Saturday, April 16, 2022

Al Carr enters District 4 County Council contest as map changes shake up district Council races

Maryland House Delegate Al Carr (D - District 18) withdrew from his reelection race last evening, and filed to run for the Montgomery County Council District 4 seat. That move just before last night's filing deadline, and last-minute map changes, shook up district contests across the county, as well as the District 18 House race Carr exited.

The County Democratic Central Committee can appoint a Democrat to fill the empty ballot spot left by Carr in the District 18 race. But other seismic shifts on the election game board Friday will affect the 2022 Election through the July primary and beyond.

Carr brings name recognition and a lengthy resume in public service to the District 4 race. Prior to last night, Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart was the only high-profile elected official in the Democratic primary for that reshaped district, which now stretches from south Rockville to Stewart's home base. Carr served on the Kensington Town Council prior to his three terms in the House of Delegates. Amy Ginsburg, who is known for her leadership of the Friends of White Flint; Troy Murtha; and John F. Zittrauer are also running in the District 4 Democratic contest.

Stewart got off to a strong start in her first mayoral term, and political observers have expected her to be a formidable candidate for higher offices as a result. She couldn't entirely avoid controversy as leader of the most politically-active area of Montgomery County, the Takoma Junction uproar and her defense of a city screening of a documentary that many considered anti-Semitic chief among them. But executive experience is always a strong selling point in elections, and Stewart has spent seven years running a high-profile municipality, with all of the responsbilities that entails.

Carr has the advantage of having been engaged on neighborhood and pocketbook issues over a larger geographic area in recent years. His efforts to assist Maryland residents facing exorbitant EZ-Pass late fees, while cracking down on out-of-state toll scofflaws, made national news last year. Carr also introduced a bill to increase transparency at the increasingly-controversial Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County.

The lone Republican in the District 4 race, Cheryl Riley, only finds herself there now due to the new district map boundaries. Riley's sorting into District 4 now leaves District 1 without a Republican challenger to incumbent Andrew Friedson. If the County GOP Central Committee doesn't nominate a Republican, Friedson will be unopposed in the November election. An appointee will also be needed for the fourth spot in the Republican primary race for County Council At-Large.

There are Republicans in all the other Council district races, though. Dan Cuda is running in District 2, George Hernandez in District 3, Riley in District 4, Kate Woody in District 5, Viet Doan in District 6, and Harold Maldonado in District 7. If Doan were victorious in November, he would be the first Asian-American to be elected to the County Council.

District 4 now joins District 6 as the contests-to-watch for politics addicts. Just as the District 4 race includes two prominent elected officials, District 6 Democratic candidates include former County Planning Board commissioner Natali Fani-Gonzalez and former Maryland Delegate MaricĂ© Morales. Both former public officials also have resumes beyond public service. Fani-Gonzalez worked for CASA de Maryland and SEIU Local 32BJ, and now is an executive with the Matea Group. Morales is an attorney with a law practice in Rockville, and also serves on the boards of Montgomery College and Emerge Maryland.

Another high-profile member of the community running as a Democrat in District 6 is Omar Lazo, owner of the popular Los Chorros restaurant in Wheaton. Lazo is also on the Board of Trustees of Montgomery College, as well as serving on the Board of the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce, the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Democratic Club, and on the Board of the Fund for Montgomery. 

Kemp Mill resident Brit Siman-Tov was driven to enter the District 6 race this month by the Council's pandemic business closures and mask policies, and the councilmembers' brief flirtation with the idea of a vaccine mandate. Former WTEM 980 radio producer and personality and current podcaster Steve Solomon is also in the District 6 contest. Republican Doan and Democrats Christa Tichy, Mark Trullinger and Vicki Vergagni round out the candidates in District 6.

The new District 6 includes Aspen Hill, Forest Glen, Glenmont, Kemp Mill, Kensington Heights, parts of Rockville, and Wheaton.

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