Sebastian Johnson Announces Wave of Endorsements

Former Student Board of Education Member Sebastian Johnson is  seeking an at-large seat in the 2016.

Advantages and Challenges

Johnson’s strongest asset is his impressive resume. After graduating from Montgomery Blair, Johnson received his B.A. in Economics and Government from Georgetown and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. Johnson has already worked with kids in the classroom as a teacher and in the community. He’s done a lot at a young age.

Johnson’s biggest campaign challenge is that he is not an MCPS parent. As a result, he doesn’t have experience with MCPS from that perspective. Nor does he have links to the PTA network that often produces successful Board of Education candidates.

Endorsements

Today, his campaign was pleased to announce endorsements from seven elected officials:

Maryland State Delegate David Moon (D-20)
Maryland State Delegate Marice Morales (D-19) Maryland State Delegate Will Smith (D-20)
Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal (D-AL) Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-4)
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart
Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin

Some of the positive comments from elected officials included:

Nancy Navarro: I had the privilege of serving on the Board of Education with Sebastian, and I witnessed his steadfast dedication to public service. He has a keen understanding of the current issues facing our school system, and he brings a fresh perspective to the Board table. I am proud to endorse his candidacy.

George Leventhal: I’m very excited by the prospect of Sebastian returning to the Board of Education, where he served as student member. Sebastian’s life story embodies the success that we seek for all students. I wholeheartedly support his candidacy.

Kate Stewart: As mayor, an advocate for young people and a parent, I trust Sebastian to do what’s right for all of our kids. As a product of Montgomery County schools, he brings a keen insight to the challenges we face today. I can’t think of a better person to serve on the Board of Education, and I strongly endorse his candidacy.

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Federal Employees in CD4 and CD8

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

Candidates in both Congressional Districts 4 and 8 are targeting predictable Democratic Party constituencies like women, liberals, environmentalists, African Americans and Latinos for votes. That’s standard operating procedure in most Democratic primaries. But because of the geographic peculiarity of the two districts, there’s another constituency that could play a major role in deciding the election: federal employees.

Because Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties border the District of Columbia, they have countless thousands of residents who commute to federal jobs downtown every day. The two counties also have numerous large federal employers of their own, including the National Institutes of Health, Andrews Air Force Base, the Census Bureau, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, Walter Reed, NOAA and more. Prince George’s is making a strong bid to host the FBI. Anne Arundel County, which has part of CD4, is home to Fort Meade and the Naval Academy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, federal employers constitute about ten percent of each county’s employment and personal income.

Federal Employees MoCo PG

But this counts only federal establishments located within each county; it does not count residents who commute outside their boundaries. It also doesn’t count contractors who depend on federal clients or the various industries surrounding the federal government, like lobbying, consulting and legal services. One private sector economic firm estimates that 52% of the Washington area’s total job base is tied in one way or another to the federal government. Regardless of the statistics, it’s reasonable to assume that both CD4 and CD8 have tens of thousands of residents who either work directly for the federal government or who have family or friends who do so. It’s also reasonable to assume that they vote, particularly in Democratic primaries.

One thing that can be said about this group is that they are under stress. Consider recent events pertaining to federal employees.

Salary

While many federal employees are represented by unions, their pay levels are set by federal law and not by collective bargaining. Federal pay was frozen during the 2011-2013 period and rose by 1% in 2014, 1% in 2015 and 1.3% in 2016. Accounting for local area price inflation, federal employee pay fell by 7% in real dollars between 2010 and 2015.

Parental Leave

Federal employees do not have paid parental leave. When they have children, they must either use accumulated sick leave and vacation time or accept unpaid leave. When Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bill to provide paid leave last year, Schatz noted, “While private companies are beginning to see the benefits of providing paid family leave, America is still the only industrial nation in the world without a program that gives working parents the time off and income they need to care for a new child.” President Obama provided for paid leave in his latest budget, but congressional Republicans are ignoring it.

Sequester and Shutdown

The rise of a Tea Party Congress led to a spending sequester and a government shutdown in 2013. Shutdowns were barely avoided in September and December of 2015. The sequester has chilled not merely the federal government but the entire regional economy for years.

Budget Uncertainty

Congress’s growing reliance on continuing resolutions and last-minute budgetary showdowns have played havoc with department budgets and make it harder for federal employees to do their jobs. One federal manager commented, “What people don’t realize is that once the budget is approved, it takes time for the money to trickle down to agencies. For example, managers in my agency still don’t have the ability to spend their budgets without getting approval for everything from a contract to a stapler. And we don’t have a firm estimate of when we will be able to spend freely.” Training and travel are often adversely affected.

Retirements and Turnover

Led by Baby Boomers, an exodus of federal employees is underway. Turnover among young workers is also considerable. This puts pressure on those who remain. One federal lawyer commented, “I see that all around me – so many young lawyers that were in my office when I started 5 years ago are gone. Sure, some are leaving because they get fed up with bureaucracy, or want to move onto something else, but being a pawn and/or punching bag of Congress doesn’t help. And the advantages of working in the private or non-profit sector for attorneys can be huge in terms of schedule flexibility (non-profit sector, including universities) or salary/benefits (private sector).”

Republicans in Congress

Make no mistake: Congressional Republicans are targeting federal employees. Last year, the House and Senate each proposed budgets that went after the federal workforce. According to the Sun, “While details of the House and Senate versions of the budget differ, both chambers have approved slashing the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition, increasing the contribution workers make toward their retirement savings and cutting the share of health insurance covered by the government.” Months later, Senate Republicans floated a plan to fund highway spending by cutting federal pension rates of return. The Chair of the Senate’s committee that oversees the federal workforce opposes the existence of federal unions, wants to trim pension benefits and wants to cut the federal workforce by 10% and contractors by 15%. Another Republican Congressman wants to eliminate dues checkoff for federal unions, a move designed to cripple their finances.

Republican Presidential Candidates

The federal government and its employees are a frequent target of GOP presidential candidates. Carly Fiorina has said, “We have come to a pivotal point in our nation’s history where this nation’s possibilities and potential are being crushed by a government grown so big, so powerful, so inept, so corrupt, and a political class that refuses to do anything about it. . . . the truth is 75 percent of the American people think the government is corrupt.” Rand Paul has said he would like to see “a government so small I can barely see it.” John Kasich wrote that “Washington is obsolete” and wants to gut the Education and Transportation departments. Scott Walker wanted to ban federal unions. But none of them can touch Ted Cruz, who wants to eliminate five departments and 25 smaller agencies that he says “prop up special interests at the taxpayer’s expense.” Cruz’s targets include Commerce, Education, Energy, HUD and the IRS. Cruz would also replace across-the-board pay raises for federal workers with “more opportunities for merit-based pay increases.”

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman Chris Van Hollen have been strong advocates for federal employees and that has been a component of their immense popularity with their constituents. All candidates in both CD4 and CD8 would be wise to emulate their example. Whoever emerges as the top defender of the federal workforce might get an edge in what could be two close races.

Leventhal Endorses Taylor

George’s letter to MCDCC:

I’m writing to express my hope that MCDCC will appoint Herman Taylor to the District 14 Delegate seat.

With a Republican governor in Annapolis, it is more important than ever that Montgomery County build closer relationships with other Democratic-majority jurisdictions, especially Baltimore and Prince George’s County. Herman was an officer of the Legislative Black Caucus and has warm, long-standing friendships with the senators and delegates from those jurisdictions.

The central committee’s process is — correctly in my judgment — being criticized for failing to give District 14 voters a voice. Herman was elected by those voters twice already, in 2002 and 2006.

I like and respect Pam Queen, Chris Bradbury and Mark Feinroth. I understand these are tough choices. But there is no doubt in my mind that Montgomery County will be best served at this moment by putting Herman back in the seat he occupied previously.

Thank you for considering my point of view.

Warm regards,
George Leventhal

Herman Taylor on LGBT Rights

The contest for the vacant delegate seat continues to heat up. While the District 14 delegation, Muslim Democratic Club, and MD NARAL PAC have backed Pam Queen, the Montgomery County Democratic Clubs of Color, Councilmember Nancy Navarro, and the NAACP Political Chair are behind Herman Taylor.

Taylor has defended his record on abortion rights vociferously in response to attacks on his past voting record in the House of Delegates by MD NARAL PAC. Backed by supporters, Taylor promises a 100% pro-choice voting record. Competing records on LGBT rights may well become the next issue to come under scrutiny as the Central Committee fills the vacancy this evening.

In 2008, almost all Montgomery County delegates received perfect ratings of 100 from Equality Maryland’s PAC. Taylor tied with Luiz Simmons, defeated in his 2014 bid for the Senate, for the lowest score in the House delegation at 60. Taylor stood out in the MoCo delegation one of only three delegates not to sponsor marriage equality. No votes were held on the issue, so sponsorship was a key signal of support.

Taylor again tied Simmons for the lowest score among Montgomery delegates in 2009. He was one of the few legislators in the County not to consponsor either marriage equality or the bill to add gender identity to existing state law prohibiting discrimination. Again, votes were not held, so sponsorship was a key signal of public support.

As anti-LGBT bills continue to surface in the General Assembly, I hope the Central Committee asks not just Herman Taylor but all of the candidates good questions on their views regarding protections for LGBT Marylanders.

Here are the complete 2008 and 2009 scorecards from Equality Maryland PAC:

Kurtz’s Take Down of the Democratic Field

Center Maryland Columnist Josh Kurtz has written must-read analysis on the race for the Democratic nomination in the Eighth District. Fearless in its criticism, I doubt any of the candidates will be rushing to put quotes from it on their brochures.

On Trone and Matthews:

In this primary, for starters, we have the mega-rich and the merely rich.

In the former role is David Trone, the Bethesda booze baron who entered the Democratic primary just two weeks ago and immediately dropped $900,000 on TV and web ads, which have already become unavoidable.

In the latter category is Kathleen Matthews, the former broadcaster and Marriott executive who is married to MSNBC yakker Chris Matthews. Kathleen and Chris are part of the D.C. elite. . . .

[Y]ou also get the feeling that Trone and Matthews don’t know a lot about the rest of us – and the communities they are presuming to serve. Do we really want someone with a sky’s-the-limit approach to campaign spending like Trone to represent us in Congress? Do we want someone like Matthews who seems to be accepting campaign contributions from every K Street lawyer, D.C. financier, media celebrity and bold-faced name?

On the trio of state legislators:

State Sen. Jamie Raskin is an accomplished legislator, a genuine progressive, a nice guy – and a legal scholar to boot. But he has said he wants to be “a transformational” member of Congress – when all he’ll be, for the foreseeable future, is a junior member of the minority party. Raskin is running a grass-roots campaign. . . . But this isn’t quite like Bernie Sanders . . . . Raskin has plenty of big donors, too – from the extensive list of D.C. lefty intelligentsia.

Del. Kumar Barve . . .  is also an accomplished lawmaker and a nice guy – and doesn’t take himself too seriously. But Barve has been perhaps a little too cautious in his political career. You can’t help feeling that somehow, his moment to ascend to Congress should have been a decade or two ago.

Del. Ana Sol Guttierez is also a committed progressive who was one of the first public figures . . . to acknowledge and craft policy that reflected the county’s demographic changes. But she has never really laid out a rationale for her congressional bid. Gutierrez would be a freshman member of Congress at the age of 75. She is not running a serious campaign.

On Jawando and Rubin:

Will Jawando and Joel Rubin are young guys who have worked for the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill. There are tens of thousands of people just like them rattling around the D.C. area. They are smart, attractive guys and dedicated public servants with political acumen . . . . But maybe they should have looked at running for a more humble office than Congress to launch their political careers.

Read the whole column.

 

Manufacturers Say Proposed Tax Cuts Hurt Manufacturing

RMIProponents of the manufacturing tax cut pushed by Governor Larry Hogan and many legislators in the General Assembly received major pushback from existing manufacturers. The Regional Manufacturing Institute (RMI) of Maryland has issued a letter with a detailed critique of a proposal for manufacturing tax cuts. Here is a copy of the complete letter from RMI.

Key aspects of the proposed tax cut include (1) a ten-year exemption from state taxes for new manufacturers, and (2) a ten-year exemption of workers in these companies from state taxes who earn up to $65,000. In the version of the bill referenced in the letter, the tax cuts would occur only in special zones designed to attract heavy manufacturing to Maryland.

RMI fears that the proposal would undermine existing manufacturers in the State:

A major unintended outcome will be that Maryland companies will lose workers who would seek positions with companies that qualify for 10 years of no income tax for workers. This would be a serious blow to smaller and medium sized companies that in some areas would put companies out of business. Engineers, machinists, line workers, technicians working in manufacturing would jump at the chance to work for a company and not pay state taxes for 10 years. Maryland has a serious shortage of workers and this would make it worse for existing companies. Companies who employ machinists would be hard hit if the new companies hire machinists.

Instead, RMI suggests an array of incentives to keep existing manufacturing in Maryland and to encourage these manufacturers to move subsidiaries here. Their suggestions include several designed to aid not just the firms but also workers, such as support for training and college tuition for workers and their families. Additionally, RMI supports drug rehab centers with manufacturing training and access to available manufacturers.

Jawando Facing Renewed Scrutiny for Unreturned Turing Pharma Donations

Will Jawando is running to be the Democratic nominee for the open Eighth Congressional District. Earlier in the campaign, he faced scrutiny for his acceptance of large donations from infamous Turing Pharamceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli. Jawando had promised to refund these donations or to give them to charity but the Center for Responsive Politics reports that Jawando still has half the money:

About 8 percent of [Jawando’s] money — $28,300 — was given by either Martin Shkreli or employees of his former company, Turing Pharmaceuticals. After Shkreli became the infamous “pharma bro” — a superlative he earned when Turing hiked the price of a lifesaving drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill last year — Jawando did not give all of Shkreli’s money to charity, as he said he would. Rather, he kept half of it, or $2,700 the campaign had earmarked for the general election.

Jawando’s campaign told OpenSecrets Blog in an email that it would donate the rest of the money after Jawando wins the primary.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Jawando misled the Washington Blade about having already donated the entire sum:

In an email to the Washington Blade in early January, the campaign said it had already donated the money. Federal Election Committee records tell a different story. The day after the Baltimore Sun article ran, on the day Shkreli resigned as Turing’s CEO, Jawando’s campaign donated half of what Shkreli had contributed.

“Our compliance attorneys told us that that other half is earmarked for the general election,” a representative of the campaign told OpenSecrets Blog; he said the rest of the money would be donated to the Boys and Girls Club if Jawando wins the primary. If he loses, the campaign will have to refund that money to Shkreli.

Moreover, Jawando has not returned donations from other employees of Turing Pharaceuticals:

But what about the $22,900 from six other Turing employees? The campaign is keeping that. “They didn’t do anything illegal,” said Aubrey Sylvester, Jawando’s campaign manager. “They weren’t indicted for anything.” Asked whether the fact that such a significant portion of the campaign’s total contributions has come from employees of a single company — one that’s currently being investigated for pharmaceutical price gouging — would affect Jawando’s policies, Sylvester said no.

Jawando is the only candidate that five of the six other Turing contributors have supported with contributions.

Has Jawando done anything illegal? Absolutely not. Indeed, I imagine he would say that it will all end up refunded or donated, so what’s the difference?

The problem is strictly political. Failure to get rid of the donations despite reports that this was planned and even occurred will not enhance views of Jawando among voters and keeps continued focus on a negative story. Instead, it would have been better to act decisively and return these problematic donations or just be up front and say he’s going to keep them but retains the same stands he’s always had on these issues.

Not a permanently disabling move by this promising young Democrat who performed very respectably in the 2014 Democratic primary for delegate even if he didn’t win a seat. But also not good news for his underdog congressional campaign.

NAACP Political Chair Accuses MCDCC of Bias Against Herman Taylor

Odessa Shannon, the Political Action Chair for the NAACP sent the following email to MCDCC. Deeply involved in Montgomery County for many years, Shannon has in the past been elected to the Board of Education, served as a Special Assistant to the County Executive, and was Director of the Office of Human Rights.

Shannon is backing former Del. Herman Taylor for the vacancy. Taylor is one of two African-American candidates for the seat along with Pam Queen, a professor at Morgan State University. In her email, Shannon says that MCDCC’s actions towards Taylor can “easily be argued as harassment based on race and possibly sex, a federal and local civil rights issue.”

Members of the MCDCC:

This is my third communication with you on this issue.

It has come to my attention that you are requesting information from Herman Taylor which  is not being asked of the other candidates.; copy of drivers license, when it was obtained, picture , proof of certain years of home ownership and other frequent and spontaneous requests.

From the information I have received, this action can easily be argued as harassment based on race and possibly sex., a federal and local civil rights issue.

It appears the MCDCC is trying to discredit a candidate for it’s own reasons. The process of selecting a candidate should be open and honest, whoever wins!!!

Before I send a copy of this e-mail to the County Executive, the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights , the head of the Md Democratic party and the Media, I would like immediate assurance that this kind of activity, so resonant of the 1960’s  and 70’s, will cease and desist immediately.

Odessa M. Shannon

D14 Legislators Solidly Back Queen

The District 14 delegation have made it crystal clear that they prefer that the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee select Pam Queen for the vacancy in their district. In particular, they highlight that Queen would be the first African-American women from Montgomery to vote in the House.

The subtext is also that failure to appoint Queen would reduce the number of women in the General Assembly from prior to Sen. Karen Montgomery’s retirement. Currently, three of eight senators from Montgomery County are women, as are 8 of 23 delegates.

Here is the letter from Sen. Zucker, Del. Kaiser, and Del. Luedtke:

Dear Chairman Anderson and members of the Central Committee:

We would again like to thank each of you for your service to the party and for taking so seriously the important task of choosing a new Delegate in District 14. A number of Central Committee members have asked for our rationale in choosing to support Pam Queen for the open Delegate seat, and we wanted to be sure to provide it prior to your upcoming meeting.

Our recommendation was based on a number of factors. First and foremost, we are confident that Pam shares our values as Democrats. She is and has always been pro-choice, and will stand with the Democratic Party in opposing Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Annapolis. In this era where inequality is such an important topic, we know that Pam will work with us to pass our middle class agenda, including efforts to strengthen pay equity laws and address the growing student loan debt crisis. And we are confident that given her background in finance, she will be able to help us combat any attempts by the administration to undercut funding for urban jurisdictions in the state budget.

But our support is about more than issues. Those of us who serve in Annapolis face a tremendously complex task. As individuals in a legislature made up of nearly 200 people, the ability to work effectively with others and get along with others is an absolute necessity. Pam has that ability, and we believe she would be a good fit for our very tight-knit team. In addition, given the need for Democrats to unite against increased partisanship in Annapolis, we need legislators who are able to work effectively with Democrats who hail from other parts of the state. Pam has worked in Baltimore for a number of years, and has pre-existing relationships with a number of elected officials there. This includes the Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, with whom she taught for a number of years until his retirement.

Finally, and importantly as well, we hope to retain the gender balance that has been a feature of our delegation since District 14 was first drawn as a Montgomery County district in 2002. And we hope to see Pam become the first African-American woman to ever cast a vote on behalf of Montgomery County in the state legislature (while Karen Britto was the first to serve, it was for a brief time and she was not able to cast a vote during it). While all of us work hard on behalf of women and work to address issues of race and racism that have been too easily ignored by too many in politics, it is undeniably important that Montgomery County’s delegation to Annapolis become more diverse in terms of both race and gender. Each of us has repeatedly used our influence to endorse diverse candidates in elections, and we do so again in endorsing Pam for this appointment.

An appointment like this is difficult, and we know you are burdened by the responsibility of choosing an effective leader on behalf of the 122,000 residents of District 14. We share that sense of responsibility every single day we represent our constituents in Annapolis. And we are certain that Pam Queen would be the best choice to stand beside us.

Sincerely,

Senator Craig Zucker
Delegate Anne Kaiser
Delegate Eric Luedtke

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