Former Maryland Del. Cheryl Kagan will seek the District 17 Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D), joining current Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D) in the 2014 race.
The district, which includes Gaithersburg and Rockville, needs a senator who can build coalitions and be a leader on public safety, transportation, health care and education, Kagan said Wednesday.
Kagan said her nature is to reach out to others to understand their priorities and interests, so she can educate them on issues she cares about.
Forehand has held that Senate seat since 1995 and is waiting until early next year to state whether she will run again.
Simmons, who is finishing his fourth term in the House, announced his Senate candidacy on Nov. 13.
Kagan, a Democrat, represented District 17 in the House from 1995 to 2003.
She said Wednesday that she wants to help change perceptions about Montgomery County in the General Assembly.
She said that when she was first elected, she was amazed at how many other legislators still looked at Montgomery as a largely white and affluent county without any problems or adversity.
If lawmakers still have that mindset, Montgomery won’t get money for school construction or other needs, she said.
Kagan, 52, said that when Montgomery lawmakers invited colleagues from other parts of the state to a meeting in Rockville, they’d always show up late because they had gotten stuck in the traffic that county residents deal with every day.
Once the other legislators had experienced Montgomery’s traffic, transportation money for the county was much more forthcoming, she said.
Kagan said she has great respect and admiration for Forehand’s record in Annapolis.
But with Forehand not expected to announce her plans until after the start of the General Assembly’s session in January, Kagan said she didn’t feel she could wait that long to begin raising money and meeting with potential supporters.
Before her time in the Senate, Forehand, 77, served in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1995.
Forehand said she thinks that one reason she’s had such success in Annapolis is that she can work well with everyone.
“Getting along with your colleagues is really a major factor in your effectiveness” in the General Assembly, she said, adding that she was speaking generally and not referring to Kagan or Simmons.
Simmons has served in the House since 2003 as a Democrat, after serving one term from 1979 to 1983 as a liberal Republican.
His campaign on Tuesday released the results of a Gonzales poll he commissioned. The poll showed that if the primary were held today, 44 percent of District 17 Democrats who responded said they’d vote for Simmons and 28 percent for Kagan, with 27 percent undecided.
The poll was conducted by telephone between Oct. 10 through 20 among Democrats who said they’re likely to vote in the 2014 primary.
Simmons, 64, said Wednesday that Kagan’s entrance into the race had been expected, and he would continue to work in the months before the June 24, 2014, primary, as he has over the past 12 years.
“I’ll just continue plugging away until June and then accept the results at that time,” he said.
Susan Heltemes, a Democratic strategist and long-time observer of Montgomery politics, said she thinks there’s some sense that Forehand won’t run again.
If that’s the case, this would be the time for people to start announcing their intentions to run, she said.
Heltemes said she thinks that with the political unrest at the national level, many challengers could be thinking this might be the year to take on an incumbent.
Forehand probably would have the advantage as the incumbent if she ran in a race against both Kagan and Simmons, she said.
But a race without Forehand would likely be a toss-up, since Kagan’s and Simmons’ names have both been on the ballot before.
“If Jennie doesn’t run, it’s a whole new ballgame,” Heltemes said.