Unlike the County Council, the state legislature has little day to day impact on shaping Montgomery County. Instead, they decide longer-term big picture issues, like how much funding is available for transportation, and individual delegates and senators also sign on to letters circulated about different issues.
Because the state is involved in transportation funding but much more rarely in land use, from GGW’s point of view the the state legislative races primarily come down to the marquee transportation issues: the Purple Line, funding Metro and MARC, widening I-270, and the Intercounty Connector (ICC).
To make decisions in the many legislative races, I’ve talked with advocacy groups in the county, reviewed responses to questionnaires like ACT’s (scroll to the bottom) and pledges like Purple Line Now’s, and looked over what letters the incumbents did or didn’t sign onto in the last session that related to our issues, such as the letter advocating for more Metro funding, the bad pro-I-270 widening letter, and the good I-270 transit alternative letter.
I’ve listed the downcounty races first, followed by the other districts.
District 16 (Glen Echo, Bethesda, Rockville Pike) has the western end of the Purple Line, significant bus ridership, a number of Metro stations and the county’s most walkable downtown.
Senator Brian Frosh has been a leader on transportation issues, including circulating the letter supporting a transit alternative to widening I-270.
ACT is displeased with delegate Bill Frick‘s lack of absolute firmness on the Purple Line, and he specifically said he supports the 270 widening. However, he did sign the Purple Line Now pledge, and took the time to send a letter to the National Park Service after reading about a Rock Creek Park issue here on Greater Greater Washington. We feel he deserves another term, as does fellow incumbent Susan Lee.
Kyle Lierman and Scott Goldberg are among the many challengers vying for the one open seat or one of the incumbents’. Mr. Lierman’s strength mostly comes from family political connections, but he wants to champion the Purple Line, get more funding to Metro, and raise the gas tax.
Mr. Goldberg, whom Cavan interviewed, also strongly supports the Purple Line, definitely understands induced demand, and wants the state to do better to minimize car-dependent sprawl. Either would make an excellent representative for the area.
District 18 (Chevy Chase, Kensington, Wheaton) contains the Town of Chevy Chase and Columbia Country Club, Ground Zero for the Purple Line battle. The political race for Delegate has not disappointed, boiling down largely to a referendum on the Purple Line.
Incumbent Anna Sol Gutierrez and challengers Vanessa Atterbeary and Dana Beyer are running in support of the light rail Purple Line along the alignment selected by the county and state. A strong vote for them, like for Berliner in Council District 2, would send a clear message that voters want to put this vital regional project ahead of local neighborhood obstruction.
The other two incumbents are Al Carr and Jeff Waldstreicher. Mr. Carr has been a friend to the environment, cycling and transit with the exception of his Purple Line stance. He introduced bills for the bag fee and reforming “accident” language. While we hate to focus exclusively on single issues (and haven’t in other races, like Mr. Frick in District 16), the Purple Line is the key place the state government will influence the future of this area in the immediate term, and having a supportive local delegation is important.
Senator Rich Madeleno has not been good on the Purple Line, but has been good on transit funding from the state in general, and is likely to be a key player in advocacy for transportation funding. He’s also unopposed.
The controversy over the Purple Line in District 18 is nowhere to be found in District 20 (Silver Spring, Takoma Park, White Oak), where the sitting delegation absolutely supports the Purple Line and is otherwise terrific on practically every single issue.
Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegates Sheila Hixson, Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur deserve a speedy return to Annapolis. Among many other things, Mr. Raskin was the Senate introducer of the bag fee and Ms. Hixson organized the I-270 transit alternative letter.
District 14 (Burtonsville, Brookeville, Damascus) is one of the more rural districts in the county, with no Metro stations. However, the Intercounty Connector will run through the district’s southeastern portion.
Delegate Karen Montgomery deserves to win in her challenge against incumbent Senator Rona Kramer. Ms. Kramer supported the ICC, while Ms. Montgomery opposed it. Ms. Kramer’s family includes developers who build sprawling strip malls, and on policy her actions align with theirs. Outside of GGW issues, Ms. Kramer has also taken some very unusual stands for her party, like opposing a progressive income tax.
For Delegate, we support incumbent Anne Kaiser and open-seat candidates Eric Luedke and Craig Zucker. Luedke is even a blogger, having written periodically for Maryland Politics Watch.
District 15 (Poolesville, Barnesville, Clarksburg) is the other rural district. There are no Metro stations and a relatively low proportion of transit use, though MARC’s Brunswick line has many stations in this district.
Senator Rob Garagiola and Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Brian Feldman have been reliable supporters of transit funding including Metro and MARC, though in many cases also road construction as well. Mr. Garagiola authored the bill creating a commission to find a new source of transportation funding which Maryland desperately needs.
Aruna Miller and Lara Wibeto are the leading candidates for the third open seat. Ms. Miller is a transportation engineer for Montgomery County DOT, and some who’ve tangled with them on road design issues have some complaints about working with her. Otherwise, there does not seem to be a strong difference in their answers on the ACT questionnaire.
District 17 (Garrett Park, Rockville, Gaithersburg) has a high-profile contest between incumbent Senator Jennie Forehand and challenger Cheryl Kagan. Advocates on most issues, including on transit and smart growth, have been hard pressed to find any substantive difference between the two. Forehand spoke up strongly for highway widening during the 270 battle, but Kagan isn’t really any better.
The delegate seats are all uncontested. James Gilchrist deserves special kudos for periodically taking the bus from Rockville to Annapolis to attend legislative sessions. Kumar Barve was one of two delegates not to sign the “Fair Share for Metro” letter, and signed the pro-highway 270 letter but not the pro-transit alternative.
District 19 (Glenmont, Aspen Hill, some of Olney) is a fairly static part of the County’s middle, almost entirely built out with single family suburban homes (including my in-laws’) and not changing very much very quickly for better or worse, except for the ICC running through the middle.
Delegate Roger Manno is trying to take the Senate seat from Mike Lennett. On transportation, both have been good, but Mr. Manno does more legwork to make things happen. Advocates say when they visit Annapolis, Lennett might be on their side, but Mr. Manno greets them and asks how he can help. Mr. Manno was the one to circulate the Metro funding letter on the floor. On that basis, Mr. Manno deserves a vote.
Among the delegates, incumbent Ben Kramer is similar to his sister Rona Kramer, including being very pro-road. Advoactes who’ve talked with the various candidates had good impressions of Sam Arora and Jay Hutchins on style and substance. Mr. Hutchins had excellent answers on the ACT questionnaire, and we like Mr. Arora’s issues page. Disclosure: Mr. Arora and I have mutual friends.
District 39 (Montgomery Village, North Potomac, Darnestown) is the suburban area around the City of Gaithersburg, shaped as it is because state law requires district boundaries to respect incorporated city boundaries. It includes the Great Seneca Science Corridor (formerly Gaithersburg West), but the state legislature had little involvement with this issue. If built, the Corridor Cities Transitway will travel through a significant part of this district’s western half.
Saqib Ali is trying to unseat incumbent Seantor Nancy King. Most of the differences are stylistic, especially Mr. Ali’s much younger age and perceived greater vigor. But advocates who work with the legislature also say Mr. Ali does more grandstanding than actual legislating, and his bills don’t advance because he doesn’t work them hard enough. His vigor could be more Twitter-based than actual achievement-oriented.
However, Mr. Ali was willing to take a clear stand against widening I-270. He actually publicly renounced the pro-widening letter he himself signed, saying he hadn’t seen the 270 part, which was below the pro-Corridor Cities Transitway section of the letter. Maybe it would have been better if he’d read the letter first, but we applaud this action.
Incumbents Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik have reliably supported transit issues including Metro funding, the Purple Line, and the CCT, including transit alternatives over widening I-270. They deserve reelection. The most viable candidates vying to succeed Mr. Ali are Shane Robinson and Bob Hydorn, whose positions on these issues differ little.