By Len Lazarick and Glynis Kazanjian
Sen. Cheryl Kagan is an unconventional politician, particularly when it comes to fundraising. No breakfast fundraisers or evening receptions for the Gaithersburg/Rockville senator.
Kagan goes more for ice cream socials and afternoon concerts with the kind of singer-songwriters she’s been promoting in house concerts for years, as she did Sunday afternoon at an art gallery in the new Crown section of Gaithersburg, part of District 17.
The Democratic senator not only knows the songsters, she can sing along with their lyrics. But she’s also being serenaded with some catchy new tunes. She’s being encouraged to run for county executive and being mentioned for lieutenant governor.
In an interview last week, Kagan said, “There are a surprising number of thoughtful county leaders who are not satisfied with the current field of candidates“ for county executive, but she won’t say who those leaders are.
“There is some sentiment that has been expressed that because of overwhelming passage of the Ficker amendment [setting term limits for council and executive], there is a sense that council members who were ‘fired’ for a next term are instead, three of them, are seeking a promotion.”
Kagan made no mention of this speculation at Sunday’s fundraiser. The politicos there included fellow Montgomery Democratic Sens. Brian Feldman and Roger Manno, who is running for Congress (he insists he already has a video tracker from someone else’s campaign); the three delegates from her district — House Environment Committee Chair Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist and the newly slim Andrew Platt; two current County Council members, Sid Katz and Hans Riemer, and several candidates for council.
“Raise your hand if you’re not running for office,” joked Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, who is on the ballot this year along with the majority of the city council who attended Kagan’s fundraiser in Maryland’s third largest municipality. Ashman praised Kagan for her “diligence and thoughtfulness.”
Frosh for the resistance
The room quieted down for 25 minutes of short speeches, including one from Attorney General Brian Frosh, a former Montgomery senator flexing his legal muscles to sue the Trump administration on multiple counts along with other Democratic AGs around the nation.
“It’s important to have the resistance not just in the District, but in all the states,” said Frosh He thanked Kagan and the other legislators for granting him his new powers against the wishes of Gov. Larry Hogan, who used to control whom Frosh could sue.
“He is protecting Maryland from the crazy stuff” that is going on in Washington, Kagan said. On Jan. 20, Kagan was a prime host of an UnNaugural Concert to raise money for five nonprofits boosting progressive causes including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
Kamenetz and Baker
Kagan’s low key event also brought out two leading candidates for governor, although Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has not officially announced.
Kagan served eight years in the House of Delegates with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who she said has “helped turn that county around in economic development and education.”
One of the quirks of a governor’s race in Maryland is that the candidates must first recruit running mates for lieutenant governor before they file.
In interviews last week, Kagan admitted, “I’m having conversations” about lieutenant governor. “I’m going to have a little bit of time to reflect.”
She is reflecting more seriously on the race for Montgomery County executive.
“I am thinking about it and talking to people and meeting with people. I had lunch with [current executive] Ike Leggett last week. I have talked to a number of current and former elected officials to get their guidance, and I continue to be surprised by the strong, positive reactions I’m getting.”
Intended to run for re-election
“My intention had been to seek re-election for the Senate representing the residents of Gaithersburg and Rockville. I’ve enjoyed my work and feel like I’m making a difference in Annapolis, for my district, for the county and for the whole state.
“Then I started getting calls, which was quite unexpected. First people were telling me I was on several short lists to be considered as lieutenant governor by various candidates and then people started calling suggesting I consider county executive. That is something I had never thought about before.”
“I was very disappointed the Ficker amendment passed, but the numbers were decisive. There was a very strong sentiment of disapproval of this County Council. People have called me wondering why it is if they were basically being kicked out of office or precluded from seeking re-election, why three of them would be running essentially for a promotion to become county executive.”
Montgomery County Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal are term limited and running for executive.
At Sunday’s fundraiser, Councilmember Hans Riemer said that the pluses for Kagan in the executive race are that she is woman with proven progressive values, but is viewed as more moderate than others in the race.
Kagan conceded in an earlier interview that “there’s the gender issue. It’s not something I’m talking about. There are people who are calling me disappointed that there had been (and that may change) no woman running for governor and no woman running for county election.”
“With Hillary Clinton’s defeat, there is a real hunger for electing women especially in light of the craziness — sexist, misogynist and homophobic statements and actions creeping out of this White House,” Kagan said.