As five Democrats jockey for an open seat in Montgomery County’s 5th council district, each will try to make his case to voters in a district that one longtime county political observer believes is “wide open.”
School board member Christopher S. Barclay, Del. Tom Hucker, and activists Evan Glass, Terrill North and Jeffrey Thames will compete to win the Democratic primary on June 24 for the right to represent the eastern Montgomery district that includes Burtonsville, Takoma Park and parts of Silver Spring. No Republicans filed in the race.
The winner will replace Councilwoman Cherri Branson (D), who was appointed in January to serve the remainder of the term held by Valerie Ervin. Ervin had represented the district since 2006 but resigned in January to take a job as the executive director of the New York-based nonprofit Center for Working Families.
Branson took the District 5 seat promising not to run for the position.
Former Montgomery County Planning Board chairman Gus Bauman, who lives in Silver Spring and has followed Montgomery politics for 40 years, said he believes the race is “wide open.”
The district’s lines were redrawn in 2012 and it is a different district than the one Ervin was elected to, he said.
The combination of a large field of candidates in a redrawn district with no incumbent leads Bauman to believe anyone could come out of the primary.
“There is no front-runner,” he said.
Hucker, who lives in Silver Spring, has served in the House of Delegates since 2007, and the fact that he’s been on the ballot before in part of the district will help him, Bauman said.
But he noted that Barclay, of Takoma Park, also has been on the ballot before, and Glass, of Silver Spring, has been running the longest and getting his organization in place.
He also wondered how moving the primary date from September to June will affect voter turnout.
All five candidates are liberal Democrats running in a liberal district, he said.
Ultimately, Bauman said, the race will come down to which candidate can connect with the most voters and get them to come out on election day.
“How are they going to distinguish themselves from each other?” Bauman said.
Hucker, a delegate from District 20, said he believes his work during eight years in the House will help prepare him for a spot on the council.
He said District 5 needs strong representation to help its residents address their needs and concerns.
“I think I’m the best person in the field to do that on Day One because of my legislative experience,” he said.”
Glass, the chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, said he’s a community leader who has been immersed in local issues for the past decade, which won’t change no matter who gets in the race.
He said he’s excited about the conversation the community will be able to have about its future as the campaign moves on.
Thames, of Silver Spring, noted that he’d been the first candidate to file in the race, and said he’d decided to enter the race in October, before Ervin resigned.
Thames said he’ll continue the work he’s been doing despite Hucker’s entry into the race.
“I’ll leave all the political jockeying to the professional politicians,” Thames said.
Barclay said the financial resources and familiarity as an elected official that Hucker brings make him the favorite in the race, but said his own experience as a member of the county’s Board of Education would give him an advantage as well.
Being in schools has often helped him see things that are happening in the county before they might be visible to others, Barclay said.
He predicted the District 5 race will probably be the most heated of council races.
North, of Takoma Park, predicted the race will turn on canvassing and engaging voters, and which candidate can most effectively turn out their supporters for the primary.
“I think the winner of the race is going to be the one who works the hardest,” he said.
All five candidates have records and are all progressives on some level, North said.
Still, he thinks each candidate has different advantages that voters will have to weigh.
“People will be presented with real choices,” he said.