Montgomery County has dozens of young, ambitious Democrats eager to make their mark in elective office. But it's never easy for a young politician to get noticed, especially when older incumbents tend to dominate the race for money and media attention.
Now, the younger set -- which according to membership criteria for the Montgomery County chapter of the Young Democrats includes Democrats under age 36 -- is becoming restless.
"We have been frustrated that there are a number of incumbents in Maryland offices who have been in office for years and years and show no movement or desire to pass the torch," said John Mahoney, a Rockville resident who is president of the Maryland Young Democrats.
At least some of the oldtimers are getting the message. When Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes announced that he would not seek reelection, one of the reasons he cited was a need for new leadership in the party.
And when Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman met with young Democrats this spring, he promised party support for younger candidates in 2006.
"I think the Democratic Party realizes, having lost two presidential elections, we need to do a better job of creating a farm team," Mahoney said.
But Montgomery County Democrats are not waiting for the party elders to help them out.
Earlier this year, a group of twenty- and thirty-somethings created the New Generation Montgomery PAC, which has already raised about $8,000.
"It's simply a vehicle for raising money for young candidates in Montgomery County," said Adam Luecking, a 26-year-old Kensington resident who helped start the PAC. "The idea is, if we can raise resources and make connections with people . . . we have a better chance of winning the respective races."
There could be a large crop of Montgomery candidates younger than 36 next year.
With Del. John A. Hurson (D-District 18) announcing this week that he plans to resign in October to take a job in the private sector, Luecking has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace him.
Luecking works at the University of Maryland, where he teaches a leadership course and is an assistant director in the School of Public Policy.
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee will select Hurson's replacement in October. The replacement will have to run for a full term next year.
Oscar Ramirez, a Capitol Hill staff member for Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), is another member of the Young Democrats who has been mentioned as a possible candidate in District 18, which includes Wheaton, Kensington and parts of Silver Spring.
And one possible District 18 House candidate is still too young even to drink alcohol.
Noah Grosfeld, son of District 18 state Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld (D), has inquired about running, although he won't be 21 until November. (General Assembly members must be at least 21, so Grosfeld is trying to determine whether he can run for Hurson's seat this year or will have to wait until next year.)
In District 19, which includes parts of Olney and Aspen Hill, Mahoney is considering challenging incumbent Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum (D) or running for the House of Delegates.
In District 15, which includes North Potomac, Poolesville and Barnesville, Craig Rice is considering a bid for the House of Delegates. Rice, 33, of Germantown, works for Marriott International Inc.
Saqib Ali, a 30-year-old who last year put more than 400 "Van Hollen for Senate" bumper stickers on his Saturn, is planning on running for the House from District 39, which includes the northeastern part of the county.
In District 17, which includes Rockville and Gaithersburg, Ryan Spiegel has formed an exploratory committee and has started raising money as he considers whether to run for the House of Delegates. Spiegel, 27, is an associate at the Washington law firm of Winston & Strawn.
And if Del. Peter Franchot (D) decides to run for comptroller, another member of the Maryland Young Democrats -- Heather Mizeur of the Takoma Park City Council -- may become a candidate to replace him.
Ficker: Where Is the Love?
Robin Ficker can't understand why some Montgomery County Republican leaders are reluctant to back his campaign for county executive.
He is the only announced Republican candidate for the job.
Best known for his seemingly continual effort to petition referendums onto the ballot, the anti-tax activist and lawyer has already begun a weekly newspaper advertising campaign in support of his candidacy.
But even though Ficker says he plans to spend up to a half million dollars of his own money on the race, some Republican leaders are still searching for another candidate.
Ficker is furious that GOP leaders are reluctant to support him. Last week, he sent an e-mail to supporters blasting the leadership of Tom Reinheimer, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.
"Please call me for my views on the inept Reinheimer leadership," Ficker wrote.
In an interview, Ficker said the local Republican Party is in shambles, so it doesn't have another viable candidate for county executive.
"They are down to their last out," he said.
There is only one Republican on the County Council, Howard A. Denis (Bethesda), whom Ficker sarcastically calls "Landslide Denis" because he barely won his last election.
"I don't know where this perfect candidate is that they want. Connie Morella is gone and she isn't coming back," said Ficker, referring to former congresswoman Constance A. Morella, a Republican who represented the heavily Democratic 8th District in the House of Representatives for eight terms.
Ficker continued, "Mr. Reinheimer is talking about some phantom candidate and he ought to be looking in front of him. . . . I am a hometown boy. I lived here all my life. . . . Here he's got someone willing to work hard, spend his money and is not a pawn of the special interests."
In an interview, Reinheimer said he's neutral because he still expects another possible Republican candidate.
"Robin needs to make his case with the Republican registered voters and they will decide," Reinheimer said. "He doesn't need to have a fight with me."
But Reinheimer, who pledges to support whoever wins the primary, is somewhat annoyed with Ficker's tactics.
"Robin really doesn't play with other Republicans, that is part of the reason he doesn't have the support of the GOP leadership," Reinheimer said. "Robin is more of a one-man show."
Mixed Message From Silverman
Council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) continues to prove it's never too early to start spending campaign cash. And the candidate for county executive is blurring the distinction between official mail from his council office and campaign literature.
Silverman's campaign, which has more than $500,000 in the bank, sent out a mailer this week to 8,000 senior citizens.
One side of the mailer has a photograph of Silverman and information about who is eligible for a property tax credit. The other side includes a quote from Silverman: "Montgomery County seniors deserve a tax break. They should be able to stay in their homes and in the county they helped build."
Although he resisted efforts on the County Council this spring to substantially cut the property tax rate, Silverman was a key backer of more targeted tax relief for residents with household incomes under $55,000.
The mailer urges eligible seniors to call the State Department of Assessments and Taxation at 800-944-7403 to apply for the tax credit.
It also offers an option -- contacting Silverman directly.
Such calls would traditionally be handled by Silverman's staff in his council office because it involves help with an official matter. But the mailer directs people to the number at Silverman's campaign office or to his campaign Web site.
"This is something we felt would be a service to thousands of seniors," said Chuck Westover, Silverman's field director.