WASHINGTON -- Few races in 2016 will put the Iran deal on the ballot as much as the one in Maryland's 8th District, a posh area encompassing part of the D.C. suburbs.
On Monday, Joel Rubin jumped into the district's crowded Democratic primary, becoming the seventh candidate in the race. From 2014 until this past July, Rubin served as the State Department's point person for the House of Representatives, working to build support for the Obama administration's Iran nuclear accord. Previously, he was the founding political and government affairs director of J Street and director of policy at Ploughshares, two organizations that also backed the Iran deal.
Rubin, 44, held a conference call with reporters on Monday to announce his decision to enter the race, and he told The Huffington Post that the Iran deal will be a "centerpiece argument" of his campaign.
"It's part of my belief that ... this district cares about using diplomacy to resolve our challenges overseas, and that's something I've been passionate for years," Rubin said.
Maryland's 8th District has an open seat because Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who also backed the Iran deal, is running for Senate. Most of the other candidates in the district race also said they would have backed the Iran deal if they had been in Congress.
Rubin pitched himself Monday as a candidate with a "track record of success as a strong progressive." But in the primary, he's also going up against state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D), who has already gained support from progressive groups. While in office, Raskin has championed marriage equality, repealing the death penalty and legalizing medical marijuana.
"All the candidates are strong and everyone has an important voice in this," Rubin said when asked by reporters whether Raskin is a strong progressive. "We'll let the voters ultimately decide on primary day how they want to be represented."
The other front-runner in the race is Kathleen Matthews, the former head of communications for Marriott International, who has picked up support from women's groups and female lawmakers.
Rubin said he believes his work in the federal government can differentiate him from other candidates.
"The argument is that I am someone bringing an extensive track record, a body of work, not only on behalf of progressive causes and positions, but also having done it as an active player in the halls of Congress, be it as a staffer or as the top liaison to the House of Representatives for the State Department," he said. "I understand how the building there works."
In January, Rubin had a tense appearance before the House Benghazi committee, where lawmakers grilled him about the State Department's response to the 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya, Hillary Clinton's emails and past comments he had made questioning Republican motives for setting up the committee.
Political experts estimate that winning the 8th District will require $1 to $3 million in support, The Washington Post reports. Raskin and Matthews have raised the most money, with Raskin pulling in a little over $550,000 and Matthews bringing in $500,000 so far.