All posts by David Lublin

Trump’s Silent Partner

Gov. Larry Hogan loves a good press conference. There is nothing that this Republican administration does quite as well as trumpet his support for the latest poll-tested political trend. Hogan’s complete willingness to go along with Trump’s efforts at the federal level, even when they contradict his supposed issue positions, illustrates the triumph of optics over substance.

Hogan has decided to tackle the State’s opioid crisis. He wants limits on prescriptions and stronger penalties for dealers. But when Trump and Ryan proposed a health care overall that would have eliminated treatment for opioid addiction covered under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, Hogan said nothing.

Hogan claims he was always opposed to fracking, even though he was for it right up until he was against it. After rattling on at length at a press conference about the importance of Maryland’s natural environment, he said nothing in response to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement that Trump would repeal the Clean Power Plan.

Hogan proposed a family leave bill that would cover few people while giving the impression that he cared about the issue. After holding a press conference touting for the bill, he has had virtually no interaction with the legislature on the issue beyond threatening to veto the more substantive Democratic version of the bill. This puts him right in league with his silent partner, Trump, who has promised to expand family leave but so far done nothing.

If it’s any comfort, Hogan is just as willing to stand up to Trump on conservative priorities either. While he was happy to trot off to Asia on a trade mission–what Republicans called a “junket” when Gov. Martin O’Malley did the same thing–he has said nothing about the proposed Trump-Ryan “border adjustment tax,” more commonly known as a tariff. Conservatives normally criticize such policies as raising prices on ordinary Americans, bad for business, and dumb economic policy. Not Silent Larry.

General Assembly Passes Bill to Protect Planned Parenthood. Next Stop is Hogan’s Desk

The General Assembly passed great legislation sponsored by Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Shane Pendergrass designed to ensure that Planned Parenthood stays funded, regardless of the federal budget, so that all Marylanders have will retain access to their vital family planning and health services:

“Today we made sure that no matter what happens in Washington, Maryland will ensure that all women have access to health services — especially those who have historically faced barriers to quality health care — women with low incomes, on Medicaid or living without health insurance, people of color, those living in rural areas, and LGBTQ people,” said Madaleno.

“This is a great day to be a Marylander and Planned Parenthood is grateful to the General Assembly for its leadership,” said Karen J. Nelson, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

The bill now heads to Larry Hogan’s desk. Will he allow it to become law without his signature–I doubt that he will sign it–or will he force a veto override? This gives the Governor a great opportunity to keep his promise during the 2014 campaign that he won’t work to restrict access to abortion or birth control.

But the Governor has said he remains personally opposed to abortion. Opposition to Planned Parenthood, long the object of Republican ire, has become a totem for Republicans in the wake of bogus accusations that Planned Parenthood profited off of the sale of fetal tissue. At the national level, the issue helped cement Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s reputation as a complete jackass:

Once again, Trump’s victory has brought the national home to Maryland. Whether or not Hogan has the votes to uphold a veto, his decision will speak volumes about his views on Planned Parenthood. Will Hogan stand with Trump and extreme congressional Republicans? Or will he keep his promise to preserve access to abortion and birth control in Maryland by protecting Planned Parenthood?

Hogan’s Incoherent, Petulant Fracking Ban Press Conference

Gov. Larry Hogan’s press conference in which he announced his support for the fracking ban pushed by Democrats in the legislature was vintage Hogan in its petulance and dissembling.

As much as he tries to pretend, Hogan just doesn’t do bipartisanship well. He could have just gotten up and celebrated that Republicans and Democrats agreed to support a fracking ban. Instead, he had to dissemble about his own past record and blame Democrats:

Our administration proposed the toughest regulations in all 50 states of the United States of America. The regulations that we proposed would have made it virtually impossible for anyone to ever engage in fracking in Maryland. However, the legislature has failed to act, or enact, these tough regulations.

The horse manure in the last two sentences is so heavy that one needs a shovel to parse through it, but here goes. First, Hogan’s proposed regulations would not have made it “virtually impossible” to ban fracking.

The entire point of Hogan’s proposal was to allow fracking to go forward while claiming it would be environmentally safe. After all, if Hogan just wanted to ban fracking, he could have just supported the bill that had already passed the House of Delegates banning it in the first place.

Attacking the Democrats for failing to enact his regulations is just bizarre. Regulations are promulgated by the executive branch, so any failure here rests on Hogan and not the General Assembly. Now, he attacks Democrats, as he signs on to a Democratic bill to ban fracking opposed by many Republicans.

Hogan thrashed about in the press conference and lashed out at Democrats because the General Assembly cornered him into supporting the fracking ban against his will. In particular, he went after Senate President Mike Miller:

The choice to me is clear. Either you support a ban on fracking or you are for fracking. It came to my attention today that Senate President Miller, Sen. Paul Pinsky and others are working on a plan that would open a door to fracking in Maryland. They are pushing to put a referendum on the ballot that would allow for fracking. Because the legislature has failed to enact our tough regulations, and because there is now a move by the Senate President to allow for fracking, today, I have decided to announce my full support for the Maryland fracking ban.

More Hogan incoherence. If you either “support a ban on fracking or you are for fracking,” then why did Hogan take so long to support a ban? Why did he support regulations that were designed to allow fracking, even though he now pretends otherwise? Furthermore, if the Governor has really always been against fracking, why was he so bitter that the legislature was moving toward adopting a ban?

Ironically, Hogan tipped his hand during his fulminations. Miller’s proposed referendum would have put fracking on the ballot during Hogan’s reelection bid. Hogan didn’t want to have to defend his regulations to allow fracking as environmental, so he caved to the Democrats.

Hogan had another political goal in his seemingly incoherent railing against the failure to adopt his regulations designed to allow fracking even as he claims that they would have banned fracking. Specifically, he would like to shore up support among Garrett and Allegany Republicans who are not happy with the Governor and very much supported fracking in Western Maryland.

(Headline: Hogan stands up to Western Maryland to support fracking ban.)

As it turns out, Hogan did not consult any members of Garrett or Allegany’s legislative delegation before the press conference:

Sen. George Edwards registered disappointment Friday after learning of a press conference in which Gov. Larry Hogan announced his support for a fracking ban. Edwards and the three delegates who make up the District 1 Delegation have been staunch advocates for hydraulic fracturing in Western Maryland. Hogan had not indicated in the past year that he opposed fracking, much less expressing any desire for an outright ban, according to Edwards. . . . “It would have been nice to have known this a month ago,” said Edwards. “It would have saved us this back and forth over the issue.”

The statements by Edwards, a Hogan ally, provide more evidence that Hogan has not always opposed fracking, despite his statements to the contrary at the press conference. The Hagerstown Herald-Mail similarly reports that Hogan had taken a “wait-and-see position” until Miller made his move.

While “nobody puts Baby in a corner,” the Democrats sure cornered Larry who, even as he whined about it to the end, adopted their position. Like Trump with his failure on health care, Hogan now wants Democrats to feel bad about it. But somehow, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

MSEA Demands Hogan Withdraw Cooper Nomination

From the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) press release:

Educators Urge Hogan to Withdraw School Board Nomination

Annapolis, Maryland – Last night, Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointee for the State Board of Education, Brandon Cooper, went before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee for his confirmation hearing. During the hearing, senators questioned Cooper on his lack of experience with education policy, his employer’s advocacy for school privatization, and his troubling legal history—including drunk driving, failure to appear in court, driving with a suspended license, and failure to pay state taxes.

In light of Cooper’s highly unusual disqualifications for a member of the state’s highest education policymaking body, the Maryland State Education Association—the statewide educators’ union representing more than 73,000 teachers and education support professionals—is calling on Gov. Hogan to withdraw Cooper’s appointment.

MSEA Director of Legislative Affairs, Sean Johnson, released the following statement:

“While we have concerns with many of Gov. Hogan’s appointments to the State Board of Education—of whom, only one of ten has any experience working in a Maryland public school—we do not usually object to their confirmation. But considering Mr. Cooper’s consistent disregard for state law and his complete lack of experience with Maryland public schools and education policy, Maryland’s educators have no choice but to urge Gov. Hogan to withdraw his misguided selection.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Hogan either did not subject his own appointments to the same level of scrutiny that he has insisted upon for new delegate appointments or was aware of Mr. Cooper’s troubling legal history and simply looked the other way.

“Between drunk driving, failure to pay state taxes, advocating for policies that would dismantle public education, and a complete lack of experience with Maryland public schools, Mr. Cooper should be nowhere near the State Board of Education and its far-reaching authority over our kids’ education. Gov. Hogan should meet the standards he has set for others and withdraw Mr. Cooper’s name from consideration.”

——————

The Senate President’s tough questioning of Cooper at the hearing does not bode well for his nomination:

“How can you make decisions for the state of Maryland when you don’t pay your taxes to the state of Maryland?” Miller asked. The Calvert County Democrat was referring to Cooper’s record of having tax liens filed against him by the Office of the Comptroller on multiple occasions.

Unique Hub for U.S. and Global Senate Elections Results Now Online

One reason I haven’t had as much time to post as I would have liked lately is that I’ve been focused on putting together a new database for my Election Passport website containing results for 184 Senate elections held in 25 countries, including all U.S. Senate elections since 1998.

The online database is arranged by constituency (e.g. the states in the United States) and has results from countries as diverse as Argentina, Belgium, Burma, Poland, and Zimbabwe. The data are free and open to researchers who may be able to study elections by incumbency, gender and ethnicity. It could also help assess vote manipulation in less-free countries.

My book, entitled Minority Rules: Electoral Systems, Decentralization and Ethnoregional Parties Success, and a series of articles written for the Journal of Politics and the British Journal of Political Science spurred the creation of the online database. It took my team more than a year to gather, translate, and consolidate election results for use by anyone fascinated by the world of politics.

Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Chile, and the Dominican Republic, figure prominently in the database because so many of them, like the U.S., have directly elected Senates. I am grateful to the Center for Latin American and Latino/a Studies and the School of Public Affairs at American University for helping to support this project.

In the future, I plan to expand the database, updating it with more countries and additional years of results as they become available. Among the 30 countries that have held Senate elections since 1990, all but five are already included in the database.

Beyond Senate elections, Election Passport contains lower house election results from over 100 countries as well as information as how electoral systems operate in selected countries. Additionally, there are a welter of documents from countries that have never been digitized or publicly available previously, such as redistricting plans in Botswana and Lesotho.

Perennial Candidate Robin Ficker Joins Executive Race

It never rains but it pours. After reporting that Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) has entered the public financing system to run for Montgomery County Executive, Robin Ficker (R-Running for Office Near You) is doing the same.

Despite winning one disastrous term in the House of Delegates in 1978 before being turfed out by voters, Ficker is best known for his persistent heckling at sporting events and his repeated brushes with the law and legal ethics.

Ficker has since run fruitlessly for a multiplicity of offices, desperately attempting to link himself to more popular pols as far back as Ronald Reagan. In 2016, he linked himself to the Cruz and the Trump campaigns at the same time. The following accounting of Ficker failure may not be complete as the online records die out in the early 1980s.

2016: Came in fourth for in the Republican Primary for the Sixth Congressional District with just 11% of the vote.

2014: Lost the general election in D15 for the State Senate with 39% of the vote.

2012: Came in fifth in the Republican Primary for the Sixth Congressional District with just 7% of the vote.

2010: Lost in the general election in MoCo Council District 2, previously won by Republicans, with 40% of the vote.

2009: After making a potentially fraudulent filing for office, Ficker lost a special election for MoCo Council District 4 with 39%.

2008: Robin took this year off, perhaps due to the suspension of his law license in 2007.

2006: Ficker ran as an independent for County Executive, gaining only 9% of the vote.

2004: No Robin!

2002: Ficker lost the general election for the D39 State Senate seat with 34% of the vote.

2000: Ficker came in fourth for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate with just 15% of the vote, losing to fellow perennial candidate Ross Pierpont and other unknowns.

1998: According to my search of the records, Ficker didn’t run for anything, even with all the federal, state and local offices on the ballot! Again, this may have something to do with an earlier suspension of his law license.

1996: No Ficker!

1994: Ficker came in fourth for the Republican nomination to the House of Delegates (D15), the office he previously held, and didn’t move on to the general election.

1990 and 1992: No Ficker! He claimed credit for an anti-tax initiative that Blair Lee reports he did not lead.

1988: A Ficker twofer! Ficker ran to be a delegate for Pat Robertson at the Republican National Convention from CD6, and lost with 3% of the vote. He also ran a losing race for MoCo School Board. (Earlier version of this post missed the School Board race.)

1986: Ficker-free election!

1982: Lost reelection to the House of Delegates (D15) to Democrat Gene Counihan.

1980: Lost Republican congressional primary.

1978: Won his sole disastrous term in the House of Delegates as a Republican from D15.

1972: Lost the Democratic Primary for the U.S. House.

Mistaking his term limits victory as a yearning for Ficker, we now know that the campaign will be loud and annoying but not dull.

Ervin Criticizes Party Chair Election Process

Today, I am pleased to present a guest blog by Valerie Ervin, a former Montgomery County Councilmember (D-5) and now a Senior Advisor to the Working Families Party.

The Maryland Democratic Party is poised to choose a new party chair.  Unlike the National Democratic Party that to its credit engaged in a very open and transparent process that culminated in the close and historic election of Tom Perez, the first Latino to ever hold this position.  It also ensured that Rep. Keith Ellison, the candidate whose support came from the left of the party, would become the Deputy Chair.  The DNC is on the move as to build an inclusive party, one that promises to use its resources to build local state parties and to do that by grassroots organizing.

As the DNC moves forward, the Maryland Democratic Party remains stuck in the remnants of the past.  The Maryland Democratic Party is set to bypass democracy and transparency and make one of its most important decisions for the future of the party, in a small room with only a few invited guests present.

In the 2014 mid-term elections, a Republican became the Governor of Maryland, only the second Republican Governor since 1969.  Also, in 2014, Maryland experienced one of the lowest voter turnouts in its history.  Less than half of the state’s 3.7 million eligible voters turned out.  In the Maryland’s largest counties, Montgomery and Prince Georges, the turnout was particularly unimpressive.

Many Democratic voters stayed at home.  There was an enthusiasm gap to be sure.  Voters believed that the candidates running for state-wide office gave them little or no reason to go to the polls.

In a recent article by Steve Phillips author of Brown is the New White, he writes, “The largely untold story of the 2016 election is that more white Obama voters defected to third- and fourth-party candidates than the number who supported Mr. Trump.  That is the white flight that should most concern the next DNC chairman.  The way to win them back is by being more progressive, not less.”

The election of Tom Perez to lead the DNC is the starting point to what will be a long and difficult struggle to rebuild the party at the national and local level.  The older and often moribund officials who still hold the power to singularly impact the future of democrats in Maryland are still in charge.  The party will rebuild itself when we hold space for the emerging heart and soul of our party.  They are more brown, black, young, female and progressive.

How do we win back the voters that left the party?  Let’s first start by holding ourselves accountable.  We must lead by example. When the Maryland Democratic Party meets on March 1st to accept the resignation of its Chair and to choose an interim chair, I hope that the party will rise to the occasion and instead of making an appointment, that the party leaders would consider waiting to elect and not select the person who will represent Maryland’s Democratic Party as its chair.  Maryland is known as the Free State, let’s rise to the meaning of that creed.  Let’s get back to the job of electing candidates that reflect the progressive values of that we are known for.

Shocking: Democratic Sen. Nat Oaks Sponsors Voter ID Legislation

Newly appointed Baltimore City Democratic Sen. Nathaniel Oaks (D 41) has sponsored a voter identification bill (see the text below). Such legislation is normally presented by Republicans in order to disfranchise Democrats, especially minorities, in the guise of combating the boogeyman of voter fraud.

In the House of Delegates, the same legislation has been cross-filed by Del. Neil Parrott of transgender paranoia fame and cosponsored by thirteen other Republicans. No Democrat has cosponsored the House legislation and no one has cosponsored Oaks’ bill.

Study after study has shown voter fraud is virtually non-existent. As Colombia University Prof. Lorraine Minnite put it, “The claim that voter fraud threatens the integrity of American elections is itself a fraud.” It’s appalling that Oaks is fighting to suppress the right to vote instead of to protect and to expand it.

UPDATE: I am told that Oaks did this by “mistake.” He asked for all of his House bills to be cross-filed and there was an error with the number. How this happened and why he never noticed or withdrew the bill, I don’t know. Sources say he plans to withdraw the bill but it’s still on the website, though languishing in the Rules Committee.