Familiar names run in Md. District 17

Cheryl Kagan, left, and Luiz Simmons are running for a 17th District state Senate seat; Susan Hoffmann is running for the House of Delegates.
Cheryl Kagan, left, and Luiz Simmons are running for a 17th District state Senate seat; Susan Hoffmann is running for the House of Delegates.

The person Democrats in Maryland’s 17th District choose to replace retiring state Sen. Jennie Forehand in the upcoming June primary will be Jewish and have experience in Annapolis.

Forehand, who has served five terms in the state Senate and was a member of the House of Delegates prior to switching chambers, will be replaced by either Cheryl Kagan or Luiz Simmons. No Republicans are running to represent the district, which covers Rockville, Gaithersburg and Garrett Park in Montgomery County.

Both candidates should be familiar to voters. Simmons currently represents the district in the House of Delegates, having served from 1979 to 1983 before beginning his current tenure in 2003. Kagan, meanwhile, served eight years as a delegate from 1995 to 2003.

Both candidates hold similar positions on many of the issues currently being discussed by the General Assembly and are in favor of raising the minimum wage, gun control and improving education and transportation.


Simmons, a lawyer, called dealing with the changing demographics in Montgomery County “a critical issue.” While the county is generally affluent, Simmons pointed out that one in three students are on the free and reduced-price lunch program.

If elected, he said he would work to improve the lives of those in poverty by increasing the minimum wage.

“It is a very, very difficult, trying world. We have resources out there,” he said. “We do have services, but they are not consolidated. We need to come up with a philosophy of what can we do” to help single-parent households.

Simmons, who was first elected to the House of Delegates as a Republican, but ran in 2002 as a Democrat, said he would support a commission to look at Maryland’s business competitiveness to determine how to bring more taxpaying residents to the state and learn why older people are moving elsewhere to retire.

He also said he would work to stop “the kicking of the can down the road” approach to government funding and for gun-control laws that would force those convicted of a crime to surrender their weapons. Currently there are separate databases for those convicted of a crime and those who own a firearm, without any communication between the two, he said.

Simmons lives in Rockville with his wife, the former Claire Goldstein, a Jewish historian. He is the father of two and grandfather of one.

Kagan, who grew up in Montgomery County and went through its school system, said she is running so the area can have “an effective advocate in Annapolis.” She said she would work hard to improve education and transportation systems and help victims of domestic abuse.

She pointed to her experience as a legislator and a member of the nonprofit world. She is executive director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, which distributes grants of about $1 million a year to nonprofits in the D.C. area.

She was executive director of the Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund. Since 2012, Kagan has been director of community engagement with BBYO. She also volunteered with the American Jewish Committee and is a member of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac.

Her career has allowed her to stay active in health care, education and other issues being discussed by the General Assembly, she said. She has lobbied for gun control and protection of women’s reproductive choices. She has helped elect candidates to federal, state and local levels, she pointed out.

Kagan ran for the same seat back in 2010 and lost to Forehand by 300 votes.

The 17th District is also fielding six candidates to fill three spots in the House of Delegates, with Kumar Barve and James Gilchrist seeking re-election. Simmons’ decision to run for the Senate has left his seat open.

Barve has been a Delegate since 1999 and majority leader since 2003. Gilchrist has served in the House of Delegates since 2007.

Susan Hoffmann, a member of Kol Shalom of Rockville, is running on what she calls “the three Es,” education, economy and environment.

On education, she supports the expansion of pre-kindergarten that currently is being discussed by the state government, calling early education and the free and reduced lunch program good ways to help children do better in school and “break out of the cycle of poverty.”

On the economy, Hoffmann wants to help what she called the shrinking middle class as well as those in poverty. She supports a hike in the minimum wage, noting it would only affect 8 percent of the workforce in the county.

“People can’t make ends meet at $7.25 an hour,” she said.

She also favors ways to bring small business, including those in the biotech and health fields, into the area.

“I don’t support corporate welfare by any means, but I am willing to help small business,” she said.

A former mayor and council member in Rockville, Hoffmann also hopes to expand wind and solar power in the county and support rapid bus transit on Rockville Pike.

The other candidates in the race include Andrew Platt, Laurie-Anne Sayles and George Zamora. The lone Republican, Steve Zellers, withdrew from the race last month.

Platt has worked on Capitol Hill for the House Democratic Caucus. Sayles has volunteer experience in the county, as vice president of the Montgomery County Young Democrats and executive board member of the county’s Community Action Board. Zamora has volunteered on several Gaithersburg committees and has worked both at the county and on Capitol Hill as a former assistant to Rep. Donna F. Edwards.

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