Race to represent Montgomery County in Md. General Assembly proves to be costly

By Miranda S. Spivack and Meg Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010

The race to represent Bethesda and Chevy Chase in Maryland's General Assembly has become one of the costliest in the region, recent campaign finance reports show, as 13 Democratic candidates competing in Tuesday's primary vie for three spots on the Democratic ticket.

The spending in the Montgomery County contest, where one of three incumbents, Bill Bronrott, resigned earlier this year to take a job in the Obama administration, is outstripping many other delegate contests around the state, where contenders frequently spend a few thousand dollars to win a seat.

And the high finance in District 16 has prompted many of the 10 other challengers to conduct extensive fundraising and borrow money to try to compete.

The two incumbents, Bill Frick and Susan Lee, amassed robust war chests before the political season began this year, and have money in the bank if they need it in the final days before Tuesday's primary.

The Democratic primary in Montgomery usually serves as the de facto general election because of the county's heavy Democratic registration. The part-time post as a Maryland delegate pays $43,500.

Nipping at the incumbents' heels in the money race is 23-year-old Kyle Lierman, a recent college graduate and the youngest candidate in the field, whose father, Terry Lierman, formerly chaired the Maryland Democratic Party and is chief of staff to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Lierman's campaign finance reports show that as of Sept. 3, he had tapped deeply into his family's network of friends and prominent politicians to round up more than $100,000 in contributions. Lierman also reported he had spent nearly all that he had raised -- $99,892.87 -- as he tries to blanket the district with signs and direct mail.

The two incumbents also are spending heavily. Frick of Bethesda had spent about $47,000 of $136,000. Lee of Bethesda has spent around $64,000 of $123,335 in contributions.

Both benefit from their presence on the District 16 Democratic slate, with State Sen. Brian Frosh (D) at the top of the ticket and signs urging a vote for the trio visible throughout the district.

The spending has raised eyebrows.

"This puts a price tag on political office that increasingly is getting out of reach of the average, prospective candidate," said Charles Maier, who runs a marketing and public relations firm in Rockville, and served as press secretary to two of Montgomery's previous county executives.

Other top spenders and fundraisers among challengers are:

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