Md. Sen. Waldstreicher of Montgomery Co. gets Democratic primary challenge

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A community organizer and progressive activist who lives in Silver Spring announced this week that he plans to run against Sen. Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, in the June 2022 Democratic primary.

Max Socol, who works for a national Jewish progressive organization known as Bend the Arc, said he was inspired to become active in local politics in part because he moved to his home in Silver Spring on the day a Black man named Robert White was killed in the same neighborhood by a Montgomery County Police officer.

“I found out about it because I heard helicopters over my house all day,” he recalled, and said he quickly came to realize, “I don’t care how progressive Montgomery County is, we aren’t going to get any justice until there’s a big push in the community.”

So Socol, 35, joined the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, where he discovered that many of the reforms activists were seeking needed to be adopted at the state level. The group has criticized Waldstreicher’s work, as vice chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, on police reform legislation and vowed to find a challenger.

Max Socol, a Democratic candidate for the Senate in District 18. (Courtesy Socol campaign)

Socol said he decided to answer the call to run for Senate when other activists were unable to, and believes Waldstreicher may be vulnerable because of demographic and ideological shifts in the district, which, as currently drawn, takes in sections of Silver Spring, Kensington, Wheaton and Chevy Chase.

Socol characterized Waldstreicher as an establishment Democrat who hasn’t pushed hard  enough on criminal justice reform, housing affordability or climate change.

“In a state with a Democratic supermajority, why can’t we be a leader on these issues?” Socol said. “We have a Senate that’s very risk-averse and my opponent seems to be captive to that zeitgeist.”

Sen. Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher
Sen. Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) leaves the State House on Jan. 22. (Courtesy Maryland Matters/Danielle E. Gaines)
In a statement provided Tuesday to Maryland Matters, Waldstreicher, who is completing his first term in the Senate after three terms in the House, defended his time in office.

“As State Senator I am squarely focused on the people and families of District 18,” he said. “I’m humbled by their trust, empowered by their support, and proud to work on their behalf every day, especially our most vulnerable.

“I am equally proud of my record fighting for progressive values, including cracking down on gun violence, investing in our schools, and addressing climate change. There is vital work in the upcoming legislative session, and given my role as Vice Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, I look forward to continuing to deliver for Montgomery County.”

The 41-year-old incumbent is a dogged campaigner and aggressive fundraiser. Through mid-January, he reported $235,348 in his campaign account, and he held a fundraiser last week at a home in Chevy Chase headlined by Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) and Senate Judicial Proceedings Chair William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery).

Socol announced his candidacy this weekend at an event in a Wheaton park headlined by Brandy Brooks, an icon in Montgomery County progressive activist circles who is making a second run for county council next year.

“I won’t be able to match [Waldstreicher’s] fundraising, but we will raise money,” he said. “I think I’m going to draw some very significant contrasts between myself and my opponent…. With a longtime incumbent, it becomes an issue of whether he remains in step with the voters.”

Waldstreicher is the second Montgomery County senator to face a Democratic primary challenge from the left in 2022: Activist Adam Cunningham is running in the District 39 Democratic primary, where Sen. Nancy J. King, a moderate in the Democratic caucus, is expected to seek a fourth full term. Cunningham weighed in on Twitter Tuesday night about the Virginia gubernatorial election, where former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appeared to be losing — a circumstance that Cunningham used to tweak moderate Democrats.

“I love the fact that I don’t live in Virginia so I get to make fun of the fact that a stupid centrist lost yet another major election and get zero backlash for it,” Cunningham wrote.

Earlier this year, Zachary Kiser, a public health professional and former Capitol Hill staffer announced that he would run against Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), complaining that Kramer was insufficiently progressive.

But Kiser appears to have withdrawn from the race. He is not listed as an active candidate on the Maryland State Board of Elections website and his campaign website has been taken down.

Kiser did not respond to an email message Tuesday seeking comment.

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