Bright and early this 100th morning before the primary, Roll Call has an assessment of the CD8 race. If you didn’t know better, you’d think there were only two candidates running. Even if you believe that Jamie Raskin or Kathleen Matthews is likely to win (which you should believe at this point), I suspect you’d also want to know what impact the other five candidates might have on the two frontrunners. You won’t get any such analysis from the Roll Call piece.
What you will get is a pretty good take on the approaches of Matthews and Raskin. At this moment, it’s hard to argue that Raskin doesn’t have the better voter outreach (a point the author completely misses), but as he does note, Matthews is gearing up while Raskin is slowing down – at least his own personal campaign activity – because from now until April 11 (three days before early voting starts and fifteen days before the primary) Raskin will be in Annapolis for 8-10 hours a day, four days per week (and more as session draws to a close in late March and early April).
How will this play out?
For about four days a week, from now until April 11, a major obstacle will be out of Democrat Kathleen Matthews’ way as she runs for her party’s nomination in Maryland’s 8th District, a primary contest that could well decide the successor to outgoing Rep. Chris Van Hollen.
That is because state Sen. Jamie Raskin – the Democrat who polling and Maryland Democratic operatives say is her chief rival among six others running for this open seat – will be spending more and more time in Annapolis during the 90-day legislative session that ends only two weeks before election day.
“I was obviously aware from the beginning of the race that I’d be going back to Annapolis,” Raskin, the Maryland Senate’s Democratic whip, said in an interview with Roll Call. “I will not be able to knock on as many doors as before, but I’m spending every free minute in the evening and on the weekends out campaigning.”
During the legislative session, Raskin said he has “turned down a lot of smaller bills” this session to focus on his campaign and on issues of larger policy consequence, particularly one that would prevent terror suspects from purchasing firearms in Maryland and another that would require the use of ignition interlock devices in all cases of drunk driving.
With her opponent partially off the field, Matthews said she plans to spend every free minute of her own free time connecting with voters — and then some. On Saturday, she re-launched a door-to-door operation, starting in voter-rich Bethesda, with just 101 days until primary day. The district, which Van Hollen is vacating to run for an open Senate seat, runs from Montgomery County’s border with D.C. north to the Pennsylvania line.
How well will the early Raskin organization hold up while its candidate is off in Annapolis for three months? How diligent and effective will Matthews be in her winter campaign? Raskin has touted his “grassroots” connections and organization from the outset, and there’s no question that he’s reached a lot of voters. Matthews has to prove that she’s up to the task of countering that outreach, if not voter for voter, then at least sufficiently for her to bring her financial advantages to bear in direct mail and particularly television ads.
What role will money play in the end? Matthews already has a $200,000 advantage in cash on hand, and that’s likely to grow. While money might not be able to buy you love, it can help reach a lot of voters in a short time, particularly in a congressional race in a presidential election year.
Finally, there’s another duel playing out that doesn’t always get noticed in the contrast of the two leading candidates: Annapolis versus Washington. Roll Call highlights the contrasts.
“I’m an effective progressive legislator with a decades worth of proven experience,” [Raskin] said. “Nobody has to guess what I stand for.”
In his view, that “proven” record is why he has earned the endorsements of prominent county leaders and many of his fellow state legislators. No one from the state’s congressional delegation has endorsed anyone in the race.* Matthews, meanwhile, has secured support from national groups, including EMILY’s List, as well as a number of federal lawmakers. In her campaign’s fundraising report, which will be released at the end of the month, Matthews said she has received contributions from California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“The endorsements that Jamie has are not the people who have experience in this Congress,” she said. “There are certainly prominent Maryland politicians behind him, but to get endorsements from people who know how to be effective in this Congress says something.”
Raskin said his time in Annapolis over the next several weeks will say something, too.
“This is another way to reinforce my policy values and commitments with my constituents and the broader public,” he said. “They know that I am an intensely effective legislator who gets the job done.”
* This is incorrect. CD3 Congressman john Sarbanes has endorsed Raskin, his former Harvard Law School classmate.
None of these debates are unique to CD8 – what makes this so interesting is that there are so many interesting duels all unfolding in one congressional race. In 100 days, we’ll know the answers, but I’m looking forward to seeing the different fault lines play out from now until April 26.