Maryland state house stock photo from duckeesue/Shutterstock.

Maryland’s June 26 primary and November general election will select all members of the state Senate and House of Delegates, one sixth of whom will be elected by Montgomery County, the state’s most populous and second wealthiest county.

Greater Greater Washington sent all legislative candidates a questionnaire, attended public forums and reviewed other public statements in search of effective leaders who are committed to prioritizing quality transportation options and housing affordability for Montgomery County’s growing and increasingly diverse population.

Greater Greater Washington is eager to endorse the following 20 candidates in June’s Democratic primary for the General Assembly.

  • District 14: Eric Luedtke, Anne Kaiser, and Pamela Queen for delegate
  • District 15: Brian Feldman for senator and Kathleen Dumais and Lily Qi for delegate
  • District 16: Susan Lee for senator and Marc Korman, Samir Paul, and Ariana Kelly for delegate
  • District 17: Kumar Barve, Julie Palakovich Carr, and Julian Haffner for delegate
  • District 18: Emily Shetty and Jared Solomon for delegate
  • District 19: Vaughn Stewart and Marlin Jenkins for delegate
  • District 20: David Moon and Lorig Charkoudian for delegate
  • District 39: Gabriel Acevero for delegate

Each of these eight districts will send one senator and three delegates to Annapolis. All 32 seats are currently held by Democrats, and while 17 Republicans and 2 Greens are running, none of those primaries have more candidates than seats.

Greater Greater Washington will not be making endorsements in those races nor the uncontested Senate Democratic primaries in Districts 14, 17, 19, 20, or 39. After careful consideration, we will also not endorse in the hotly contested District 18 Senate race.

Montgomery legislative district map by State of Maryland.

District 14: Burtonsville, Olney, Damascus

Stretching along the entirety of Montgomery’s Howard County border, the 14th District is often associated with the Agricultural Reserve and car dependent suburbs like Damascus and Olney, but a majority of the district lives farther east where recent immigrants in places like Burtonsville and Colesville are desperate for transportation alternatives. Route 29’s Bus Rapid Transit line appears poised to bring some relief, but other proposed lines along New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road may never arrive without state support.

All three District 14 delegates were cosponsors of this year’s Metro funding legislation and deserve a return trip to Annapolis. A lifelong environmentalist, Delegate Eric Luedtke was the committee’s clear favorite. He calls Governor Hogan’s highway widening proposal an “election year boondoggle” that “doubles down on 1950s era transportation policy” and will simply bring induced demand. Instead he takes credit for consistently supporting Route 29 BRT and has worked on legislation to provide safer bike routes to school.

Delegate Pamela Queen rated highest on our reader rating tool, providing brief but spot-on responses. For example, on affordable housing she said, “I support efforts to provide affordable and mixed use housing” and “develop communities of residential, business, restaurants, and parks near key transit stops.”

Delegate Anne Kaiser has firsthand experience helping Bethesda employers and employees navigate transportation alternatives as an outreach and marketing consultant at Bethesda Transportation Solutions. Her questionnaire expressed excitement about Metro funding and says “walkable communities, bikeable commutes and accessible public transportation are crucial to our economic competitiveness, our environmental stewardship and our high quality of life.”

We’re a bit concerned that her vague response on transportation leaves the door open to highway widening. That being said, the sole Democratic challenger, Paul Ransom, explicitly supports investing taxpayer dollars to widen highways, so Kaiser is clearly the superior choice.

Greater Greater Washington endorses Eric Luedtke, Anne Kaiser and Pamela Queen for re-election.

District 15: Darnestown, Germantown

It’s surprising to find such a strong crop of urbanist candidates taking root in Montgomery’s most rural and exurban district, but many District 15 residents are hungry for transit alternatives. Germantown’s MARC station is the fifth busiest in the entire system despite seeing just one sixth as many weekly trains as the Penn Line. The Corridor Cities Transitway could bring further relief, but that state project remains stalled even as Governor Hogan fast-tracks his highway widening proposal.

Senator Brian Feldman notes that Metro has been “struggling for 40-some-odd years to get what every other system of its kind in the country has, which is a dedicated funding stream.” Thanks in no small part to Feldman’s leadership as sponsor of the Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act (SB 277), WMATA finally achieved it’s dedicated funds. Feldman argues that projects like the Corridor Cities Transitway and safer streets for walking and biking are “critically important as we seek to attract millennial talent to the area.”

We are disappointed that Senator Feldman generally supports Governor Hogan’s highway widening plans, but challenger Hongjun Xin seems even more eager without any of Feldman’s enthusiasm for transit. Greater Greater Washington endorses Brian Feldman for Senate in District 15.

Delegate Kathleen Dumais has also championed investments in public transit, arguing that “we cannot pave our way out of traffic congestion” and that “with limited public funding, I would prioritize MARC, the BRT, the CCT and other such projects over the road projects.” In this car-dependent district, Dumais also shows substantial courage to say she supports “policies to make streets safer for walking and biking even if it slows down car traffic.”

Lily Qi's detailed and thoughtful questionnaire response shows strong urbanist instincts developed from a childhood in transit-dependent Shanghai and her recent role as Montgomery County's Assistant Chief Administrative Officer for Economic and Workforce Development, where she observed companies like Marriott and Amazon seeking more urban and transit-accessible locations.

We’re disappointed to see her endorse an “all of the above” approach to transportation that includes highway widening, but she suggests that a more analytical approach will show transit to be a more cost-effective investment. She’s the strongest smart growth candidate in what’s shaping up as a head-to-head matchup with former Rep. Delaney staffer Kevin Mack, who didn’t respond to our questionnaire and has been a passionate advocate for prioritizing highway expansion.

We’re not making a third endorsement in this race out of deference to Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, who is a champion on the Environment and Transportation Committee but did not complete our questionnaire making him ineligible for our endorsement.

Air Force reservist and former White House aide Amy Frieder also offers a compelling choice. Frieder stood firm on prioritizing transit in her interview with pro-highway Stand UpCounty, referencing her own experiences on Ride On and MTA commuter buses. She says “I am excited to use BRT and the Purple Line and hope to one day take transit from Montgomery County to Northern Virginia without going through downtown DC” and notes that “better sidewalks within a mile of Metro stations could greatly increase Metro ridership.”

Greater Greater Washington endorses Brian Feldman for senator and Kathleen Dumais and Lily Qi for delegate in District 15.

District 16: Bethesda, Potomac

The five Metro stations that line District 16’s eastern border have attracted scores of controversial high-rises, but also popular mixed-use commercial districts like Bethesda Row and Pike & Rose. Candidates here reflect a district where transit and bicycling are popular and we are pleased to endorse a full slate of urbanist champions.

Chief among these is incumbent delegate Marc Korman, whose Maryland Metro Funding Act (HB 372) established, for the first time, a dedicated, permanent allocation to Metro of $167 million per year from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund. As co-chair of the General Assembly’s WMATA-Metro Work Group he has introduced several other important bills on Metro governance and related issues.

He was the only candidate to suggest several creative ideas like supporting affordability by prioritizing Rental Works investments around projects like the Purple Line and reforming the State Highway Administration by splitting it up, changing it’s district structure, and/or mandating a complete streets approach. He’s also been active in the trenches of the Purple Line fight, joining protests, engaging online, and handing out flyers even before he ran for delegate.

The other incumbent seeking re-election, delegate Ariana Kelly, has likewise been a reliable partner on urbanist issues. Noting the significant impacts and questionable efficacy of highway widening, she instead argues “I think we should prioritize investing in a third track on the MARC Brunswick Line to facilitate all day MARC service between Frederick and Union Station, creating a more reliable alternative for I-270 commuters.”

Kelly argues that the state roads through Bethesda and the Pike District “still reflect a prior auto-oriented development pattern rather than the urban form of the surrounding community” and the SHA should make them “more accommodating for bikes and pedestrians by narrowing lane widths to discourage speeding and creating protected bike lanes.”

Among the challengers, former ACLU lobbyist Sarah Love delivered a strong response that rated highly among readers. However, MCPS teacher Samir Paul has backed up his excellent response with real-world action and thus earns our enthusiastic endorsement. Paul has been an active champion for the Purple Line, phone banking, lobbying and even testifying on behalf of the project. He also took time from the campaign trail in February to testify for the Better BRT study, minting the trademark line “friends don't let friends build BRT without dedicated lanes.”

Paul's questionnaire response was exhaustive and exemplary, delving into details like WMATA strategic planning, public private partnership contract language, tax increment financing agreements, Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority grants, and much, much more.

Senator Susan Lee is running unopposed, but took the time to respond to our questionnaire and deserves your enthusiastic support. A member of the Task Force to Study Bicycle Safety on Maryland Highways, Senator Lee recently introduced contributory negligence and vulnerable road user legislation that led Bike Maryland to call her an “all around champion for cyclists.”

Regarding communities along the Purple Line’s route, Lee “would support policies and efforts to ensure there is affordable housing; walkable, pedestrian, and bicycle friendly streets; diverse and vibrant businesses stay and succeed in those areas.” Towards that end, she touts her support for SB 624, providing tax credits to businesses impacted by Purple Line construction.

Greater Greater Washington endorses Susan Lee for senator and Marc Korman, Samir Paul, and Ariana Kelly for delegate in District 16.

District 17: Rockville, Gaithersburg

District 17 consists entirely of the incorporated cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg. Their downtowns are well-served by Metro and MARC, but the dense townhome communities and sprawling office parks west of Rockville Pike rely heavily on transit too and urgently await improved service from the Corridor Cities Transitway and 355 BRT.

As chairman of the Environment and Transportation Committee, Delegate Kumar Barve has been a valuable ally. This year, for instance, his committee enacted a historic Metro funding bill and he earned the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ Legislator of the Year award. He has sometimes been at odds with the urbanist community on highway issues, but we also recognize that a committee chair must sometimes forge compromises on issues that challengers can conveniently ignore.

Rockville councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr is a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council and has been a leader on efforts to re-envision Rockville Pike as “more of a boulevard concept, incorporating the principles of mixed-use and making it more bike and pedestrian friendly.” Carr is the only D17 candidate to unequivocally rule out widening I-270, arguing that “decades of real world experience have shown that road widening induces more traffic and does not provide a durable solution to congestion.”

An avid cyclist, Carr has “ridden all 65 miles of Rockville's bike infrastructure and was proud to champion Rockville's new bikeways master plan, which will increase the lane miles of bike infrastructure by 40%.”

Attorney Julian Haffner’s questionnaire response rated highest on our reader rating tool. He states that “evidence is overwhelming that widening lanes does nothing to alleviate congestion” and while he does leave a little wiggle room on highways, he “would prioritize expanded hours of operation for MARC and transit projects like BRT.”

On housing, Haffner says that “it's no secret that we have an affordable housing crisis — not a problem, but a crisis — in Montgomery County.” He promotes transit-oriented development as the solution, citing tax incentives for landowners and direct funding for affordable housing as opportunities for the state to intervene.

Incumbent delegate Jim Gilchrist did not return our questionnaire. Greater Greater Washington endorses Kumar Barve, Julie Palakovich Carr, and Julian Haffner for delegate in District 17.

District 18: Chevy Chase, Kensington, Wheaton

The tony municipalities of Chevy Chase have long been the political epicenter of District 18, driving its delegation to oppose the Purple Line. But the district extends far north and is bordered by seven Metro stations — more than any other Maryland district. Transit-oriented development proposals for Wheaton, Forest Glen, Lyttonsville, Chevy Chase Lake, Grosvenor-Strathmore and the would-be Amazon site at White Flint are poised to transform the area.

A surprising number of candidates in the wide-open race for delegate seem eager to embrace that change, making for a difficult choice. Among eight candidates in the Democratic Primary, only incumbent Al Carr and Town of Chevy Chase councilmember Joel Rubin have a history of opposing the Purple Line. Adam Pagnucco of The Seventh State observed that, “normally, the only incumbent in a race like this — in this case, it’s Carr — would be favored for reelection. But the challengers are a pack of hungry wolves and Carr is going to have to work to keep his seat.”

The strongest urbanist candidate is healthcare lobbyist and former Action Committee for Transit board member Emily Shetty. A daily transit rider, Shetty decries the “devastating” impact of Governor Hogan’s plan to widen the Beltway and instead says, “I support expansion of MARC, BRT and other projects that will better connect our communities.” She notes that pedestrian safety is among the top issues she hears about from voters and says “I would support changes to SHA oversight and policies to ensure that all of our roads are safer for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Shetty would “support making housing more affordable through the promotion of increased supply (ideally around transit centers), as well as the mixing of building sizes and densities and locations that are transit-accessible.”

We also enthusiastically support Jared Solomon, whose experience and connections in the US Senate and Annapolis will serve to advance his strong urbanist agenda. He argues that “if we can encourage more people to walk, bike, or take transit, that will also reduce the volume of cars which will reduce traffic for those of us who do have to drive.”

Solomon was among the few candidates to present a well-researched case that “the whole state benefits from a strong transit system in the DC region and there should be a shared commitment to maintain that system,” noting that five percent of all Metro riders come from Maryland counties beyond Montgomery and Prince George’s. He has also discussed creative solutions to “last mile” problems, subsidies for low-income transit riders and a variety of good ideas to ensure that areas served by new transit remain affordable for existing residents and businesses.

Among the compelling candidates vying for your third vote, terrorism analyst Mila Johns scored points with us by responding to a candidate forum question on senior issues with an endorsement of accessory dwelling units and our favored proposal for senior housing at the Silver Spring library. Her questionnaire response was detailed and thoughtful, but openness to widening I-270 is a blemish that stands out in this strong field.

Public health advocate Leslie Milano has the endorsement of smart growth champion Governor Parris Glendening, who says “Leslie’s focus on transit, walkable, sustainable communities and solar energy will make her a leader in efforts to protect our environment.” Her questionnaire was also strong, but some proposals, like paying for Metro with renewable energy profits, seem a bit disconnected from more immediate needs.

Contractor Ron Franks offers a much needed voice from the Wheaton area and relied on his experience with Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board and Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee to deliver a concise, pitch-perfect questionnaire, but he told others he supports M-83 and widening I-270.

Even Delegate Al Carr is not without his defenders on the committee. He has been strong on other environmental issues and returned a solid questionnaire that prioritizes transit, but it’s hard to overlook his Purple Line opposition or his more recent tendency to fire up NIMBYs on Facebook.

Greater Greater Washington endorses Emily Shetty and Jared Solomon for delegate in District 18.

After careful consideration, we will make no endorsement in the hotly contested race for District 18 senate. Our natural inclination was to support Dr. Dana Beyer, who ran as a Purple Line supporter in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and more recently stuck her neck out to support Delegate David Moon’s bill to eliminate a tax break for country clubs (see District 20 below). Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher has a history of opposing the Purple Line as proposed, but in 2015 he changed course and announced his support.

Beyer’s questionnaire response was good, promoting various Metrorail extensions and a new southern entrance to Forest Glen, but she also supports I-270 widening and rarely mentions transportation and development issues on the campaign trail. Waldstreicher’s responses were preferred on our reader rating tool and reflect a candidate who is more engaged on these local issues and grounded in the practical terms of today’s transit debates. Readers will need to weigh history versus experience in this race.

District 19: Aspen Hill, Glenmont

District 19 encompasses a strip of mid-century bedroom communities from Northwood and Kemp Mill to Derwood that are growing increasingly diverse — now just 43% non-Hispanic white. It includes the Red Line termini at Shady Grove and Glenmont but little else in the way of transit infrastructure or urban districts. Efforts to redevelop the popular strip malls of Aspen Hill into a more walkable downtown have been stymied by limited transit access and pedestrian safety issues.

Former Action Committee for Transit board member Vaughn Stewart proposes an ambitious plan to change that. He would tap today’s low bond rates to extend Metro to Aspen Hill, Leisure World, and Olney and provide all-day, weeklong MARC service to get cars off the I-270 corridor. Stewart pledges to “oppose sprawl development at every opportunity,” “fight against M-83,” and oppose a second Potomac River crossing that would “threaten the agricultural reserve, destroy neighborhoods, and erect a boondoggle that would induce more congestion.”

His critique of the State Highway Administration is the most comprehensive we’ve seen, arguing among other things, that “we must push SHA in the direction of structural overhauls on dangerous roads, rather than merely conducting education initiatives that often end up blaming the victims. And we must decrease SHA's reliance on the MUTCD, which the agency uses as a crutch to reject requests for crosswalks and pedestrian signals.”

A daily Metro rider himself, labor union attorney Marlin Jenkins supports transit investments like expanded MARC service to “move more people not more cars.” As a combat veteran, he references the military motto that “everyone is a safety officer” in advocating for lower minimum speed limits and High Intensity Activated crossWalk (HAWK) signals to create safer and more walkable streets in the district.

Neither of the incumbent delegate responded to our questionnaire. Greater Greater Washington endorses Vaughn Stewart and Marlin Jenkins for delegate in District 19.

District 20: Silver Spring, White Oak, Takoma Park

District 20 spans the socio-economically diverse, politically progressive eastern flank of Montgomery County, including close-in Silver Spring, the incorporated city of Takoma Park, and up Columbia Pike and New Hampshire Boulevard into White Oak and Colesville. The Purple Line will run through the southern part of the district, and many voters are concerned about displacement of residents and the viability of existing businesses along its route. Governor Hogan’s proposed plan to expand the Beltway would also affect communities in this district.

There is an abundance of amazing candidates running for delegate in District 20. Voters who care about transit, oppose widening the Beltway, and want to see sustainable development can’t go too wrong picking any three on their ballot. We examined questionnaire responses from six candidates, and we endorse two candidates that stand out from the field.

We enthusiastically encourage voters in this district to re-nominate incumbent David Moon. We could go on for pages on why Moon deserves your vote. He was a director of Purple Line NOW! to advocate for the Purple Line. When we asked candidates on our questionnaire about how to reform the State Highway Administration (SHA) to improve safety on our roads, Moon was able to say that he has actually put forward legislation to allow Montgomery County to decrease speed limits on state-owned roads.

At a forum earlier this year, Moon stressed that his major concern is ensuring that the state has appropriate revenue and uses it wisely. Towards that end, he proposed a courageous, but ill-fated bill to assess the land of private country clubs at the same rates as other property, thereby removing a special tax abatement for land use that does not benefit all residents. Moon has also focused his work in office on civil rights and criminal justice reform, assisting businesses along the future Purple Line route, and on an interstate compact to prevent jurisdictions in our area from using public funds for an NFL stadium.

Lorig Charkoudian has been a long time community activist in the district and also deserves your vote. She has been a devoted advocate for small businesses and food security, and she was the lead driver of a campaign to open a shared use commercial kitchen in Takoma Park. Charkoudian would like to promote small business growth in the district and the state through microloans and worker co-ops. She noted that Governor Hogan’s proposed $9 billion for highway widening “could go a long way if it were instead invested in mass transit, making our communities safer for walking and biking, supporting rideshare options, and making it more affordable to live near mass transit.”

There are several other candidates who would be good choices for a third vote for delegate. Jheanelle Wilkins has been a delegate since January 2017, when she was appointed to a newly vacant seat. She co-sponsored legislation to provide a fund to prevent displacement of businesses along the Purple Line. Darian Unger is a long term advocate for public transit, including the Purple Line, and has worked with SHA to implement infrastructure changes to promote safer streets for walking and biking. Fatmata Barrie, a lawyer from White Oak, has a record of advocating for immigrants and children in her community, and has been a strong grassroots supporter of BRT along Route 29.

Greater Greater Washington endorses David Moon and Lorig Charkoudian as our champions in District 20.

District 39: Montgomery Village, Clarksburg, Germantown

Germantown and Montgomery Village may not be household names, but if incorporated, they’d be Maryland’s second and eighth largest cities, respectively. District 39’s median household income is the lowest among Montgomery County districts and it’s extremely diverse, with no race comprising more than a third of the population. Transit options here are limited and urgently needed. Even with buses stuck in mixed traffic, the Germantown and Lakeforest transit centers already attract ridership numbers higher than some Metro stations.

We received just one questionnaire response from District 39, but it’s a good one. Union organizer Gabriel Acevero “will work to invest in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) so we have alternative forms of mass transit for those who don’t have a vehicle.” He argues these projects will “help reduce traffic and pollution and improve the quality of life of all those families that currently suffer from the congestion that plagues up-county.”

Acevero notes that, without attention to affordable housing, new transit can actually force renters further out, contributing to urban sprawl and more traffic. He promises, “I’ll work with my colleagues in the General Assembly to prioritize investment in affordable housing in the areas surrounding the Purple Line. I'll also support legislation that provides tax incentives for landlords who keep rents affordable.”

Greater Greater Washington endorses Gabriel Acevero for delegate in District 39.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. All endorsements are decided by our volunteer Elections Committee with input from our board and other volunteer committees. Want to keep up on other endorsement posts? Check out our 2018 primary summary page and sign up for our weekly elections newsletter.