Politics Roundup: Local Newspaper Columnist Ends Congressional Campaign after Two Days
Plus: Former state school board member to run for District 15 delegate; Trone to host top-dollar fundraiser at Potomac home
Sentinel columnist files to run for Congress, changes his mind after finding out he’d lose column
Paul Schwartz, who writes a weekly column about national issues for the Montgomery County Sentinel, filed to run as a Democrat in the 6th District Congressional race on Tuesday. On Thursday, though, he told Bethesda Beat he wouldn’t be running for the seat, which Rep. John Delaney is giving up to run for president.
Schwartz said he talked with the paper’s managing editor, Brian Karem, about his plan to run. Karem told him it would be a conflict of interest.
“He had to make a choice—run for Congress or write for me and he decided to write for me,” Karem said.
Schwartz, a retired federal worker, said he felt it was a weak group of candidates running in the district and he wanted to share his ideas on federal policies in the debates before the election. He admitted he wouldn’t be able to match the spending ability of the other Democratic candidates in the race—in particular, Potomac businessman David Trone.
“I had to make a choice and I decided to stay with the column,” Schwartz, a Brookeville resident, said. He added that his campaign for the 6th District “felt good while it lasted.”
In Virginia, a former Sentinel employee had a successful debut in politics this week.
A former editor and reporter at the paper, Danica Roem, received national attention in winning a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. The Washington Post, quoting advocates, reported that Roem will be the first openly transgender person elected to and seated in a U.S. state legislature.
Advocates say she will be the first openly transgender person elected to and seated in a U.S. state legislature; a transgender candidate was elected in New Hampshire in 2012 but did not take office, and a transgender person served in the Massachusetts legislature in the early 1990s but was not openly transgender while campaigning.
Karem said he encouraged Roem to run and she went about it in the right way—by stepping down from her job at the paper.
“She ran on issues that were important to the constituents of Virginia,” Karem said. “I’m very proud of her and I hope she does well.”
Ex-State Board of Education member Halverson files for Distrist 15 delegate as Republican
Since the late Del. Jean Cryor was elected from District 15 in 2002, no Republican anywhere in Montgomery County has won election to the Maryland General Assembly.
Laurie Halverson of Potomac, a former member of the state Board of Education, is cautiously optimistic she can change that: She filed Wednesday to run for the House of Delegates from District 15.
Noting that one of three delegate seats in the district—which extends from Potomac to the Frederick County line—will be open next year due to Del. Aruna Miller’s congressional bid, Halverson added, “I feel that … because we have more Republicans in District 15 than in other districts, there is more of an opportunity for a Republican to win.”
Halverson, 53, ran for the county Board of Education in 2014, losing to incumbent Patricia O’Neill by 63-37 percent countywide. But in District 15, Halverson garnered 41 percent, suggesting to her a path to victory next year.
“I feel it’s possible,” said Halverson, who plans a formal campaign kickoff in early 2018.
When her sons—now in college—were in the county schools, Halverson became active over the problem of mold in portable classrooms at Potomac’s Bells Mill Elementary School. She subsequently found herself health and safety chair of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, and, later, as vice president for educational issues.
“As a PTA leader, I collaborated with Democrats for many years,” Halverson said. “So I feel I have the skills to be able to work with both sides of the aisle to make things happen.”
She was named to the state Board of Education in May 2016 by Gov. Larry Hogan and served until last April. Her nomination to a full term became a casualty of a standoff between Hogan and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly over a couple of Cabinet appointees.
“By being at that level, I got to see how little collaboration there was between the state legislators and the state board,” Halverson said. “I just thought, ‘You know what, if I was a delegate, I could be more collaborative on all kinds of different things.’”
District 15 Democratic Dels. Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo are expected to seek re-election.
A half-dozen Democrats are eyeing Miller’s open seat. Two of them have filed or announced: Lily Qi, an assistant chief administrative officer under County Executive Ike Leggett, and Kevin Mack, a district director for U.S. Rep. John Delaney.
Photo provided by Laurie Halverson.
Self-funder Trone seeks a little help from his friends at December fundraiser
In 2016, Potomac businessman David Trone set a national record for a self-funded congressional campaign, digging into his pocket for $13.4 million while finishing second in the District 8 Democratic primary. The Total Wine & More co-owner raised only $6,700 in outside contributions.
Trone took political heat for what some critics implied was an effort to “buy” the election. So this year, as he pursues the congressional seat in neighboring District 6, Trone is reaching out to friends and neighbors to help share the load.
They’ll have the opportunity to do so at a Dec. 6 fundraiser at the Potomac home of Matthew Mohebbi, vice president of Germantown-based Hughes Mobile Satellite Systems. Co-chairing the event are former County Executive Doug Duncan and attorney Jinhee Wilde, a Potomac resident who is a former chairman of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
As he contemplated a second bid for elected office earlier this year, Trone told Bethesda Beat, “Whatever decision I make, I am not going to 100 percent self-fund,” adding, “Our focus is going to be again on the small donor, the $50-, $100-type donor.”
The December fundraiser, however, is aimed at those in a higher financial tier: The price of admission starts at $250 for “friend” and increases to $500 for “sponsor” and $1,000 for “host.” The top level is $2,700 for “co-chair,” the maximum an individual can donate to a particular candidate per election at the federal level.
Trone’s first fundraising report, filed in mid-October with the Federal Election Commission, showed him raising about $43,000 in outside donations, with 75 percent coming from donations at the $2,700 level. Smaller, non-itemized donations made up just $1,600 of the total.
To be sure, Trone is continuing to dig deep into his own assets: He had given himself nearly $750,000 as of Sept. 30, as he faces five opponents, so far, in next June’s Democratic primary.
Four Republicans are competing for their party’s nod to succeed Rep. John Delaney of Potomac, who is pursuing a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
David Trone at Butler's Orchard, credit Andrew Metcalf
Dist. 19 delegate contender picks up unusual endorsement: a 1960s ‘Freedom Rider’
With a quarter of the seats in Montgomery County’s 32-member state legislative delegation open in 2018 due to incumbents moving on, those vying to succeed them are scrambling for endorsements to help break out of the pack.
In District 19, which extends from Silver Spring to the outskirts of Rockville and Gaithersburg, House of Delegates contender Vaughn Stewart has picked up what may be one of the election cycle’s more unusual endorsements—from Hank Thomas, one of the original “Freedom Riders” of the civil rights era.
The Freedom Riders traveled on interstate buses throughout the South to protest racial segregation. In May 1961, the bus in which Thomas was riding arrived in Anniston, Alabama, where it was attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Anniston police escorted it to the city limits and departed, leaving the bus to be set on fire by the Klan. Thomas was injured.
Fast forward more than 40 years. Stewart, then a 16-year old Anniston high school student, traveled to Atlanta to interview Thomas for a documentary.
As a result of his school project, “I was able to facilitate meetings between Hank and members of the [Anniston] community that had firebombed the Greyhound bus decades before,” Stewart related in an email.
In a video on Stewart’s website, Thomas picked up the story.
“… As a result of what he did, it brought the city of Anniston, the blacks and the whites together,” Thomas said of Stewart. “It led to President Obama declaring the site where the bus was burned as a national park.”
Thomas declared, “I don’t normally endorse candidates,” but added, “Vaughn has proven even as a young man that he knows how to work to bring people together.”
With District 19 Dels. Bonnie Cullison and Maricé Morales seeking renomination, Stewart—now a 29-year old attorney with a Washington law firm—is among at least five Democratic primary contenders taking aim at the seat held by Del. Ben Kramer, who is running for state Senate.
Politically, Thomas’ reconciliation more than a half-century later has crossed both state and generational lines. In 2012, Stewart’s father—also named Vaughn Stewart—campaigned for designating the site of the burned bus as a national monument. The elder Stewart was elected to a term as mayor of Anniston.
Vaughn Stewart photo via campaign website.