By Lou Peck
Local real estate agent Ted Duncan, who spent a decade pursuing an acting career in New York and Los Angeles, appears ready to try his luck on a different stage.
With barely a month until the Feb. 25 filing deadline, Duncan is one of two likely late entrants in the race for state delegate in Bethesda/Potomac-based District 16. He expects to make a final decision this week. Also poised to join the contest in the coming weeks is Peter Dennis, an attorney/businessman who made an unsuccessful 2010 bid for delegate in the district.
The moves by Dennis and Duncan mean that as many as eight candidates could end up pursuing the Democratic nomination for two delegate openings, even as campaign finance filings last week reinforced the perception within party circles that health policy advocate Hrant Jamgochian and attorney Marc Korman are the early frontrunners in the run up to the June 24 primary.
Meanwhile, current Delegate Susan Lee took another step toward locking up the nomination for the seat now held by Sen. Brian Frosh, who is seeking the Democratic nod for state attorney general. Former County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg said this week that, despite “a great deal of encouragement and support from many District 16 residents, I will not be running for the…Senate seat.”
Trachtenberg, who continues to weigh a bid to regain an at-large seat on the County Council, added: “My political interests have always been in Rockville, and down on Capitol Hill.” Trachtenberg is the second potential challenger to Lee to opt out in recent weeks, joining attorney and former delegate candidate Reggie Oldak.
Further buttressing Lee’s bid to become the first Asian-American elected to the Maryland Senate is a campaign treasury of more than $220,000, more than any other incumbent legislator in Montgomery County, with nearly $49,000 of that raised in 2013. By the same token, Jamgochian and Korman – both of whom have received the endorsement of many local party activists – have significantly outraised other non-incumbent candidates seeking the delegate seats now held by Lee and Democrat Bill Frick, who also is also running for attorney general.
The only District 16 incumbent seeking re-election, Delegate Ariana Kelly, reported nearly $120,000 on hand at the start of the year – most of that a $100,000 loan she made to her campaign earlier this month. She took in only about $13,000 from individuals and political committees in 2013, according to last week’s filings.
Four years ago, Jamgochian finished third in an 11-way primary race for the seat won by Kelly. He has been running again for much of the past year, raising more than $62,000 but also spending $66,000 – most of it on a campaign manager and a Chicago-based political consulting firm. Like Kelly and several other state legislative candidates around the county this year, Jamgochian’s campaign is heavily self-funded: He has nearly $117,000 in his treasury, thanks to a $120,000 loan he made to his campaign.
Korman, a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee who has the support of several members of the county’s state legislative delegation, was the top fundraiser among the District 16 delegate candidates. He took in more than $80,000 from individuals and political committees, with about $120,000 on hand as of early January, including a $15,000 personal loan to the campaign.
Three other announced candidates trailed significantly on in their available financial resources. Political operative Kevin Walling tapped into a network in the Washington area and across the country to raise about $37,000, and had $30,000 in the bank. But that is well off the goal that Walling set for himself last July, when he said hoped to raise $200,000 in order to “outspend every other person in this race.”
Former General Assembly aide Jordan Cooper reported taking in more than $24,000, and had almost $27,000 on hand. Former Delegate Gareth Murray, now a Potomac resident who represented a Silver Spring-based district from 2002-2006, raised just $2,250, with his campaign treasury nearly $10,750 in the red. Another announced contender, local party activist Karen Kuker-Kihl, has not filed a recent report with the state Board of Elections.
Duncan, a real estate agent for W.C. and A.N. Miller, acknowledged he is “late to the race.” He formed a campaign committee in mid-December, raising about $3,000 in the three weeks prior to the filing deadline. He said that he has since “been dialing for dollars, and had some good results.” A former president of the Civic Association of River Falls, Duncan said he was urged to run for delegate after helping to lead the Brickyard Coalition – a group formed to fight a county proposal to put several soccer fields on an undeveloped 20-acre parcel in Potomac.
Dennis, the other late entrant in the contest, declined comment, but is expected to announce his candidacy soon. He is currently involved in starting the “American Awards,” a Web-based business designed to recognize notable achievements by everyday Americans. His campaign will be a low-budget effort relying heavily on the Web, sources said.
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