Category Archives: District 20

Unger Fires Campaign Manager for Stealing Lit

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 20 House candidate Darian Unger has fired his campaign manager for stealing and destroying literature belonging to his opponents.  Unger terminated him immediately upon seeing video of the act.

Unger’s campaign began paying John Rodriguez as a campaign manager in November 2017.  Rodriguez was profiled by the Washington City Paper’s Loose Lips in 2016 for his work with a firm called District Political in D.C. political campaigns, including fundraising.  The article ends with these paragraphs.

Apparently, Rodriguez still has some money to splash out. While LL was reporting this column, Rodriguez called, unbeknownst to his partners, to ask the name of the City Paper employee in charge of ad sales. He went on to ask whether LL would be aware if City Paper suddenly received a lot of money, and pondered how much he would have to spend in ads to gain more “power” to kill stories like this one.

It’s one more offbeat scheme from an outfit that tried to make its name with unlikely candidates. Unluckily for District Political, though, the problem with underdogs is that they tend to lose.

Update, 10 a.m.: According to a District Political statement released shortly after this article was published, Rodriguez is no longer a partner at the firm.

Now to the matter at hand.  The video below is security footage from the Silver Spring Civic Center on June 17.  At the beginning of the video, Senator Will Smith, Delegate David Moon and House candidate Lorig Charkoudian can be seen delivering lit to a storage area.  Smith, Moon and Charkoudian are running as a team in District 20 along with Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins.  Unger is a House candidate in the same race.  Smith deposits a box of lit on top of other materials and the group departs.  Soon after, a man matching Rodriguez’s description enters the room, looks around, grabs the lit box and places it in a dumpster outside.

The District 20 team all went on the record and identified the man as Rodriguez.  The team said the lit was worth $600.  Your author sent the video to Unger and asked him for comment.  Unger replied, “I just saw your email and the video.  I spoke with the campaign consultant and fired him immediately.  I consider such behavior to be completely unacceptable.”

As of this writing, we are unaware of an apology by Unger to the District 20 team.

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District 20 Incumbents Team Up With Charkoudian

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 20 Senator Will Smith and Delegates David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins have decided to team up with non-incumbent House candidate Lorig Charkoudian in the upcoming primary.  Moon explained his decision to endorse his team on his Facebook page, writing specifically about Charkoudian, “I’ve also worked these last few years with Lorig on criminal justice reform and know she shares my commitment to driving down mass incarceration in Maryland. She used to live on my block in Takoma Park, and I’ve gotten to see her passion for justice issues up close.”

The decision to include a non-incumbent on the slate is reminiscent of 2014, when Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Sheila Hixson teamed up with new House candidates Moon and Smith.  In that election, all four were on the Apple Ballot.  That’s not true this time around as MCEA has supported Smith, Moon, Wilkins and second-time House candidate Darian Unger.

In addition to the incumbents, Charkoudian is supported by Casa in Action, the Laborers Union, MCGEO and NOW.  Unger is supported by MCEA, SEIU Locals 500 and 32BJ and the Volunteer Fire Fighters.  (Unger is himself a volunteer.)  On May 22, Charkoudian reported a cash balance of $37,226 and Unger had $27,897.

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Campaign Finance Reports: Districts 20 and 39, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 20

Everybody in this district is broke, including the incumbents.  Gone are the days when Jamie Raskin, Sheila Hixson, Heather Mizeur and Tom Hucker were raising money hand over fist and Jonathan Shurberg was writing himself six-digit checks!

If money is not a differentiator, the landscape will favor the three incumbents: Senator Will Smith and Delegates David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins.  We anticipate that the three will team up, combine resources, get most if not all of the institutional endorsements and be reelected.  That leaves a contest for the open seat being vacated by the Queen of District 20, long-time Delegate Sheila Hixson.  Lorig Charkoudian, who runs a community mediation non-profit, has deep roots in Takoma Park and has been an advocate on progressive legislation at the state level (including abolishing the death penalty).  She finished second for last year’s Delegate appointment to Wilkins.  Howard University professor and volunteer fire fighter Darian Unger ran for the House in 2014 and finished fifth.  In that race, Unger was endorsed by the Washington Post, the Gazette, the Volunteer Fire Fighters, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

The Big Question: will there be a mixed slate featuring the incumbents and either Charkoudian or Unger?  Such an event would be a repeat of 2014, when incumbents Raskin and Hixson teamed up with newcomers Moon and Smith to sweep the primary.

District 39

We should run a poll of Seventh State readers on whether this district is messier than District 17.  Last time, the four incumbents – Senator Nancy King and Delegates Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznik and Shane Robinson – had no primary opponents and cruised to reelection.  This year, Barkley’s decision to run for County Council At-Large has opened a seat.  MCGEO President Gino Renne threatened to defeat Reznik last May a month after Renne’s employee, Gabe Acevero, began his campaign for the House.  Shortly thereafter, the incumbents chose to slate with newcomer Lesley Lopez and it was Game On.  Just last week, County Executive Ike Leggett piled on, endorsing Acevero and accusing the incumbents of slating with Lopez in a “smoke-filled room.”  That’s an ironic comment from Leggett considering that he was first elected in 1986 as a new candidate invited by incumbents onto a mixed slate.

Putting aside the admittedly fun political food fight, the data above shows one salient fact: no one has any money except the incumbents.  That’s a big deal for Lopez as she can benefit from pooled resources with the rest of her slate.  Acevero’s path to victory necessitates rolling up lots of labor support – and not just from MCGEO and its affiliates – and raising enough money to break through.  That’s not easy to do in this district, which lacks the legions of liberal activists of District 20 and the wealthy neighborhoods of Districts 15, 16 and 18.

The Big Question: will the tumult over the incumbents’ mixed slate filter down to the voters or is it just something that the chattering class (and obsessive bloggers) will yap about?  If it’s the latter, the slate strategy could pay off.

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SEIU Fuming Over Smith Appointment

A reliable source reports that SEIU is not happy that MCDCC voted to appoint Del. Will Smith over Del. David Moon to the District 20 Senate vacancy caused by Jamie Raskin’s resignation, in order to take up his seat in the U.S. House.

Several members of the Central Committee who voted for Smith plan to seek elected office in 2018, and SEIU is already making noises about wreaking its revenge at that time. Whether this is just talk in the heat of the moment or serious, only time will tell.

The outcome is interesting if only because the current MCDCC was packed with union supporters in the wake of union unhappiness with the Committee’s support for the all-Democratic Council’s position on police bargaining.

However, while SEIU, MCGEO (county employees), UNITE and Mid-Atlantic Laborers supported Moon, the FOP (police) and IAFF (firefighters) supported Smith. Perhaps the outcome only speaks to SEIU and MCGEO’s relative influence compared to FOP and IAFF.

In any case, the group of unions that supported Moon has promised to stick together during the 2018 elections. MCGEO’s efforts to throw its weight around in 2016 were notably ineffective. We’ll see if this new coalition has any more impact.

The bitterness coming from SEIU notably contrasts with the positive tone expressed by Del. Moon and his other supporters today. On his Facebook page, Moon very graciously wrote:

Congratulations to my new Senator and homie William Colonel Smith Jr! Though I campaigned vigorously to represent the activist wing of the party, I know he’ll do a fine job. As I told the Washington Post, this is a proud moment for Montgomery County.

It’s not always easy to write notes like these. However, it was not only the right but also politically smart approach.

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How MCDCC Members Voted on the D20 Senate Appointment

Here is how the members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee voted on the District 20 Senate vacancy:

Will Smith (19)
Darrell Anderson
Mumin Barre
Juan Cardenas
Arthur Edmunds
Natalia Farrar
Loretta Jean Garcia
Marjorie Goldman
Johntel Greene
Julian Haffner
Mimi Hassanein
Jennifer Hosey
Marlin Jenkins
Aaron Kaufman
Linda Mahoney
Jonathan Prutow
Venattia Vann
Tim Whitehouse
Jheanelle Wilkins
Brenda Wolff

David Moon (8)
Luisa María Arévalo
Alan Banov
Wendy Cohen
Harold Diamond
Michael Gruenberg
Dave Kunes
Emily Shetty
Erin Yeagley

Abstained (1)
Chris Bradbury

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Will Smith is the New D20 Senator

Congratulations to Will Smith on becoming the new senator from Distric 20,, after Jamie Raskin resigned in anticipation of taking his in the U.S. House of House of Representatives. Del. Smith is serving his first term in the House of Delegates, as is his major rival for the seat, Del. David Moon.

MCDCC’s choice of Del. Smith was expected at least by me, but Del. Moon put up a stronger fight than I anticipated. I look forward to seeing what soon-to-be Sen. Smith can do in the Maryland Senate and the continued service of Del. Moon, who has made an excellent start in that body.

Will Smith will be the first African-American Senator from Montgomery County–a welcome first in a county that is almost one-fifth African American. At the same time, he will bring talents to the Senate beyond racial symbolism.

Congratulations to Will Smith. Thanks also to David Moon, Darien Unger, Scott Brown, and Arthur Jackson, Jr. for throwing their hats into the ring. Now, on to filling the delegate vacancy.

 

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Will Smith for Senate

This is a guest post by Terrill North:

Knocking on doors in District 20 will introduce you to national-level union bosses, campaigners for Nepal, law professors, and hundreds of professionals committed to social justice.  Our community is lucky to have so many people who care, but unfortunately, they are not always people who know.  They may not know D20 is home to the largest concentration of poverty in Montgomery County, or that the majority of children in public school qualify for free and reduced-price meals.  They may know we’re diverse, but cannot name 10 Black or Brown people whose families form the majority of the population.

I can’t knock any of the names under consideration for our soon to be vacant Senate seat, I know most of them well and can say they legitimately care.  Will Smith, however, has demonstrated the deepest connections to every corner of District 20.  I first met Will while volunteering for IMPACT Silver Spring, where he worked with AmeriCorps connecting our most vulnerable neighbors with social services. He and I later chaired Montgomery County’s Community Development Advisory Committee, which decides how to allocate several million dollars of federal funding to organizations serving marginalized communities.  Will has planted strong roots across populations that don’t always show up at the voting booth through long-term work with Gapbusters Learning Center and Gandhi Brigade.

And I don’t just mean to say that Will knows African-Americans, he started a scholarship fund for immigrant youth who did not qualify for most grants and scholarships because of their status.  He is a natural problem solver who has taken his commitment to people at the margins from this community to the state legislature.

Will has already established himself as a leader in Annapolis. In fact, Delegate Smith passed more pieces of legislation last year than any other freshman legislator and was a strong supporter and leader in getting the Second Chance Act passed.  He sponsored legislation creating tax incentives for employers who hire returning citizens (ex-offenders) and worked to create a reporting system for SWAT team deployments in communities of color.

As important, Will was appointed by the House Speaker to serve on two important working groups on justice reinvestment (think: reducing mass incarceration) and reforming the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (think: establishing civilian review of police misconduct).  Will already has the confidence of leaders in Annapolis to represent the interests of people at the edge.  Jamie Raskin always claimed the mantle of the effective progressive – he didn’t just talk a good game, he got things done for people that need advocates to get things done.  Will has made building the necessary relationships to be effective a priority and will be the effective leader D20 needs in the State Senate.

It would be a big deal to send an African-American to the Senate from Montgomery because we have never done it before.  But Will represents much more than that.  I think people need to understand that Will is the first member of his family to graduate from college, a dream shared by many of the young D20 residents eating free lunch each day.  His service as a Naval Officer and journey to Obama appointee and civil rights attorney is relatively unique, even in Montgomery County (where only half of high school grads attend college).

Half of arrests in MoCo are of black men, despite blacks making up roughly 19% of the population (34% in D20).  Quite frankly, the American dream is at risk here as much as anywhere else. Will is unquestionably progressive and unquestionably qualified, but also brings a set of experiences that are unlike any other Senator from Montgomery.  We need his voice at the table in the Senate and that is why I enthusiastically support Will Smith for Senate!

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The Next Senator from District 20

The battle to replace Jamie Raskin in the State Senate is currently the object of much speculation but the logical and likely appointment by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) seems obvious: Del. Will Smith.

All three sitting Montgomery senators who gained that office via appointment were already delegates: Craig Zucker in District 14, Brian Feldman in District 15, Nancy King in District 39. Each had served at least one full term in the House before moving to the Senate.

Beyond experience, selection of a delegate also make sense because the exact same constituency has already elected them to the General Assembly. The three delegates are not just the most obvious but most democratic choices.

Among the three delegates, Del. Sheila Hixson could have it if she wanted it but doesn’t. That leaves Del. David Moon and Del. Will Smith. Both are former campaign managers for Sen. Jamie Raskin’s past campaigns and won election in 2014.

Prior to their election, highly diverse District 20 had an all white state legislative delegation. The election of Korean American Moon and African American Smith changed that. Beyond personal ties, Sen. Raskin and Del. Hixon’s desire to diversify the delegation no doubt played a role in their joint endorsements of Moon and Smith.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party remains interested in promoting greater racial diversity in the delegation. MCDCC will be under enormous pressure to take this into account during its deliberations.

This factor weighs heavily against David Moon. No African American has ever won election or appointment to the Senate from Montgomery County. According to the Census, African Americans now form roughly 19% of the County’s population.

In contrast, there is currently one Asian American Senator–District 16 Sen. Susan Lee. She forms one of eight, or 12.5%, of the Montgomery County Senate delegation–not far off the estimated 15% of the County’s population that is Asian American.

There are currently three African Americans (Dels. Al Carr, Pam Queen and Will Smith) and four Asian Americans (Dels. Kumar Barve, Aruna Miller and David Moon along with Sen. Susan Lee) in the entire Montgomery state legislative delegation, so African Americans have less overall representation in terms of absolute numbers and percentages.

David Moon has advocated for increased minority representation in the General Assembly. He has promoted minority candidates and helped to pass along his considerable campaign skills. Nonetheless, the logic of these very ideas will work against him in a jurisdiction and party attuned to racial balance, especially since District 20 has the highest share of African Americans in the County.

Other African Americans have thrown their hat into the ring, notably former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin and Will Jawando. Both are well qualified but have political strikes against them that mitigate against an appointment over Smith.

Ervin has touted that her appointment would be a double win, as her appointment would bring the share of women in the Senate delegation to parity. However, she abandoned her seat on the County Council before the end of her term to take up another job, which annoyed many activists.

Additionally, Ervin supported Edwards for Senate–not the popular position in Montgomery. While this is not nearly as problematic as her resignation, Ervin’s quotes in the media expressing ambivalence about endorsing Van Hollen in the immediate aftermath of the election are much more damaging.

Jawando faces an uphill climb for different reasons. Smith beat him for a delegate seat in 2014. Why should MCDCC second guess the choice of the voters? Second, after losing that race, he made a quixotic bid for the congressional seat against Raskin.

If Jawando had supported Raskin, he would have been very well positioned for the delegate seat. Opposing Raskin, who has long had very strong support among this same constituency, has made winning that seat far more difficult, especially since he received even fewer votes in his congressional bid than his delegate race.

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