Minnick’s retirement should spark quiet Democratic race
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 14:55

Democratic field is fertile ground for candidates

by Bill Gates

    It has been a pretty quiet lead-in to the 2014 election for House of Delegates on the Democratic side thus far, with only one challenger making his intentions known.
    By contrast, seven Republicans have announced they are running for one of their party’s three spots in the primary election, with a seventh apparently likely to enter the fray.
    The Democratic dormancy may be coming to an end, however, with incumbent Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick announcing his retirement last week.
    That leaves two open spots in the Democratic primary, since another incumbent, John Olszewski Jr., announced in July he will be running for the state Senate seat vacated by the retirement of incumbent Norman R. Stone.

    “I guess we’ll see a few people jumping in there now,” said Del. Michael Weir Jr., the sole incumbent seeking re-election to his post. “With two open seats, not having to run against incumbents as in the past, I would think it would draw more people.”
    Weir, by the way, said he does intend to run for re-election.
    He was first elected to the House in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
    “[Minnick’s retirement] has thrown the thing wide open,” Weir said.
    It may also encourage people concerned about the future of the North Point Government Center to join the race, Weir said.
    So far, the only announced challenger for a 6th District House seat on the Democratic side is Eric Washington.
    He ran for the House in 2006, but chose not to challenge the incumbents in 2010.
    “First of all, hats off to Sonny for his years of service to the state, the district and his constituents,” Washington said. “His retirement really signals a changing of the guard of the leadership in our state.
    “We’re going to have new people in, hopefully with new ideas to move the state and the district forward.”
    Neither Weir nor Washington would speculate on which Democrats might potentially enter the House race.
    “It opens up a lot of different scenarios,” Washington said. “It’s not often you have two open seats. People who ran in the past might jump in.
    “But I can’t even begin to speculate. I just want to get the message out about my campaign.”
    Weir believes the eventual field of candidates will see some “old faces,” but that any potential candidates, old and new, need to make their intentions known sooner rather than later.
    “All of us need to get out there and work, start knocking on doors,” Weir said. “You need to get involved, with community organizations and Democratic clubs.
    “You just can’t wait until the election year to do it. You have to start making a name for yourself now.”
    One former delegate reportedly made his move on Tuesday as The Eagle was going to press.
    Jake Mohorovic, who served in the House of Delegates from 1994 to 2002 and ran unsuccessfully in 2006 and 2010 after being defeated by Weir in 2002, has reportedly started soliciting support for his campaign.
    Mohorovic did not commit to running when contacted last week.
    “Presently, we are experiencing the calm before the storm,” Mohorovic said on Thursday.
    “The retirement of Del. Minnick and Sen. Stone signals a change of the political guard come the June primary and the November general elections,” Mohorovic said on Saturday. “Come February 2014 [the filing deadline], we all will know the political lineup.”
    The timing of a candidate’s announcement depends on his or her resources, Mohorovic said.
    “National polls show a majority of voters begin to focus on issues and candidates closer to Election Day.”
    Olszewski, thus far unopposed for the Democratic state Senate nomination, thinks the delegate race will soon become crowded.
    “Under no circumstances do I not see a quality group of Democratic candidates emerging,” he said. “Minnick’s announcement will accelerate individuals’ plans to get their campaigns in gear.”
    Other than confirming he will support Weir’s candidacy, Olszewski did not say if he will reach out to any other candidates to form a ticket like the one he shared with Minnick, Weir and Stone in 2006 and 2010.
    “It’s premature as of this time to speculate on any sort of cooperative effort,” he said. “I think, at this point, it’s a matter of seeing who’s running, and watching as they make their case.”
    Weir said he will also be supporting Olszewski, but did not know if he will be joining a ticket with other House candidates.
    “I really haven’t had anyone show any interest,” he said. “I’d like to run with [Olszewski]. We’ll see what he puts together.”
    Being the only incumbent has advantages and disadvantages, Weir said.
    “I would hope it puts me in strong position, but people tend to blame incumbents,” he said. “I just want people to look at my record, see that I have been supportive of the people I represent.”
    Olszewski predicted that by the end of September, “we’re going to have a more-than-contested Democratic primary.
    “We’re under 10 months now. You’ve got to build an infrastructure, raise money, get out there and talk to people, start working.”