In the race for Chris Van Hollen’s vacant congressional seat, the seven candidates represent a diverse array of ages, races and backgrounds. Moving into the final months of their campaigns, Kathleen Matthews of Chevy Chase and Jamie Raskins of Takoma Park have surged ahead thus far, but three underdog contenders are seeking to seize their leads.
While 52 percent of Montgomery County’s population is made up of people of color, Will Jawando of Silver Spring is the sole African-American candidate. He criticized the three current representatives—Van Hollen, John Delaney and John Sarbanes—for failing to represent the district.
During a joint appearance before party activists on Nov. 9, Jawando was adamant that diversifying Congress was a crucial goal. “I think diversity and inclusivity matter. I’m the only millennial running here. I think that’s important at a time when we need new leaders in Congress,” he explained.
Many MCPS also agree with him. “I’m very supportive of Jawando’s message that there needs to be greater representation for minorities in our county. Historically, political positions have been dominated by whites and I would like to see Jawando make a difference for minorities in Congress,” said Thomas S. Wootton High School senior Vardhan Mehan.
While Jawando set himself apart through race, David Anderson of Potomac emphasized his position as the most moderate candidate. While his opponents have branded themselves as aggressively liberal, Anderson hopes to garner greater support from conservatives by identifying as a “center-left Democrat” and remaining steadfastly moderate.
Anderson’s political stance has received mixed reviews, especially from contingents of Matthews and Raskin supporters after he charged the two frontrunners with a “narrowness of thinking” for being overly left-leaning Democrats.
Joel Rubin of Chevy Chase, who only announced his candidacy in October, hopes to reduce the gap between his rivals and himself and distinguish himself in the field. Rubin underscored his familiarity with congressional work, where he has experience serving as a congressional aide. Using his political proficiency and congressional connections to his advantage, Rubin declared at a convention before party activists, “I know how to get things done.”
Though the other candidates—Anderson, Jawando, Matthews, Raskin, Kumar Barve of Rockville and Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase—had already debated twice, Rubin’s first opportunity to deliberate with his six fellow aspirants on Nov. 17.
The debate was held in the meeting room of the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, well-attended by 350 Bethesda locals and sponsored by the Woman’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County.
Overall, the debate was fair and largely civil as candidates cracked jokes and took routine jabs at one another. Matthews, who has received criticism from the beginning of her campaign due to her various out-of-state financial connections, jumped to defend herself and deftly sidestepped all attacks.
The seven candidates disputed regional issues of taxation and funding as well as broader controversies regarding Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to join the Republican Party in barring the settlement of Syrian refugees in their respective states, following the recent ISIS attacks in Paris.
“I was disappointed in Governor Hogan’s decision to ban Syrian immigrants and I hope our next governor takes a different stance,” Thomas S. Wootton senior Anna Cheng said. “I’m glad to hear that such serious issues are being debated by the candidates because they’re just as important as local issues.”
As underdogs surge ahead and contenders continue to strive for the frontrunner position—with the primary election date of April 26, 2016 fast approaching—this race is just heating up.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Catherine Yang of Wootton High School