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The Perks of Incumbency

When Montgomery County's Democratic legislative caucus--basically all but one of the county's lawmakers in Annapolis--meets on Sunday, delegates, senators and council members plan to discuss the upcoming elections, Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. wrote to fellow delegates this week.

Elected officials also wanted to talk to Karen Britto, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, about the party's plans for choosing an endorsed slate of candidates as well "the role of Democratic clubs," he said

But the buzz among some elected officials-- as well as angry challengers-- is that the meeting is actually an attempt to solidify support for all the incumbent Democrats seeking reelection.

In several districts, challengers are taking on longtime incumbents in Montgomery. In a few races, some elected officials and party leaders are endorsing challengers, which rarely occurs. Some Montgomery incumbent Democrats are facing their most serious primary challenge in more than a decade.

"I'm sure most Montgomery County leaders understand voters are not interested in machine politics," warned Jamin Raskin, an American University law professor who plans to announce next week he's challenging Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D) in the Democratic primary.

In interviews this week, Ruben and Madaleno denied that the meeting was intended to develop a strategy for protecting incumbents.

"It's just a chance to talk a little about party business," said Madaleno, chair of the caucus.

Other elected officials, however, say the meeting is part of an election-year tradition in Montgomery where elected Democrats unite so challengers don't gain traction.

Del. Henry B. Heller (D), who was first elected to the House in 1987, said today the meeting has been occurring "for 20 years.

"In an election year, we talk about what you should do and should not do--what is protocol," Heller said. "Incumbents always stick together."

Heller added, "This is so you don't have warfare within the party. That's common sense and not a new concept in Maryland or around the country. You don't air you dirty laundry in public and a lot of freshman legislators are not aware of the culture or customs of what traditionally happens."

Tim Craig

By Phyllis Jordan  |  January 20, 2006; 5:56 PM ET
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To all the Washington Post reporters and staff who read the blog comments. How does it feel to have the public face of your job be dishonest hacks like Howell, Kurtz, Woodward, and Harris?

Posted by: elliottg | January 20, 2006 10:40 PM | Report abuse

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