Primary Counts on Sept. 10

Primary Counts on Sept. 10

News Analysis, Part One

August 27, 2002

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, registered voters will go to the polls. Some important decisions will be made on that day that will affect life in Potomac and in Montgomery County. In this issue, The Almanac focuses on two races this week that are contested in the primary and are likely to impact Potomac residents significantly.

Included in this section are answers to questionnaires in the candidates own words for two Democratic races, County Council at Large and Delegate in District 15. There is no contest in the Republican side of these races.


Eight Democrats are vying for four slots on the November ballot for County Council at Large, and their answers to an Almanac candidate questionnaire appear in the following pages. (Answers have been shortened, but candidates complete responses are available on the Almanac website,

County Council oversees the $2 billion budget and sets the policies governing all county services; the Council determines growth policy and decides how much money goes to the public schools.

There are nine seats on County Council, five local district seats and four at-large seats. Potomac is represented by the four at-large members of council plus the District 1 councilmember. (Incumbent Howard Denis (R-1) will face Democrat Duchy Tractenberg in November; neither faces a primary challenge.) At-large councilmembers have been important to Potomac.

Steve Silverman, Isiah Leggett and Blair Ewing all supported the Potomac Master Plan, blocking efforts to widen local roads and closing the door on building a new bridge across the Potomac River that would have its footings in Potomac. Leggett championed sidewalk construction in Potomac Village. Silverman came to Potomac this week to gather information that will help him press for safety improvements to Persimmon Tree Road.

Two slates have emerged among the eight candidates for Council at large, framing debate in a narrow context.

There is the “End Gridlock” slate packaged by County Executive Doug Duncan, running on growing frustration with traffic congestion in the county. These candidates include incumbents Steve Silverman and Mike Subin, plus mayor of Garrett Park Nancy Floreen and former chair of the county Democratic party, George Leventhal.

On the other side is the “slow growth” slate, pulled together originally by incumbent Councilmember Blair Ewing (D-at large) and supported by a coalition of homeowners associations called Neighbors for a Better Montgomery. This group also appeals to frustration with traffic and overcrowded schools, blaming development that moved forward without proper infrastructure rather than lack of roads for the problem. In addition to Ewing, this group includes Vince Renzi of Potomac, Takoma Park City Councilman Marc Elrich, and Gaithersburg City Councilwoman Ann Somerset.

While campaign messages have boiled down to simplistic phrases like “end gridlock,” or “control growth,” the candidates individually admit a broader grasp of the issues.

Neither side can deliver traffic relief.

The “end gridlock” slate hangs its hopes on a $10 billion plan created by Duncan which depends on receiving more than five times the funding from the state over 10 years than the county has ever before received. This seems unlikely as the state faces a $1 billion-plus deficit.

Even if all the funding were available and all the proposed transportation infrastructure could be built over 10 years, including the ICC, widening the Beltway and any Purple Line, traffic will not be better than it is today. Traffic will be worse. All of this will not get residents home to their families faster than they do today.

Similarly, stopping growth completely is impossible, and even if it were, traffic will still not improve.

The real business of the County Council will be far more complex than this debate over the course of the next four years.


Most of Potomac is represented in the General Assembly by a State Senator and three Delegates in District 15. (A portion of Potomac close to the Potomac River and west of Persimmon Tree Road is represented by District 16, which mostly covers Bethesda and Chevy Chase.)

But two of three Delegates in District 15 are not seeking reelection, setting the stage for lively competition. Del. Richard La Vay (R-15) is running for Delegate in another district. Del. Mark Shriver (D-15) is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress.

On the Republican side, incumbent Jean Cryor (R-15), Mary Kane and Bill Askinazi will all appear on the November ballot.

Four Democrats will appear on the ballot on Sept. 10, with only three moving on to the November ballot.

Kathleen Dumais, Brian Feldman, Jinhee Wilde and John Young are all first-time candidates. Their answers to an Almanac candidate questionnaire appear in the following pages. (Answers have been shortened, but candidates complete responses are available on the Almanac website,

Incumbent Jean Roesser (R-15) will face Democrat Rob Garagiola in November. Neither faces a challenge in the primary.

NEXT WEEK, The Almanac will print its endorsements in these two races, plus the candidate questionnaires for Democrats running for the House of Representatives in District 8.

The Almanac welcomes letters to the editor on the elections and any other local issue. E-mail; write to Potomac Almanac, 10220 River Road, Suite 303, Potomac, Md. 20854; fax to 703-917-0991.

Call our newsroom with comments, suggestions and concerns. 301-983-2600.