Leggett Endorses Jawando

County Executive Ike Leggett has endorsed Council At-Large candidate Will Jawando.  The Executive has previously endorsed Gabe Albornoz (his Recreation Director), Hoan Dang and incumbent Hans Riemer in the race.  We reprint Jawando’s press release below.

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April 18, 2018

Inquiries: info@willjawando.com

County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett Endorses Jawando

ROCKVILLE, Md. – In a statement released today, Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett endorsed Will Jawando in his race for County Council At-Large, noting Jawando’s record of public service and progressive leadership.

“I am honored to endorse Will Jawando for County Council At-Large. Will is an exceptional leader with a lifelong record of public service to Montgomery County and the nation. He worked as a public policy attorney on Capitol Hill and for President Obama in the White House. I was proud to appoint Will to serve on the Montgomery County Commission on Juvenile Justice, and worked with him to provide support for Summer R.I.S.E, a summer career internship program for high school students that he spearheaded,” Leggett said. “As an active, progressive community leader, Will understands the needs of Montgomery County and is committed to making our outstanding county even greater. I’m voting for Will, and respectfully urge you to join me in electing him to the County Council.”

If Jawando wins his contest, he will be only the second person of color to be elected to a county-wide office in Montgomery County. Leggett was the first, and only to date. Jawando recognized that when he welcomed Leggett’s endorsement.

“I’m privileged to earn Ike’s support, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue his legacy of public service in Montgomery County,” Jawando said. “We’ve worked together on closing the opportunity-and-achievement gap in our public schools, addressing issues of juvenile justice, and engaging our underrepresented communities in the civic process. I’m dedicated to addressing those issues that matter most to our families — our schools, fair and affordable housing, reliable transit and jobs. That’s the promise of Montgomery County.”

Aside from creating and managing the first year of Summer R.I.S.E., and his work on the Montgomery County Commission on Juvenile Justice, Jawando co-chairs the African-American Student Achievement Action Group, and created a community-based non-profit called Our Voices Matter, which works with underrepresented populations to increase civic engagement, voter registration and leadership training.

To learn more about the Montgomery County Promise, please visit www.willjawando.com.

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Ortman-Fouse Files for Matching Funds in Record Time

By Adam Pagnucco.

Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse, who is running for Council At-Large, has filed for matching funds from the county’s public financing system.  Ortman-Fouse took 49 days from the date on which she established her campaign committee to apply for matching funds, a FAR shorter period of time than any other candidate.

Ortman-Fouse’s application, made on April 16, lists $23,466 in contributions from 368 county residents, exceeding the Council At-Large thresholds of $20,000 and 250 residents.  Below is the number of days between committee establishment and matching funds application for the twenty candidates in public financing who have applied for matching funds.  (Five other candidates submitted applications but were ruled ineligible by the State Board of Elections.)  Bear in mind as you read the stats below that the candidates have different qualification thresholds.  Executive candidates must collect $40,000 from 500 county residents.  District council candidates must collect $10,000 from 125 residents.

Ortman-Fouse totally smoked her competition in filing time, something that is going to turn heads among her competitors.  In just one term, she has become arguably the most popular school board member in the county since Blair Ewing, who left to run for County Council twenty years ago.  One reason for that status is her close attention to answering constituent questions and her constant social media interaction with them, something that is typical of the best elected officials in county and state governments but is unusual for school board members.  That has given her a network of supporters that approaches the level of incumbent County Council Members.  How far that penetrates into the rank-and-file voting public is unknown, however, as few voters can name their school board members.  And Ortman-Fouse has also been handicapped by her late start, missing out on the endorsement processes of many influential organizations.

That leaves us with a general observation.  It’s true that the top fundraisers in the Council At-Large race are men and that men have received most of the influential institutional endorsements (with some going to Brandy Brooks and Danielle Meitiv).  But the Democratic primary electorate is roughly 60% female and of the seven councils in the current structure since 1990, only one (the 1998-2002 council) lacked a female at-large member.  So don’t count out the women, dear readers – and especially not Jill Ortman-Fouse!

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Clash on the Issues, Part III: Blame It on the Alcohol

This is the third in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Today’s topic: what do the candidates think about the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control’s alcohol monopoly?

Time to Get Off the Sauce: Candidates for Privatization

Bringing levity to the debate on several occasions, Pete Fosselman started by bluntly stating “I like my liquor” to laughter from the crowd. He proposes letting the county retain control of hard liquor but privatizing the sale of beer and wine, arguing that the change would boost in Montgomery restaurants. As an industry that makes most of their money on alcohol sales, they watch this aspect of the business carefully.

Andrew Friedson spoke passionately in favor of privatization. Fighting back against those concerned about the loss of revenue generated by the monopoly, Friedson stated “I believe government should be judged on how well it serves people, not how well it makes money.” Moreover, he argued that the monopoly costs Montgomery revenue, as it is hard to explain why alcohol sales are 41% lower here than elsewhere in the region unless you think Montgomery has “a secret temperance movement.”

Meredith Wellington agreed with Friedson, saying thoughtfully that the monopoly is a symptom of the county’s problematic approach. Arguing that government can’t do everything, Wellington said that we want entrepreneurial people in the county and need to work with them to help us market the county to businesses.

Though concerned about losing the union jobs, Reggie Oldak also thinks the county should not be in the liquor business, pointing out that $30 million is not much in a $5.5 billion budget. She shouldn’t worry so much. Private liquor distributors are also unionized. Why should the county should favor jobs with one union over another?

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab, I Said No, No, No: Candidates against Privatization

Bill Cook believes that privatizing the liquor industry would be a huge loss for the county because we’d lose $30 million and those “great paying union jobs.” Taking perhaps an unusual tack, he then proceeded to attack of his own potential constituents, Total Wine Co-Owner David Trone, who lives and has located the headquarters of his business in District 1.

Stating that there is “nothing wrong” with the county selling liquor and endorsed by UFCW 1994 MCGEO, Ana Sol Gutiérrez favors modernization, not privatization. She says that “significant steps have been taken” in terms of improvements. I wonder if she also thinks Metro escalators rarely break down. Gutiérrez likes that we can take on new debt by bonding the revenue stream. In other words, the county is fiscally hooked on alcohol.

Jim McGee opposes privatization but favors modernization. Unfortunately, that has been promised for years but is much like waiting for Godot. They say that it’s coming. But when is it coming? At the same time, McGee thinks it is too hard for microbreweries to distribute their product.

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Reznik Calls on Board of Public Works to Reject “Shadow Government” Highway Contract

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) has written to the Board of Public Works asking them to reject an engineering and management contract awarded by the Maryland Department of Transportation for its planned expansion of the Capital Beltway and I-270.  According to the Washington Post, the winning consortium included a former employer of the state’s Secretary of Transportation and was awarded the contract despite finishing second in its written proposal.  The Secretary did not vote directly on the contract, but he had dinner with a representative of his former employer and obtained an ethics clearance after the award was made.  Post reporter Michael Laris described the bidding process as “expedited and unusual” and wrote:

The winning firms, known collectively as the “general engineering consultant,” would act as something of a shadow government for the Maryland Department of Transportation, which says its plan to hire firms to build, finance and maintain toll lanes is too big and complex to govern itself.

Referring to much of the above, Delegate Reznik said he was “incredibly alarmed” and asked the Board of Public Works to “restart the process in an open, fair, public, and transparent way, without the involvement of potential conflicts, and only after the public has had an opportunity to weigh in.”  We reprint his letter below.

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Clash on the Issues, Part II: is Ballooning Debt a Problem?

This is the second in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Today’s post looks at whether the candidates are concerned about the share of the county budget going to service debt, which is approaching 20% according to the question.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez doesn’t see County debt as a problem and views it is analogous to a home mortgage, leaving me hoping that we don’t end up under water like so many home owners. She has confidence in analyses showing the county is financially stable but also expressed interest in finding “other funding streams,” which sounds like taxes. Throughout the debate, however, she referred to mysterious state-level funds that the county had left untapped, a perplexing claim from a this long-time delegate on the appropriations committee who should be well placed to direct funds to the County.

In a similar vein, Bill Cook commended the Council for its balanced budget and well-funded rainy day fund, and blamed “reckless” development without appropriate impact taxes for placing additional burdens on county residents.

Reggie Oldak took a more centrist position, arguing that too much debt is a burden and Montgomery needs to preserve its AAA bond rating. At the same time, she agreed it is shortsighted not to spend on the safety net, leaving me a bit concerned as debt should go to capital, not operating, expenses.

Noting a lot of agreement among the candidates, Jim McGee took a similar position. He views debt as an “investment in the future” but also says we need to see the return on the investment. He also noted aptly that interest rates are rising, so debt will cost more in the future. Economic growth is the real solution to this problem.

Meredith Wellington was the first to express directly that she is very concerned about the debt gobbling up more of our budget even as revenues have not bounced back and we’ve raised taxes. She supports the affordability guidelines, even though they constrain the county’s ability to borrow, and said we need to set priorities. In short, Wellington was the first to identify rightly that growing debt and flat revenues is not a sustainable fiscal path, and that the county will have to make real choices as a result.

Andrew Friedson concurred with Wellington. He countered Gutiérrez’s home mortgage analogy directly, arguing cogently that we cannot do the equivalent of taking out a bigger mortgage or taxing our way out of it. There is certainly little appetite for increased property or income taxes in Montgomery, especially in the wake of the County’s big tax hike.

Showing his expertise on the topic, Pete Fosselman noted the $375 million paid in interest last year and the $120 million hole in the current budget. He’s concerned about the County’s AAA bond rating, arguing that we need fiscal discipline and to work better to provide services through nonprofits even as we stop funding politically connected “sock puppet nonprofits.”

Once again, voters appear to have a real choice, as candidates expressed broad differences on both debt as a problem and the solutions. All should be concerned with the county bond rating because lower bond ratings mean we pay more in interest and can afford less. As Wellington identified, and Friedson and Fosselman agreed, we are not on a sustainable fiscal path, so debt should be a real concern. The era of difficult choices is far from over.

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Council At-Large Undervoting, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

In Part One, we learned that even though voters can vote for up to four Council At-Large candidates, they vote for only three on average.  Today we examine whether that statistic varies based on geography.

The chart below shows the total number of Council At-Large votes cast in the 2014 Democratic primary, the total number of Democratic votes for Governor and the ratio between the two from precinct votes on Election Day.  (Precinct-level turnout numbers from the state include early voters, absentee voters and provisional voters, distorting their use as a denominator, so we used votes for Governor as a proxy for Election Day voters by precinct.)  On average, each Democratic voter cast three votes for Council At-Large candidates.  That statistic varied very little between Congressional districts, state legislative districts and council districts.

Let’s take a deeper dive and look at local areas.  Again, there is minimal variation.  A mild outlier is Precinct 11-00 in Dickerson, home of at-large challenger Beth Daly.  Was there some undervoting there for Daly and her 2014 teammate, at-large incumbent Marc Elrich?  (The two finished first and second in that precinct and smoked everyone else.)  One note: the term Democratic Crescent refers to Cabin Branch, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park, areas which tend to exert disproportionate impact on Democratic primaries.

Over and over, we have seen that the average Democratic primary voter casts three votes for Council At-Large candidates.  That statistic has been stable over time and does not vary much by voting mode (early, election day, absentee or provisional), geography, presence of open seats or candidate count.  We see no reason why it would be significantly different in this election.  What does that mean?

One obvious implication relates to one of the hottest places to find votes in a MoCo primary: the Downcounty areas of Downtown Silver Spring, Takoma Park and nearby locations to the north and northeast.  Hans Riemer, Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, Chris Wilhelm, Brandy Brooks, Seth Grimes, Cherri Branson, Jill Ortman-Fouse and Jarrett Smith are among the candidates who are from there and/or are running hard there.  If each voter is only voting for three at-large candidates, there simply are not enough votes to go around for all of the above candidates.  Who emerges from that scrum?

Riemer ought to finish first in that area.  He is not just the only incumbent in the race; he also finished second in Downtown Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Kensington to Marc Elrich in 2014, his best places of finish anywhere in the county.  The next tier might be Glass, Jawando, Ortman-Fouse and Grimes, all of whom have done well in prior races in that area.  How many votes are available there for anyone else?

One of the greatest challenges of running for Council At-Large is how to allocate scarce resources across a vast county-wide electorate in the face of lots of competition and other draws on voters’ attention.  Those candidates who successfully target the voters who align with their values, message, bio and (in some instances) demographic will have a leg up on their less strategic rivals.  With only three at-large votes per voter, the premium on strategic engagement is higher than ever.  It might just be decisive in an exciting and historic race.

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Glendening Endorses Milano

Former Governor Parris Glendening has endorsed District 18 House candidate Leslie Milano.  We reprint her press release below.

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Former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening Endorses Leslie Milano, D18 Delegate Candidate

For Immediate Release Contact: Janiene Bohannon, Communications Director

janiene@milanofordelegate.com

(Silver Spring, Md., April 14, 2018) – Former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening endorsed Leslie Milano for the House of Delegates, District 18 today.

Milano—a respected public health executive, human rights advocate, and mother of two—is running on a platform of socially-responsible economic growth, expanding the renewable energy sector, and addressing school overcrowding for Marylanders. Glendening served as the Governor of Maryland from 1995-2003, and was previously the County Executive of Prince George’s County from 1982-1994.

“For the last 15 years I have worked with advocates and elected officials around the country and the world on efforts to protect our environment,” said Glendening. “Leslie’s focus on transit, walkable, sustainable communities and solar energy will make her a leader in efforts to protect our environment and our planet. She understands good environmental policy is good for the economy. She knows Maryland can be a leader in making alternate energy an important part of our economy. That is why I am enthusiastically supporting Leslie Milano for election to the Maryland House of Delegates.”

Glendening added, “I’ve been involved in Maryland politics for four decades, and as governor, I worked closely with the Maryland House of Delegates to help working families. Leslie Milano brings strong Democratic values, business experience and an innovative approach that isn’t typical in today’s politics.” He continued, “In our current political climate, we need strong women at every level of government, and Leslie Milano is a bright, savvy emerging leader for Maryland.”

At the age of 25, Milano co-founded a nonprofit labor rights organization dedicated to improving conditions for factory workers abroad. She gave lectures on 300 college campuses and business schools focused on corporate social responsibility, and helped to end certain labor abuses affecting hundreds of thousands of women workers. For the past six years, Milano has been the executive director of a public health consulting organization dedicated to patient safety. She has negotiated multi-million-dollar contracts with state and federal agencies to successfully reduce healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals and nursing homes.

“For District 18 and beyond—whether it be education, gun violence prevention, healthcare or workforce development—we can be the progressive leader that builds coalitions with other progressive states to move our country in the right direction,” said Milano. “An endorsement from Gov. Glendening is very meaningful given his long, successful career in public service for Maryland at the highest level of our state government.”

Milano has also received the candidate distinction from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a leading gun violence prevention organization. Milano holds two master’s degrees in Theology/Ethics from Union Theological Seminary and International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University, as well as a certificate of leadership from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. For more information about Leslie Milano, visit www.milanofordelegate.com.

Currently eight Democratic candidates are running for three seats. The primary is June 26, and early voting starts June 14.

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Leggett Endorses Dang

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive Ike Leggett has endorsed Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang.  This is a nice boost for Dang as we have not heard of Leggett endorsing anyone other than incumbent Hans Riemer and his Recreation Director, Gabe Albornoz.  We reprint Dang’s press release below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 16, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT

Jonathon Rowland

Email: jonathon@votedang.com

County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett Endorses Hoan Dang for Montgomery County Council At-Large

Silver Spring MD — Today, County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett endorsed candidate Hoan Dang for Montgomery County Council At-Large.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with Hoan Dang for many years. We collaborated in the beginning as fellow board members of IMPACT Silver Spring. Since then, I’ve appointed him to serve on the County Executive’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Group and the Washington Suburban Transit Commission,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “Hoan’s extensive work serving Montgomery County residents shows that he’s a selfless public servant. This is demonstrated by his work to close the achievement gap as a board member of the George B. Thomas, Sr. Learning Academy and his previous efforts to eliminate health disparities for our diverse community as co-founder of the Montgomery County Asian American Health Initiative. Hoan is a tireless advocate and attentive to the needs of the community throughout the County. As a County Executive, that is the exact sort of Councilmember I want to work with.”

Leggett continued, “As a budget expert, former refugee and community leader, I believe Hoan possesses the breadth and depth of experience needed to serve on the County Council from day one, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support his campaign.”

“I am honored and humbled to have the endorsement of County Executive Ike Leggett. Ike is not only a widely respected voice in our county but at the state level as well. His tireless efforts make Montgomery County a more equitable, safe and welcoming place for all people,” said County Council At-Large candidate, Hoan Dang. “Ike was the first African American Councilmember and also the first African American Montgomery County Executive. I hope to be the first Asian American County Councilmember, and I am honored to have the support and endorsement of this trail blazing leader.”

Hoan Dang has also been endorsed by: Delegate Henry “Hank” Heller (D19, ret), Darrell Anderson (Mayor of Washington Grove, ret), Reggie Felton (Board of Education, ret), Henry Lee (Board of Education, ret), Madaleine Sigel (Woman’s Democratic Club, ret), Michael Lin, (Organization of Chinese Americans, ret), Jae Shin (League of Korean Americans-Montgomery County, ret), Montgomery County Public Schools Retirees Association, and The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization.

For more information on Hoan Dang and about his candidacy, visit www.votedang.com.

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Clash on the Issues, Part I: Recruiting Amazon

This is the first in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Candidates clashed greatly on whether and how to pitch White Flint as Amazon’s future location. While all touted Montgomery County’s assets, there was enormous disagreement on providing tax incentives.

Jim McGee argued against doing anything to recruit Amazon to Montgomery. He’s outraged that Jeff Bezos makes “$35 billion per year” and opposes the siting of the equivalent of “two Pentagons” here. While correct that Bezos is wealthy, though missing that it’s for creating a world-beating company, this analysis ignores both Amazon’s duty to its shareholders or the reality of its economic power to command incentives. McGee admitted candidly that he was “probably not the right guy” to make the pitch to Amazon.

Bill Cook wants the jobs but is “not willing to prostrate” before Amazon. He’d tell Jeff Bezos that he doesn’t need the money and you already have a mansion in Kalorama. Cook says he knows that Amazon is coming to Washington but won’t be going to DC or Fairfax because “the schools suck are terrible.” Neither true nor the way I’d put it. The Washington area provides three excellent candidates but Cook’s attitude would assure that Amazon doesn’t come to Maryland.

In contrast to these wildly unrealistic, populist views of the world, Reggie Oldak countered that it would be great if Amazon came, pointing out astutely that we are giving tax breaks, not subsidies, and that collecting 90% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Additionally, we’d receive transit funding from the State. Indeed, the tax breaks are spaced over many decades based on Amazon spending many times more in salaries.

Several candidates, such as Andrew Friedson, pointed out the attractiveness of our location near DC and three airports along with our transit system, educated workforce and excellent school system. Citing Montgomery as a diverse and welcoming community, Pete Fosselman argued emphatically that the tax breaks don’t outweigh the “phenomenal” long-term benefits. Fosselman also pointed out the State’s new funding for Metro along our planned BRT system as real positives in our recruitment pitch.

Demonstrating her planning skills, Wellington also emphasized our great location and said agreed with Pete Fosselman’s support for the Council’s recent zoning changes shortening the comment period for the site, perceptively pointing out the most important discussions occur before the submission of the plan. She’d work to make sure that Amazon’s new building integrate well into the community.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez said “Let’s make a deal. We can both win” but did not outline the sort of deal she’d expect or support. Gutiérrez said that the Governor is enticing Amazon with tax credits but wanted to know what we would gain from Amazon, saying that it’s not about the jobs but the diversity. I suspect most would disagree with Gutiérrez and say that it is, in fact, about the jobs, pointing out that Amazon’s arrival here would provide opportunities for our diverse workforce and assure that all people hired by Amazon, or the many businesses its arrival would spawn, would be covered by Montgomery’s protections for employees.

Unfortunately, Dalbin Osorio was ill and unable to attend the debate, which was too bad as he was a lively and interesting candidate at the first debate.

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Council At-Large Undervoting, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

In the Montgomery County Council At-Large race, voters can vote for up to four candidates and the leading four vote-getters win.  That gives candidates a lot of ways to get votes.  A common statement heard from candidates is, “You have four votes to cast.  There are a lot of good candidates in this race.  I hope I can earn one of your votes.”

But that statement, while politically appealing, doesn’t actually reflect the reality of at-large voting.  Lots of voters don’t cast four votes in the at-large race.  On average, they cast only three.

The chart below shows the total number of Council At-Large votes cast in Democratic primaries and the total number of Democrats voting over the last five cycles.  If everyone was casting four at-large votes, the number of at-large votes divided by the number of voters should be four.  Instead, the ratio of at-large votes to voters ranges from 3.0 to 3.2, averaging 3.1.  That tight range holds regardless of the number of candidates running and the presence of open seats.

What about the timing of votes?  The conventional wisdom is that early voters are unusually well informed, know exactly who they’re voting for and can’t wait to vote.  If anyone would be willing and able to use all four of their at-large votes, it should be early voters.  But in fact, that isn’t true.  There is not much difference between early voters, election day voters and absentee voters in terms of how many at-large votes they cast.  All of them are right around three each, with provisional voters coming in near 2.5.

Why does this happen?  Now we’re in the realm of speculation.  Here is a theory.  For all its importance to the function of county government, the Council At-Large race is seen by many as a down-ballot affair.  It doesn’t attract the attention of races for Congress, Governor and Executive.  It competes with state legislative and council district races in the voters’ mail, Facebook feeds and email inboxes.  The name recognition of incumbents is modest.  (How many voters can actually name all their Council Members?)

Now think about the voting process of the average voter.  Perhaps the voter was aided by At-Large Incumbent X in some way, maybe through constituent service or a vote on a bill, master plan or budget item.  The voter really likes X and will vote for him.  Next, perhaps a voter will pick At-Large Candidate Y because she was endorsed by the Washington Post, the teachers or the Sierra Club.  And then perhaps the voter will pick At-Large Candidate Z because a neighbor said something nice about him or handed her his lit.  Or maybe Z knocked on the voter’s door.  Or maybe Z lives in the same community as the voter.  Or maybe Z is the only other candidate the voter recognizes.  Or maybe… you get the idea.  Often, these voting decisions do not involve great strategic deliberation or deep research on the candidates.

But there is one more variable to examine: geography.  We have previously written that Democrats in Downcounty areas, especially those in the Democratic Crescent (Cabin Branch, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park) are much more likely to vote in mid-term primaries than Upcounty Democrats.  Do Democrats in Downcounty vote for more at-large candidates than those in Upcounty?  We’ll find out in Part Two.

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