Miller backs incumbent Montgomery senators
Some challengers aren't ready for prime time,' Senate president says
This story was corrected on May 11, 2010. An explanation of the correction follows the story.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is backing the four incumbent Montgomery County senators who face Democratic challengers, saying the intraparty rivalry could embolden Republican opponents to enter the race.
"We always need a debate of ideas," Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach said Friday. "But it helps when the debate of ideas comes from the far right, rather than having people with similar ideas finding ways to challenge the veracity of the other."
Miller cited a story in The Gazette of Politics and Business in which Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville alleged that Del. Saqib Ali said that if the four-term incumbent senator threw her support behind Sen. Nancy J. King, who Ali is challenging, then Ali would contribute a large sum of money to Forehand's Democratic opponent, former Del. Cheryl C. Kagan. Ali (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown denies the allegation.
"One name-calling thing leads to another," Miller said.
At 32 members, including eight senators, Montgomery County has the state's largest delegation to the General Assembly all Democrats. The county also has "a lot of ambitious people," Miller said.
But ambition does not equal political preparation, he said.
"Some of the people challenging I don't think are ready for prime time," Miller said.
Three of the county's Senate Democratic primaries pit incumbents against sitting delegates from the same district.
Miller offered accolades for each senator, including:
Crediting King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village with sponsoring a bill this year that waived a $23.4 million penalty assessed to the county school system for failing to comply with a state funding mandate. "I don't know of a finer Maryland state senator," Miller said.
Backing Sen. Mike G. Lenett (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring in Lenett's campaign announcement literature. "Sen. Lenett is doing a good job," Miller said Friday. Lenett faces a challenge from Del. Roger Manno (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring.
Saying he would gladly endorse Sen. Rona E. Kramer (D-Dist. 14) of Olney, who faces a challenge from Del. Karen S. Montgomery (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville. Miller called Kramer "a solid citizen who is doing the job and doing it well."
Calling Forehand "a proven veteran." "She's on the job. She's doing it well," Miller said.
Miller said the "proof is in the pudding," with Forehand, who is running on a campaign team that includes her three District 17 colleagues, Dels. Kumar P. Barve of Gaithersburg and James W. Gilchrist and Luiz R.S. Simmons, both of Rockville. They are "sticking with Jennie because they've served with her and they know her," Miller said.
Miller acknowledged Kagan as a longtime friend.
"But she gave it up," Miller said. "She walked away from politics. And she wants back in at the expense of one of her mentors."
Kagan did not seek re-election in 2002 and spent a year working for U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington before becoming executive director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, directing charitable giving to nonprofit arts, education and social services organizations. She also remained active in Democratic Party politics as a spokeswoman and as a campaign volunteer with the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns.
"I never left politics," Kagan said. "I left elected office. I think some people stay in politics too long. But you can continue to have an impact in the community and continue to help people without holding elected office or having a fancy title."
Kagan said she did not seek out Miller's endorsement and was not surprised that she didn't receive it.
"Sen. Miller, like most incumbents, tend to stick up for their own," she said. "They look out for the club."
She downplayed the importance of Miller's blessing, preferring to highlight the endorsement she received last week from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.
"I don't think the endorsement of the longest-serving Senate president in Maryland's history would be as important as a Montgomery County-based member organization," she said.
Forehand said she did not seek Miller's endorsement but appreciated it.
"I don't always do what he wants no way," she said. "I think he appreciates people who work hard and aren't out there flashing for the limelight."
Miller said he plans to assist incumbent senators who he feels have a "work ethic," put in time on their committees and focus on constituent services year-round, not just at election time.
"I don't intend to donate a lot of money," Miller said. "But I plan, if people ask me, to tell them how their incumbent senator performed in the Senate."
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Ali is from Germantown; he is from Gaithersburg.