Republican Robin Ficker filed Friday, Feb. 21, to run for State Senate in Montgomery County District 15, setting up a General Election contest with recently appointed Democratic Sen. Brian Feldman. And Ficker’s son, Flynn Ficker, filed the same day to run for House of Delegates.
District 15 now has a full slate of Democrats and a full slate of Republicans for the district’s State Senate seat and three House of Delegates seats. It may be the only one of Montgomery’s eight General Assembly districts to have full inter-party competition in November. Both Ficker and Feldman will cakewalk to their respective party’s nominations for Senate without a contested primary in June, unless additional candidates file before the Tuesday, Feb. 25, 9 p.m. deadline.
Robin Ficker, 70, is a well-known name with an unusual history in Montgomery County politics. He’s been a perennial candidate and he’s been active in bringing controversial issues directly to county voters via initiative questions on the ballot. He once served a single term in the House of Delegates. Running for Senate on a slate with his son running for delegate is an example of Robin Ficker’s knack for publicity.
District 15 is Montgomery’s largest district by geography, stretching from Cabin John Regional Park and Democracy Boulevard in the south, covering all the affluent neighborhoods west of Rockville and Gaithersburg to the Potomac River, and including vast rural acreage in the northwest part of MoCo, north to the Frederick County line. It’s a majority Democratic district, but with more Republican and independent-minded voters, and more high-income voters, than other parts of Montgomery County. It’s the one legislative district in the county that could be competitive in a General Election when Republicans run a full slate with funding to back it up.
In 2010, Republicans also fielded a full slate in District 15, with one open delegate seat at stake. Democrats won all the seats, with Sen. Rob Garagiola beating his Republican opponent by a nearly 2-1 margin. The Democratic delegates did not run quite as strongly. The third-place Democratic delegate candidate in 2010 polled more than 17,000 votes to 13,000 for the fourth-place Republican.
Sen. Garagiola had more name recognition in 2010, and higher standing in Annapolis, than Sen. Feldman has now, and Republicans didn’t have anyone with the ability to generate attention like Robin Ficker. It will be interesting to see if he has mellowed with age.
There are no open seats in the district in 2014. The Democrats are running a full slate of “incumbents,” but as a group, they are not long-entrenched. Nonetheless, the Democrats are well-known, well-organized, and professional. By comparison, the Republican group looks like lightweights with novelty appeal.
Brian Feldman, 53, was selected from a number of other names by the MoCo Democratic Central Committee and appointed to the Senate in Sept. 2013. However, he had been elected three times previously to represent District 15 in the House of Delegates, in 2002, 2006, and 2010. He was promoted from House to Senate to fill the seat of Sen. Rob Garagiola. The Democratic Central Committee was aware of the upcoming 2014 election, and no doubt selected Feldman as the candidate best able to hold the Senate seat in case of Republican opposition.
Following Feldman’s move to Senate, the Democratic Central Committee selected David Fraser-Hidalgo to fill Feldman’s seat in the House of Delegates in October 2013. Fraser-Hidalgo had not previously held public office, but had been active for more than a decade in county civic affairs and the business community.
The other two House of Delegates incumbents in District 15 are Democrats Kathleen Dumais, an attorney, first elected to the House in 2002; and Aruna Miller, an engineer, elected in 2010 and presently completing her first term. The fourth Democratic candidate for delegate, forcing a Democratic primary, is Bennett Rushkoff.
The three Republican candidates for delegate are Ed Edmundson, Flynn Ficker, and Christine Thron. Democrat Ali Saquib, a Democrat and former delegate, had filed to run but has withdrawn his candidacy.
Feldman had nearly $113,000 in his campaign account as of the latest report in January. Robin Ficker filed an affidavit that he’s raised and spent less than $1,000. It’s a long time from February to November. Who knows how much or how little financial support this Republican slate will attract?
Advantage, Democrats, of course. But the Democratic Party will take nothing for granted in District 15. The sixth year of President Obama’s presidency will be a dangerous time for Democrats in District 15. Robin Ficker adds a wild-card element to the contest.
— John Hayden