Josh Kurtz: It’s Almost Christmas – But There’s a Lump of Coal for Women in a Liberal Enclave

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Filing deadline day in Maryland is finally here. Does it get more exciting?

Of course, it used to be even more exciting – or at least more communal – back when political insiders flocked to the Maryland State Board of Elections office and countywide offices across the state to watch last-minute candidates bring their candidacy papers in. Now, you can learn who the last-minute filers and scratches are by merely sitting at a computer and hitting the refresh button every hour. Another fun Maryland political tradition lost.

Maybe it’s the little kid in me, rather than the gimlet-eyed political analyst, but I think there could still be one or two big surprises today – even at the very top of the political food chain.

There isn’t much sense in speculating now, though, with changes possible every single minute between the time you read this and the 9 p.m. Tuesday filing deadline. Already, there have been a few fun recent developments, like Pat Murray running for a House seat and Del. Addie Eckardt deciding to challenge Sen. Rich Colburn in the Republican primary.  With luck, there will be more like those.

There is one development, or to put it more precisely, one non-development, that’s worth noting here. And it’s (not) taking place right in my own backyard.

Over the past few months, whenever someone finds out where I live in Montgomery County, they usually reply, “Oh, you’re right in the thick of it politically.” That’s because I live in legislative District 20 and in County Council District 5.

“Right in the thick of it” refers to the fact that this is probably the most liberal corner of Maryland, right along the District of Columbia line, taking in the People’s Republic of Takoma Park and parts of Silver Spring, mostly inside the Beltway. But it also refers to the fact that there are wildly competitive races going on for seats in the House of Delegates and for the Montgomery County Council.

In the House race, at least two of the three seats are open, with Del. Heather Mizeur (D) running for governor, and Del. Tom Hucker (D) putting out the word in the last day or so that he plans to run for the vacant Council seat rather than a third term in Annapolis.

Last I checked, including the sole remaining incumbent, Del. Sheila Hixson (D), there were nine Democrats running for the three delegate slots. The Council race is expected to attract at least five candidates, including Hucker, for the seat Valerie Ervin left in January.

Change is good; competition is great. Both races have attracted a solid collection of candidates – progressive, visionary, energetic. It will be tough for Democrats to decide whom to vote for in the four short months between now and the primary.

But there’s one incontrovertible and distressing fact: Of the 14 likely Democratic candidates in these two races, Hixson is the only woman.

How does this happen, in the most progressive part of the state? And who’s to blame? Despite the best efforts of the group Emerge Maryland to recruit women to run for political office – and some great candidates have come forward, like Brooke Lierman in Baltimore City and Elizabeth Paul in Washington County – despite Ervin’s own desire that her permanent successor be a woman of color, despite Mizeur’s trailblazing statewide campaign, only men saw and seized these two political opportunities.

It isn’t like this everywhere. In District 12, in Howard and Baltimore counties, all three delegate seats are up for grabs, and there unsurprisingly is a huge field of Democrats running. As I write this, seven are men and three are women. In another liberal Montgomery County district, 18, where there is a wide open race even with all three incumbents seeking reelection, three men and four women are running, and three of the challengers are women.

Every district has its own dynamic and its own set of political players. Sometimes a would-be candidate is ready to make the plunge when another isn’t. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that all the non-incumbent candidates running in my legislative and council districts are all men. But without even pausing for a breath I can think of half a dozen eminently qualified women who could be running for one of these seats. If I dug deeper, I could think of many more.

So how about it, politically- and civically-minded women of Takoma Park and Silver Spring – and the people who ought to be encouraging them? The filing deadline hasn’t passed yet. There’s still time. Let’s earn that “most progressive part of the state” designation by making our field of candidates look like something other than the cast of “Mad Men.”

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.