All posts by David Lublin

Coalition for Smarter Growth Lobbyist Didn’t Comply with County Ethics Law

Lobbying laws? What lobbying laws?

Jane Lyons, a lobbyist for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, failed to register as a lobbyist during 2020 despite conducting paid lobbying activities on behalf of the organization.

The evidence appears on the Montgomery County Ethics Commission website. Timestamps on the reports reveal that they were not submitted until the end of July 2021, well after the filing deadline.

Jan 1-June 30, 2020 Report Timestamp
July 1-Dec 30, 2020 Report Timestamp

But she need not worry. It turns out that Montgomery County’s lobbying laws have no teeth. According to Robert Cobb, Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the County Ethics Commission, there is no real penalty for failing to register or to report earnings:

Typically, we will have no idea if a registration is made late because we normally do not have insight as to when (or even if) the criteria for registration has been met. If someone registers for a prior year, that is likely to suggest non-compliance with the lobbying requirements. We have not sought to penalize entities when they subsequently register after having been notified by the Commission of registration requirements.  We have emphasized obtaining compliance.

Cobb goes on to explain why they do not enforce penalties:

[A] program of aggressive seeking of penalties for non-compliance would affect the non-profit communities the most.  Non-profit enterprises occasionally engage in lobbying activity and trip the registration requirements without registering.  This may be a consequence of inadvertence or lack of sophistication in meeting regulatory requirements.  Nonetheless, we have again focused on obtaining compliance rather than instituting punitive measures.

Except that Lyons cannot plead ignorance of the law because she had filed reports in 2019 when she had also acted as a paid lobbyist.

From the way Cobb tells it, lobbyists have little to fear:

In theory there could be a situation where an entity repeatedly fails to register and is intransigent towards efforts to obtain compliance that Commission staff or the Ethics Commission itself believes warrants further action including imposition of a penalty.  This would require compelling evidence of noncompliance and persistent reluctance to register.

In other words, the Commission doesn’t even engage in public sanction for failure to comply, let alone impose a meaningful monetary penalty. If lobbyists like Lyons who clearly know better can avoid even the slightest sanction by filing whenever, it is hard to see how public interest in knowing who is being paid to lobby in a timely fashion is being served.

Ethics, schmethics.

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MD State Redistricting: Where Will Be Over or Underrepresented?

Data calculated by author.

The General Assembly is moving forward with the redistricting plan recommended by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission.

Redistricting in America emphasizes population equality very heavily. Congressional plans have been overturned by federal courts for unjustified deviations from population equality of as little of 20 people. Many states adopt plans in which the most populous district has only one more person than the least populous district to insulate them from challenges on these grounds.

The federal courts have usually given state legislative plans more wiggle room, though they have not always deferred to jurisdictions that meet a standard of having deviations less than 5 percent above or below the ideal population, or 10 percent total.

The Maryland plan meets the 10 percent standard but the cumulative impact of variations in legislative district size across multiple districts within some jurisdictions may raise eyebrows. Some counties are noticeably over or underrepresented compared to others.

The table at the top of this post shows the legislative district (LD) entitlement of various jurisdictions based on population. Each LD elects one senator and three delegates with some divided into two or three subdistricts for purposes of delegate elections.

The table further reveals the how many LDs were allocated to jurisdictions along with the difference from their entitlement based on population. The final column shows the same information in terms of the number of delegates, which is just three times larger than for the entire LD. Where a proposed subdistrict or district spans a county line, I allotted the representation from the district based on population.

Most areas are quite close to their population entitlement, but a few areas stand out as winners and losers. Together Baltimore City and County have nearly an entire delegate more than they are entitled to based on population. Baltimore City has 55% of a delegate more than entitled to based on population while neighboring Baltimore County has 44% more.

Meanwhile, Prince George’s has 70% less of a delegate than it merits based on population. Prince George’s together with the three southern Maryland counties of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s together merit an additional delegate based on population. The Eastern Shore as a whole is also down 28% of a delegate.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that House Speaker Adrienne Jones lives in Baltimore County and the Senate President Bill Ferguson lives in Baltimore City. It is also part of a history of Democrats trying to protect Baltimore City from its long-term population decline.

The City of Baltimore had 11 LDs in 1974 but will be down to 4 2/3 if this plan goes into effect for 2022. Past efforts to preserve City influence by extending existing City districts into Baltimore County led to the Maryland Court of Appeals overturning the 2001 map for General Assembly districts.

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Planning Board Violated Open Meetings Act

Like many institutions, the Montgomery County Planning Board has taken to holding meetings online during the pandemic. Incredibly, they chose not to give public notice about how members of the public could attend the meeting online.

Del. Al Carr (D-18) filed a complaint on November 1 alleging that the Development Review Committee (DRC) of the Montgomery County Planning Board repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to provide the public this information.

Unbelievably, the Planning Board Counsel, overseen by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, defended this decision as acceptable because there was no physical location for the meetings:

Since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DRC meetings have been held via Microsoft Teams. Someone wishing to join the Teams meeting would call the Information Counter (number provided on the website) and request to be added to the Teams meeting. There was no in-person option so no “location” was required.

The Open Meetings Compliance Board did not agree:

We believe the DRC construes the Act’s notice requirement too narrowly. The purpose of § 3-302(b)(2) is to ensure that members of the public who would like to attend a public body’s meeting have enough information to be able to do so.

An individual cannot attend a meeting without knowing where the meeting will take place. And while a virtual meeting may not happen in a physical location in the traditional sense, a person hoping to attend the meeting must still know where to go to observe the public body’s business. . .

The notices further indicated that “project applicants and their team” would receive information about “how to participate in the DRC meeting[s]” remotely. But the notices gave no indication of how an interested member of the public could obtain access information for the meeting. In its response, the DRC asserts that “[s]omeone wishing to join [a] Teams meeting would call the Information Counter” and “request to be added to the Teams meeting.” But the DRC fails to explain how an individual interested in attending such a meeting would even know to call “the Information Counter” or where to find that number, as such details are missing from the meeting notices.

Notice that the Board not only called out the Planning Board for failing to provide the information but also for their disingenuous claim that members of the public would somehow magically know to call the Information Center to be added to the meeting.

As with M-NCPPC’s complete ignoring of lobbying disclosure requirements and failure to address this ongoing violation despite their assurances, the Planning Board’s failure shows contempt for ethics laws and the public that they are supposed to serve.

In this case, the Planning Board finally altered its behavior in response to Del. Carr’s complaint But it should not take action by a member of the General Assembly for the Montgomery County Planning Board and M-NCPPC to comply with ethics laws.

And why didn’t the County Council, which has responsibility for appointing and overseeing the Planning Board, take action? Or do they condone this illegal nexus between the Board and the interests that they are supposed to regulate.

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Executive Race Lane 1: The Incumbent

Marc Elrich drove the other members of the Montgomery County Council a bit nuts by winning the Democratic Primary in 2018. It was an unpleasant surprise for them that primary voters opted for him despite their frequent rejection of his ideas as either too progressive or anti-business. One of his Democratic colleagues, Nancy Floreen, even went so far as to leave the party so she could challenge him unsuccessfully in the general election. Hans Riemer, also an at-large member, had to think hard before endorsing him.

When asked about his greatest challenges as prime minister, Harold Macmillan famously replied “Events, my dear boy, events.” So it has been for County Executive Marc Elrich, who no doubt had intended to concentrate his term on pushing forward with vision for a more effective, progressive county but instead faced the major health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis has provided opportunities and pitfalls for Elrich. Montgomery has the highest rate of vaccination of any county in the nation of its size and has done an especially impressive job of vaccinating Black and Hispanic residents compared to other jurisdictions. However, Elrich has also had to make tough choices regarding school closings, masking, dining, and vaccination requirements that were virtually guaranteed to anger large constituencies no matter the decision.

But he has made them and it’s hard to argue that the county has fared badly or that he strayed from science in the process. Council opponents have snapped at his heels all the way, but I don’t know it has had much public impact. The Council has trouble gaining attention even at the most placid of times.

Elrich was most vociferously attacked for not having imposed vaccine requirements on the police. But in a time of rising crime did we want to potentially find ourselves without substantial numbers of officers and further alienate the police—the group of county employees with the highest non-vaccination rate? While many said “damn the torpedoes,” it is easy to bet that the same people would rush to the front of the line to attack Elrich for any increase in crime that resulted.

To my mind, Elrich faces two challenges as he seeks reelection. First, he needs to communicate clearly what he has done. Elrich explains things well and laudably avoids jargon in the process—one reason residents find him accessible—but is not known for being succinct. He needs to sell a short list of top accomplishments concisely.

Beyond arguing that he’s kept the county safe during the pandemic, Elrich can argue that he got the new FLASH new bus-rapid transit line built with more to come. Elrich also needs to articulate how his administration has worked successfully to protect struggling Montgomeryites throughout the pandemic despite opposition. Everyone likes someone who stands up for the underdog.

This last point will help Elrich with his second challenge: keeping movement progressives on side and active. In both parties today, many expect politicians to work miracles and are ready to attack anyone who hasn’t accomplished them even amidst a world roiling pandemic and absent legislative support. While Elrich’s alliance with labor should hold firm, will progressives be as active for him in 2022 as in 2018?

His opponents may unwittingly help him out there by continuing to caricature him as a throwback Marxist who can’t manage money. And yet, pensions are funded. The county retains its AAA bond rating. Attacks by financial scolds rely more on stereotypes than balance sheets. County finances are in better shape as they have been in recent memory despite the wrenching economic ups and downs of the pandemic.

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Grosfeld endorses Socol

Most Maryland Senate incumbents face their fiercest challenges from sitting delegates. They usually represent exactly the same people, which leads to many senators casting a wary eye on their partners in the House who can be opponents or slate mates.

Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18) appears to be facing a strong challenge from newcomer Max Socol. Yesterday, Sharon Grosfeld, who represented the same district previously for two terms in the House and another in the Senate, endorsed Socol:

Since hearing in depth about Max’s values, exemplified by his unwavering support for a woman’s right to choose, equal rights for LGBTQ+, advocacy on behalf of tenants rights and protecting the environment, coupled with his leadership positions fighting for racial justice, including criminal justice reform, it is my great privilege to officially endorse Max in his campaign to be the next District 18 state senator.”

Grosfeld was known as a staunch, liberal advocate, particularly on women’s issues. Her endorsement plays to Socol’s theme that Waldstreicher isn’t really a leader on progressive issues like his recent predecessors, Sens. Van Hollen, Grosfeld and Madaleno.

Still, it has been 20 years since Grosfeld last won an election in District 18. At this point, the prime endorsements that can move voters are those of Sen. Chris Van Hollen or Rep. Jamie Raskin. It will be interesting to see if they get involved in the D18 primary this year.

The real question is whether they endorse Waldstreicher or decide to give the race a pass. The incumbent would benefit greatly from their support–both are extremely well-liked in this district—and I imagine he will do his formidable best to secure them. But I don’t really see any benefit to them from it, as it seems more likely to divide or to alienate a bunch of existing supporters rather than gain new ones.

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M-NCPPC Violating Ethics Laws and its own Lobbying Policy

Maryland Public Ethics Law mandates that the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency which includes the Montgomery and Prince George’s Planning Boards and other departments, require disclosure by lobbyists.

Towards that end, M-NCPPC adopted a policy on lobbying disclosure in 1983, which was amended in 1985. The policy requires lobbyists to register with M-NCPPC and to file a report annually with the Commission. Paid lobbyists should be reporting expenditures on meals, entertainment and gifts to Commissioners or their employees in addition to their compensation and monies spent on lobbying materials and research subject to certain regulations and thresholds.

The current Commission does none of this.

That means that lobbyists before the Planning Boards, which handle decisions with incredible monetary impact, aren’t registering or filing reports. A recent evaluation in by the Office of the General Counsel in response to a citizen complaint, reveals that even the old policy doesn’t fully comply with current law.

You can read M-NCPPC’s Office of the General Counsel’s recent report and review the 1985 policy below. Even their own counsel says that M-NCPPC is way out of compliance: “no lobbying registrations had apparently been filed in recent memory.”

Montgomery and Prince George’s need to wake up. Montgomery has always prided itself on being a squeaky-clean reform county, but its own Planning Board has failed to enforce any of its own or Maryland’s ethics requirements even though its decisions and recommendations can provide many millions in benefits to people invested and involved in property development.

This raises serious questions. Why hasn’t the Commission or either Planning Board done anything to enforce ethics regulations related to lobbying? Why has Planning Board Staff failed to carry out the Board’s adopted policy? Why didn’t the Office of the General Counsel make sure that M-NCPPC was in compliance up until now?

At the end of its report, the Office of the General Council states:

OGC recommends that the Commission promptly complete the process for a substantial overhaul of its lobbying regulations. The Commission’s executive team has made a commitment to revise and adopt new, clarifying lobbying regulations before the end of the 2021 calendar year, and to launch an energetic campaign of public education to introduce them after adoption.

None of that has happened.

The report was supposed to be discussed finally at the December 2021 M-NCPPC Board meeting but was yanked from the agenda at the last minute. In other words, M-NCPPC has already failed to honor its “commitment” to clean up this ethics mess by the end of 2021.

The Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils, which fund and appoint each county’s Planning Board, need to investigate quickly and ensure that a new, cleaner regime arrives at the Planning Board’s new Wheaton headquarters with officials and planners willing to abide by and to enforce the law.

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Prominent Latinos are Burying Latinx. BIPOC Should Go Too.

To the extent that Latinx ever took off, it was primarily at universities like where I teach. That’s no surprise, as surveys reveal it to be more popular among the young, educated, and Democratic, which practically defines my students.

But it never gained real traction outside of the academic arena–only 2 to 5 percent of Latinos preferred it. For that matter, Hispanic is preferred to Latino by 57 to 37 percent. Many Latinos prefer to identify by national origin. New York has a Dominican but not a Latinx parade for a reason.

Latinx gained traction after the horrendous mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Several transgender and non-binary people injured in the attack preferred Latinx to express their identity over the gendered Latino and Latina. That’s a fine personal expression of their identities. But the progressive elite quickly picked it up as a general gender-neutral and transgender inclusive term, even though Latinx never was adopted by the broader Latino community.

Perhaps Rita Moreno’s character in the remake of One Day at a Time captured it best, when she asked “What the hell is a Latinx? Is it a Cuban Kleenex?”

One can imagine how the imposition of Latinx, which really does not work in Spanish, and was never embraced by the community might grate. Axios reports that Latinx is now being given a very public funeral by prominent Latinos as part of the backlash against the imposition of Latinx:

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ campaign arm, announced last month his congressional staff is not allowed to use “Latinx” in official communications. “When Latino politicos use the term it is largely to appease white rich progressives who think that is the term we use. It is a vicious circle of confirmation bias,” he tweeted.

Days after Gallego’s tweet, Domingo García, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, instructed staff and board members to drop the word “Latinx” from the group’s official communications, NBC Latino’s Suzanne Gamboa reported. “The reality is, there is very little to no support for its use, and it’s sort of seen as something used inside the Beltway or in Ivy League tower settings,” García told NBC News.

The Miami Herald, in an editorial, also denounced the term and urged left-leaning activists to “just drop it” while pointing to polls that the word wasn’t even popular among Latinos. “’Latinx’ has failed to gain buy-in from the people it’s supposed to empower. It’s time to retire it from official use,” the editorial board wrote.

Politics is about reaching people where they are. Hard to see how Democrats reach the Latino community, which appears to be trending Republican at a rate that ought to scare the bejeezus out of them, by using elite argot instead of terms used in everyday conversation.

When transgender people identify as Latinx, that is an authentic expression of their identity. When progressives use it for the entire community, it comes across as elite pretentiousness: I’m part of the enlightened who know better.

Dump BIPOC Too

While we’re at it, progressives should dump BIPOC too.

BIPOC stands for Black Indigenous People of Color. It was created as part of an effort to “center the voices of Black and Indigenous communities” lost in People of Color, especially when Blacks are the major victims of police violence.

In the New York Times Prof. Cynthia Frisby explained that “I think the major purpose of that was for including voices that hadn’t originally been heard that they wanted to include in the narrative, darker skin, blacks and Indigenous groups, so that they could make sure that all the skin shades are being represented.”

It’s hard to see how focusing on two groups is simultaneously more inclusive of all skin shades.

BIPOC has also been attacked for conflating the very different suffering of Black and Indigenous people under colonialism. McGill Prof. Charmaine Nelson told the Times  “To conflate everything in one is to erase, which is the very nature of genocidal practice.”

Far more important than these very academic debates is that the term is simply not widely used by ordinary people. Yet left-wing elites will nonetheless insist on using this elitist argot in the name of respecting people who, as with Latinx, not only don’t use the term but literally have no idea what they are talking about.

Montgomery County climate activist Jim Driscoll sent me an email on December 4th that led with “Over 50 BIPOC and other Montgomery County (MOCO) youth and their allies…”

Unraveling this phrase practically requires math. BIPOC and other youth is presumably the same as BIPOC and White youth since BIPOC nominally includes everyone but White people even as it focuses on Black and Indigenous people. Of course, that also means that BIPOC and White youth could just be written as youth. Adding “their allies” means that both youth and non-youth—people—were there.

I don’t know Jim Driscoll or his intent here. I’m sure it wasn’t to talk down to people. He probably was just doing his best to use what he thought is the correct inclusive terminology among Montgomery progressives as he pressed his climate agenda.

But that’s the problem. When progressives use language like this, intentionally or not, they come across to the average citizen as somewhat ridiculous elitist snobs. It’s not inclusive to use obscure language used primarily among educated elites.

It’s definitely not the way to win supporters–or elections. And it’s a lot more fun to win than to wrap yourself up in moral superiority.

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Remembering January 6th

Last year, Adam Pagnucco published a first-hand account of what it was like to be inside the Capitol on January 6th. I think it is a more eloquent commentary than anything I could write and reprint it here:

Julie Tagen, who is the Chief of Staff to Congressman Jamie Raskin, wrote the following account of her experience during the attack on the U.S. Capitol this week. We are reprinting it with her permission.

*****

Friends, here is my story of what happened to me yesterday. I am writing this because the process is cathartic for me, and I don’t want to EVER forget the details of January 6, 2021. Forgive me, it’s a long read.

As most of you know, I am Chief of Staff to Representative Jamie Raskin, who had an unbearable family tragedy on December 31 when he lost his beloved son Tommy. You may also know that Jamie is a constitutional scholar, and Speaker Pelosi gave him the high honor of being one of the four key players during the electoral college vote on the House floor.

The day started out normal. I picked up Jamie and drove him to work (masks on, windows down). We live near each other, and pre-COVID, were daily commuting partners. As we drove on 3rd Street NW in front of the Capitol, we could see people with Trump, QAnon and Confederate flags milling around and heading toward the White House (or so it seemed).

We went up to our office in the Rayburn House Office Building, where Jamie worked on his speech in preparation for his big day. Jamie’s family wanted to be with him and see him in action on the floor, so they decided that his daughter, Tabitha, and his son-in-law, Hank, would come to the Capitol. Jamie’s other daughter, Hannah, and Tabitha’s boyfriend, Ryan, would watch the proceedings at home with Jamie’s wife, Sarah. At around noon, Jamie and I walked to the Capitol through the tunnels, the only direction that Capitol Police had ever given us for this momentous day, to meet Tabitha and Hank in a ceremonial room off the House floor. The wonderful staff of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer gave us the Hoyer ceremonial office (H-219) for the week so Jamie could have privacy in his time of mourning and be closer to the House floor.

This is when things began to get crazy; a lot is still hazy to me. The Joint Session started at 1 p.m. The plan was that shortly before Jamie was to speak on the floor, at around 1:30 p.m., Tabitha and Hank would be taken to one of the viewing galleries by security (this was a special privilege, as only Members of Congress were permitted in these galleries during the Joint Session). Jamie left for the floor, which was around 50 feet from our door, and Tabitha, Hank and I started looking out of the large office window at what was taking place outside.

Our windows faced the West Front of the Capitol, in the direction of the Washington Monument. All of the major news channels were showing the activities on the floor, so we only received information about outside activities through Twitter and information other friends and staffers were sending us. Tabitha, Hank and I knew something was very wrong. Our view was slightly obstructed by the inaugural scaffolding and platform, but it was clear that the crowd was getting bigger and more aggressive and there definitely were not enough Capitol Police officers. We could see them taking one or two people away in handcuffs, and smoke, likely tear gas, covering the growing crowd.

After everything the Raskin family had been through over the course of the last week, it became my goal to keep Tabitha and Hank as calm as possible. I told them that we were very safe, that we would be protected, and that there was absolutely no way that anyone could get into the Capitol. I said that because I truly believed it. I was on the Hill in 2010, when the ACA passed and loonies were roaming the halls of the House office buildings since they were open to the public. I figured since the buildings were closed due to COVID, we would be safe. It never once entered my mind that something bad could happen.

I had my laptop on my desk and started getting large pop-up alerts on my screen. I first saw that the Madison Building of the Library of Congress was evacuated. This was concerning, but it seemed like things were under control. Although the floor activities were on the office’s large TV, Tabitha, Hank and I could not stop looking out the window at the chaos outside. At this point, it began to look like mayhem. Scores of angry white men with Trump and Confederate flags stomped around, clad in camouflage and flak jackets.

Despite the mobs outside, Jamie was scheduled to speak on the floor around 1:30pm. Jason Gandolph, a member of Capitol Police Security, came by and said that he could take Tabitha and Hank one floor up to the viewing gallery. They left just as I got an alert that the Cannon House Office Building, where Member’s offices were located, was being evacuated. Jason came back and said, very calmly, that the Capitol was about to go into lockdown. They would have to lock us in the room once Tabitha and Hank returned from the gallery.

Once they came back, Tabitha, Hank and I looked out the window again. We could see that the rioters had gotten onto the inaugural platform and were climbing the scaffolding. The police, who did not have riot gear on, remained below. At one point, it looked like they were trying to move forward, and then it looked like they were retreating; one thing was clear –they were not handling or controlling the mob. We watched as one of the barriers was broken down or opened by police and a rush of rioters headed on West plaza toward the Senate side of the building. I assumed by letting them rush the Senate side that it was a strategy to arrest or disperse them. There was a strong line of police holding off the mob from the plaza’s House side. On TV, the electoral proceedings were still taking place, so I figured things couldn’t be that bad.

Suddenly, we started getting alerts on the computer and our phones. Calls and texts from team members came pouring in: the Capitol had been BREACHED!! The House floor was quickly adjourned. The alerts told us to turn off all sounds in our offices and to take cover. Tabitha and Hank crammed under Steny Hoyer’s desk, and I took the chairs in the room and barricaded the door.

I was looking out of the side window at the chaos. I began to panic inside at the thought of the Raskin kids being traumatized again and what was happening to them after everything they’d been through. Outwardly, I was calm. I told Tabitha and Hank that we would be okay. Inwardly, I wanted to crawl up in a ball and hide. I was scared.

Perhaps it was the adrenaline or the reality of the moment, but I had an epiphany, for lack of a better word. I was trapped in a room with a giant photograph of John Lewis on the wall and a bust of Abraham Lincoln on the fireplace mantel. I said to myself, and perhaps out loud, “These people are TERRORISTS, They cannot win.” Some who know me might say that at that moment, I got my “Philly On!!” I gathered anything in the room that I could use as a weapon and put them by the door: a fireplace stocker, busts, a bronze award of a buck with large and pointy horns.

By then, the terrorists had made their way into the Capitol. We could hear their heavy footsteps outside our door as they tried to breach the House floor. We could hear them chanting, “USA, USA!” and “We want Trump!” and “Stop the steal!” We could hear them trying to ram the door of the House Chamber just a few feet away. There were bangs all over the place. Someone jangled our door handle. I picked up the heaviest item I could find (not sure why), the bronze buck bust, and stood in front of the door, waiting for them to arrive.

I started receiving texts from Jamie, who had been evacuated from the House floor, asking if we were okay. I lied and told him we were fine, because I didn’t want to worry him too. I also started getting calls from Pelosi’s floor staff, who were trying to locate and evacuate us. Texts started arriving from friends all around the country, asking if I was okay. I only told a few close buddies how terrified I was. I talked to my wife, De, very quickly, and told her that we were safe and fine. I asked Hank if it was convincing enough.

After what felt like 30 minutes, the chants began to die down. I could hear police in the hallway. They knocked on our door and told us they were there to help. Tabitha and Hank got out from under the desk. We all looked at each other and said nothing. There was a delay to get us out as a result of being locked in – and I hadn’t remembered that I had locked the 3 inside locks too. Five Capitol police officers opened the door. It was clear they were amped up. The said “Let’s Roll!!” and whisked us through the tight stairwells of the Capitol and we finally made it to the “secure location” where we were joyously joined by a super-relieved and grateful Jamie. In the secure location, everyone was exhausted and there was little food or water. Little by little small food items were handed out: Goldfish crackers, berry gummies, Skittles. After four hours, pizza and drinks arrived. I pretty much survived that night on candy and Diet Coke.

At around 9:15 p.m., I was able to get Tabitha and Hank a ride home to Maryland. I stayed with Jamie until the end until 4:00 AM. It was an honor and a privilege to be in the Capitol when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared winners, and the next President and Vice President of the United States. I arrived back home a little past four in the morning.

I am still processing all of this but I could never imagine this happening to the US Congress.

There is a long list of people that helped me through the day. I hope you know who you are, and I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. More formal thanks will come later.

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Waldstreicher Challenger Gets Prominent Grassroots Support

Max Socol is running as a progressive challenger to incumbent Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher who is seeking reelection to the Maryland Senate after having also served three terms in the House of Delegates. That Socol is holding a fundraiser is hardly news.

The names on the invitation, however, grabbed my attention. All are well known in Montgomery County politics. Many are exactly the sort of people you’d think would be supporting an incumbent who touts himself as a “proud progressive” and “champion for justice” but are instead lined up squarely behind his challenger.

Former Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, who served with Waldstreicher for three terms in the House and ran on a ticket with him twice (!) is now working to defeat her former slate-mate. Always an alliance of convenience, I can’t say I find this shocking.

Brandy Brooks is making her second bid for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council. Like Socol, she is positioning herself as a progressive activist outsider. Brooks is considered one of the leading candidates in her own race.

Michelle Whittaker is a communications and campaign strategist. She is the former Communications Manager for Manna Foods and the former Director of Communications for FairVote among other organizations. She has testified for removing police officers from public schools and ranked choice voting. (She is also Brandy Brooks’s sister.)

Fran Rothstein, Diana Conway and Beth Tomasello are Past Presidents of the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County. An informant tells me Conway has previously hosted an event for Waldstreicher. An environmentalist, Conway has been very active in the fight against synthetic turf playing fields. Tomasello is an attorney who has advocated on criminal justice reform.

Laura Stewart is currently the First Vice President of the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County but probably better known as a PTA leader, an active supporter of County Executive Marc Elrich in 2018 and many other progressive causes.

Zola Shaw serves on Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee and is a member of the Board of the Montgomery County Chapter of Our Revolution Maryland. Michael Tardif was named Democrat of the Year by the Montgomery County Democratic Party in 2021.

Bottom Line

Whether Socol can build the coalition and the campaign needed to unseat Waldstreicher, a reelection-focused incumbent if there ever was one, remains to be seen. But the early strength indicates that Waldstreicher hasn’t nailed down his base even after sixteen year in the General Assembly.

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Does the Frederick Donut Violate the Constitution?

Proposed Frederick County Legislative Districts

Maryland Matters reports that one Republican legislator has raised questions regarding whether the legislative districts proposed for Frederick County would pass constitutional muster:

Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany), the House minority leader and a member of the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, questioned whether the new proposed District 4 would pass muster for compactness. The proposed District 4 would encompass much of Frederick County around the city of Frederick, which is contained within District 3, creating what Buckel described as a “donut effect.”

Del. Buckel is almost certainly wrong. The donut does not exist in spite of the Maryland Constitution but to comply with it. Ironically, this is for the same reason that I expressed concern in yesterday’s post about whether District 17 can survive a constitutional challenge: the requirement of “due regard” for “the boundaries of political subdivisions.”

This same provision indicates that the City of Frederick ought to be kept in a single legislative district if possible unless it conflicts with other requirements. At this point, the population of the City and its surrounding suburbs is sufficiently high as to easily meet the population for a legislative district, resulting in a more compact shape than the existing plan in which District 3 extends to the Virginia border.

Putting most of the rest of Frederick County into a surrounding legislative district is the logical consequence of same provision requiring “due regard” of administrative divsions as it avoids unnecessarily extending District 4 into another county.

Del. Buckel’s point reflects that the Maryland Constitution also says that legislative districts should “be compact in form.” But it’s not clear that extending District 3 to the Montgomery County line would improve the compactness of either Districts 3 or 4. It might lengthen the perimeters of both Districts 3 and 4 and reduce compactness according to measures that have been commonly used in past redistricting litigation. One would have to look to be sure either way but I doubt it would be nearly enough to cause a court to second guess the legislature’s approach.

Bear in mind also that District 3 is not an independent enclave trapped by its neighbor. It’s not Lesotho. Enclosing District 3 in District 4 doesn’t make it impossible to leave District 3 without a passport. The City of Frederick isn’t being deprived of a seaport.

Others might wonder about why a bit of District 2 extends into Frederick County.

Proposed Western Maryland Legislative Districts

That’s easily explainable by the State’s geography and population changes. District 1 must start in Garrett County, take in all of Allegany County and then the western part of Washington County to pick up enough population.

Currently, District 2 neatly comprises the remainder of Washington County with the Washington-Frederick border serving as its eastern boundary. That’s no longer possible. The western three counties continue to lose population relative to the rest of the state, so the districts encompassing them move east with each redistricting cycle. At this point, they must extend into Frederick.

The good news is that Frederick has grown sufficiently that the ripple effect stops there. Unlike under the existing plan, none of the proposed districts traverse Frederick’s border with Carroll County.

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