Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando is dropping out of the race for Maryland’s soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat, setting up a likely Democratic showdown between Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and U.S. Rep. David Trone.
“After a lot of thought and prayer and late nights with my wife Michele, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a step back from the race,” Jawando said in a statement Friday. “Not because we believe any less in the cause that started it. The fights that we talked about in this campaign are and always will be the fights of my life. But after thinking long and hard about this race in particular, I frankly no longer see a path for myself to victory.”
Out of respect for his family and supporters, he added: “I cannot remain in a race I do not believe we can win.”
Jawando had worked to position himself as the most progressive candidate in the Democratic primary, promoting policy proposals such as expanding health care through Medicare for All, legalizing cannabis nationally, raising the minimum wage to $17 and creating a federal guaranteed income program.
He’s released campaign statements supporting striking auto workers and supporting peace efforts in the Middle East. He’s described himself as a criminal justice reformer in contrast to Alsobrooks, a former prosecutor.
In his current position as an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council, Jawando is pushing a bill that would eliminate the low base minimum wage that tipped workers receive, though many restaurant workers have rallied against the proposal.
“There is a lane for a Montgomery County progressive person in this race, which is the lane I’m in,” Jawando told The Baltimore Banner in an interview last month. He noted his record as a councilmember supporting police reforms and other progressive measures, as well as the fact that he’s twice been elected to countywide office in the state’s largest county.
Jawando noted in the interview that the winner of the Democratic primary is likely to win the general election and subsequent elections, given the lopsided electorate in Maryland that favors Democrats. “This is, for all intents and purposes, a lifetime appointment,” he said.
Jawando was the first into the race, declaring his candidacy the day after U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin announced his intention not to run for re-election in May. He’s now the first to leave the race, as well.
“We knew I wasn’t going to be the establishment candidate, the pick of elected officials,” Jawando said last month. “We knew we had to get out early and start doing the work.”
But Jawando lagged behind Alsobrooks and Trone in early fundraising and endorsements. From July through September, Jawando reported accepting about $225,000 worth of campaign contributions, leaving $322,000 cash on hand. In total, he’s raised about $733,000 during this election cycle.
Jawando’s fundraising numbers pale in comparison to his main rivals, with Alsobrooks reporting $2.1 million in the bank and Trone committing to spending millions of his personal fortune on his campaign. Trone, founder of the retail chain Total Wine & More, is so far the only candidate with TV commercials up, with multiple rounds of ads focusing on his background, support for abortion access and support for criminal justice reform.
Jawando picked up support from some political colleagues, but Alsobrooks has emerged as the favorite among establishment Democratic politicians. She nabbed key endorsements from U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and three members of Maryland’s congressional delegation: U.S. Reps. Steny Hoyer, Kweisi Mfume and Glenn Ivey.
Jawando did not immediately offer an endorsement to another candidate.
Trone said in a statement Friday that he looks forward to Jawando continuing to be a leader on important issues. “Will is a remarkable public servant with a progressive vision and powerful voice ... I fully support Will’s fight to create a more just society for all Marylanders, and we will work side by side to make that a reality.”
Other candidates in the race include Democrats Juan Dominguez, Marcellus Crews, Brian Frydenborg and Steven Seuferer, along with Republicans Robin Ficker, Lorie Friend, Christopher Puleo and John Teichert.
The primary election starts with early voting beginning May 2 and concludes with traditional Election Day voting May 14.