District 18 Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher and challenger Max Socol Credit: File photo

This story was updated at 9:45 p.m. July 11 to correct the name of state Sen. Craig Zucker, who represents District 14. It was updated at 10:35 a.m. July 13 to clarify information about the flyer.

The state Senate race for District 18 is heating up in the final two weeks, thanks to a flyer from the Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus Committee attacking challenger Max Socol that has been criticized by other Democrats.

In the July 19 Democratic primary, Socol is facing incumbent Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington, who has represented the district since 2019, and served in the House of Delegates from 2007 to 2019. District 18 now includes Wheaton, Kensington, much of Chevy Chase and nearby areas.

The flyer, mailed by the state Senate caucus committee, attacks Socol for past tweets about President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. One of them, from July 6, 2019, states: “A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to kill working people.”

Two other tweets from Socol feature profanity, and appear to call someone a  “useless Democrat” and ask them to get out of the Democratic party, but it’s not clear who those two tweets are referring to.

The flyer also quotes Cheryl Gannon, described as a Democratic activist and Silver Spring resident, who said that Socol “just isn’t right for our community. He’s constantly attacking other Democrats, bullying people online, and cursing at anyone who disagrees with him. That’s not who I want to represent us.”

Gannon could not immediately be reached for comment via email on Monday.

In an open letter on July 9, the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club condemned the flyer, noting that because it was produced by the state caucus committee, that meant that each of the 32 Democratic state senators had effectively signed off on it.

“We expect the Democratic Senate Caucus Committee to invest in holding or flipping swing districts,” the letter stated. “These Trumpian attack ads are unworthy of our Party leaders and insulting to their constituents. The gutter is no place for Maryland Democrats, especially against fellow Democrats, regardless of who you are personally supporting in the Democratic primary.”

The race between Socol and Waldstreicher has been one of the most high-profile Democratic state Senate primaries this year. Local political observers say the race represents one of the best opportunities for a challenger to unseat an incumbent. 

The state’s Democratic Caucus is chaired by Sen. Craig Zucker, who represents District 14, which includes Olney, Cloverly, Laytonsville, Burtonsville and other eastern parts of the county. He could not immediately be reached Monday for comment about the mailer.

Waldstreicher could not be reached for comment by phone or text message Monday. Senate President Bill Ferguson’s office could not immediately be reached for comment via phone or email on Tuesday.

Socol said in a brief interview that it was a “shame” that the Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus Committee decided to produce a mailer about his old social media posts.

He acknowledged that his campaign has mailed flyers to voters attacking Waldstreicher’s record — but he added that there are stark differences between himself and the incumbent on policy. In forums and questionnaires, Socol has said he’s been more progressive on housing issues and has criticized Waldstreicher for weakening state legislation related to police reform.

“I understand that in primaries you have to draw contrasts, and I think that’s totally fair game,” Socol said. “But I think there’s a stark difference between drawing contrasts and attacking someone’s character based off old social media posts.”

Early voting for the Democratic primary continues through Thursday. Election Day is July 19. Mail-in ballots will be accepted as long as they are postmarked by 8 p.m. on July 19 or are dropped into a ballot drop box by that time.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com