and former congressional aide Jared Solomon of Chevy Chase.
Johns’ $100,000 in loans enabled her to report a campaign treasury of almost $83,300, despite having raised just $14,200 in outside contributions over the past year. She spent nearly $32,000, more than four times as much as any of her non-incumbent rivals. About three-quarters of this went to Bowie-based Mayson-Dixon Strategies, for campaign materials and consulting.
Johns reported that $2,000 of the loans she made to the campaign had been repaid, leaving $98,000 outstanding. As a rule, such loans are rarely repaid in full; they are often kept on the books for several election cycles and ultimately written off as uncollectable debt.
Solomon, with more than $42,000, took in more in outside donations than the other District 18 delegate contenders, including Carr. In addition, Solomon loaned his campaign $12,350, and had $47,300 in the bank with more than five months until the primary.
Shetty, who finished fourth in a seven-way 2014 primary for the district’s three delegate seats, took in nearly $25,800 in contributions since beginning her second run last spring, and had $19,500 in her campaign treasury.
She also reported providing nearly $4,000 in in-kind contributions to her candidacy. She has not made any recent loans to her campaign, but $4,500 that she loaned in 2014 remains on the books.
Shetty’s contributors include several names well known in Montgomery County and Maryland Democratic politics. Former Maryland Democratic Chairman Terry Lierman of Chevy Chase donated $500, and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park contributed $250—as did the campaign committee of state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Two current members of the Maryland General Assembly, Dels. Marc Korman of Bethesda and David Moon of Silver Spring, each gave her $100.
Rubin, an unsuccessful candidate in the 2016 congressional primary won by Raskin, entered the race a couple of months ago. Since then, he has taken in $2,950 in contributions and made his campaign a $3,000 loan, leaving him with a little less than $5,500 in the bank.
Luest, who has lobbied in Annapolis on behalf of crime victims’ rights, raised just short of $1,000, and reported $700 on hand. Franks filed an affidavit declaring he had raised and spent less than $1,000. Milano, who announced her candidacy at the end of last month, has yet to file a campaign finance report.
In the District 18 Senate race, Beyer, a former eye surgeon, said while announcing her candidacy in late October that—in contrast to her 2014 primary challenge to Madaleno—she did not plan to self-finance her campaign this year.
“I only self-financed last time because my base, the LGBT community, was also Rich’s base,” Beyer said. “I discovered early on that put my friends in a bind… . That’s not an issue now.” Madaleno is currently the only openly gay member of the state Senate; Beyer, if elected, would become the first transgender individual to serve in the General Assembly.
So far, however, Beyer has shown limited returns from fundraising: Her report indicated she had raised a little less than $16,400. With the loan to her campaign factored in, she had $114,500 on hand in what is expected to be the county’s only contested Senate contest in the June primary.
Waldstreicher, among the county legislative delegation’s most aggressive fundraisers, reported a campaign treasury of more than $285,000, after raising $144,500 over the past year. Nearly half of what his campaign paid out in expenses last year—about $10,500—went to Martin-Lauer Associates, a Baltimore firm that is a fundraising consultant to numerous Maryland candidates.
Waldstreicher serves on the House Economic Matters Committee, which has jurisdiction over several heavily lobbied issues. His report is dotted with donations from leading Annapolis lobbyists as well as prominent members of the Montgomery County business community.
Former Del. Gerard Evans, Joel Rozner, and former state Sen. Rob Garagiola—among Annapolis’ 10 top-grossing lobbyists in 2017—gave Waldstreicher $500, $250 and $125, respectively. Garagiola previously represented District 15, which extends from Potomac to the Frederick County line. The campaign committee of Garagiola’s successor, Sen. Brian Feldman, gave $500.
Among the prominent Montgomery County developers on Waldstreicher’s contribution list were Andrew Chod and Keith and Morton Funger, each of who gave $1,000. Charles Nulsen, president of the Washington Property Co., donated $500. And Robert Trone, co-owner of nationwide alcoholic beverage retailer Total Wine & More, was a $2,000 donor.
The campaign committee of U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who represented District 18 in the state Senate from 1994 to 2002, gave Waldstreicher $1,500. And a well-known District 18 resident, former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry of Kensington, contributed $2,000.
Next door in District 16, Love reported raising $81,000 in outside contributions since launching her campaign last spring, lagging behind the $115,400 reported by Paul—who created his committee around the same time. However, Love’s $50,000 loan enabled her to tie Paul in terms of cash in their respective treasuries: Each reported having about $108,900 on hand as of Jan. 10.
Three other non-incumbent delegate contenders in the district’s Democratic primary—civic activist Jordan Cooper of Bethesda, and attorney Joseph Hennessey and writer/consultant Nuchhi Currier, both of Chevy Chase—got later starts, and trailed Love and Paul in fundraising.
Cooper, who also sought a District 16 delegate nomination in the 2014 primary, raised $8,900 since September, and had about $10,700 in the bank at the end of the reporting period. Hennessey, who entered the race in late October, reported $13,400 in donations and $10,200 in his campaign treasury. Currier, current president of the Washington-based Woman’s National Democratic Club, declared her candidacy a month before the filing deadline; she took in $4,300 in contributions and had about $4,250 on hand.
While Love is well-known among the county’s legislative delegation—she lobbied in Annapolis in recent years as public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland—she started the campaign as a relative unknown among many District 16 Democratic activists.
Her report shows she invested significantly in staff and campaign materials over the past year to raise her profile in the district. She spent $22,000, more than three times the $6,400 in expenditures reported by Paul, who teaches in the countywide honors mathematics program based at Silver Spring’s Montgomery Blair High School.
While he reported no loans from himself to his committee, Paul did make nearly $14,700 in direct financial donations, as well as another $4,300 in the form of in-kind contributions.
The campaign committees of two incumbent state senators—Feldman and District 17 Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Rockville—made contributions of $250 and $300, respectively to Love. Raskin, a member of the Maryland Senate prior to his 2016 election to Congress, donated $500.
Paul, who is Indian-American, attracted support from two fellow Indian-Americans serving in Annapolis: Del. Aruna Miller of Darnestown, who is leaving this year to run for Congress, donated $750, and the campaign committee of Del. Kumar Barve of Rockville gave $250.
The District 16 race includes two incumbents, Dels. Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman, both of Bethesda, who are seeking a third and second term this year, respectively.
Korman reported the largest campaign treasury of any of the district’s Democratic primary delegate candidates—nearly $147,500—after raising $84,650 over the past year. He is carrying $69,000 in loans he made to his 2014 primary campaign, when he spent a total of more than $200,000 in his successful bid for an open seat.
Kelly raised nearly $47,900, and had more than $78,500 on hand. She is still carrying loans she made to her committee totaling $175,000 from her 2010 and 2014 races.
So far, no Republicans have filed to run this year in either District 16 or District 18, where Democrats enjoy a better than 3-1 advantage in voter registration.