State Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown won’t officially leave his Senate seat until Sept. 1, but the process of naming his replacement is beginning to heat up.
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee will meet on Sept. 10 to name a successor to Garagiola, and committee members already have begun interviewing potential candidates, Chairman Gabe Albornoz said.
Albornoz said that while there are several unofficial candidates, only Del. Brian Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac has officially acknowledged interest in the post.
Once the seat officially becomes vacant, the central committee will have 30 days to make a recommendation to the governor on who should fill the spot.
Candidates have until Sept. 9 to submit a resume and letter of intent to be appointed for the Senate seat.
Feldman has emerged as the front-runner, but his endorsement by the chairman and vice chairman of the District 15 Democratic Caucus in a June letter to the central committee has drawn some complaints that the seat was being handed to him without consideration of minority candidates.
An informal collection of representatives from various minority groups are planning a meeting — likely next week, although no firm date has been set — to discuss whether anyone is interested in challenging Feldman for the Senate seat, said Tufail Ahmad, a longtime activist in District 15 politics.
Ahmad said his issue was not with Feldman — who he called a good friend and qualified candidate whose career Ahmad has always supported — but a need for more discussion before the endorsement of Feldman.
Feldman pointed out that he’s been endorsed by many other officials and groups, particularly Garagiola and other District 15 delegates — Kathleen M. Dumais (D) of Rockville and Aruna Miller (D) of Darnestown.
People who thought their voices weren’t heard at the beginning of the process have had a chance to weigh in and can still express their opinions until the September deadline, he said.
While viversity is a legitimate issue, the seat needs to be filled by a strong candidate who can defend it in the 2014 election, Feldman said.
Albornoz said the appointment process will be open to anyone interested, and the committee will do its “full due diligence” in evaluating every candidate.
The district has been blessed with great elected officials, as well as many qualified residents interested in holding office, said Jeff Williams, chairman of the District 15 Democratic Caucus.
Many people have expressed interest in running for a seat, but there is no open seat until the central committee announces its nominee to replace Garagiola, Williams said.
The appointment to succeed Garagiola will be the first step in the process, Williams said, with someone appointed to fill Feldman’s seat if he gets the Senate spot.
Whoever is appointed to fill Garagiola’s seat will have to run for re-election in the 2014 election.
Albornoz said the central committee is focused on looking for the best possible candidate to fill Garagiola’s seat, and hasn’t given any real thought to the 2014 race.
Williams said he hopes District 15 will have a “spirited” primary for the Democratic spot on the 2014 ballot, with a lively but friendly debate of the issues.
Williams said the caucus hopes to play a significant role in helping District 15 voters meet the various candidates and become familiar with their positions.