Rep. John Delaney, the Potomac businessman who challenged his party's establishment to unexpectedly capture a seat in Congress five years ago, is considering a run for the Democratic nomination for president, according to multiple Democratic sources.
In what could only be described as a long-shot bid, the little-known Democratic congressman would likely bring a centrist's approach to policy and a deep background of the financial industry to what is certain to be a rough-and-tumble campaign as his party searches for a strategy to confront President Donald J. Trump.
If he ran for president, it would have significant implications for Maryland politics. The decision would mean Delaney would have to forgo a run for Maryland governor after months of mulling a challenge to popular Republican incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018. It’s not yet clear whether Delaney would seek re-election to his House seat next year.
Rumors of Delaney’s intentions have raced through Maryland political circles for weeks and were amplified after MSNBC personality Chris Matthews — husband of the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party — said on the network months ago that Delaney was already looking for office space in Iowa, the nation's first caucus state.
His decision to allow other Democrats to raise money in the district was also notable. Two state lawmakers — Maryland House Majority Leader C. William "Bill" Frick and Del. Aruna Miller — are ramping up campaigns for his seat.
An open seat in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District could also present a rare opportunity for Republicans, who narrowly lost the district in the last midterm election in 2014. A state Republican Party spokesman declined to comment.
A spokesman for Delaney did not respond to a request for comment.
A self-made businessman, Delaney is worth at least $92 million, according to annual financial disclosure reports. And he has invested heavily in his own political career, including $2.2 million during his first campaign. That level of self-funding could help him build a campaign in early primary states faster than others.
His absence in the governor’s race would make the contest for the Democratic primary far easier for those raising money from donors.
A member of the Financial Services Committee, Delaney has cultivated a reputation as a bipartisan operator in his three House terms. His first major piece of legislation — which would allow companies to repatriate overseas holdings at a lower tax rate in order to pay for infrastructure investment — was embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike.
But Delaney would also likely have to resolve the distance between his own moderate stances and his party's lurch to the left following last year's election. He has long had a touchy relationship with labor — another potential issue. The Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO backed every Democratic incumbent for Congress in 2016 except Delaney.
Perhaps the biggest potential problem for Delaney, though, is that he’s not known outside Maryland. On the other hand, that could work to his advantage: Trump’s unexpected win last year underscored a general distaste among voters for well-known politicians.
Delaney, 54, was also largely unknown and had never before sought elected office when he announced his campaign for Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett's seat in 2011. The founder and CEO of CapitalSource, a commercial and retail bank in Chevy Chase, Delaney faced a popular state senator in the Democratic primary, Robert J. Garagiola.
He won the primary and unseated Bartlett in a district that had been recently redrawn by state lawmakers. The district includes portions of Montgomery and Frederick counties as well as Western Maryland.