MoCo County Candidate List, July 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

Significant speculation surrounds the number of candidates who could be running for county office in MoCo next year.  Some believe that fifty or more people are interested in running but the ultimate number will probably be much less.  Below are the candidates who are actually running for County Executive or County Council at this moment.  All of them have either established a campaign committee, have filed to run, have publicly announced their intent to run or are incumbents who are eligible for reelection.  If there are mistakes or omissions on this list, please let us know.  We will be posting regular updates.

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Does Takoma Park Dominate the At-Large Council Seats?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The county’s Charter Review Commission is considering recommending a charter amendment that would abolish or reduce the number of the County Council’s at-large seats, which account for four of the council’s nine seats.  One reason for this is that currently three of the four at-large seats are held by residents of Takoma Park, long regarded as the most left-wing jurisdiction in the State of Maryland.  Over the years, your author has heard sporadic complaints that Takoma Park’s alleged dominance of the council has pushed the council to the left and/or directed excessive resources to Downcounty and the city.

The fact is that Takoma Park’s current holding of three seats is very disproportionate relative to its population (roughly 18,000 in a county of a million people).  But it hasn’t always been that way.  Below is the residence history of at-large Council Members since the current council structure was created in 1990.

At-Large Council Member Residency, 1990-2018

1990-1994

Bruce Adams: Bethesda

Gail Ewing: Potomac

Ike Leggett: Burtonsville

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

1994-1998

Gail Ewing: Potomac

Ike Leggett: Burtonsville

Neal Potter: Chevy Chase

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

1998-2002

Blair Ewing: Silver Spring

Ike Leggett: Burtonsville

Steve Silverman: Silver Spring

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

2002-2006

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Steve Silverman: Silver Spring

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

2006-2010

Marc Elrich: Takoma Park

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Duchy Trachtenberg: North Bethesda

2010-2014

Marc Elrich: Takoma Park

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Hans Riemer: Silver Spring/Takoma Park

Note: Riemer moved from Silver Spring to Takoma Park in the middle of his first term.

2014-2018

Marc Elrich: Takoma Park

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Hans Riemer: Takoma Park

At-large terms with a resident on the council, 1990-2018

Takoma Park: 8.5

Gaithersburg: 4

Garrett Park: 4

Silver Spring: 3.5

Burtonsville: 3

Potomac: 2

Bethesda: 1

Chevy Chase: 1

North Bethesda: 1

It’s also worth noting that over these seven terms, only one term saw a Takoma Park resident representing Council District 5 (Tom Perez in 2002-2006).  The other elected District 5 Council Members – Derick Berlage, Valerie Ervin and Tom Hucker – have lived in Silver Spring.

Takoma Park’s dominance of the at-large seats began in earnest in 2006 and appears to be temporary.  Council Members George Leventhal and Marc Elrich are term-limited and leaving the council.  Council Member Hans Riemer will get one more term before he is out too.  Of the current field of Democratic at-large candidates, your author knows of just one – former City Council Member Seth Grimes – who comes from Takoma Park and intends to run.  A bigger issue is that most at-large members tend to come from Downcounty, but that’s natural considering that’s where most regular Democratic voters live.

There may be good reasons for going to an all-district council structure and your author does not have a strong opinion on that.  But instituting a permanent, structural fix like reorganizing the council is not an appropriate remedy for dealing with a temporary issue like Takoma Park’s number of at-large seats.  Proponents of reducing the at-large seats need a better argument.

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Does George Leventhal have the Temperament to be County Executive?

I had planned to continue my Playing Trump’s Game series today but apparently 7S became the subject of controversy on WAMU. Tom Sherwood raised the issue of George Leventhal’s temperament on WAMU’s The Politics Hour last Friday. Councilmember George Leventhal (D-AL) reacted by blaming Seventh State:

Um, you know I gotta say that I think the issue of the Purple Line is a very important issue. There is at least one blogger who has written about an encounter with the unions who is very much opposed to the Purple Line. We don’t have a lot of local journalism. I’m grateful to the Politics Hour, so people rely on bloggers who may have an ax to grind. I think people have written things about me who disagree with me on issues who then try to characterize me in a way that makes me seem an undesirable candidate. And I think with that gentleman in particular, it’s really that we just disagree on the merits of the Purple Line.

Yep, George Leventhal and I disagreed about the Purple Line. Indeed, I disagreed with the entire county council, almost all of our state legislative delegation, and many good friends on this issue. None of these other people have claimed that I have an ax to grind against them. This a red herring–a classic effort to distract.

Debate on policy questions is normal in a diverse, democratic society. My friend and co-blogger, Adam Pagnucco, disagrees with me on a bunch of issues. Seventh State has had blog posts that directly argue against my own point of view, including on the Purple Line compact and a Planning Board appointment. I even did a blog post giving George Leventhal’s point of view on the issue he mentioned in his WAMU comments with no rebuttal.

Councilmember Leventhal’s problem is not his issue positions, which differ little from his colleagues on many issues, or even that he frequently butts heads with his colleagues or media critics. It’s that he targets his own constituents and people who work for the County.

Clips from Council meetings show this plainly:

Berating Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes from the dais at a Council hearing.

Attacking constituents as tools of lobbyists (with responses by Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice).

Unfortunately, this is not rare and Councilmember Leventhal developed a widespread reputation as a result long before I wrote about it. He takes the same approach on social media and in meetings as he does from the Council dais, comparing term limits supporters to Brexit voters, and likening DLC opponents to whiners at Starbucks. This hostility is why he performed less well than other incumbents in the last two at-large county Democratic primaries despite his long tenure in office.

In the same WAMU interview, Councilmember Leventhal went on to excuse any bad behavior with:

I’m motivated to make a difference for people who most need government on their side.

In other words, George cares so much that it’s okay that he behaves atrociously. There is a difference between standing firm for what you believe and bullying people.

Other politicians manage to have an impact without acting this way. Councilmember Leventhal says he knows that “I need to be a good listener” and “I respect the fact that people will not always agree with me.” But he regularly communicates hostility instead of the idea that reasonable people of goodwill may hold different opinions on issues. It’s not a one off or a bad day.

George Leventhal has trolled David Trone, a potential candidate for county executive, by comparing him to Donald Trump. Ironically, his own efforts to delegitimize media critics and belittle constituents who disagree are the hallmarks of the Trump Administration.

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Translating George Leventhal

Our county needs new leadership.

Please ignore that I was elected to the first of four terms on the County Council in 2002, and served twice as Council President.

We need an executive who plays a hands-on role . . .

I don’t like Ike Leggett.

. . . in addressing the challenges that we face [traffic, school overcrowding, and affordable housing] and who also understands that the challenges that we face are connected to our success.

Please forget that these same problems existed when I joined the Council 15 years ago. Their continuation is due to the amazing job that I’ve done addressing them.

We have a lot of traffic and we need to address that.

Please ignore that I was elected as part of the End Gridlock slate in 2002. (In 2002, End Gridlock flyers declared “our citizens are drowning in traffic” and promised “bold action now.”)

We do need to meet each of these challenges and I’ve worked on all of them for fifteen years as a councilmember and I think I have a good understanding of the leadership that’s necessary to take us into the next decade.

Please ignore what I just said. Our county needs experienced leadership.

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Playing Trump’s Game V: Denigrating American History

Notwithstanding Hillary Clinton’s ultimate loss, the Democratic Convention was very successful. One of its most heartening and effective aspects was its embrace of the country, the flag, and our progress as a people. As envious Republican commentators noted, President Obama’s speech and the audience reaction had the optimism previously associated with Reagan.

Since the election, too many active in progressive politics denigrate American history and America more broadly. This has always been a trope of the extreme Left but it is in danger of becoming far more widespread. When one reads these posts, it sounds like America has never done right, never can do right, and never will do right.

Like many countries, America has deeply unpleasant aspects of its history. Europeans arrived not just fleeing persecution but also as part of a colonial enterprise that exterminated almost all Native Americans. Slavery was the original sin at the country’s founding and the maintenance of Jim Crow after its end continued it. One could also mention the Chinese exclusion acts and the internment of Japanese Americans.

But fear of the future as “American carnage” is Trump’s market. Democrats won’t win by hectoring the country on its sins. Few will vote for someone who comes across as thinking that the only proper way to observe Thanksgiving is a vegan apology dinner. Yes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders and (gasp) white men but they also played critical roles in crafting the country’s democratic institutions and the ideals that many have invoked so effectively to bend the arc of history.

No immigrant comes to America because they hate the country—they usually have reason to be grateful for the opportunities and freedom it offers—so the negative approach also has little appeal to the rising Latino and Asian American electorate.

We should acknowledge the past but the emphasis needs to be more squarely on our progress and celebrating the great wonder that is America. No need to celebrate historical figures whose essential contribution was primarily negative, like John Calhoun or George Wallace.  We want to move to the future to continue our amazing progress, which allows us to acknowledge darker moments in our past but as part of a tapestry in which we continue to move forward hopefully and confidently by holding on to our best ideals.

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Perennial Candidate Ficker Reprimanded for Ethics Violation Again

Ficker Reprimand by David Lublin on Scribd

Robin Ficker has been reprimanded yet again by the Maryland Court of Appeals for a legal ethics violation. Specifically, he failed to show up for court and left his client unrepresented, and also employed a disbarred lawyer without the appropriate required notice.

Ficker blamed a conflict and communication problems with the judge’s office for why the judge didn’t know that he wouldn’t appear. Did the client know that Ficker was leaving in the lurch? On the second violation, Ficker plead ignorance of the law as his excuse:

“I did not know about that rule. There was not a single Maryland case which had ever mentioned that rule or any ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals,” Ficker said, adding that he stays up to date on developments in the state’s highest court.

Ficker is a frequent flier at the Court of Appeals for ethics violations and has been previously suspended from the practice of law. When Ficker was suspended in 2007, one judge wrote:

If disbarment is not warranted in this case for these types of issues, with a respondent with this history, it will never be warranted. If it is never going to be warranted in these types of cases, we should modify the rules to say so. I would disbar.

Taking into account his history, Ficker was lucky to once again get away with just a reprimand.

This will not affect his chances of being elected Montgomery County Executive, as those remain nil.

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Did MoCo Term Limits Cause More Competition?

By Adam Pagnucco.

One theory making the rounds in MoCo’s political world is that the passage of term limits for county officials is responsible for creating the high level of candidate competition we are now witnessing.  An opposing point of view is that this competition would have happened anyway due to other factors, such as County Executive Ike Leggett’s retirement and the availability of public campaign financing.  Who’s right and who’s wrong?

In assessing these two views, we asked the candidates themselves which one has more truth.  Following are the perspectives of six people who are actual or potential candidates for seats with term limited incumbents.

Source 1: There is no doubt in my mind that term limits and the resulting open seats are among the most important reasons there are so many people running for council. I have heard that from a number of other candidates.

Source 2: I think there would have been healthy competition without term limits for the same reason that term limits passed. People are ready for some change. Public financing is also a big factor in bringing in new candidates. It would have emboldened challengers even without term limits. Now we have three term limited council members vying for Executive. Room there for new blood, don’t you think?

Source 3: I think Leventhal, Berliner and Elrich would have run anyway. Not sure about Floreen. So I think there would have been a large number of new people anyway. And then public financing probably doubled that number.

Term limits author Robin Ficker credits his successful charter amendment for promoting “fresh ideas.”  Is he right?

Source 4: I believe that Ike would not have sought a 4th term regardless of the term limit issue. This would have freed up seats because of the interest in running for CE. I’m also not confident that Nancy Floreen would have sought an additional term anyway. I’m more in the “competition would have occurred anyway” camp. In my opinion, the number of open seats because of an opening for CE plus retirement, coupled with public finance and the “Trump effect” have created the high level of interest and competition that we will see.

Source 5: You can entertain all sorts of theories and hypotheticals but at the end of the day, more people run when there’s an open seat.  And more seats (probably) opened because of term limits. I mean, might Elrich, Berliner and Leventhal have run for CE anyway? Maybe. But term limits seems to make the current scenario much more likely, and thus draw in more competition because there are more open seats. I also think some “perfect storm” effect of term limits and public financing landing in the same cycle probably enhanced the overall effect on competition. But I think term limits are more significant here than public financing is.

Source 6: Term limits were very helpful in demonstrating the mood of the electorate: an across the board and widespread feeling that they wanted new leadership and a different approach. But I honestly don’t think it made a material change in the number of open seats — just the feeling of those running, thinking about running and the electorate. Unless people think Ike would have run for a 4th term which I don’t but I imagine would have been possible.

Our Take

The key to understanding the impact of term limits is the decision-making of incumbent County Executive Ike Leggett.  After being elected to his second term as Executive in 2010, Leggett said that he was “originally inclined not to run again.”  That stance helped induce former County Executive Doug Duncan and Council Members Phil Andrews, Valerie Ervin and George Leventhal to consider running for Leggett’s seat.  But by November 2012, Leggett was considering another run and he made it official in June 2013.  Ervin (who had commissioned a poll) and Leventhal decided not to challenge Leggett and he went on to defeat Duncan and Andrews in 2014.

This time around, term limits robbed Leggett of the ability to change his mind.  He ruled out another run last October, but by that point it had become clear to nearly everyone that term limits were going to pass.  Once they did, Leventhal and fellow Council Member Marc Elrich were running for Executive in short order and their colleague Roger Berliner soon followed.  Might Leggett have retired anyway?  Sure, but term limits answered that question once and for all.  Term limits also ruled out another council run for at-large incumbent Nancy Floreen.  These open seats plus public financing have created a historic deluge of county-level candidates in MoCo.

Our sense is that term limits alone did not cause all the competition we are seeing.  But they did bring clarity to the political landscape and they accelerated the plans of many candidates.  One of them, at-large candidate Bill Conway, has already claimed to qualify for public matching funds in the county’s public financing system.  Others are on the way.  One more thing seems clear: almost no one is mourning the passage of term limits.  Many Democratic activists seem pleased with the abundance of choices they will have next year.  On to the future.

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Playing Trump’s Game IV: Denigrating People’s Jobs

Traditionally, Americans are big believers in the dignity of work. Being unemployed is felt to be shameful while anyone who works for a living, no matter how humble the job, can feel proud.

Republicans have corroded this view with an endless focus on the rich. People who work hard but don’t earn much are losers. Instead, we need to focus on the “job creators,” which seems to mean giving wealthy people ever more tax breaks and cutting basic services for average Americans in the manner of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

Democrats have tried to take advantage of this with attacks on the rich but have often gone about it in ways that unthinkingly alienate the very people that they’re trying to attract. Many Democrats routinely describe all sorts of jobs as lousy for their low pay and status, or failure to allow much in the way of advancement.

Using McDonald’s employees or fast-food workers as bywords for jobs that stink unintentionally insults thousands and doesn’t acknowledge that these jobs actually require skills and ability to work under pressure. Calls for retraining workers and making it easier to obtain more education are laudable ideas. However, telling people that they need to do it so they can obtain “better” jobs comes across as patronizing at an incredibly stressful time, especially since many of the new jobs pay less than the lost jobs.

Parking attendants know that they work for low pay in a dark environment with too much pollution. For many in their situation, however, this may be as far as they end up going for a variety of reasons—not all related to lack of opportunity. They do these jobs year in and year out because it puts bread on the table and in the hope that their kids can do better. Even if they could use a helping hand, they want to retain their dignity and their respect.

There is a fine line between helping people improve their lives and denigrating the jobs they take to support their families. People who work in “lousy” jobs already know about the low pay and status. Just as they don’t need Republicans to tell them they’re chumps, they also don’t need Democrats saying their jobs are bad or somehow not good enough, which quickly gets read that they are not good enough.

A great part of Trump’s success was making whites who work these jobs feel respected in execrable identity terms that communicate that they are the “real” Americans and should come ahead of “those” people and snooty elites of both parties. Obviously, Democrats shouldn’t emulate this approach. A core Democratic belief is that we’re all real Americans.

But at the same time, Democrats have to find a way to communicate more respect for these jobs and the people who hold them. Democratic presidents from Clinton to Obama have heralded the many Americans who work two jobs to support their families, which is a good start though not a solution to this knotty problem.

It’s also not a quick fix for the bigger problem that many Americans feel that they are falling behind no matter how hard they work. The Republican approach now centers on gutting health care, tax cuts, and making Archie Bunker look tolerant, so Democrats have a real opening if they don’t unintentionally denigrate the voters.

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Bill Conway to Qualify for Public Funding

By Adam Pagnucco.

Bill Conway, who is running for Council At-Large, has announced that he has raised enough small individual contributions in the county’s public financing system to qualify for public matching funds.  Assuming that the State Board of Elections agrees, Conway would be the second at-large candidate (after incumbent Hans Riemer) to collect public money.

We will have more to say about Conway and several other at-large candidates in an upcoming series.  His press release appears below.

*****

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday July 7, 2017

Bill Conway Is First Non-Incumbent, At-Large County Council Candidate  To Reach Threshold For Receiving Public Matching Funds

Bill Conway, a Democratic at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council, announced today that his campaign has collected more than 250 contributions from Montgomery County residents, totaling more than $28,000. Once the contributions have been certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections, Conway’s campaign will be eligible to receive more than $84,000 from the Public Election Fund.

Under the public campaign finance law, an at-large candidate for County Council qualifies for matching funds after receiving at least 250 contributions totaling at least $20,000 from county residents. Contributions are matched under the following schedule: first $50 is matched 4×1; second $50 is matched 3×1; third $50 is matched 2×1. This results in a $50 contribution becoming $250, a $100 contribution becoming $450 and a $150 contribution becoming $600.

Participation in the public finance program is voluntary.  Candidates who participate in the program may not accept contributions of more than $150 per individual and may not accept contributions from PACs, corporations or labor unions.

“I’m participating in the public finance program because I believe that every voter should have a meaningful voice in electing our leaders,” Conway said. “I am deeply grateful to my supporters for the confidence they have shown in me through their contributions. If elected to the Council I will bring substantial legislative and business experience, a record of policy innovation, and a commitment to listening to all sides of the issues.”

Visit Bill’s website:

www.billconwayforcouncil.com

and his Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Bill-Conway-for-Council-294085764336433/

to learn more about his campaign.

###

Contact:

Doug Wallick – Campaign Manager

info@billconwayforcouncil.com

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