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No ‘Year of the Woman’ for female candidates in Montgomery County

Montgomery County Council vice president Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty) will probably be the only woman on the council in December, when the next council is seated.
Montgomery County Council vice president Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty) will probably be the only woman on the council in December, when the next council is seated. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

By almost any measure — race, age, sexual orientation — the Democrats Montgomery County voters chose this week tended to reflect the diversity of the liberal jurisdiction.


In the deeply blue county, where the June primary often determines who wins in the November general election, only one woman won the Democratic nomination for a council seat in Tuesday’s primary.

So while Democrats chose four new faces in addition to the five Democratic incumbents on the County Council, Nancy Navarro, the council’s vice president, probably will be the only woman on the body for the first time in about 30 years.

Navarro — who was one of four women on the council when she was elected in 2009 — said she was happy with the outcome of the primary but called the dearth of women “a big surprise.” Twelve of the 33 Democrats running for the four at-large seats were women.

“There were so many strong women, especially in the at-large field, that I thought for sure we would have at least a couple,” she said, adding that she felt the unusually large number of contenders might have played a role.

“It’s interesting in the year of ‘Me Too,’ and with some very viable women candidates, we didn’t get any elected,” said former council member Mike Knapp (D-District 2).

“I’ve seen women in politics act totally differently than men do, and often I kind of say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think of that,’ ” said Paul Bessel, chairman of the county’s charter review commission. “So I think we all suffer. Not just women but men suffer by not having more women in elected office.”

If all the Democrats win in November — a likely outcome in a county that has not elected a Republican to the council since 2002 — the council will for the first time have two Hispanic members: Navarro, 52, and Gabe Albornoz, 42, of Kensington, who was the county’s recreation director. It also will have two African American members — Craig Rice, 45 (D-District 2) and Will Jawando, 35, of Silver Spring, an attorney and former Obama administration official — and will feature the first openly gay council member, Evan Glass, 41, of Silver Spring, a nonprofit executive and former journalist.

President Hans Riemer, 45, (D-At Large) and council members Tom Hucker, 51, (D-District 5) and Sidney Katz, 68, (D-District 3) all hung on to the Democratic nominations for their seats, while Andrew Friedson, 32, of Bethesda, a former aide to state Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), prevailed in an eight-way race among Democrats for the nomination in District 1.

If all Democrats win, it also will be one of the youngest councils in Montgomery’s history, with an average age of 46, compared with the current average of 58.

As they voted in Democratic primary, many Marylanders appeared inclined to back Hogan this fall

Meanwhile, the outcome of a tight race between progressive at-large council member Marc Elrich and Potomac businessman David Blair for the Democratic nomination for county executive will come down to provisional and absentee ballots, which will begin to be counted Thursday.

With all precincts counted, Elrich had a 452-vote advantage over Blair. But with more than 3,600 provisional ballots and over 7,500 absentee ballots left to be tallied, the outcome of the race for the county’s top elective post is still up in the air. The winner will face Republican Robin Ficker in November.

The two candidates presented differing views of the future of the county, with Elrich’s cautionary message about rampant development appealing to voters concerned with traffic congestion and crowded schools, and Blair’s call for more businesses and jobs resonating with those worried about the future of the county’s tax base.

“It’s like a divided county,” said Jeffrey Slavin, mayor of Somerset and a state Democratic leader. “Marc didn’t present himself as the advocate for economic development, and that’s what David Blair did.”

The question now is which view will prevail.

“All eyes are on the Board of Elections,” Slavin said.

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