The District 20 House race in the Democratic primary was supposed to be wide open, with two open seats due to delegates running in other races.
But endorsements by veteran legislators Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D) of Silver Spring and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) of Takoma Park appeared to play a key factor in putting David Moon and Will Smith in a good position to reach the General Assembly for the first time.
There is nothing unusual about such an alignment — it’s a fairly common occurrence in politics — but the situation left some wondering what might have been.
“It’s tough to deal with a slate,” said Will Jawando, who finished fourth in the nine-candidate race on June 24. “There were a lot of qualified candidates in this field. I would have liked to have seen how it would have gone if voters were left to make their own decisions without that kind of slate.”
The top three finishers advanced to the Nov. 4 general election. The only other candidate on the November ballot is Daniel S. Robinson of the Green Party. The Republicans didn’t field any candidates.
Jawando and Darian Unger, a Howard University professor who finished fifth, congratulated the winners and said they want to work with them on various issues, if they’re elected. They added that they planned to stay active in issues such as pay equity and trying to help ex-prisoners make a more effective transition back into society.
Victory by Hixson, Moon and Smith in November is likely given the Democratic leanings of District 20, which includes Takoma Park, downtown Silver Spring, White Oak and other parts of Silver Spring.
While Unger agreed the alignment had a “large impact” on the results, he said he liked and respected all of the candidates involved.
“When a group makes a slate, that changes the dynamics,” Unger said. “But I have nothing but good things to say. It was a fair election.”
Hixson said all of the candidates were excellent and making the decision to endorse Moon and Smith was difficult. “I felt they best met the progressive values and diversity of the district,” said Hixson, who has served in the House of Delegates since 1976 and chaired the House Ways and Means Committee since 1993.
Moon, a civil rights attorney and program director at civil liberties and social justice organization Demand Progress, has worked for years on issues such as the Dream Act, voter registration and mass transit. He has worked on numerous political campaigns, including as Raskin’s campaign manager in 2006.
Smith, an attorney and Navy reserve officer, has been active in numerous local organizations, including GapBuster Learning Center, IMPACT Silver Spring and the local NAACP chapter. He also worked on several campaigns, including as campaign manager of the 2010 District 20 team that included Hixson and Raskin.
Moon and Smith ran excellent campaigns and were already top contenders in the strong field, said Dan Adcock, former chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. But the endorsement by Hixson had a “significant impact on pushing them over the top,” he said.
Most voters were familiar with Hixson, but less so of the other candidates, Adcock said. Hixson was among the most valued endorsers in this race because “voters trusted her effective tenure in Annapolis to guide her judgment on which candidates would best serve District 20,” he said.
Moon and Smith were two of the strongest campaigners in the race and did an excellent job connecting with voters, said Del. Anne Kaiser (D.-Dist. 14) of Calverton, chairwoman of the Montgomery County House Delegation. “They did a great job on their own,” she said. “But Del. Hixson’s support helped them, and it does add to her clout in her district.”
District 20 will likely have more clout in Annapolis, as well, because the endorsements help make them a “more cohesive — therefore more effective — team,” Adcock said.
“Loyalty is crucial in politics, and you are particularly loyal to a friend who made the difference in your election,” Adcock said.