All posts by David Lublin

Hogan Raises Taxes by $380 Million to Save Obamacare

The Washington Post reports that Gov. Larry Hogan has collaborated with the General Assembly to raise taxes in order to protect Maryland’s individual insurance market:

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Maryland’s Democratic legislative leaders have reached agreement on a one-year plan to stabilize skyrocketing individual health insurance premiums by taxing insurance companies and using the money to pay the biggest claims.

Legislation that won initial approval in the state Senate on Friday would levy a surcharge of about $380 million on insurance companies that do business in Maryland, which are paying about that much less in federal taxes this year because of a one-time exemption provided by the recent overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

Using that money for a “reinsurance fund” will lower premiums for everyone in the individual insurance market, officials and advocates said, heading off a potential crisis stemming from anticipated increases in premiums of between 30 and 50 percent and the possible departure of CareFirst, Maryland’s only statewide insurer for the estimated 154,000 individuals who buy their own plans rather than get coverage through an employer or government program.

In this way, the Governor is working directly against efforts by Trump and congressional Republicans to kill off the Affordable Care Act through executive actions and ending the individual mandate. In short, Hogan is working with Democrats to achieve their goal of protecting health care for all Marylanders.

Of course, it’s only a stopgap solution. If reelected, Hogan will have to extend the tax increase in one form or another in order to continue the reinsurance fund, or reestablish the individual mandate within the State of Maryland. No one can seriously believe that this is a one-time move.

It’s completely the right thing to do but destroys the narrative that Hogan has reduced taxes. As the most powerful governor in the nation, Hogan could have stopped the tax increase. However, the Republican base has little choice to stick with Hogan but cannot be pleased or motivated by this decision.


Trone Donations Continue to Raise Eyebrows

Apparently, David Trone can’t decide who to support for Montgomery County Council District 1. He has given money to both Andrew Friedson and Ana Sol Gutierrez. I guess he likes Andrew more since he got $750 as compared to just $150 for Ana. Or did he give to Ana to help her qualify for matching funds in order to help Andrew?

Meanwhile, his company, Total Wine, is donating to Maryland Republicans even after this became an issue in the 2016 congressional primary campaign. Total Wine donated $1000 in early 2017 to the Pat McDonough Leadership Team. McDonough (D-7) represents Baltimore and Harford Counties and is running for Baltimore County Executive.


Mixing It Up in District 1

District 1 Community Forum

Last night, the nine candidates for the open District 1 Council seat debated at the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase. It was a lively and substantive debate that gave the audience of over 220 a real sense of issue differences as well as a more personal sense of the candidates. Moderator Charles Duffy pressed candidates to expose issue differences to good effect.

From my vantage point, former longtime Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman gained the most from the debate. Less known outside his bailiwick, Pete has a strongly pro-development reputation through his involvement in the Kensington sector plan. The debate revealed both real knowledge and a much more nuanced approach that was not anti-development but would buffer existing neighborhoods and place development near transit. He pointed out that the Council upzoned Westbard even though it’s not near Metro. (It would be a logical stop if the Purple Line were extended west to serve Bethesda from both directions.) Pete had a style that showed conviction but also came across as thoughtful.

Former Planning Board Member Meredith Wellington has a real well of grassroots community support. Active in the community in opposing over development that tramples on existing neighborhoods and does not provide infrastructure to support it, she touted that she is not taking developer contributions. Like Marc Elrich, she has a real ability to talk fluently about the planning process that nonetheless remains comprehensible to voters—no mean feat. Meredith’s argument against lowering standards as a solution to failing infrastructure tests—one my students would love—was devastating. Her calm, thoughtful approach strongly appealed to an audience that wants a say in the future of their community. Pumping up the strength of her delivery would further expand her appeal.

While Pete and Meredith had good nights, Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez—normally an excellent debater—foundered. Even as Ana advertised her Chevy Chase residency for the first time in my recollection, she showed no sympathy with many community concerns. For example, she argued against new parks in Bethesda and essentially said that the Ag Reserve is Bethesda’s open space. Ana had worst moment of the debate as her effort to shift blame from state legislators to the County for insufficient school construction funds rebounded. She argued that the delegation was not organized and the County “wasn’t there” to make the case that Montgomery cannot afford to do it alone. Reggie Oldak called her “disingenuous,” as Ana left voters wondering why this Appropriations Committee member hadn’t addressed these problems after 16 years in the legislature.

Though a first-time candidate, Andrew Friedson sounded the most like a politician. On the positive side, he spoke commandingly and with confidence. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a former employee of Peter Franchot, he made the most articulate economic argument for why the County liquor monopoly needs to go. However, Andrew’s claim that he is “proud” of all of his donations in response to probing on his heavy developer support sounded unconvincing, evasive and overly smooth. While he repeatedly mentioned his business and labor “coalition,” Andrew noticeably did not highlight neighborhood or community support. At times, he seemed more comfortable with generalities than policy specifics.

Reggie Oldak highlighted her work for Planned Parenthood and the National Women’s Law Center as well as her experience as a tax attorney for the IRS. The latter might not be popular but it leaves her better prepared than most to read budgets and engage on these issues—welcome when many members of the current Council seem unaware of the tax rates their constituents pay or how the tax system operates. She had the most eloquent closing statement and said she wants to see: “less inequality among our residents throughout the county. Local governments need to invest in our priorities and protect our values. We cannot continue on this road of the haves and have nots.”

First-time candidate Dalbin Osorio made a strong impression. Talking about how he moved here for the schools—he and his wife are expecting their first child–he came across as someone who understands the community’s ambitions well and would advocate fiercely for it. Like Andrew, Pete, and Meredith, he’d get the county out of the liquor business. While not seen as a leading candidate, I hope he stays involved regardless of how the election turns out as he struck me as exactly the sort of up and coming candidate we need.

Bill Cook was the most stridently anti-development. His major contribution to the debate was challenging the Stockholm Syndrome that the community has no power and must do whatever developers propose. He attacked the role of money in politics and said it’s no coincidence that both the President and the Governor are developers and that incumbent District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner has raised hundreds of thousands from developers.

Jim McGee argued that “the system” is currently not working for a lot of people in the county, a theme that resonated among voters in the district who feel that the Council simultaneously manages to ignore both struggling families and trample on communities. Like Ana and Bill, he opposed privatization of the DLC. He emphasized climate change and wants to see more green space in Bethesda, as do many other candidates.

Lone Republican Richard Banach is a political science major who admitted candidly and with humility that he didn’t know much about many of the issues. While he still has a lot to learn, he struck me as a shoot of hope from the Republican Party. If Robin Ficker is the past, thoughtful candidates like Banach will hopefully be the future of Montgomery County Republicans.

Thanks to the Town of Chevy Chase for organizing the Forum. I know Pat Burda among others put a lot of work into putting it together. Kudos also to the many interested voters who turned out to learn more about the candidates.


Live Tweeting Tonight’s District 1 Debate

Tonight, I plan to live tweet tonight’s tonight’s debate between the nine (!) candidates for the Montgomery County Council District 1 seat.  The debate s being held at 7pm at the 4H Center on Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase. You can follow along @theseventhstate.

There are nine (!) candidates for the seat:

Richard Banach (R)
Bill Cook (D)
Pete Fosselman (D)
Andrew Friedson (D)
Ana Sol Guttierez (D)
Jim McGee (D)
Reggie Oldak (D)
Dalbin Osorio (D)
Meredith Wellington (D)


When They Go Low

District 18 Delegate Candidate Helga Luest’s statement that Del. Jeff Waldstreicher tried to lure her into the Senate race in order to aid his own move from the House of Delegates to the Senate has become quite the contretemps in District 18.

Jeff Waldstreicher’s Denial

After evading questions from me and refusing to comment on the record, Jeff finally issued this statement to Andrew Metcalf over at Bethesda Beat:

These claims are false, defamatory, and born of actual malice,” Waldstreicher, who has served as a delegate since 2007, said in the statement. “When they go low, I go high—standing up for our community’s progressive values, leading the fight for $15 minimum wage, investing in our schools and resisting the Trump administration at every turn.

Jeff ought to be a near lock for this seat. He’s a three-term delegate and has consistently garnered more votes than his opponent, regular state legislative candidate Dana Beyer, as Adam Pagnucco has pointed out. He hasn’t strongly alienated any constituencies, which should make it hard for her to gain traction.

But he seems to be doing his level best to turn this into a competitive race. Even leaving aside Helga’s claims, his public statement sounds like what Melania would say if she was a red-headed attorney.

Rather than issuing a standard denial or explaining the situation, it looks like Jeff is thinking like an attorney who has managed to turn Michelle Obama’s inspiring words into political pablum. Moreover, when an attorney uses legalistic words like “defamatory” and “actual malice,” it look like he’s hinting at a lawsuit in an effort to get Helga to stop talking.

That’s not going to happen.

It never looks good when the optics are of a politician trying to silence someone. In the current climate, a male candidate trying to get a female candidate to stop talking looks even worse. Of course, if he did file a lawsuit that would really torch his political ambition.

Jeff’s evasiveness and efforts to kill the story also haven’t helped. Jeff’s silence and avoidance of comment on any remotely controversial issue at last Sunday’s debate–he literally did not speak for the first 75 minutes–also reinforce the perception of an overly political approach.


Dana Bayer felt “it was demeaning” that Jeff suggested she run on a slate with him for delegate instead of competing for the Senate seat. That, however, seems like normal politics and a good offer.

On the other hand, an effort by Jeff to get Helga to run for the Senate to help him out, would appear much more manipulative and skeezy. Voters might well judge it less kindly, though I’m not sure if they will know or care.

Dana Beyer tried to push the narrative, which is also how Helga sees it, of criticizing Jeff’s alleged behavior in light of #metoo:

I trust her and believe the story.

I find it disturbing that Jeff would so crassly ask anyone to sacrifice themselves for his sake, let alone a woman. As if her commitment to public service was inconsequential, and beneath his concern.

She made a similar statement to Bethesda Beat:

“I have every reason to believe Helga’s story,” Beyer said. “The underlying principle is, I trust women.”

Except this is not sexual harassment but political manipulation. Dana would also gain more if she stayed in the background rather than appearing all too eager to garner political advantage. The idea that one always trusts women over men is also problematic.

I have never seen nor heard any stories of Jeff behaving remotely sexually inappropriately. Frankly, it would surprise me greatly. I should also emphasize that this is not what Helga says happened, though she sees his actions through the broader lens of misogyny faced by women.

Notwithstanding the bad optics of Jeff declaring Helga’s post as “defamatory” and “born of actual malice,” I see this situation more as maladroit machinations. Helga’s allegations could be completely true but not so much about gender as the political maneuvering referenced in the Bethesda Beat headline.

To the extent that Jeff is willing to engage in these too-clever-by-half political games, I think he’d just as easily ask a man if he thought that was the good play. If he’s guilty of anything here, it’s political malpractice and a self-inflicted wound, as all of this seems rather unnecessary for him to win.

At the same time, Jeff’s “totally false” statement had at least one glaring weakness and Helga has not hesitated to point it out. Specifically, they clearly did meet, as Helga has highlighted in her reply to Jeff’s public statement.

Final Notes

Helga mentions accurately that she told me about the story before she published her Facebook. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it. She did not mention that I contacted her when I decided not to publish the story.

I’m glad Bethesda Beat’s Andrew Metcalf covered this story instead of me. Frankly, I’m not a professional reporter and he did a better job than me of getting straight up on the record accounts.


Do You Believe Klausmeier’s Primary Opponent? I Do

Last week, I published a post on medical marijuana lobbyist Max Davidson’s strange, last-minute decision to primary Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-8). Davidson has given the bulk of his donations to Republicans and by far the most to Del. Christian Miele (R-8), who also just happens to be running for the seat.

Quick off the dime, Max Davidson is not. He took over three days to respond to my post, an eternity for a candidate not to respond to negative publicity. What is he, high? Oh, wait. . .

Clocking in at over 2100 words, his Facebook post reply feels more like the start of Leviathan than a campaign statement. If he’s this lengthy in chatting up legislators, no wonder it took so long for medical marijuana to pass in Maryland.

Nevertheless, I believe Max Davidson.

I believe “firmly pro-choice” Davidson gave $970 to “firmly pro-life” Miele because he cares deeply about abortion rights.

I believe Davidson when he says that he gave over four times as much money to Republicans as Democrats “in support of attempting to pass my most recent bill.” Lobbyists always give more money to minority party legislative opponents.

I believe Davidson gave $150 to Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7) but not Chris Van Hollen because he is “a proven lifelong Progressive” and “Berniecrat.”

I believe Davidson even though he never addresses whether he discussed his bid with Miele in his very long reply.

I believe Davidson cares about issues other than cannabis legalization even though the word “cannabis” appears 21 times in his post.

I believe Davidson gave over $500 to Sen Justin Ready (R-5) because he cares passionately about “raising the minimum hourly wage to $15 per hour” and keeping education affordable.

I believe this is a good logo:

I believe electing a lobbyist like Davidson is “our chance to stop politics as usual in Annapolis.”


Telling Them Apart

Last night, your scribe attended and live tweeted the District 18 state legislative debate sponsored by the District 18 Democratic Caucus. Though policy differences continue to be somewhat hard to find, voters could still glean much from what was said–and not said–as well as about the style and experience of the candidates.

State Senate Candidates

Dana Beyer possesses limitless self-confidence often associated with doctors. At one point, she tried to tell Moderator Charles Duffy how to conduct the debate. Highly intelligent, her most thoughtful response was about how the General Assembly’s first priority ought to be to undergird the healthcare system against federal attacks.

Towards the end of the debate, Dana declared that there is almost no policy diversity among the candidates, so voters need to elect someone who can bring the delegation together and lead. Unfortunately, she has a well-earned reputation of not working well with others.

While Dana gave voters a real opportunity to learn her views on a range of issues, Jeff Waldstreicher was reticent to the point of not speaking for the first 75 minutes. Loathe to say anything divisive, Jeff passed on opportunities to outline his views on issues such as liquor decontrol or single-payer healthcare.

Jeff finally spoke up to tout past and expected gun control legislation. A classic example of what political scientists call “credit claiming,” he steered clear of the more divisive issue of armed guards in schools. Complimenting Del. Al Carr’s work effusively, Jeff wooed his support. Jeff’s strategy is seemingly to avoid alienating any voters and run a focused “positive campaign” that ignores his challengers.

This was my first view of Michelle Carhart, the owner of a local chain of children’s gyms who jumped into the race at the last moment. Much less the pol than her two opponents, she came to the debate with the perspective of a local business owner who sees a need for both less bureaucracy and progressive change.

She complained about property taxes, and favors training over handouts as more useful and less demeaning. She argued that everyone should have to pay something for healthcare, so they’d have some skin in the game. Michelle has a lot to learn about public policy but could appeal to people looking for an ordinary citizen rather than a more practiced politician.

House of Delegates Candidates

Incumbent Del. Al Carr (who I support) demonstrated his comfortable policy knowledge on a number of issues and self-deprecatingly to laughter from the audience asked voters to send him as a “grizzled veteran” back to Annapolis after complimenting the strengths of the other candidates. He continues to emphasize the environment and climate change as a critical issue.

Since her respectable loss four-years ago in the primary, Emily Shetty has worked hard to position herself for this race by chairing the D18 Caucus and serving on the central committee. Among the most eloquent candidates, she advocated firmly for single-payer health care and is able to discuss the subject more fluently than many experienced legislators.

One of my favorite moments was when Ron Franks argued against the prevailing wisdom on police officers in schools. Making the case for people with diverse experiences by applying his own, he made a good argument that police officers serve as valuable role models and revealed a willingness to dissent thoughtfully.

Mila Johns stood out as someone unafraid to say what she thinks. In particular, when other candidates held back initially, she stated that the county should gradually get out of the liquor business because it’s killing off restaurants. She also advocated for making it easier for seniors to age in their own homes and death with dignity.

Joel Rubin highlighted his experience as an elected local official and seasoned policy advocate who has the communication skills and knowledge to fight for progressive ideals. Living with his mother-in-law (lovely woman, I’ve met her), he argued for incentives for multi-generational housing as one component to addressing senior living.

Helga Luest did not reprise her accusations against Jeff Waldstreicher at the debate. Speaking as the survivor of a murder attempt, she argued passionately for a trauma-centered approach and greater community connectivity to help address issues from kids prone to gun violence to isolated seniors. She believes a delegate should engage on leadership at the community level as well as outside the general assembly.

Jared Solomon’s answers gave the impression of someone who has studied the issues hard and would listen well but advocate forcefully. Labor should appreciate his advocacy of labor agreements as part of business incentive packages. He said education was his #1 priority. I hope higher pay for college professors is included!

Among the more knowledgeable candidates, Leslie Milano stood out as someone who would consistently advocate for economic growth. She referred to Amazon and Marriott tax incentives as normal business practices, which struck me less as politics as usual than someone who was being honest about the way the world works.

Issue Differences!

General similarities notwithstanding—everyone is anti-gun, pro-choice and wants to fight climate change—there was daylight between the candidates on a number of questions. While Leslie Milano expressed support for incentives to attract Amazon, Al Carr advocated investing in education and infrastructure that benefit all businesses. Emily Shetty wanted transparent negotiations, which was very popular, albeit wholly unrealistic. Dana Beyer said attracting Amazon is more important than keeping Marriott. Jeff Waldstreicher expressed no opinion.

Mila Johns, Ron Franks, Dana Beyer and Leslie Milano expressed support for getting the county out of the liquor business. I’d also like to know the opinion of other candidates.

In the most depressing part of the debate, Joel Rubin said he was okay with armed security guards if schools need them. Helga Luest highlighted the need for risk and threat assessment. Mila Johns and Leslie Milano opposed them with Leslie mentioning their impact on the culture of schools and suggesting bulletproof pods as an alternative.

Winner of the Debate

Adam Pagnucco. Hands down.

Candidates and the moderator referred to his posts here on Seventh State repeatedly with admiration.


Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews Defends New Gender Balance Rules

I am pleased to publish this response to earlier post by Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews:

I wanted to respond thoughtfully to Ed Kimmel’s Seventh State blog about the Maryland State Democratic Central Committee’s recent decision to adopt new rules to achieve gender balance by popular election on our county and state central committees.

These rules were debated over the past year, to be ready by last week’s filing deadline for the 2018 primary election. The policy was vetted for sex discrimination and other concerns by members of each county’s Democratic Central Committee.  While it was initiated by women in the state party — including Montgomery County’s gender balance member, Jennifer Hosey—it was supported by men and women in a unanimous voice vote at the November 4, 2017 Maryland Democratic Party statewide meeting.

Women have had the vote for nearly 100 years, but we have a long way to go to achieve gender parity in our American politics. Women represent more than half our population, an even greater percentage of voters, and yet they are 20 percent of our Congress, about one-third of our Maryland Legislature, and we have yet to elect a woman President or woman governor of Maryland. At the current rate, we are centuries away from true parity.

But I’m excited about the progress this year as more women are stepping into the political arena. We just reviewed the candidate filing data on the Democratic side, and compared to 2014, we have three times as many Democratic women running for county executive, double the number of women running for state senate, and a 60 percent increase in the number of women running for House of Delegates. This is the result of women who are saying “Me Too,” especially after the 2016 Presidential election, but also the hard work of our state party and organizations like RepresentWomen and Emerge Maryland, on whose board I am honored to serve.

At a moment in our political life when the old norms are changing, it is appropriate to ensure that women have an equal ELECTORAL chance to be represented in the party’s governing bodies, and this gender balance rule helps move us in that direction.

The changes we adopted have created a uniform process for gender balance across all 24 county and city jurisdictions of the state; they align with the national Democratic Party rules; provide women and men an equal opportunity to gain experience in a grassroots elected position; most importantly, they put power back in the hands of the voters who get to decide who will represent them. This is inherently more democratic and preferable to appointment, and adds greater legitimacy to the party governing bodies who claim to truly represent its members.

For those who care to read on, it’s interesting to note that the history on this issue goes back to women’s suffrage when the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, granted women full voting rights.  Soon after, political parties began wooing women in earnest, seeking to double their constituencies. “Fifty-fifty” rules were soon adopted to attract female voters at both the national and state levels.

In the 1930s, the Democratic Party took a more active role in the fight for gender equity. Molly Dewson, the head of the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Division, argued that gender-balance requirements were the most effective way to increase women’s participation and leadership in political parties. She wisely framed the issue as providing women with opportunities, rather than limiting those of men. (In fact today, when county parties appoint members to achieve gender balance, often it is to add men to their membership.)

Fast forward to today, when the Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States (Article Nine, Section 16) requires all party governing bodies, including state central committees, to be “as equally divided as practicable according to gender” for the purpose of conducting their affairs and selecting delegates for the Party’s quadrennial National Convention. Subsequent court review has found the Democratic Party’s “Equal Division Rule: to be constitutionally sound and an effective way of enhancing the diversity of members and perspectives among Party leadership.

In Maryland, we have had a system to achieve this 50-50 gender equity but it varied widely by jurisdiction. Cecil County adopted gender balance at the ballot for its central committee back in 1920, with Allegany, Carroll, Fredrick, Harford, and Washington Counties following suit. 7 counties, including Montgomery County, passed laws requiring gender balance by appointment after voters made their selection. The remaining counties had provisions in their central committee bylaws requiring gender balance by appointment. As a result, the size of central committees would expand and contract depending on the balancing requirements.

Most concerning, in some counties, members who had been appointed for gender balance did not have full voting rights. This was particularly problematic, we felt, when central committees had the responsibility to fill vacancies in the state legislature.

Many of these concerns have been addressed in our state party’s new gender balance rules, and for Maryland Democrats they are are another step forward in a long journey. Other countries — Norway, Rwanda, for example — have achieved diversity more quickly through gender quotas, but thus far, the American electoral system has resisted this approach, looking for other ways to achieve gender equity. I am proud to be involved with other Marylanders, like Cynthia Terrell at RepresentWomen and Martha McKenna and Diane Fink at Emerge Maryland, who are working hard on structural reforms and practical solutions to bring more women’s voices into our political process. Women’s voices are vital to strengthen the democratic process, represent women’s perspectives on policy, and build collaborative solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. In the end, I firmly believe this progress towards a more diverse and inclusive Democratic Party is in everyone’s best interest.