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Central committee nominates Gaithersburg city councilmember to replace Barve in the House


Gaithersburg City Councilmember Ryan Spiegel got his ticket punched to Annapolis on Tuesday evening, winning a recommendation from the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee that he be chosen to replace former Del. Kumar P. Barve (D) in the House of Delegates.


The central committee’s nomination of Spiegel will be forwarded to Gov. Wes Moore (D), who officially makes the appointment.


Spiegel was selected over 11 other candidates who applied for Barve’s seat (two other applicants withdrew before Tuesday night’s central committee meeting). Barve, who joined the legislature in 1991, resigned last month to take a seat on the Maryland Public Service Commission.


Spiegel won a dozen votes from central committee members on the second ballot, narrowly edging out Johvet Lopez, an organizer for the Montgomery County Education Association who garnered 10 votes. Tiffany Kelly, a community activist and consultant, won one vote on the second ballot. On the first round of balloting, Spiegel took eight votes to Lopez’s seven. Kelly and three other candidates also received votes in the first round.


The voting capped a three-hour session that included presentations from 11 of the candidates, followed by questions from the central committee members.


“I’m really humbled and honored tonight,” Spiegel told the central committee following the vote.


This was his second try for a House seat in District 17, which takes in Rockville and Gaithersburg in the heart of Montgomery County. He had run unsuccessfully in the 2006 Democratic primary, when he was 28 years old, finishing fourth.


Since then, Spiegel has spent 16 years on the Gaithersburg City Council and served a stint as president of the Maryland Municipal League, which put him regularly in Annapolis during General Assembly sessions. He had the longest tenure in elective office of any of the applicants for the District 17 seat — and briefly considered running for state attorney general in 2022 when the incumbent, Brian Frosh (D), announced plans to retire.


But when it came time for him to make his case to the central committee, Spiegel urged the Democratic leaders to look past his credentials.


“Tonight I want to ask the central committee to not just think of me as the guy with the resume,” he said, adding that he has sought to “do the most possible good” with the position of authority he’s been granted by Gaithersburg voters.


“I ask you to consider the values behind the resume,” he said.


During his tenure on the council in Gaithersburg, which with 69,000 residents is Maryland’s third-biggest city, Spiegel has touted Smart Growth economic development projects and environmental protection plans as well as Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion policies.


During the question-and-answer period, candidates mostly agreed when asked about ranked-choice voting, the wisdom of filling legislative vacancies through special elections rather than the appointment process, collective bargaining rights for state workers, food insecurity, and potential state budget shortfalls.


Nevertheless, the central committee seemed roughly split between those who favored a more conventional officeholder like Spiegel and those who preferred Lopez’s activist background. The diversity of the district’s delegation was also a consideration for some of the central committee members, with Barve, who is Indian-American, departing.


Saman Qadeer Ahmad, the county Democratic chair, said she and her colleagues faced a tough choice following several impressive presentations.


“Everybody has a story, and it’s a very important story that drives all of us toward public service,” she said.


When Moore makes the appointment official, Spiegel would become the fifth new legislator in the 35-member Montgomery County delegation chosen by the county’s Democratic central committee this year. He’d join Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) and Dels. Julie Palakovich Carr (D) and Joe Vogel (D) in the District 17 delegation.


Last week, Barve announced his preference for former Rockville Mayor Susan Hoffmann to succeed him, citing, among other things, her pledge not to seek a full term in 2026, the next time legislative seats are up for election. But Hoffmann, a veteran of local government who was once a State House lobbyist for Montgomery County, was one of half a dozen candidates who received zero votes in the first round of balloting.

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