In Reversal, Rockville Lawyer Thomas DeGonia Says He Won’t Run For State’s Attorney

Move could give incumbent John McCarthy clear path to re-election to a fourth term


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John McCarthy, left, and Thomas DeGonia

JOE ZIMMERMAN (McCarthy); VIA LINKEDIN (DeGonia)

Thomas DeGonia has given up his plan to challenge Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy in next year’s Democratic primary.

DeGonia spoke publicly in October about his preparations for a campaign to unseat McCarthy. However, DeGonia said Tuesday he has changed his mind.

DeGonia, a former assistant state’s attorney currently in private practice in Rockville, cited both personal and political considerations for his change of heart. His move appears to give McCarthy a clear path to winning a fourth four-year term in the post.

In a phone interview, DeGonia said that increased family obligations after his father suffered a serious heart attack in November affected the time he could have devoted to a campaign. DeGonia’s parents live outside of St. Louis, where DeGonia grew up and attended college before moving to the Washington area to attend law school.

DeGonia, 46, also indicated he had reassessed his prospects of ousting an incumbent in a contest that—with a couple of exceptions—has not attracted widespread voter interest in recent decades. “I talked to a lot of people in different areas; I evaluated it,” he said.

Compounding the difficulty of what DeGonia previously conceded would be an uphill race was that the 65-year old McCarthy, after more than a decade in office, was widely seen within the county’s legal community as lacking any obvious political vulnerability.

Although DeGonia criticized McCarthy’s leadership of the state’s attorney’s office on several fronts late last year—suggesting that the incumbent had not moved quickly enough to address the recent spike in gang violence in the county—he praised McCarthy’s overall performance Tuesday. “I think he’s doing a good job, and we’re not that far apart on policies,” DeGonia acknowledged.

DeGonia and McCarthy served together for eight years under McCarthy’s predecessor, then-State’s Attorney Doug Gansler. When Gansler moved on to become Maryland attorney general in 2006, McCarthy—Gansler’s chief deputy at the time—was elected to head the state’s attorney office, which currently includes a staff of nearly 75 lawyers.

McCarthy was re-elected without primary or general election opposition in 2010. In 2014, he again won the Democratic primary unopposed, and defeated a Republican challenger by a nearly 70 to 30 percent margin in November.

With seven weeks to go until the Feb. 27 filing deadline for this year’s election, McCarthy, a Gaithersburg resident, remains the only candidate to have filed to run for state’s attorney. No other names have surfaced recently as potential aspirants for the job.

After leaving the state’s attorney’s office at the end of 2006, DeGonia spent several years with a Baltimore-based law firm before moving to the Rockville firm of Etheridge, Quinn, Kemp, McAuliffe, Rowan & Hartinger, where has worked the past six years. He said he plans to remain with that firm, where he is a partner.

The state’s attorney’s contest would have been his second run for elected office. DeGonia, an Olney resident, unsuccessfully sought a nomination for the Maryland House of Delegates from District 19 in 2006.

Asked whether he remains interested in a future bid for state’s attorney, DeGonia said: “The answer is yes. That’s certainly an office I would consider in the future, under the right circumstances.”

He added, “And I guess the circumstances just aren’t right right now.”

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