On a typical weekday morning, Zinnia — a restaurant and cafe on a corner of Colesville Road less than a mile from downtown Silver Spring — wouldn’t open until 8 a.m.
But on Monday, more than 75 people were packed into the lower-level dining room of the establishment by 7:30 a.m., including scores of local Democrats: elected officials, candidates that had won their primary elections, and those who had been unsuccessful.
Minutes later, the person that everyone had come to see descended the stairs to the dining room.
“This is gorgeous!” said Wes Moore, the Democratic nominee for Maryland governor, while flashing a smile to the crowd.
Moore was attending a meeting hosted by the District 18 Democratic Breakfast Club. But there were many more political figures and residents than just District 18 (Kensington, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park) members present — including former County Executive Ike Leggett, who introduced Moore.
Leggett touted Moore’s service in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, and work as a White House fellow. He said it’s important that Democrats understand they also are voting for a qualified candidate in Wes Moore, and not just against his opponent Dan Cox, a Republican now servng in the state House of Delegates.
Moore’s running mate and lieutenant governor candidate is Aruna Miller, a former delegate from Montgomery County. Cox’s pick for lieutenant governor is Gordana Schifanelli, a law professor at the Annapolis Naval Academy and attorney on the Eastern Shore.
As he has done in previous appearances, Moore told those in attendance that Democrats have to take the Nov. 8 general election seriously. Cox is a threat to Marylanders and the accomplishments of Democrats statewide, he said.
He understood the historical implications of the fact that he and Miller are running for the state’s highest political offices. If elected, Moore would be the first African-American governor and Miller the first immigrant to serve as lieutenant governor. She was born in India.
Throughout Moore’s speech — which lasted more than 20 minutes — the Democratic candidate spoke about ending inequities in education, public transportation and health care. Maryland has some of the best health care institutions in the world, he said.
“And at the same time, there are people who live down the street from those institutions that can’t afford basic care,” Moore said.
Moore also addressed the I-270 toll lanes project championed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The project includes the replacement of the American Legion Bridge, the portion of I-270 that runs to the I-370 interchange and the westernmost section of I-495 that leads to I-270. The cost is estimated to be between $3.75 billion and $4.25 billion.
The Federal Highway Administration recently approved an environmental impact statement for the project, making it eligible for federal funding. Moore made it clear to the audience that he opposed the project as proposed.
“Are we going to deal with the issue of the American Legion Bridge over the next decade? Absolutely, we will. … Are we going to deal with the issue of [Interstate] 270 and the Beltway? Absolutely, we will,” Moore said. “But the current plan that is in place right now is not the way we are going to do it.”
After the speech, Moore said in a brief interview that he was interested in County Executive Marc Elrich’s argument that traffic congestion could be reduced with reversible lanes, versus the current proposal.
The project aims to replace the American Legion and Bridge and add two toll lanes in both directions, through a public-private partnership. The toll lanes would charge motorists depending on the type of vehicle, and how occupied the toll lanes are at any given point.
“I do think that’s something that needs to be explored,” Moore said about reversible lanes before heading to his next event.
Near the end of his speech, Moore said he was interested in accomplishing other policy goals, such as making “child poverty history.” Moore was formerly the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization based in New York City.
Before Moore made his way through the crowd to leave — shaking hands and hugging various Democrats along the way — Leggett called on those in the room to get out the vote, especially given the size of Montgomery County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction.
“There are a motherlode of votes here in Montgomery County … this campaign intends not just to run to the finish line, but through the finish line,” Leggett said.