All posts by David Lublin

MoCo County Candidate List, July 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

Significant speculation surrounds the number of candidates who could be running for county office in MoCo next year.  Some believe that fifty or more people are interested in running but the ultimate number will probably be much less.  Below are the candidates who are actually running for County Executive or County Council at this moment.  All of them have either established a campaign committee, have filed to run, have publicly announced their intent to run or are incumbents who are eligible for reelection.  If there are mistakes or omissions on this list, please let us know.  We will be posting regular updates.

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Does Takoma Park Dominate the At-Large Council Seats?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The county’s Charter Review Commission is considering recommending a charter amendment that would abolish or reduce the number of the County Council’s at-large seats, which account for four of the council’s nine seats.  One reason for this is that currently three of the four at-large seats are held by residents of Takoma Park, long regarded as the most left-wing jurisdiction in the State of Maryland.  Over the years, your author has heard sporadic complaints that Takoma Park’s alleged dominance of the council has pushed the council to the left and/or directed excessive resources to Downcounty and the city.

The fact is that Takoma Park’s current holding of three seats is very disproportionate relative to its population (roughly 18,000 in a county of a million people).  But it hasn’t always been that way.  Below is the residence history of at-large Council Members since the current council structure was created in 1990.

At-Large Council Member Residency, 1990-2018

1990-1994

Bruce Adams: Bethesda

Gail Ewing: Potomac

Ike Leggett: Burtonsville

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

1994-1998

Gail Ewing: Potomac

Ike Leggett: Burtonsville

Neal Potter: Chevy Chase

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

1998-2002

Blair Ewing: Silver Spring

Ike Leggett: Burtonsville

Steve Silverman: Silver Spring

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

2002-2006

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Steve Silverman: Silver Spring

Mike Subin: Gaithersburg

2006-2010

Marc Elrich: Takoma Park

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Duchy Trachtenberg: North Bethesda

2010-2014

Marc Elrich: Takoma Park

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Hans Riemer: Silver Spring/Takoma Park

Note: Riemer moved from Silver Spring to Takoma Park in the middle of his first term.

2014-2018

Marc Elrich: Takoma Park

Nancy Floreen: Garrett Park

George Leventhal: Takoma Park

Hans Riemer: Takoma Park

At-large terms with a resident on the council, 1990-2018

Takoma Park: 8.5

Gaithersburg: 4

Garrett Park: 4

Silver Spring: 3.5

Burtonsville: 3

Potomac: 2

Bethesda: 1

Chevy Chase: 1

North Bethesda: 1

It’s also worth noting that over these seven terms, only one term saw a Takoma Park resident representing Council District 5 (Tom Perez in 2002-2006).  The other elected District 5 Council Members – Derick Berlage, Valerie Ervin and Tom Hucker – have lived in Silver Spring.

Takoma Park’s dominance of the at-large seats began in earnest in 2006 and appears to be temporary.  Council Members George Leventhal and Marc Elrich are term-limited and leaving the council.  Council Member Hans Riemer will get one more term before he is out too.  Of the current field of Democratic at-large candidates, your author knows of just one – former City Council Member Seth Grimes – who comes from Takoma Park and intends to run.  A bigger issue is that most at-large members tend to come from Downcounty, but that’s natural considering that’s where most regular Democratic voters live.

There may be good reasons for going to an all-district council structure and your author does not have a strong opinion on that.  But instituting a permanent, structural fix like reorganizing the council is not an appropriate remedy for dealing with a temporary issue like Takoma Park’s number of at-large seats.  Proponents of reducing the at-large seats need a better argument.

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Did MoCo Term Limits Cause More Competition?

By Adam Pagnucco.

One theory making the rounds in MoCo’s political world is that the passage of term limits for county officials is responsible for creating the high level of candidate competition we are now witnessing.  An opposing point of view is that this competition would have happened anyway due to other factors, such as County Executive Ike Leggett’s retirement and the availability of public campaign financing.  Who’s right and who’s wrong?

In assessing these two views, we asked the candidates themselves which one has more truth.  Following are the perspectives of six people who are actual or potential candidates for seats with term limited incumbents.

Source 1: There is no doubt in my mind that term limits and the resulting open seats are among the most important reasons there are so many people running for council. I have heard that from a number of other candidates.

Source 2: I think there would have been healthy competition without term limits for the same reason that term limits passed. People are ready for some change. Public financing is also a big factor in bringing in new candidates. It would have emboldened challengers even without term limits. Now we have three term limited council members vying for Executive. Room there for new blood, don’t you think?

Source 3: I think Leventhal, Berliner and Elrich would have run anyway. Not sure about Floreen. So I think there would have been a large number of new people anyway. And then public financing probably doubled that number.

Term limits author Robin Ficker credits his successful charter amendment for promoting “fresh ideas.”  Is he right?

Source 4: I believe that Ike would not have sought a 4th term regardless of the term limit issue. This would have freed up seats because of the interest in running for CE. I’m also not confident that Nancy Floreen would have sought an additional term anyway. I’m more in the “competition would have occurred anyway” camp. In my opinion, the number of open seats because of an opening for CE plus retirement, coupled with public finance and the “Trump effect” have created the high level of interest and competition that we will see.

Source 5: You can entertain all sorts of theories and hypotheticals but at the end of the day, more people run when there’s an open seat.  And more seats (probably) opened because of term limits. I mean, might Elrich, Berliner and Leventhal have run for CE anyway? Maybe. But term limits seems to make the current scenario much more likely, and thus draw in more competition because there are more open seats. I also think some “perfect storm” effect of term limits and public financing landing in the same cycle probably enhanced the overall effect on competition. But I think term limits are more significant here than public financing is.

Source 6: Term limits were very helpful in demonstrating the mood of the electorate: an across the board and widespread feeling that they wanted new leadership and a different approach. But I honestly don’t think it made a material change in the number of open seats — just the feeling of those running, thinking about running and the electorate. Unless people think Ike would have run for a 4th term which I don’t but I imagine would have been possible.

Our Take

The key to understanding the impact of term limits is the decision-making of incumbent County Executive Ike Leggett.  After being elected to his second term as Executive in 2010, Leggett said that he was “originally inclined not to run again.”  That stance helped induce former County Executive Doug Duncan and Council Members Phil Andrews, Valerie Ervin and George Leventhal to consider running for Leggett’s seat.  But by November 2012, Leggett was considering another run and he made it official in June 2013.  Ervin (who had commissioned a poll) and Leventhal decided not to challenge Leggett and he went on to defeat Duncan and Andrews in 2014.

This time around, term limits robbed Leggett of the ability to change his mind.  He ruled out another run last October, but by that point it had become clear to nearly everyone that term limits were going to pass.  Once they did, Leventhal and fellow Council Member Marc Elrich were running for Executive in short order and their colleague Roger Berliner soon followed.  Might Leggett have retired anyway?  Sure, but term limits answered that question once and for all.  Term limits also ruled out another council run for at-large incumbent Nancy Floreen.  These open seats plus public financing have created a historic deluge of county-level candidates in MoCo.

Our sense is that term limits alone did not cause all the competition we are seeing.  But they did bring clarity to the political landscape and they accelerated the plans of many candidates.  One of them, at-large candidate Bill Conway, has already claimed to qualify for public matching funds in the county’s public financing system.  Others are on the way.  One more thing seems clear: almost no one is mourning the passage of term limits.  Many Democratic activists seem pleased with the abundance of choices they will have next year.  On to the future.

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Bill Conway to Qualify for Public Funding

By Adam Pagnucco.

Bill Conway, who is running for Council At-Large, has announced that he has raised enough small individual contributions in the county’s public financing system to qualify for public matching funds.  Assuming that the State Board of Elections agrees, Conway would be the second at-large candidate (after incumbent Hans Riemer) to collect public money.

We will have more to say about Conway and several other at-large candidates in an upcoming series.  His press release appears below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday July 7, 2017

Bill Conway Is First Non-Incumbent, At-Large County Council Candidate  To Reach Threshold For Receiving Public Matching Funds

Bill Conway, a Democratic at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council, announced today that his campaign has collected more than 250 contributions from Montgomery County residents, totaling more than $28,000. Once the contributions have been certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections, Conway’s campaign will be eligible to receive more than $84,000 from the Public Election Fund.

Under the public campaign finance law, an at-large candidate for County Council qualifies for matching funds after receiving at least 250 contributions totaling at least $20,000 from county residents. Contributions are matched under the following schedule: first $50 is matched 4×1; second $50 is matched 3×1; third $50 is matched 2×1. This results in a $50 contribution becoming $250, a $100 contribution becoming $450 and a $150 contribution becoming $600.

Participation in the public finance program is voluntary.  Candidates who participate in the program may not accept contributions of more than $150 per individual and may not accept contributions from PACs, corporations or labor unions.

“I’m participating in the public finance program because I believe that every voter should have a meaningful voice in electing our leaders,” Conway said. “I am deeply grateful to my supporters for the confidence they have shown in me through their contributions. If elected to the Council I will bring substantial legislative and business experience, a record of policy innovation, and a commitment to listening to all sides of the issues.”

Visit Bill’s website:

www.billconwayforcouncil.com

and his Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Bill-Conway-for-Council-294085764336433/

to learn more about his campaign.

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Contact:

Doug Wallick – Campaign Manager

info@billconwayforcouncil.com

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MoCo Our Revolution Members Push Back on Early Endorsement

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post recently reported on the Maryland chapter of Our Revolution’s plans to issue an early endorsement of Ben Jealous for Governor of Maryland.  Among other things, the Post article said:

“A lot of Bernie Sanders’ supporters — and I was a Bernie Sanders supporter — were unhappy with the lack of transparency in the DNC process,” said Walter Ludwig, a spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who like Jealous is a progressive hoping to draw support from liberal Democrats. “This is no more transparent.”

Aides to several other declared or likely candidates declined to comment on the record, to avoid a potential rift with Jealous’s supporters. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, however, they said they found it strange that Our Revolution wanted to endorse so early in the process, before all the expected candidates had launched their campaigns.

Montgomery County also has an Our Revolution chapter.  Recently, its members were asked on Facebook whether they should initiate their own endorsement process now.  The answer: a resounding no, with every responding member saying it was too early.  Is that what rank-and-file members of the state chapter also think?

Disclosure: Your author is an enthusiastic supporter of Senator Rich Madaleno, who is running as a progressive for Governor.

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What Can We Learn About 2018 from Google Trends?

By Adam Pagnucco.

A fascinating, but rather depressing, article in Vox makes the following allegation: political scientists can learn as much, or more, about political sentiment from Google Trends as they can from polls.  The reason?  People are more honest with Google in their search behavior than they are with pollsters.  Subjects that they might never admit would be of interest are in fact searched when no one is watching!  Search data may not tell us which candidate will get the most votes.  But it can tell us what voters are thinking about when they head to the ballot box.  And that is definitely politically relevant.

Let’s do an exercise using Google search trends by people in Maryland over the last twelve months.  First, let’s look at searches on five issues that Democrats often run on: public schools, transportation, health care, climate change and diversity.  The chart below shows relative search frequency on each of these terms.  The horizontal axis shows weeks over time.  The vertical axis shows search frequency as an index relative to the peak of the most popular search term in the data set (which is set at 100).  In this issue set, public schools wins out, with an average search index of 22 out of 100.  Health care gets 20, followed by climate change (18), transportation (11) and diversity (8).

Next, let’s look at five issues that Republicans often run on: guns, taxes, illegal immigration, crime and terrorism.  Taxes is number one here, with an average search index of 37 out of 100.  Crime gets 25, followed by guns (19), terrorism (3) and illegal immigration (1).

Now let’s compare the top two Democratic issues (public schools and health care) to the top two Republican issues (taxes and crime).  Public schools wins this set with an average search index of 24, followed by taxes (15), crime (10) and health care (8).  The fact that public schools gets a higher search index than taxes would seem to be good news for Democrats.

There is another search term that rivals these four: Donald Trump.  When Trump is inserted into the mix, he gets an average search index of 17 for the past twelve months, followed by public schools (13), taxes (8), crime (6) and health care (5).  Much of this is due to spikes in Trump interest around the general election and the inauguration, although he has held his own against the other search terms for most of this year.

So should Trump-chanting Democrats celebrate?  Not so fast.  There is a politically relevant search term that trumps Trump: jobs.  A straight-up comparison between jobs and Trump shows the former search term blowing away the Tweeter in Chief 54-17.  That three-to-one edge held up roughly the same in the Baltimore and Washington metro areas and on the Eastern Shore.  In fact, the only time in which Trump had more searches in Maryland than jobs was around the general election.

What does all this mean?  Maybe not much.  Google Trends is a very new source of data subject to much interpretation.  It has almost none of the mathematical science built around it that polling has.  That said, here’s a suggestion.  Donald Trump is indeed on the minds of Marylanders.  But they are thinking much more about jobs.  To the extent that Trump fixation detracts from the Democrats’ ability to promulgate a positive economic message, Governor Larry Hogan will benefit.

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Cherri Branson Running for Council At-Large

By Adam Pagnucco.

Former Montgomery County Council Member Cherri Branson established a campaign committee on June 20.  Branson told us she intends to run for County Council At-Large.

Branson is a former counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committees on Government Oversight and Homeland Security.  She is also a former President of the Montgomery County African American Democratic Club.  In 2014, the Montgomery County Council appointed Branson to fill the remaining time in the term of District 5 County Council Member Valerie Ervin, who had resigned.  She is now the Director of the county’s Office of Procurement.

Branson had been the subject of speculation for a possible run in District 5 against incumbent Tom Hucker.  Her decision to run at-large might leave Hucker with no opponent.  Her campaign committee is currently not enrolled in public financing.  She joins an increasingly jam-packed field of at-large candidates with more on the way.

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More Crime at the Liquor Monopoly

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Police Department has reported that two men, one of whom worked for the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC), were arrested for a series of liquor thefts from trucks parked at the county’s warehouse.  The Washington Post and Bethesda Magazine also reported the story.  Note that this was not only an inside job but that DLC’s security procedures were so inadequate that the suspects were able to commit eight different thefts before being caught!  But neither the Post nor Bethesda Magazine fully examined the history of criminal, unethical and suspicious activity at DLC.

Consider these other recent events.

1. In November 2014, NBC4 discovered that DLC employees were skimming booze from deliveries and attempting to sell it to licensees under the table.  People inside DLC told NBC4 that the scams had been going on for years.  Four delivery workers were fired and another quit after NBC4’s undercover investigation.  Yet another worker was fired later.

2. That same month, NBC4 caught DLC employees drinking and driving on the job.

3. In March 2015, the county’s Inspector General found that DLC’s warehouse was run with sticky notes.  He said “as many as 154 cases a day go missing without anyone investigating why.”

Corruption and ethics issues go back a long, LONG ways at the liquor monopoly.  In 2001, its Director pleaded guilty to misconduct in office, misappropriating funds and felony theft.  A subsequent Inspector General’s report blamed the county for failure of oversight.  In 1980, a consultant who found that DLC was steering disproportionate business to a company connected to the County Executive was forced out – by that same County Executive.  That incident mushroomed into a major political scandal, complete with secret tapes and hiring abuses, known as “Liquorgate.”  All of this is on top of continued poor service for decades including two consecutive New Year’s Eve meltdowns.  No wonder consumers flee the liquor monopoly.

Next year, elections will be held for County Executive, County Council and the state legislature.  Which candidates will stand up against DLC and advocate for ending its monopoly status once and for all?

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Leventhal Qualifies for Public Financing

Council Member George Leventhal, who is running for County Executive, has announced that he has qualified for matching funds in the county’s public financing program.  Following is his press release.

*****

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

George Leventhal First to Announce He Has Achieved Initial Fundraising Target Under County’s Public Campaign Finance Law

Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large), a candidate for Montgomery County Executive, announced today that his campaign has collected more than 500 contributions from Montgomery County residents, totaling more than $40,000. Once the contributions have been certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections, Leventhal’s campaign will be eligible for more than $180,000 from the Public Campaign Fund.

“The support of hundreds of my constituents means so much to me, and I am humbled and grateful,” Leventhal said. “I am an enthusiastic participant in the Clean Money program that the County Council enacted in 2013. Our constituents want to know that elected officials are accountable to them, not subject to the influence of big money. The Clean Money program maximizes the power of small contributions from individual donors.”

Under the public campaign finance law, a candidate for County Executive qualifies for matching funds after receiving at least 500 contributions totaling at least $40,000 from county residents. Contributions are matched under the following schedule: first $50 is matched 6×1; second $50 is matched 4×1; third $50 is matched 2×1. This results in a $50 donation becoming $350, a $100 donation becoming $600 and a $150 donation becoming $750. Candidates for County Council may also participate in the program and are eligible for smaller amounts of matching funds.

Candidates who voluntarily participate in the program must limit contributions to no more than $150 per individual and may not accept contributions from PACs, corporations or labor unions.

The first date on which contributions may be submitted to the Maryland State Board of Elections for a determination of eligibility for matching funds is July 4, 2017.

“As your next County Executive, I will provide government that works for you and provides results,” Leventhal added. “In keeping with the accountability and transparency that will characterize my work, I will release the names of all contributors as soon as they are certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections.”

Leventhal officially announced his candidacy for County Executive at a kickoff in Wheaton Regional Park on Saturday, June 24, but he has been raising qualifying contributions since October, 2016.

First elected to the County Council in November, 2002, Leventhal was re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014. His colleagues elected him twice as Council President, in 2006 and 2015. He has served since 2002 as chairman of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee.

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Contact:

Jessica Moore, Campaign Director

George Leventhal for Montgomery County

301-580-4517

Jessica@GeorgeLeventhal.com

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