April McClain Delaney, an attorney with a telecommunications policy background who until last month was a top official of the U.S. Commerce Department, announced Wednesday she is running for the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.
The seat was held for six years by her husband, Democrat John Delaney, a multimillionaire businessman who won it following an upset primary victory in 2012. Since John Delaney relinquished the seat in 2018 to mount a longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, it has been represented by Democrat David Trone, another multimillionaire businessman now seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Baltimore).
April McClain Delaney, whose possible entry into the contest has been the subject of speculation since Trone announced his bid for the Senate in May, resigned late last month as deputy assistant secretary for communications and information in the U.S. Commerce Department.
Prior to joining the Biden administration, McClain Delaney—a Potomac resident—was Washington director of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that focuses on online safety and the impact of television on children’s health and well-being. She several times invoked the “common sense” phrase in a statement announcing her candidacy.
“We’re facing tough challenges—the high cost of living, the impact of [artificial intelligence] and technology on work and families, and the need to protect reproductive freedom and to act on climate. It’s time to rebuild trust in government and use common sense to find common ground and make some progress,” McClain Delaney said in a statement as her campaign Wednesday launched a website: www.aprilmcclaindelaneyforcongress.com.
She added: “The U.S. House is in total meltdown because of a handful of extremists, and the people who pay the price for this lunacy are the folks across the 6th District. I believe we can build a coalition of the willing so together we can get things done and make meaningful changes for our families and communities.”
The District 6 seat is expected to be the only competitive House race in Maryland in 2024. The district was redrawn in 2022 to become politically marginal after being transformed from a Republican-dominated district to a Democratic-leaning one a decade earlier.
As now drawn, the district includes about 22% of the voting population of Montgomery County, along with all of Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties. The 6th extends nearly 200 miles west from Gaithersburg to the edge of Maryland’s panhandle.
McClain Delaney’s entry will give the contest a well-funded contender in a Democratic District 6 primary that had previously attracted 11 aspirants—although two of them, economist Stephen McDow and military veteran Mia Mason, both of Frederick County, indicated in the past week that they are dropping out of the May 2024 primary. The Republican field currently contains six announced candidates.
On the Democratic side, McClain Delaney may be the final entrant in the primary race, as two other high-profile potential contenders appear to have ruled out running. Maryland Sen. Brian Feldman of Potomac has yet to comment publicly on his political plans after earlier in the year saying he was considering a run for the District 6 seat.
But sources familiar with Feldman’s thinking say he has decided to stay out of the congressional race, preferring to remain in the Maryland Senate, where he chairs an influential committee with jurisdiction over education, energy and environmental policy.
Meanwhile, multiple sources said that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—the political arm of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus—has been wooing former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner to run. But Gardner, who publicly has had little comment about her intentions, privately is said to have rejected running because of current personal responsibilities.
John Delaney earned his wealth from banking and health care ventures prior to entering politics. April McClain Delaney is reportedly planning an aggressive effort to raise funds from outside contributors. But it is widely expected that some of the assets held by her and her husband will be invested in the contest, although not on a scale of the personal funds that Trone has pumped into his campaigns for office.
While Trone spent $45 million out of his own pocket in four runs for the House of Representatives—along with self-funding his current Senate campaign so far with nearly $10 million—John Delaney invested a total of about $3.7 million of his personal fortune into three House campaigns, according to Open Secrets, a Washington-based non-partisan organization that tracks money in politics.
Notwithstanding that April McClain Delaney will have a financial advantage in the primary—as well as the general election, if she makes it to that phase—the current geography of the district could provide political fodder for some of her opponents.
McClain Delaney’s Potomac residence is located in neighboring Congressional District 8. While her husband and Trone also resided in District 8 during their congressional tenures, both lived within blocks of District 6 under the old district boundaries.
But the redistricting in the wake of the 2020 census took Potomac and North Potomac out of District 6, with the boundaries of the latter moved north to Gaithersburg—more than 10 miles from McClain-Delaney’s residence.
“I know this district, I love this district, and I know the folks from Cumberland to Frederick to Gaithersburg want things done that will make their lives better and that will protect and strengthen our democracy,” McClain Delaney declared in her announcement statement. “That’s just common sense.”
McClain Delaney graduated from Northwestern University and Georgetown University School of Law before embarking on a 30-year career in broadcast and cable TV issues. She and her husband are the parents of four daughters.
On the Democratic side, McClain Delaney joins at Democratic field that already includes state Dels. Lesley Lopez of Germantown and Joe Vogel of Rockville; at-large Montgomery County Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles of Gaithersburg; and Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez.
Also in the Democratic field: George Gluck of Rockville, who has sought the District 6 seat several times on the Green Party ticket; Geoffrey Grammer of Gaithersburg, a physician and retired Army officer; Ashwani Jain of Gaithersburg, a former Obama administration official who sought his party’s 2022 gubernatorial nomination; former U.S. State Department official Joel Rubin of Chevy Chase, who ran for his party’s nomination in District 8 in 2016; and former federal official Destiny Drake West of Germantown.
Of the other two Democrats originally in the field, McDow, a former director of membership for the Gaithersburg/Germantown Chamber of Commerce, disclosed last weekend he was moving out of state, and Mason, the 2020 Democratic nominee in District 1 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, told MoCo360 she has dropped her candidacy for the District 6 seat.
The current Republican field of contenders includes Heath Barnes, burgess (aka mayor) of Woodsboro in Frederick County; former Maryland State Police officer Chris Hyser of Frederick; food service worker Todd Puglisi of Gaithersburg; Air Force veteran Mariela Roca of Frederick; former Navy officer Tom Royals of Germantown; and Brenda Thiam, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates from Washington County.
But the political intentions of several higher-profile potential GOP contenders remain unclear. Neil Parrott of Hagerstown, the 2020 and 2022 nominee against Trone, is exploring a third race but has yet to announce whether he will run. Meanwhile, former state budget director David Brinkley of Frederick County, House of Delegates Minority Leader Jason Buckel of Allegany County, and 2022 Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox continue to keep political activists guessing as to whether they will get into the District 6 Republican primary prior to the February filing deadline.