WASHINGTON — When Democratic Rep. John Delaney announced his unexpected presidential campaign in July, a conservative research group blasted out a records request to Maryland institutions seeking email chatter about the news.
What they got back suggests the state's political class took notice, and was then ready to move on.
An aide to Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett forwarded a story speculating about Delaney's presidential run the day before his announcement.
"[I'll] believe it when I see it," Leggett responded.
An aide to Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy wrote his boss, sizing up the field of candidates hoping to succeed Delaney in the state's 6th Congressional District.
"You would crush them," the aide wrote. "Just sayin.'"
The emails, which provide a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes reactions that take place following major political news in the state, were requested by America Rising Squared and shared with The Baltimore Sun.
America Rising Squared is a nonprofit related to the Republican super PAC America Rising.
The group, which clearly won't be supporting Delaney's presidential campaign, issued a one-word statement when the Potomac businessman and three-term congressman unexpectedly became the first candidate to enter the 2020 race.
"Who?" the statement read in its entirety, alluding to Delaney's low name recognition outside of Maryland.
"Because Delaney is an obscure figure, we sent dozens of requests to local Maryland agencies to find out the reactions of officials who know him best," Allan Blutstein, vice president of FOIA operations at America Rising, said in a statement.
Perhaps the most notable result of the request is how little material came back. Records requests to the mayors of Rockville, Frederick and Kensington turned up no emails, the group said. Same for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and officials in Allegany and Garrett counties. Frederick is in Delaney's district; Kensington and Rockville are in the neighboring 8th District.
Delaney's campaign declined to comment on the emails. The centrist Democrat and former businessman has acknowledged he's not well known on the national stage. He has said he announced his intentions early precisely because he wants to spend time getting to know voters in early primary states.
Delaney campaigned in South Carolina and Iowa last weekend.
Ramon Korionoff, a longtime communications operative in Maryland politics who works for McCarthy, said his email was "merely a staffer suggesting that his boss would make a good public servant and would be a great candidate if he should decide to run."
McCarthy, Korionoff said, has declared his intention to run for re-election.
At least one public official was eager to debate the merits of Delaney's candidacy.
"I am excited because I know him, he is a believer in social justice and he is from Maryland," Jeffrey Slavin, the mayor of Somerset, in Montgomery County, wrote to his sister.
But, Slavin added, "I like all the others who are considering running, too."