Editor’s note: The segment on endorsements made by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin and former County Executive Ike Leggett was corrected at 4:10 p.m. July 18 to reflect that District 19 Del. Vaughn Stewart has been formally endorsed by Raskin.
Raskin, Leggett atop list of endorsements sought by local Democratic candidates
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin’s 11th hour endorsement of County Executive Marc Elrich on Saturday underscored the informal consensus among Democrats appearing on the Montgomery County primary ballot: Raskin (D-Takoma Park), along with former County Executive Ike Leggett, sit atop the list of endorsers coveted by this year’s candidates.
Those seeking to follow in the footsteps of these two popular figures at times have gone to lengths to try to grab onto their coattails.
The voluble Raskin has become a prominent national figure over the past 18 months — as lead House manager of former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, and, more recently, as a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.
Meanwhile, since leaving the county executive’s office four years ago, Leggett has been a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland while also chairing the board charged with implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future — 2021 legislation that will direct an additional $3.8 billion annually to the state’s schools over the next decade.
Closer to home, Leggett has not shied away from controversial issues: co-chairing a 2020 effort to defeat a couple of hotly debated ballot questions, and, this past week, appearing at a Silver Spring event protesting the lack of diversity on a slate of candidates being promoted by a developer-funded political action committee in Tuesday’s primary.
But don’t look for Leggett to follow Raskin’s surprise move Saturday and make a last-minute endorsement for county executive, notwithstanding lobbying from the camps of all three major Democratic contenders.
According to those familiar with his thinking, the low-key Leggett is concerned that efforts to influence who occupies the office he held for three terms would be seen as overbearing – and an attempt on his part to continue to steer policy at the executive’s office.
And, if Elrich’s public comments during his first term have at times created tensions with his predecessor, Leggett also feels indebted to Elrich for being among the first to support his successful bid for County Council at-large in the mid-1980s — when Leggett became the first African-American elected to countywide office in Montgomery County.
The county executive race aside, following is a summary of those whom Leggett and Raskin have endorsed and/or offered encouragement in Tuesday’s primary. (Of note: Raskin’s practice of endorsing in some races and providing laudatory quotes in others without endorsing one candidate over another has occasionally led to some voter confusion.)
County Council at-large: Both Leggett and Raskin have endorsed the three at-large incumbents seeking re-election: Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass and Will Jawando. Leggett has endorsed former Gaithersburg City Council Member Laurie-Anne Sayles for the remaining at-large nomination.
Another contender, attorney Scott Goldberg — who managed Leggett’s re-election campaign in 2014 – entered the race after Leggett had committed to the three incumbents and Sayles; with Leggett’s approval, Goldberg’s campaign website prominently features a photo of him with Leggett. Raskin provided a favorable quote for Goldberg to use in promoting his candidacy, while providing similar quotes to Sayles as well as County Council Member Tom Hucker, who is seeking election to an at-large seat after representing District 5 for two terms.
County Council districts: In the District 2 open seat contest: Leggett has endorsed Gaithersburg/Germantown Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Balcombe, while Raskin has provided laudatory quotes for use by Will Roberts, a former Raskin legislative director.
Otherwise, Raskin has stayed out of council district races. Leggett has endorsed incumbent Sidney Katz in District 3; Daniel Koroma — who served in Leggett’s administration as a liaison to minority communities — in District 5; and University of Maryland administrator Jacqueline Manger in District 7. Manger is the spouse of U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, Montgomery County’s police chief during Leggett’s three terms.
Board of Education: Leggett has endorsed the incumbents seeking re-election: Karla Silvestre at-large, Scott Joftus in District 3 and Brenda Wolff in District 5 — along with Grace Rivera-Oven for the open District 1 seat. Raskin provided a favorable quote for use by Joftus without endorsing.
Courthouse offices: Leggett has endorsed State’s Attorney John McCarthy, whose first three terms overlapped with Leggett’s tenure as executive. He also has endorsed four recently appointed circuit court “sitting judges” — Carlos Acosta, Theresa Chernosky, Kathleen Dumais and Rachel McGuckian — for election to 15-year terms against two non-incumbent challengers, as well as former Deputy Sheriff Robert Bass in the open seat contest for sheriff.
Raskin has endorsed Silver Spring attorney Alan Bowser for circuit court clerk, where Karen Bushell — appointed in 2021 to fill a vacancy —I s seeking a full term.
General Assembly: Raskin, a former state senator from District 20, has endorsed the four District 20 incumbents: Sen. Will Smith and Dels. Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins. Smith and Moon are former Raskin campaign managers. Raskin also has given an endorsement to another onetime campaign aide now serving in Annapolis: District 19 Del. Vaughn Stewart, who worked on Raskin’s initial 2016 bid for Congress.
Trones’ 350K effort to boost Anthony Brown in AG race creates clash with Katie O’Malley
This year’s primary for the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh of Chevy Chase after two terms has become an increasingly acrimonious contest between U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, lieutenant governor from 2006-2014 under Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley – Martin O’Malley’s spouse.
The largesse of Rep. David Trone (D-Potomac) and his wife, June Trone, have put them squarely in the middle of the kerfuffle.
The hostilities commenced in late June, when Katie O’Malley — a prosecutor before being appointed a judge — released a TV ad in which she declares: “My opponent, Anthony Brown, is a fine congressman, but he’s never tried a criminal case in Maryland. And he doesn’t have the right experience for this job.”
It didn’t take long for a group called VoteVets — which is backing Brown — to air a response. “What a shame,” the narrator declares, with that phrase superimposed on the opening frame of the O’Malley ad. “Katie O’Malley’s attack ad just dismisses the experience of one of the most qualified people ever to run for attorney general — who will make history as our first black AG.” It goes on to highlight Brown’s background as a Harvard Law School graduate as well as his work on legislation relating to violence against women and gun safety.
When the final pre-primary disclosure reports were filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections on July 8, it was disclosed that the VoteVet ads for Brown had been largely underwritten by a $250,000 contribution on June 30 from June Trone. (David Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More with more than 230 stores nationwide, was ranked as the 17th wealthiest member of Congress in a 2020 analysis by Business Insider — with a minimum net worth of nearly $33 million.)
The disclosure of June Trone’s contribution elicited a sharply worded Twitter post from O’Malley — who if elected, would be the state’s first female attorney general.
“I was extremely disappointed to learn that Rep. David Trone and his family put $250K behind an ad for my opponent, shaming me for contrasting my criminal trial experience with his,” O’Malley wrote, adding, “Marylanders deserve a debate about experience — not wealthy interests funneling $$$ through PACs.”
According to an amended VoteVets PAC disclosure report filed with the State Board of Elections last week — after O’Malley’s tweet — it appears the Trones’ total contribution to the VoteVets ads actually came to $350,000. The amended report includes a $100,000 donation from David Trone on May 2, nearly two months before June Trone’s $250,000 contribution, The filing puts the cost of the pro-Brown ads criticizing O’Malley at just under $400,000.
The Trones have so far sought to keep a low profile in this dustup. But, Katie O’Malley’s complaint about “wealthy interests funneling $$$ through PACs” notwithstanding, it appears her husband’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential effort benefited from similar support from Trone.
Federal Election Commission records show a Trone-controlled corporate entity, Retail Systems and Service Inc., gave $120,000 to Generation Forward PAC — set up to benefit Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign — in June of 2015. (Trone’s donation to the O’Malley largesse came despite his being a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.)
Rather than as a sign of hostility toward Katie or Martin O’Malley, sources sympathetic to Trones say their recent generosity should be viewed largely as simply the latest manifestation of a strong friendship between David Trone and Brown dating back to when the latter was lieutenant governor.
In 2014, companies controlled by Trone donated $132,000 in an effort to bolster Brown in his losing general election bid to now-Gov. Larry Hogan, according to a 2018 Washington Post report.
In turn, Brown in 2018 was the first member of the Maryland congressional delegation to endorse Trone for Congress in District 6, at a time when Trone was facing a competitive primary. Trone went on to win the primary and general election that year after spending $17 million of his personal assets — a record for a self-financed congressional campaign.
Flareup over campaign flyer caps contentious primary in fractious District 39
Among the county’s eight all-Democratic General Assembly district delegations, there has been none as politically fractured over the past four years as District 39, centered in the Germantown/Montgomery Village area.
So there was little surprise when tensions within that delegation flared up late last week, just days before the July 19 primary.
At issue is a flyer mailed out by the “District 39 Team” slate, which includes Sen. Nancy King and Dels. Lesley Lopez and Kirill Reznik. The three incumbents earlier this year added Clint Sobratti, a former board member of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO — the union that represents a majority of county government employees — to the slate, in an effort to oust the other current incumbent, Del. Gabriel Acevero.
When the slate recently mailed out a flyer citing a list of legislative accomplishments and referring to “Senator Nancy King, Delegates Lesley Lopez, Kirill Reznik and Clint Sobratti” – implying that Sobratti was the incumbent — Acevero and his allies pounced.
In a press release, groups comprised of Black, Latino and Asian-American Democrats in the county complained: “The recent mailer leads voters to believe that a candidate on the slate, who has never held public office and therefore never passed laws in Annapolis, took actions that incumbent Delegate … Acevero actually took.” The release called the flyer “inaccurate and sure to confuse voters.”
In a telephone interview, King said the error was “totally unintentional,” adding that the slate was dealing with a new printing firm producing eight different mail pieces. “On the proofs we got on the eight of them, we looked … and sent them back two different times,” she said. “I thought we had corrected all of them, but that last one snuck through — and it had Clint listed as a delegate.”
Added King: “I’ll take the blame, because I missed it when we were proofreading it. But I think people know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t do anything like that on purpose, and neither would any of the three that are running on our slate.”
The tensions between Acevero and the incumbents on the District 39 Team slate go back four years, when the three incumbents seeking re-election — King, Reznik and then-Del. Shane Robinson — opted to slate with Lopez, running for the first time. Acevero, then a field staffer for MCGEO, responded by lining up an endorsement from then-County Executive Ike Leggett. (Acevero subsequently had a falling out with MCGEO, resulting in a lawsuit that was settled last year.)
On Primary Day 2018, Reznik, Lopez and Acevero captured the three delegate nominations, with Robinson ousted. Relations between Acevero and his District 39 colleagues did not improve during his freshman term, while his positioning himself on the left end of the House Democratic caucus created tensions with his party’s legislative leadership in Annapolis.
In Tuesday’s primary, Acevero is running against Lopez, Reznik and Sobratti with the backing of Metro DC Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America — which he also had four years ago. King, in the Senate primary, faces a challenge from the left by political newcomer Adam Cunningham, who has aligned himself with Acevero.
If Acevero and the other three incumbents win renomination Tuesday, there would seem to be little prospect for a thaw in relations over the next four years.
“The people of District 39 are not the fools that Sen. King, and Dels. Lopez & Reznik are trying to play them for,” Acevero declared in his press release, while accusing the other incumbents of “Trumped up misinformation tactics” — with the “T” pointedly capitalized.
Louis Peck, a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine, can be reached at: email@example.com.