Dem Plans Bike Race To Promote Light Rail

By John Celock

A candidate in a competitive Democratic state legislative primary in suburban Maryland is planning to jump on a bike and race two aides in an effort to promote a new light rail line.

Jordan P. Cooper, a candidate for a seat in the state House of Delegates in a Bethesda based district, released a video Wednesday announcing his new light rail promotion plan. Cooper plans to bike from Bethesda to Silver Spring on June 3, while his one aide drives the same route and another travels via Metro Rail Red Line through the Washington, D.C. area. Cooper is hoping to highlight that the proposed Purple Line light rail project, which would take the same approximate route as the bike trail would speed travel in Montgomery County.

“Unfortunately it is taking forever to build this thing,” Cooper said in the video.

Cooper will ride the Capitol Crescent Trail, which goes along the same route as the proposed light rail. Campaign manager Adam Beitman will drive in rush hour traffic at the same time, while campaign treasurer Bill Jacobs will take the existing subway. The Red Line does not go direct across Montgomery County but goes through various Washington neighborhoods, including downtown, before heading back into Maryland.

The Purple Line, which is being pushed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), would connect Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince Georges County, in an effort to reduce traffic in the congested Beltway and local roads. The first proposals for a rail link between the two counties came in the administration of former Gov. Parris Glendening (D) in the 1990s. In a March press release, the Maryland Transit Administration indicated a likely 2015 start date on construction with a 2020 completion date for the light rail.

In March, the Federal Transit Administration completed a long-term review of the project and potential impacts on the environment and historic preservation. President Barack Obama has proposed $900 million in federal funding for the light rail.

Cooper is locked in an eight-way race for three seats representing the 16th district in Annapolis. He is competing in the June 24 primary against Del. Bill Frick, Del. Ariana Kelly, Peter Dennis, Hrant Jamogochian, Marc Korman, Karen Kuker-Kihl and Gareth Murray. Del. Susan Lee is not seeking reelection in order to run for an open seat in the state Senate. Frick reentered the state House race after originally pursuing the Democratic nomination for state attorney general this year.

Transportation and traffic has been a top issue in the race, with Korman calling for a new dedicated funding source for improving the Metro system a platform item, while Frick has sponsored a state gas tax to fund transportation.

Cooper is not the first candidate to use creative videos to promote their candidacies. Last year, Jersey City, N.J. Mayor Steven Fulop (D) swam across the Hudson River in his opening ad of the mayoral race, while 2013 New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono ran a video to explain how to properly pronounce her name. In 2012, Utah Republicans released a video singing “Call Me Maybe” while competing New York state Senate candidates released dance videos.

Cooper, who will be riding a Capitol Bikeshare bike, also promoted the benefits of bike travel and his desire to push transportation alternatives in the Legislature. Transportation alternatives have been a big push in the Washington-region in recent years and have been gaining steam nationally.

“Together they present a serious solution to gridlock in the Washington metro area,” Cooper said about bikes and the light rail.