Maryland Rep. John Delaney (D) made it official in an op-ed that surfaced on The Washington Post website Friday afternoon: He won’t run for re-election in 2018 and instead will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Thirty-nine months before the next White House election, Delaney becomes the first Democrat to announce that he’s trying to take on President Trump, though there will be no shortage of other contenders.
Delaney’s gambit is either a fool’s errand – the second coming of Milton Shapp, the late Pennsylvania governor whose bid for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination quickly fizzled – or a stroke of genius. His determination, self-confidence and bravery are noteworthy, and it will be fascinating to see how far he can go with this.
But 2020 is a long way off, and Delaney’s decision has more immediate ramifications closer to home. Here are some of the winners and losers from his announcement:
Gov. Larry Hogan (R)
It’s hard to say whether Delaney would have won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year, given all the uncertainty and ideological turmoil in the party at the state and national level. But on paper at this early stage he might have been seen as the most formidable general election challenger to Hogan.
At the very least, Hogan is almost guaranteed to have an overwhelming financial advantage over whomever emerges as the Democratic nominee. And Delaney is at least familiar to voters in some of the Western Maryland communities where Hogan is expected to run up big vote totals. His moderate stances and pro-business message might also have resonated with centrist voters who are not quite sold on Hogan or the Republicans. Hogan’s lucky streak continues…
Of all the Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination, Shea may be the best-equipped to capitalize on Delaney’s decision not to run. He, too, is a thoughtful, business-friendly moderate and now has that lane pretty much to himself.
It may not be enough to win the nomination with a Democratic electorate that’s lurching to the left, but it’s enough to give him some breathing room – and attention – that he might not otherwise have had with Delaney in the field. Perhaps not coincidentally, Shea was the first of the Democratic contenders on Friday to put out a statement about Delaney’s decision, praising the congressman “for offering his voice” in the national conversation.
State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D)
Contrary to what some analysts suggest, there is not going to be a monolithic Montgomery County vote in the Democratic primary for governor. But of the Democratic candidates best positioned to win significant votes in MoCo – Madaleno, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP President Ben Jealous – Madaleno should benefit the most from Delaney’s departure.
All the Democrats Preparing to Seek the 6th District Congressional Seat
It means all their hard work, preparation and fundraising wasn’t for naught. Are state Sen. Roger Manno and Dels. Aruna Miller and Bill Frick all in? What about businessman David Trone, who is also contemplating a run for Montgomery County executive? Will any other big-name Democrats jump into the race now that it’s an open seat?
The National Republican Congressional Committee
With House Republicans playing defense across the country in the 2018 cycle, Delaney’s decision gives the GOP a rare district where it can go on offense next year. Democrats will still be slightly favored to hold the district, but in this unpredictable environment and with the ever-popular Hogan at the top of the ticket, Republicans have a shot at Delaney’s seat. The question becomes: Which Republicans run? Former defense consultant Amie Hoeber, who lost to Delaney by 16 points in 2016, said Friday she was considering a second run and would announce her plans soon.
Ambitious Democrats in Legislative Districts 15, 16 and 19
Assuming Miller, Frick and Manno all run for Congress, their looming departures from their legislative districts create opportunities for others.
On the reed-thin chance that Sen. Ben Cardin (D) does not seek a third term in 2018, the potential candidates to replace him have one wealthy potential rival – Delaney – out of the picture.
The liquor company executive has a tough decision to make: run for Congress or for county executive? Which job sounds more appealing and where can he make a greater difference? Which race is easier to win and in which will it be more satisfying to wage a campaign? Where is his ability to spend unlimited amounts of campaign cash going to make a bigger difference?
A business executive in some ways seems better-suited to an executive job. But Trone may be more engaged by national issues. Plus, he’s run for Congress already and knows the drill. And unlike when he ran in 2016, there is no candidate in this congressional race with an unshakable base, as now- Rep. Jamie Raskin had. In the county exec race, there’s one Democrat who starts with a solid base: County Councilman Marc Elrich.
The Three Democrats Now Running for Montgomery County Executive (and Others Who May Get in)
Do they want Trone in the race or out? What’s the political calculus for Elrich and fellow Councilmembers Roger Berliner and George Leventhal? Is he a juicy target or a daunting opponent because of all the money he can spend? Same questions for other possible candidates such as state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, Del. Ben Kramer, former Councilmember Mike Knapp and businessman David Blair.
Maryland Democratic Party
See Larry Hogan, above. The race for governor will be competitive next year no matter what. But with Delaney out of the picture, the party loses its best-funded candidate – and the one with perhaps the most potential to cut into Hogan’s vote. And the party will have to pay closer attention to protecting Delaney’s House seat than it would have if he had sought re-election.
The Plaintiffs in the Maryland Redistricting Lawsuit
Yeah, yeah, court cases are supposed to be decided on the basis of the law and less on real life circumstances. But with a highly-competitive race now on tap in Delaney’s congressional district, how can Republicans really say their rights to compete for a congressional seat were taken away from them?
John Delaney’s Four Kids
There goes some of their inheritance.