Political Notes: Dist. 39 Incumbents’ Decision to Anoint a Candidate Ruffles Feathers

By Josh Kurtz

The three incumbents in legislative district 39 who are seeking re-election next year – state Sen. Nancy King (D) and Dels. Kirill Reznik (D) and Shane Robinson (D) – will announce this week that they are endorsing Lesley Lopez, a communications professional, for the district’s third House seat, Maryland Matters has learned.

But the incumbents’ decision to form a slate is creating some unhappiness among Democratic and progressive activists in northern Montgomery County – and could result in an alternate slate of challengers.

Already the incumbents’ forthcoming move could have one ripple effect: Hamza Khan, a political activist who is former president of the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County, is weighing whether to drop his bid for a Dist. 39 House seat.

Even if he gets out of the race, Khan – who in the interest of full disclosure is a member of the Maryland Matters steering committee [see https://marylandmatters.org/who-we-are/] – will continue promoting other Muslim candidates for political office in the state in his role as leader of the Pluralism Project.

At least four other Democrats are considering seeking House seats in Dist. 39 at present: Grace Rivera-Oven, a civic activist who runs a communications and marketing firm; Bobby Bartlett, who helped launched the Washington Spirit women’s professional soccer team; Andrew Hoverman, an official of the District 39 Democratic Club, and Gabriel Acevero, an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1994, the leading public employee union in Montgomery County, who is president of the African-American Democratic Club of Montgomery County.

Bartlett announced his bid in March. Acevero, who is formally announcing his candidacy Saturday in a park in Montgomery Village, said he was unfazed by the incumbents’ decision to back Lopez.

“I’m not the least bit deterred,” he said. “This doesn’t change my decision at all. I’m running because our district and our state and our country are facing a lot of challenges and what’s needed is someone who will take bold, progressive stands.”

Acevero criticized King, Robinson and Reznik for taking sides in what is promising to be a wide-open primary.

“This is one of the most diverse districts in the country and I’m disappointed that the electeds chose not to reflect that,” he said.

The third incumbent delegate in Dist. 39, Democrat Charles Barkley, has decided to seek a County Council at-large seat next year rather than run for a sixth term.

But the field of House candidates may not end with Reznik and Robinson and the non-incumbents who are already running. Other Democrats continue to eye the race – and late entrants could wind up forming a slate with one or more of the non-incumbents already in the field, sources have told Maryland Matters.

The West is the Best. With Baltimore County Del. Susan Aumann’s (R) surprise decision to retire to take care of her ailing mother, Del. Chris West (R) is poised to announce on Monday morning that he will seek the state Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jim Brochin. West, according to an email obtained by Maryland Matters, will declare his Senate bid in front of the Baltimore County Board of Education headquarters in Towson.

Aumann’s retirement announcement, first reported earlier this week by  Bryan Sears in The Daily Record, reshuffles the political dynamic in Dist. 42 considerably. With her departure and West’s decision to run for Senate, that leaves two House vacancies in the Dist. 42B subdistrict that Republicans are almost certain to retain.

Possible contenders for those slots, according to Sears, include John Fiastro, government affairs director for the Maryland Energy Administration who has sought the seat before, and Tim Robinson, a physician who unsuccessfully challenged Brochin in 2014.

Meanwhile, West must be considered the early favorite to win Brochin’s Senate seat – especially if Brochin keeps with his plan to run for county executive in 2018, rather than seeking a fifth term in the Senate. In his email to supporters, West, a lawyer who was first elected to the House in 2014, noted that he is the rare Annapolis lawmaker who has racked up high scores from both Maryland Business for Responsive Government and the League of Conservation Voters.

The massive 42nd district, which runs from Towson to the Pennsylvania border, is reliably conservative, except for the portion of the district packed with Democratic voters near the Baltimore city line. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) carried the district by 16,000 votes in 2014.

“I am confident that I can and will win this seat,” West wrote.

3 comments

  • I will be interested to see what Ms. Lopez has to say and will give her the benefit of the doubt, but I am having a really hard time getting past the fact that she is a PR flack for big business.

    I’ve been extremely impressed with Acevero and Bartlett’s progressive economic and social message though, and have seen them at plenty of grassroots meetings and events. I don’t remember Ms. Lopez though.

    • I have seen Hamza Khan and his team knocking on doors in my neighborhood! I am really excited for his candidacy because we haven’t had a strong progressive voice since Nancy King beat Saqib Ali in 2010. He seems to have a lot of local support. I met Lesley Lopez and she told me she was Latina, but then later I was told by several people that she inherited her name from a step-parent and is not Latina. Lying about her race is a strike against her in my book, since I have Latino family myself.

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