How MCDCC Members Voted on the D20 Senate Appointment

Here is how the members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee voted on the District 20 Senate vacancy:

Will Smith (19)
Darrell Anderson
Mumin Barre
Juan Cardenas
Arthur Edmunds
Natalia Farrar
Loretta Jean Garcia
Marjorie Goldman
Johntel Greene
Julian Haffner
Mimi Hassanein
Jennifer Hosey
Marlin Jenkins
Aaron Kaufman
Linda Mahoney
Jonathan Prutow
Venattia Vann
Tim Whitehouse
Jheanelle Wilkins
Brenda Wolff

David Moon (8)
Luisa María Arévalo
Alan Banov
Wendy Cohen
Harold Diamond
Michael Gruenberg
Dave Kunes
Emily Shetty
Erin Yeagley

Abstained (1)
Chris Bradbury

Will Smith is the New D20 Senator

Congratulations to Will Smith on becoming the new senator from Distric 20,, after Jamie Raskin resigned in anticipation of taking his in the U.S. House of House of Representatives. Del. Smith is serving his first term in the House of Delegates, as is his major rival for the seat, Del. David Moon.

MCDCC’s choice of Del. Smith was expected at least by me, but Del. Moon put up a stronger fight than I anticipated. I look forward to seeing what soon-to-be Sen. Smith can do in the Maryland Senate and the continued service of Del. Moon, who has made an excellent start in that body.

Will Smith will be the first African-American Senator from Montgomery County–a welcome first in a county that is almost one-fifth African American. At the same time, he will bring talents to the Senate beyond racial symbolism.

Congratulations to Will Smith. Thanks also to David Moon, Darien Unger, Scott Brown, and Arthur Jackson, Jr. for throwing their hats into the ring. Now, on to filling the delegate vacancy.

 

MoCo Democrats, It’s Time for Change

By Adam Pagnucco.

December 13 will be an important date for the fortunes of Democrats across the State of Maryland.  It’s not because that is the date of a primary election; that won’t happen for another year and a half.  It’s not because a critical piece of legislation will be passing; the General Assembly won’t be in session.  And it won’t be because Donald Trump will decide that being President isn’t worth it (although one can dream).

December 13 is the day on which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will select its new officers.  And it comes at a critical time for county Democrats, as well as party members all over the state.

When MCDCC is acknowledged by the general public at all, it is usually because of its power under the state’s constitution to fill state legislative vacancies.  But the Central Committee does far more than that.  Its principal purposes are to build the party, support Democratic candidates and turn out its members to vote.  Every four years, the county party raises more than $200,000 for state and local elections and more than $700,000 for federal elections.  Major uses of funds include voter registration, production of the party’s sample ballot, coordinated campaigning with Democratic candidates in general elections and overhead associated with the party’s office in Kensington.

MoCo’s Democratic Party has played a fabled role in state politics for many years.  It is by far the wealthiest local party organization in the state.  It draws on hundreds of precinct officials and other activists for volunteer activities.  It has delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to statewide candidates like former Governors William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley, none of whom represented MoCo in their prior positions.  The party’s influence has been so extensive that statewide Democratic nominees could offset their losses in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore by racking up votes in MoCo, thereby leaving the Baltimore suburbs as the battle ground in which most races are decided.

But those halcyon days are coming to an end.  The MoCo Democratic Party is in trouble, and that means the state Democratic Party is also in trouble.  Consider the following.

Turnout of MoCo Democrats Has Plummeted in Gubernatorial General Elections

In recent years, federal Democratic candidates almost always win across Maryland in presidential elections outside of the GOP-packed First Congressional District.  The real purpose of the party apparatus is to win the races for Governor.  From 1990 through 2006, MoCo played an outsize role in Democratic gubernatorial victories.  Turnout rates among MoCo Democrats varied from 62% to 69% and, aside from Robert Ehrlich’s win in 2002, contributed heavily to Democratic victories.  But turnout among MoCo Democrats fell to 55% in 2010 and 45% in 2014.  Part of that was due to soaring voter registrations during the Obama years.  But the absolute number of MoCo Democrats who voted declined by nearly 20,000 between 2006 and 2014.  Simply put, the county party has lost its ability to turn out its members for gubernatorial general elections.

moco-turnout-gub-generals

MoCo Democrats Contribute Fewer Votes to Statewide Races

From 1990 through 2006, roughly 10% of all votes in gubernatorial general elections came from MoCo Democrats.  This was a major factor in wins by Schaefer, Glendening and O’Malley.  But MoCo Democrats accounted for 9.6% of total votes in 2010 and 9.3% in 2014, the lowest percentages in decades.  Let’s put it another way.  Between 2006 and 2014, the total number of votes in gubernatorial elections decreased by 60,928.  The number of votes cast by MoCo Democrats declined by 19,653.  That means MoCo Democrats accounted for nearly one-third of all voter losses statewide over two cycles.

moco-democrats-share-of-gub

Finally, consider this.  Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in 2014 by 65,510 votes.  If the turnout rate among MoCo Democrats in 2014 was the same as it was in 2006, they would have cast an additional 77,375 votes.  The decline of the MoCo Democratic Party played a huge role in putting Larry Hogan into Government House.

Why is this happening?  Let’s recall that 2006 was a recent peak of party performance and two massive changes in campaigning have happened since: the rise of political email and the rise of political social media.  Those two things contributed mightily to the success of Barack Obama.  State and local candidates across Maryland use them aggressively.  But not MCDCC.  The party’s Facebook page is devoid of interesting content and has just over 1,000 likes in a county that has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.  Its email program is practically non-existent.  The party does almost nothing to promote the successes of Democratic elected officials and makes no case against the state’s GOP Governor, who has a 66% job approval rating in MoCo.  Even the party’s clunky sample ballot, a vestige of a time when paper was the primary means of political communication, was only mailed out this year to newly registered Democrats when it was once mailed out to all.

MCDCC desperately needs new, aggressive and modern leadership.  It needs leaders who understand how to campaign in the 21st Century.  It needs leaders who are committed to reaching out to people of color and immigrants who disproportionately do not vote in gubernatorial general elections.  It needs a new culture of innovation, a culture which values trying new things over and over until some of them actually work.

MoCo Democrats, it’s time for change.

Will we get it?

Uly Currie’s Un-Resignation

curriesSen. Ulysses Currie and Rev. Shirley Gravely-Currie

On November 4, Sen. Uly Currie (D-Prince George’s) sent his resignation effective December 1 to Senate President Mike Miller:

It is my deep love for my constituents and the Maryland Senate, combined with a recognition that I can no longer serve with the strength and energy you all deserve, that I have decided the time has come to turn the mantle over to a successor. . .

Now, he has decided to rescind his resignation, as the Central Committee is unwilling to appoint his wife to his seat:

I was proud and supportive when Rev. Shirley Gravely-Currie courageously put herself forward to fulfill this role as no other person came forward without the intention of using the appointment to gain an election advantage over others.

Since my announcement, it has been nothing but petty political jockeying and deal making, with only the 2018 election in mind.

Claiming to be shocked at the role that politics plays in politics and at the loss of civility his departure from the Senate would mean, Currie made a political move. As his resignation was not yet effective, I imagine he will make it stick.

While Currie certainly is a courtly individual, the Senate voted to strip him of his leadership position as Chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee in 2010 for ethics violations. Even Currie voted for the motion, which took place in the wake of his being found not guilty on bribery charges.

Having announced his departure, Currie should go. His behavior makes him easily characterized as a member of a crony driven pay-to-play Annapolis elite. Reversing his resignation for health reasons because his wife couldn’t win the appointment only serves to increase political cynicism.

I know little of his potential replacements but it would be good for the Democrats and for Prince George’s for someone new to be given a chance to represent the district.

The Growing Popularity of Special Elections

By Adam Pagnucco.

With an appointment for the District 20 Senate seat approaching, the time is right to revisit the issue of whether to have special elections for General Assembly vacancies.  David Lublin and I have been writing about this for nearly a decade, but the issue will not die.

Under the state’s constitution, when vacancies occur for State Senate and Delegate seats, special elections are not held to fill them.  Instead, the county Central Committee of the same party as the seat’s former occupant must submit a name of a successor to the Governor within thirty days, after which the Governor appoints the new legislator.  If the Central Committee does not meet the thirty day timeline, the Governor has fifteen days to appoint a successor from the same party as the person formerly holding the seat.  If the legislative district covers more than one county, each county Central Committee can send a name with the Governor deciding between them if they differ.  The bottom line of the process is this: under most circumstances, the county party Central Committees, who themselves are elected in party primaries, have effective appointment power over these vacancies.  And they use that power frequently.

A growing body of evidence shows that Maryland voters prefer special elections over appointments to fill vacancies in elected office.  Consider the following:

  1. In 1998, Montgomery County voters approved a charter amendment providing for special elections for County Council vacancies with 90% of the vote. Montgomery was the second county in Maryland to have special elections for Council Members since Prince George’s already had them in its charter.
  1. In 2004, Howard County voters approved a charter amendment providing for special elections for County Council vacancies with 88% of the vote.
  1. In 2014, Maryland voters approved a statewide constitutional amendment providing for special elections for County Executive vacancies with 81% of the vote. The amendment did not require special elections, but it did allow county charters to be amended to allow them upon approval by voters.
  1. In 2016, Maryland voters approved another statewide constitutional amendment mandating special elections for Comptroller and Attorney General vacancies. Prior to the amendment, vacancies in those offices were filled by gubernatorial appointment.  Seventy-three percent of voters supported it.
  1. Also in 2016, voters in Montgomery and Wicomico Counties voted in favor of charter amendments allowing special elections for their County Executives, which were made possible by the 2014 state constitutional amendment. The charter amendments received 90% of the votes in Montgomery and 75% in Wicomico.  Wicomico voters also supported a charter amendment for County Council vacancies with 77% of the vote.

With such overwhelming support among voters for special elections, why aren’t they used for state legislator vacancies?  Some lawmakers, including Senators Rich Madaleno, Jamie Raskin and Brian Feldman and Delegates David Moon and Christian Miele (a Republican), have tried to pass constitutional amendments providing for them in various forms.  Moon’s 2015 bill had bi-partisan support from very progressive as well as very conservative legislators.  But officials from both parties always oppose these bills because they strip power from Central Committees and they teamed up to help kill Moon’s bill last year.

Most of the time, appointees serve about as well in the state legislature as those who are elected, but there are exceptions.  A glaring example is the District 24 (Prince George’s) appointment in 2013.  Incumbent Delegate Tiffany Alston was removed from office and the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee recommended Gregory A. Hall to replace her.  But Governor O’Malley refused to accept the appointment because Hall participated in a shooting incident resulting in a murder years ago.  O’Malley instead appointed former Delegate Darren Swain to the seat.  A year later, Swain was victimized in a bizarre beating and car-jacking in which his assailants accused him of using drugs with them and groping one of them.  Alston, Hall and Swain all ran against each other for Delegate in 2014 and all of them lost.

This issue might not be such a big deal if appointments were rare, but they happen all the time.  Ten of MoCo’s 32 state legislators – four Senators and six Delegates – were appointed to a seat at some point in their careers.  That number will go up to eleven or twelve depending on what happens in District 20.  Let’s be clear.  We do not intend to imply that these appointed lawmakers are bad elected officials.  In fact, some of them have turned out to be excellent.  But when voters don’t get to pick more than one third of the people who represent them, something has gone badly wrong.

Gerrymandering is often criticized because it allows politicians to pick their voters.  Legislative appointments might be even worse because they allow politicians to pick other politicians.  And the power structures of both parties endorse this even though gigantic majorities of their rank-and-file oppose it.  The survival of special elections after all these years prompts us to ask a question of all state policy-makers.

What’s more important?  The prerogatives of party officials?  Or the rights of the voters?

Meet the New Liquor Monopoly

By Adam Pagnucco.  

Meet the New Liquor Monopoly.  It’s the same as the Old Liquor Monopoly, except with less accountability.

OK, now that the applause is dying down, let’s look at the details.  The New Liquor Monopoly proposed by County Executive Ike Leggett would be a quasi-governmental authority rather than a county department.  It would have the same warehouse, the same equipment, the same trucks, the same ordering and billing systems, the same employees, the same front-line and middle management, the same union and – of course! – the same state-sanctioned monopoly status.  This is “change” that only a monopoly would love!

But wait.  There is one significant difference.  Under the current system, the Executive Director of the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) is a department director who serves at the pleasure of the County Executive.  Should the Executive become displeased with his or her performance, that person could be dismissed.  The County Council has a role (at least hypothetically) in holding DLC accountable through its power to approve DLC’s operating and capital budgets as well as any debt secured by liquor profits.

Those sources of accountability disappear in the New Monopoly.  The proposed authority would be governed by a Board, which would be nominated by the Executive and approved by the County Council, and that Board would hire a CEO.  The CEO would not report to the Executive.  The council would no longer have approval authority over the New Monopoly’s operating or capital budgets.  The New Monopoly would also have unfettered authority to issue debt.  Here’s a question, folks – what do you think will happen to liquor prices if the New Monopoly screws up and takes on too much debt?  Pish posh – it’s not like the existing Monopoly has ever screwed up, yeah?

We know you can barely contain your excitement.  Here is the County Executive’s statement so you can absorb all the dirty details!

exec-statement-1

exec-statement-2exec-statement-3At first glance, the New Monopoly is little different from the Old Monopoly.  From top to bottom, it is the same entity in terms of capital, labor and processes.  But this new beast could be much more dangerous than the old one.  It is neither accountable to its customers nor to elected officials.  In fact, it is accountable to no one at all.

Folks, it’s time for brutal honesty: our county government has failed us.  The liquor monopoly’s problems have been apparent since the first year of the current County Executive’s first term.  For nine long years, the county did nothing as the monopoly continued to get worse, culminating in the epic 2015 New Year’s Eve disaster.  Thousands of consumers and licensees signed a petition to End the Monopoly and residents even voted for term limits in part due to fury over DLC.  And what do we get?  A proposal for Endless, Unaccountable Monopoly.

We, the residents and business owners of this county, have not been heard.  Our demands for freedom have been subjugated to the crushing burden of alcohol totalitarianism.  There is only one thing left to do.

Vote for candidates who will End the Monopoly in the next election.

Romney for Secretary of State

My guess is that Trump is merely trolling Mitt Romney and Nikki Haley by meeting with them in the wake of the election. He enjoys the spectacle of them coming to kiss his ring but is way too narcissistic to appoint anyone who has been critical of him.

Having said that, Mitt Romney would be a fine choice for Secretary of State. I support Romney not in spite of his being a conservative but because he is one.

Romney views NATO as a critical part of American defense and articulated ideas for revitalizing it during the 2012 campaign. Contrast Romney’s viewpoint with that of Trumpkin Newt Gingrich who said that Estonia is in the “suburbs of St. Petersburg” and not worth defending–a statement more than a little reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain’s infamous reference to Nazi aggression against Czechoslovakia as a “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Romney labelled Russia as a “geopolitical foe” — a regretfully accurate description in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Romney has been willing to take on Trump over his coziness with Putin. This will be needed in light of Trump’s willingness to let Russia dictate American foreign policy (e.g. we can’t support the rebels in Syria because Russia wouldn’t like it) and his naming of Michael Flynn–an abrasive man with close business ties to the Russians–as National Security Advisor.

Romney favors free trade:

The economic rise of China and other countries across Asia poses a different type of challenge. China and the rest of Asia are on the move economically and technologically. They are a family-oriented, educated, hardworking, and mercantile people. Trade and commerce with these huge new economies can further strengthen our economy and propel our growth. If America fails to act, we will be eclipsed. We have to keep our markets open or we go the way of Russia and the Soviet Union, which is a collapse. And I recognize there are some people who will argue for protectionism because the short-term benefits sound pretty good, but long term you kill your economy, you kill the future.

This doesn’t mean that Romney supports unfair trading practices on the parts of our partners. But it does mean that he recognizes that trade is critical to American economic success and an important part of our future–a welcome approach in an era when this has gone out of style in both major parties.

In short, Romney’s basic approach resembles that far more of Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. He would be a welcome sign of calm as the election results have created deep concern among our key allies and partners around the world.

O’Malley Not Seeking DNC Chair

From Martin O’Malley:

Fellow Democrat –

On November 8, the Democratic party and our country suffered a major setback. Now more than ever, we need to listen to one another and work to repair what has been torn apart.

While I’m grateful to the supportive friends who have urged me to consider running for DNC Chair, I will not be seeking our Party’s Chairmanship. The DNC needs a Chair who can do the job fully and with total impartiality. The national interest must come first.

In the days ahead, my family and I will continue to do everything in our power to fight for the Democratic Party, and for the more compassionate and inclusive country that we carry in our hearts.

“We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other if we are to succeed.”

-Martin

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