All posts by David Lublin

Lessons from the Virginia Primaries

On the Democratic side, we saw a hotly contested gubernatorial primary between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello. Both ran as strong progressives with Northam beating Perriello by the more comfortable than expected margin of 56-44.

Perriello did best in his old southside congressional district and in normally Republican low turnout counties in the western part of the State. Northam carried urban Democratic strongholds like Alexandria and Arlington and did even better in places like Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

While billed as the Sanders insurgency versus the establishment, this geography doesn’t support that voters especially saw it that way, since Northam carried urban progressive strongholds. I suspect that was inside baseball to most voters who took their cues off of snapshots of the candidates. Something for people still fighting the Bernie v. Hillary wars to remember.

We did learn that there is no such thing as criticizing Donald Trump too much in a Democratic primary. Both candidates were strident in their critiques. Northam managed to get a lot of earned media for calling Trump “a narcissistic maniac.”

Both candidates ran good campaigns and either would have been a fine general election candidate. Kudos to Tom Perriello for conceding quickly once the results became clear and for unequivocally endorsing Ralph Northam. Another good lesson for Democrats everywhere.

The Republicans had a much more problematic night that almost ended in total disaster. Former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie, who nearly upset U.S. Mark Warner in 2014, ran a campaign in which he advocated standard Republican calls for massive tax cuts and did his best to avoid controversy or commentary on Trump.

In contrast, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart, known in the past for his staunch anti-immigrant efforts and being fired as Trump’s state campaign chair, ran an incendiary campaign in which ran as Trumpier than Trump, embracing Confederate monuments and getting lots of free media.

Despite huge financial advantages and near universal establishment support, Gillespie eked out a victory over Stewart of 43.7 to 42.5. Trump remains popular among the diehards who tend to vote in low turnout Republican primaries.

This does not bode well for people who would like to see the party steered away from extreme right-wing populist Trump-style politics. Probably very bad for Republicans but even worse for Americans who need two responsible, viable parties.

Though Republicans just avoided the nightmare scenario of Stewart as their nominee, Gillespie’s narrow win when a blowout was anticipated takes the wind out of their sails, which doesn’t help as he was already trailing either Northam or Perriello in the polls. It doesn’t demonstrate strong support for the nominee and, contrary to his near upset of Warner, weakens confidence that he knows how to run a good campaign in tough terrain.

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The Jealous Campaign Responds

Today, I am pleased to present a response to yesterday’s post by Adam Pagnucco from Travis Tazelaar, the campaign manager for Ben Jealous’ Campaign for Governor and the former Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party.

I was a little disappointed today to read Adam Pagnucco’s Post on the Seventh State, “Is Jealous Claiming Credit for the Achievements of Others?” The post claims that Ben Jealous was not a “key player” in passing “the DREAM Act, marriage equality, death penalty repeal, voting reform and gun safety.” Adam’s post gives credit where credit is most certainly due: to the long list of legislators and other elected officials who fought, and passed legislation. Adam’s characterization that Ben Jealous is either taking credit for the achievement of others, or that he didn’t play a big enough role worth talking about, is false and misleading to Seventh State’s readers and to the progressive community.

Many people played a role in all the progressive victories outlined in the post, including Ben Jealous. I’d point special attention to former Governor Martin O’Malley, whose role in all these victories is unequivocal, who said of Ben Jealous in the Baltimore Sun:

Maryland is a better state — and ours is a more perfect union — because of Ben Jealous and his commitment to justice, equality, and the dignity of every child’s home… Here in Maryland, he was an indispensable part of repealing the death penalty, passing the Maryland Dream Act, ensuring civil marriage equality and expanding access to voting.

The Sun has also written:

The effort to end capital punishment in America epitomizes Mr. Jealous’ ability to combine on-the-ground organizing with strategic thinking. A year ago, the effort to ban the death penalty in Maryland appeared out of steam. Gov. Martin O’Malley‘s passionate advocacy on the issue had failed to sway the state Senate, and all indications were that Mr. O’Malley would not put the issue on his agenda again. Then he met with Mr. Jealous, who assured the governor he could provide vote counts showing majority support for a repeal in both chambers of the legislature. He did, and a month later, Mr. O’Malley stood by Mr. Jealous’ side to announce he would make another all-out push for a repeal. This time, he would succeed.

As the campaign manager for the DREAM Act referendum in 2012, I can express to you unequivocally Ben Jealous’ assistance in winning that campaign too. Were many others involved? Absolutely. Would he claim sole credit? Never. Nor has he tried to do so.

I could walk through the other victories too. I could go point, counterpoint as to what he did, when he did it, and who else was involved. I could pull more quotes from people on the ground thanking Ben Jealous for bringing the NAACP into the Maryland fights when he was President and CEO. But our energy right now shouldn’t be pointed inward, progressives on progressives, in the manner in which Adam is attempting. What Ben Jealous’ message is about, and is clearly written in the email referenced in Adam’s post, is about Maryland coming together. Adam is correct when he says the operative word here is “we.” WE should be coming together as progressives to do big things in this state again, we should be focused on what we can do for the next generation, not tearing down fellow progressives with misleading arguments about the past, especially when he’s clearly going to support another potential candidate.

Adam asks at the end of the post: “Here’s a question for the veterans of all these progressive wins: how do you feel about that?” As a veteran involved in many of these fights myself, especially once they reach the ballot, I can tell you that I’ve always been grateful to have Ben Jealous right there on the front lines with so many of us, and it’s one reason I’m enthusiastically running his campaign now. I would challenge Adam to discard divisive rhetoric and replace it with words affirming our progressive conviction for a brighter future in Maryland, especially when we all work together.

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Apology for Technical Problem

Dear Readers:

Today, I have been working to fix a problem with the automatic posting of blog posts to Seventh State’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. Somehow, this resulted in bombarding your email inboxes with lots of old posts if you’re signed up to receive them.

My apologies for the annoying intrusion. I hope it will stop soon.

David

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Rodriguez Ousted, Crimmins and Bartram Elected in Tight Race

Conor Crimmins
Darin Bartram

From a trusted correspondent in Kensington:

Kensington voters last night ousted a Town Council incumbent while reelecting another in a nonpartisan election that drew a robust turnout, at least by recent local standards.

The leading vote-getter in the field of three candidates was Conor D. Crimmins, a newcomer to Town politics who polled 233 votes. Trailing Crimmins, who moved to Kensington just three years ago, was Darin R. Bartram, a two-term Council member, who won 210 votes.

Tom Rodriguez

The losing candidate, Tom H. Rodriguez, received 207 votes — confirming expectations that the outcome would be close. Observers figured that at least 200 votes would be necessary to win election, given the intensity of the campaign that had preceded the voting.

In all, 358 paper ballots were marked in the election that spanned three hours and even produced short lines of waiting voters at Town Hall.

In Kensington’s most recent contested Town election, in 2015, 244 votes were cast. Rodriguez and Bartram were elected then, with 158 and 157 votes, respectively. Both men are registered Republicans.

Crimmins, chief operating officer at Spider Strategies, a technology and consulting firm in Washington, had stumped vigorously for votes, spending weeks going door-to-door across the town of 2,300 people. He maintained that the Town government should move more swiftly to address such issues as traffic congestion, parking restrictions, and the appearance of Kensington’s commercial district.

Crimmins, a registered Democrat, also pledged courtesy and respect in dealings with townspeople, some of whom have grumbled that Council members can be prickly in responding to complaints and suggestions.

Bartram, a partner at Baker Hostetler who works on the conservative side in environmental and constitutional law, advocated status quo in Town governance. He endorsed Rodriguez’s reelection bid, for example. And speaking at a candidates’ forum two weeks before the election, Bartram praised “the very good dynamic” on Town Council, the four members of which serve staggered two-years terms. Kensington also elects a mayor to two-year terms. The Town’s day-to-day affairs are run by a town manager and an assistant town manager.

Rodriguez, who is a project director for Luntz Global, a research firm run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, conducted an extensive door-to-door campaign. He emphasized his role in chairing the Town’s Greenscape Committee, which has overseen the recent installation of a fountain and brick walkway at a park across from Kensington’s post office.

Rodriguez also was host at a picnic for Townspeople two days before the voting.

In some ways, the election was as much social event as political exercise. During the hours of voting, townspeople mingled outside of Town Hall, chatting with each other, with the candidates, and with other elected officials, who included state delegates and former and incumbent Kensington mayors.

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Maryland Democrats’ White Problem

In the above table, I’ve collected exit polls from past presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections in Maryland. If exit polls were unavailable, I used pre-election surveys.

Mac Mathias was the last Republican to win a U.S. Senate race in Maryland in 1980. No Republican presidential candidate has carried Maryland since George H.W. Bush in 1988. On the other hand, Republicans managed to win the governor’s mansion twice since 2000. Bob Ehrlich’s 2002 victory broke the long Democratic streak since Spiro Agnew’s fluke election in 1966.

No Democratic winner fell below the 39% gained by Ben Cardin in his successful 2012 reelection bid. In both gubernatorial elections won by Republicans, the Democratic share of the white vote fell dramatically. In 2002, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend won an estimated 34% of white voters.

Anthony Brown performed even more poorly with just 31% in 2014. Towards the close of the 2014 campaign, I estimated that Brown realistically needed a maximum of 37% white support in order to capture the governor’s office.

Lower levels of white support result from two factors: defection and abstention. Put another way, some normally Democratic white voters switched to the Republican in these races. Additionally, others either didn’t vote or sat out these contests.

Since the 2016 election, much of the discussion has focused on the need to increase Democratic turnout, especially non-white turnout and especially in midterm elections. For Democrats, these are good goals, if only because the share of the white vote needed to win declines if more non-white, primarily African American but also Asian and Latino, Democrats vote.

At the same time, the 2016 elections also show the limits of relying solely on non-white voters. Turnout nationally among Latinos and Asians rose and by more than white turnout. African-American turnout declined from the historic levels seen when Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket.

Nevertheless, the task of winning the governor’s mansion would be a lot easier if Democrats can win back a higher share of the white vote by preventing both defections and abstentions. Even with higher minority turnout, it would have been hard for Anthony Brown to win without increasing white support.

The implications extend beyond gubernatorial elections. The retention of not so much control but dominant majorities in the General Assembly depends on receiving enough white voters. Losing more white votes means, for example, losing Senate seats that are critical to invoking cloture for legislation favored by Democrats and their ability to override Gov. Hogan’s veto.

I’m not saying that Democrats should take minority voters for granted. No political party should ever take anyone’s vote for granted, and I expect Hogan to look to increase his non-white support in 2018. But Maryland Democrats cannot repeat their 2014 hemorrhage in white support if they want to defeat Hogan.

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Democratic Gubernatorial Straw Poll Results

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D 18) emerged as the surprise winner of the online poll held by the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee, coming in first support from about one-third of people who clicked for their choice.

It probably didn’t hurt that Madaleno recently attended the District 30 Democratic Club meeting, as well as the Anne Arundel Central Committee Dinner. Other candidates at the dinner included Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former AG Doug Gansler, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D 6) won the Western Maryland straw poll held in April, with 35% of the 166 participants–less of a shock as Delaney represents this area in Congress. In any case, based on these totally non-random, non-representative samples, it appears that even active Democrats are quite divided, which should make for an interesting primary season.

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Gauging the Purple Line’s Prospects

Judge Richard Leon’s decision that the failure to scrutinize the potential impact of Metro’s stagnant or declining ridership on the Purple Line requires a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) has been controversial to say the least. But what is the likely long-term impact on the light-rail line’s future?

The Purple Line faces a number of hurdles at this point, so let’s examine each in turn.

Rest of Judge Leon’s Decision

Judge Leon still has to issue the rest of his decision on many other portions of the lawsuit. Much of the remainder rests on claims of environmental harms caused by the Purple Line. As a conservative who tends to read such statutes tightly, it seems unlikely that Judge Leon will also delay the project on these grounds.

Appealing Judge Leon’s Decision

Purple Line defenders will need to appeal the decision requiring more study of the impact of poor Metro ridership on the PL. Though I remain deeply skeptical of the projected PL ridership numbers, light-rail proponents have a strong probability of winning the appeal. The National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) focus on environmental impact will facilitate claims that the judge reached beyond the statute with his demands for new ridership studies.

The Cost of Delay

Even though they will likely win their appeal, gaining an injunction to allow the State to move forward immediately will be more difficult. Any costs created by delay–the State says these run at over $13 million per month–have been caused by the failure to allow the NEPA process, including judicial proceedings, to play out before beginning so much work. This should not engender much judicial sympathy. Additionally, courts are reticent to issue injunctions and use them, well, judiciously. Still, it could happen.

The Washington Post reports that the State would need to shut down the project around August 1. I don’t really buy this claim because it was part of the State’s effort to pressure a quicker decision out of the Judge. (The choice by Gov. Hogan and other PL proponents to follow Trump’s lead by impugning not just a judge but also his wife likely had no impact but it’s not a model that I would imitate.)

The State has also set this up as too big to fail. MTA states it would suffer an $800 million loss if it shut down the project. Deputy Project Director Mike Madden even says that there are no contingency plans. These claims alone should invalidate Hogan’s claims of bringing business sense to Annapolis.

What sensible businessman would sign a contract entailing heavy losses before the federal funds guarantee with no contingency plans? My guess is that this was done precisely to make it politically impossible to pull the plug.

The Trump Administration

Dependability has not been Trump’s hallmark. FTA has a window open only so long to sign a federal funding agreement. The window could shut before the State can sign. Of course, Trump could also just kill the project if someone explains to him where Maryland is, points to the blue on the map, and reminds him that Republican Gov. Hogan refused to back him.

At this point, however, FTA seems eager to sign the agreement. Who knows what will happen in Washington these days, but my bet is that the State can get the agreement if it can surmount the other obstacles. Despite some major last minute hiccups, odds remain good that the Purple Line will eventually come our way.

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Democratic Statements on Hogan’s Veto of Earned Sick Leave


Bill Sponsor Del. Luke Clippinger (D-46)
Video Courtesy of Bryan P. Sears, The Daily Record.

Sen. Rich Madaleno:

Today the people of Maryland saw the Hogan Hype Machine at it again.  Hiding behind the empty promise he offered in January, Governor Hogan vetoed real progress for the working families of Maryland.

Sadly, Hogan sat on the sidelines for while Democrats in the legislature did the hard work.  If Governor Hogan truly cared about providing sick leave to more working Marylanders, he would have signed this compromise legislation today.

Republicans in Congress are working to dismantle our healthcare system and Hogan’s actions today denies 750,000 Marylanders the ability to see their doctor or care for a sick family member.  We need a Governor who will stand with working Marylanders.

State Party Chair Kathleen Matthews:

Hard work should pay off, and working Marylanders shouldn’t have to decide between a paycheck and taking care of themselves and their families.

Democrats brought all sides of the table together to extend earned sick leave to more than 700,000 Marylanders.

Instead of heeding the calls of working Marylanders, Governor Larry Hogan dismissed them.

Voters will remember in next year’s election that Governor Larry Hogan put his own agenda ahead of the health of working Marylanders and their families.

 

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George Leventhal Validates Doug Duncan Criticism in Real Time

Yesterday, Maryland Matters published an interview with former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan sizing up the candidates for county executive that included the following comment on Councilmember George Leventhal:

Hours later the same day:

This is not the first time that George attempted to delegitimize his opponents rather than to engage substantively on the policy issue. George could have reiterated policy arguments for the Purple Line, discussed the damage in the delay of decision, or disputed the legal reasoning.

Instead, he took a shot at the participation of people standing up for their viewpoint as to what is best for their community. This line of attack is particularly odd since the other side is supported by the weight of the State, the County, the FTA, and the wealthy development community. Regardless, it is unusual to see a politician bemoan their constituents’ participation in the process.

Not for George. Consider the Council debate in 2013 about the rezoning of a property in Aspen Hill to accommodate Walmart. After ritualistically claiming to value their participation, he denigrates them as rubes manipulated by the property owner, saying among other things:

I do hope someone will ask who paid for the signs. Who gave them to you?

Who will pay for those signs next? And who will hire the lobbyists to distribute those signs next?

I guess I better print up some signs and hire a lobbyist to get 30 people to sit in an audience and say “What’s the wait!”

Watch for yourself:

In the wake of George Leventhal’s comments, Council Chairwoman Nancy Navarro felt compelled to commend the participation of the people who came up from Aspen Hill. Councilmember Craig Rice made the same point even more forcefully:

I apologize for what you just heard. The assumption that somehow by holding a sign that someone might’ve given you means that you don’t have a voice, that you don’t have your own opinion, that you just happened to just roll down the street sand somebody said “hey, take this sign and come into the County Council Building ’cause you don’t have anything else to do.” It’s disrespectful. [applause]

I guess we need to warn the PTA when they come and they have their pre-printed signs, we need to warn Moving Maryland Forward, or the Purple Line Coalition, or Wheaton Moving Forward. We need to warn everybody not to have pre-printed signs because that automatically means that your voice isn’t your voice, it’s somebody else’s.  Well, I don’t agree, and I think that you being here is enough of a word that says that you care about what happens in your community, and that’s enough for me!

Amen.

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Cordial Candidate Forum in Kensington

A trusted correspondent sent in this report on last night’s candidates’ forum in Kensington.

Fireworks, there were none.

The three candidates for two Kensington Town Council seats spent a rather cordial hour last night, largely agreeing on issues such as traffic enforcement, development, and pay increases for Town staff.

They gathered at a moderated candidates’ forum on a stage at Town Hall, a program two weeks before the town’s nonpartisan election.

The two-term incumbent, Darin Bartram, advocated status quo, saying that in the four years he’s served, “We’ve had a very good dynamic on the Council.” He declared himself “a voice of reason or moderation” on the four-person panel.

Tom Rodriguez, who is seeking a second term, emphasized his leadership on the Town’s parks and events committees. He also noted that his hometown in Florida has been overrun by development and traffic — a scenario he vowed not to allow in Kensington, a town of about 2,300 people that is bisected by heavily traveled Connecticut Avenue.

The challenger, Conor Crimmins, acknowledged that he and his opponents are “not very different in how we look at Kensington.” But he said he wants to move matters more quickly through Town committees and to stimulate citizen participation in Town governance. Voting in the town election can be a start, he said. “Let’s see voter turnout skyrocket” on June 5.

Two years ago, Bartram and Rodriguez won election in a three-way race with a little more than 150 votes, a fraction of the Town’s registered voters.

None of the candidates expressed opposition to the 4 percent pay increases proposed in fiscal 2018 for top Town staff. “We ought to be a leader in Montgomery County in what we pay” staff, Rodriguez said.

He and Bartram said they would support lowering the minimum voting age in Town elections to 16. Crimmins offered no position on that question, which was one of a dozen or so raised by the 40 people attending the program. They wrote questions on index cards and submitted them to a moderator, who sometimes combined the queries in posing them to the candidates.

There were no missteps or gaffes, although Bartram at one point said, “I love getting new ideas from people — and me.”

Crimmins pledged to be “extremely approachable” and vowed courtesy and respect in dealings with Townspeople. Rodriguez called for stepped up enforcement of traffic laws and said the planned bicycle patrols by county police promise to be “a fantastic innovation.”

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