As the contest to replace Rep. Chris Van Hollen in Maryland’s 8th Congressional district moved into the general election phase this week, State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) is preparing to face off against Frederick attorney Dan Cox (R). Here are a few thoughts looking both back and ahead.
1. What happened to Kathleen Matthews?
Matthews had polish, money, top-drawer consultants and — as much as she disliked the word--celebrity. She also had a message assiduously tailored to women, who accounted for 60 percent of the Democratic primary electorate in Montgomery County in each of the last two presidential years. Sixty percent of the county’s 17,000 “ultra-Dems,” --those who turned out for the last five Maryland primaries --are also women. So what happened? Without exit polling (no one did any for the Congressional race) we may never know for sure. When David Trone entered the race, Matthews boosters insisted that it would sharpen her presence as the one viable female taking on the two top men, Raskin and Trone. Some political professionals said Matthews’ issue set had an off-the-rack quality that felt like it came from a consultant’s playbook. “She ran a generic campaign. People didn’t go for it,” said blogger and consultant Adam Pagnucco.
2. Trone II?
David Trone’s $12 million may not have gone up the chimney flue entirely. He cleaned up in the more moderate Frederick and Carroll County portions of the district, beating Raskin by a thumping 5-to-1 margin. Right next door is District 6, where, as much of the hemisphere knows, incumbent Rep. John Delaney is eyeing the 2018 governor’s race. If that happens, Trone, whose television and radio ads undoubtedly reached a good chunk of the 6th, could give it another try. It would also continue the tradition of really rich guys who live in District 8 running for Congress in the 6th.
3. District 8: Land of Contrasts
Voters in both parties picked the candidates farthest from the ideological center. Raskin never expressed a preference in the Democratic presidential race, but his message is more in sync with Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton. Cox, who supports Ted Cruz, won over four Kasich-leaning opponents. Raskin holds an overwhelming advantage in the 2-to-1 Democratic district, but voters couldn’t possibly have a clearer choice this fall.
4. Losers who did well
No loser comes out of the primary better than Will Jawando, the former White House aide with the Obama-esque biography. The African American millennial impressed voters at campaign forums but didn’t have enough money to project his message more widely. Still, he got a lot of attention, including a rave from New York magazine, which called him “a dream candidate.” The two state lawmakers who lost to Raskin, Dels. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol-Gutierrez, ran far behind, but they’ll still return to Annapolis with a stature boost from making the race.
5. Raskin the kingmaker
Not exactly, but with Chris Van Hollen ascending to the U.S. Senate, Raskin is now arguably Montgomery County’s local Democratic big dog, with a grassroots network that will be coveted by 2018 aspirants. He was endorsed by no less than five Montgomery County Council members--Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer--most, if not all, of whom will be looking seriously at the county executive’s race. Any of them would love to have Raskin in their corner.