June 26 is the last day for Marylanders to vote in the primary elections. The primaries will determine which candidates will appear on November’s ballots. In districts dominated by Democratic voters (i.e., most districts in Maryland), whichever Democrats appear on the ballot in November are almost certain to defeat the Republicans.
Stewart Wins GOP Primary in Virginia
Virginia voters already chose their candidates on June 12. The biggest surprise came when Corey Stewart, a vocal supporter of President Trump and former supporter of white nationalist Paul Nehlen, won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Most expect Stewart to lose to Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine, but according to pollster Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight news site, controversy surrounding Stewart may harm Republicans downstream in four competitive House of Representatives general elections.
"The JCRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so we do not get involved in elections aside from educational forums," said Darcy Hirsch, director of Virginia government and community relations for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington. "We do not endorse candidates and we don't speak out against candidates."
The JCRC does have experience with Stewart from his last political campaign. In May 2017, he participated in the JCRC's forum for gubernatorial primary candidates at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church.
"We brought up his past support of confederate monuments and flags and gave him the opportunity to disavow the negative rhetoric surrounding that conflict, and we were disappointed with his response," said Hirsch.
She wanted to clarify that Stewart himself has not been identified as a white supremacist. "He is a viable candidate, but we are waiting for him to disavow any and all connections with white supremacists who have espoused anti-Semitic messages and hateful rhetoric," she said.
"With the rate of hate crimes in Virginia at an all-time high, we are gravely concerned that the negative tone of his campaign could lead to further discord in the community and lead to further hate speech against marginalized groups."
Looking for an Edge
In Maryland, several open legislative seats — including Maryland’s 6th Congressional District — have made for exciting primary elections this year. In American politics, incumbents often go unchallenged because of their fundraising and name recognition advantages. Indeed, in 2016, 97 percent of incumbent U.S. Representatives who ran for reelection won. So, when current Rep. John Delaney, D-6th District, announced he is stepping down to focus on his 2020 presidential campaign, several Maryland Democratic heavyweights threw their hats into the ring.
In terms of fundraising, four clear frontrunners have emerged: David Trone, co-founder of Total Wine & More; Aruna Miller, a Maryland State Delegate for the 15th District of Montgomery County; Dr. Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician and international best-selling novelist; and Roger Manno, Maryland State Senator for the 19th District of Montgomery County.
The candidates have been scrambling to land high-profile endorsements to gain an edge. Aruna Miller has been endorsed by a large swath of Maryland elected officials, including Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch, the National Education Association, and 22 other state delegates. Roger Manno has been endorsed by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and several Maryland unions. David Trone has been endorsed by Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Rushern Baker, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, D-4th District, and Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan (who served three terms, from 1994-2006).
On the issues, a January candidates’ forum revealed few serious ideological differences between the candidates on universal free health care (they generally support it), the opioid epidemic (they feel more should be done), and climate change (they agree it’s a serious
Miller (whose district covers North Potomac, Clarksburg, Poolesville, and part of Germantown) and Manno (whose district covers Kemp Mill, Glenmont, and Aspen Hill) emphasized their progressive records in the Maryland state legislature. Right out of the gate, when he announced his candidacy in August 2017, Trone staked his claim as an opposition figure to the Trump administration stance on “health care, women’s rights, education, environmental protections, and Social Security.”
Hashimi is the only medical professional in the race and has focused her campaign around her plans for the U.S health care system. She supports broad policies, such as expanding Medicare eligibility to children and lowering the eligibility age to 55, as well as specific policies, such as making different electronic medical records systems interoperable (so that different systems can “talk” to each other). Hashimi has the endorsement of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Courting the Jewish Vote
On the state side, a seat opened up in Montgomery County when State Sen. Richard Madaleno from the 18th District announced his campaign for governor. Now-retired eye surgeon Dana Beyer, District 18 State Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, and Dynamite Gym owner Michele Carhart are vying to replace him.
Beyer and Waldstreicher, both Jewish, appear to be courting the Jewish vote. “Jeff entered public service for one reason, tikkun olam [repairing the world],” read an endorsement letter from several members of the Montgomery County Jewish community.
“As a New York yeshiva graduate, I have long appreciated the value of full-time Jewish education,” Beyer said via email, adding that her children attended the Jewish Primary Day School and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and she supports textbook funding, security funding, and the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program for nonpublic school students.
According to campaign finance disclosures (as of early June), Beyer’s largely self-funded campaign has raised $381,770. Waldstreicher has raised $149,530. Both invested heavily in direct mail to voters. Carhart is taking a different tack, spending nine or more hours per day canvassing voters in person.
Another seat opened up in House of Delegates 11th District, which covers the Jewish community in Baltimore County (including Pikesville and Owings Mill). Del. Dan Morhaim, one of three delegates representing the 11th District, is retiring. Former 11th District Delegate Jon Cardin, progressive activist Amy Blank, Maryland Democratic State Central Committee member Linda Dorsey-Walker, and Pikesville resident Kate Skovron are vying for his seat. Of these, only Cardin and Blank have active campaign websites or have raised a significant amount of funding ($63,933 and $123,772, respectively).
Cardin, Blank, and incumbents Del. Dana Stein and Del. Shelly Hettleman are Jewish. Stein and Shettleman said they support BOOST; security and infrastructure funding for nonpublic schools; and the Maryland Israel Development Center. Cardin said he supports textbook funding for nonpublic schools, and is “open to being supportive of other initiatives as long as it does not interfere with public education budgets.”
On Israel, Cardin pointed out that he was an original sponsor of the legislation creating the Maryland Israel Development Center (MIDC). Blank did not respond to inquiries, but as former Director of Government Relations of the Baltimore Jewish Council, she has considerable experience advocating on behalf of the Jewish community.
Emily Minton contributed to this article.
By Gabe Aaronson