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.
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.
All four Likely Republican seats are outside shots for the Democrats. But if the anti-Trump whirlwind hits Maryland in 2018 and sweeps away Republicans, here is where it is likely to strike. Democrats need strong candidates here in order to be prepared to take advantage and to put the Republican on defense.
Del. Folden won election in 2014 from District 3B, a singleton subdistrict of fiercely contested Frederick County D3. More Republican than 3A, Hogan carried 3B by 28 points in 2014 and Trump beat Clinton by 6 in 2016.
However, Folden’s 56% victory margin lagged far behind the more popular Hogan. While Hogan will undoubtedly carry this area again, the question remains of by how much. Frederick continues to trend Democratic, which doesn’t help Folden either.
Democrats were demoralized and did badly in the 2014 midterm election but the reverse situation could be Folden’s undoing. One can well imagine a scenario in which Trump continues to perform below expectations, weakening Republican support and turnout in contrast to angry Democrats.
Notice that the same swing needed for Clinton to have won the district in 2016 would also ejected Folden in 2014.
Joe Cluster and Christian Miele
Del. Joe Cluster was appointed in 2016 to fill the seat won by his father, John Cluster. Del. Christian Miele was newly elected to the House in 2014. Miele and John Cluster won that election in Baltimore County’s District 8 with the equivalent of around 58% of the vote.
Unusually, they share their three delegate district with a Democrat, Del. Eric Bromwell, who is also the son of a former legislator. Bromwell trailed his Republican seatmates with the equivalent of just 50.1%–about 5% ahead of the third Republican–in an area of Baltimore County that has been seen as moving Republican.
Bromwell’s shaky hold despite his long experience in the House combined with Hogan’s 36 point victory ought to indicate that the Republicans should be fine. But Trump lost the district by 1% to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and notice that the Republicans significantly underperformed compared to Hogan.
While Hogan is on the ballot, Trump is now President. Instead of riding an anti-Democratic wave, Cluster and Miele will have to contend with anti-Trump sentiment. Candidates in both parties always have to run hard here. Though well positioned, Cluster and Miele will likely have to run harder in 2018, as this is the sort of territory in which Trump’s unpopularity upset the increasing comfort felt by Republicans.
Like Cluster and Miele, second-term Harford Del. Glen Glass holds one of the rare multimember districts split between the two parties. In 2014, he won with 57%, ahead of the 53% won by newcomer Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti and the 48% gained by his losing Republican ticket mate.
Harford County has been a growing Republican suburb but Democrats have nonetheless managed to retain a foothold in two-member District 34A. Before Lisanti, Mary Dulany James did well in delegate elections despite losing the senatorial election in larger D34 in 2014.
Like Baltimore County’s D8, D34A went for Hogan in 2014 but then narrowly for Clinton in 2016. But this subdistrict is less strongly Republican. Hogan won by 28 and Clinton won by 2. The anti-Democratic winds blowing in 2014 that undermined Del. James’ senate bid won’t be blowing in 2018.
Glass remains the favorite but, like D8, this is one of those districts that candidates from neither party can take for granted. If voters in Maryland’s outer suburbs turn on Republicans in a backlash against Trump, his reelection fight could be much tougher than anticipated, particularly if the Democrats find a good candidate.
Robert Flanagan is the most vulnerable Republican in the House of Delegates. Representing District 9B in Howard County, Flanagan beat Democrat Tom Coale with 55% of the vote in 2014. Flanagan ran behind Larry Hogan, who beat Anthony Brown in the gubernatorial race by 16 points.
The district shifted back heavily to the Democrats in 2016 as Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 19%. If a backlash wave against Trump upsets Republican boats in the General Assembly, this is one of the first places that will be hit, as it holds many of the precise sorts of voters who tend to be ticked off by Trump’s antics.
Flanagan has $18,268 in his campaign kitty according to the report he filed in January. In this wealthy county, he is likely going to want to raise a lot more before the campaign. Howard’s trend toward the Democrats stalled in 2014 but Flanagan still goes into the 2018 elections with a big target on his back.
Del. Herb McMillan is one of those politicians who has been on the ballot for many years but always has close, and sometimes losing, races. He won the third slot the House from District 30 in 2002 by just 427 votes over his Democratic opponent. McMillan ran for the Senate in 2006 and lost with 47% against Sen. John Astle.
He must have been happy to win a return ticket to the House of Delegates in 2010. But his vote share, the equivalent of 51% in a single-member district, hardly discouraged challengers. Redistricting placed him in District 30B, a subdistrict that he shares with Democratic Speaker Mike Busch.
Undoubtedly, Busch hoped that the voters would send McMillan home from the redrawn district. However, in the same year that Hogan won the seat by 18%, McMillan surprised and came in ahead of Busch with the equivalent of 56% of the vote.
Despite coming off of his best race ever, McMillan remains at risk. Like Flanagan, McMillan represents a seat that Hillary Clinton won convincingly. Though Anne Arundel County split nearly evenly, Clinton won this portion by 15 points.
McMillan is more prepared than Flanagan with a $66,817 in his campaign treasury–good evidence that he is ready to run a tough race for this or the Senate. Even if Hogan does well, there will be no anti-Democratic backlash to aid McMillan this time as a highly controversial Republican sits in the White House.
Either way, Democrats will want to recruit strong candidates here and in Flanagan’s district to bring the fight to them in the hopes of padding their majorities or offsetting losses elsewhere.
While we await the Governor’s State of the State Address, 7S announces its first ratings for the 2018 elections to the Maryland House of Delegates. The House has 141 members–three times as many as the Senate. (See Senate Ratings Part I and Part II for ratings for the other body.)
Due to the much greater number of delegates, I focus only on safe Democratic seats today. Turns out that’s a majority of them.
Districts and Method of Election
All legislative districts elect three delegates and one senator. In most, the three delegates run at-large but others are divided into two (A and B) or three (A, B and C) subdistricts for delegate elections. Some, such as D37 on the Eastern Shore, are split in two to comply with protections for minority representation under the Voting Rights.
In other cases, districts are split to provide small counties the chance to elect one delegate. The division of D1 into three parts enables Garrett to elect a delegate and for Allegany to have one subdistrict entirely within its borders.
Each of the two major parties dominates large swaths of the State, resulting in a large number of safe districts. Let’s start with the Democrats, who by my estimation start of with 74 safe seats–three more than required for a majority.
All of these districts were won by Anthony Brown in 2014 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats have no worries about any seats in Baltimore City (Districts 40-41, 43, 44A, 45-6), Charles (28), Montgomery (14-20, 39), and Prince George’s (21-6, 27A, 47). These four jurisdictions alone get the Democrats to 65 seats.
Democrats are also sure to carry D37A, the sole African-American majority district on the Eastern Shore. For similar reasons, Democrats are a lock in D10 and D44B in Baltimore County. Along with D13, a liberal swath of Howard Country, that gives the them another six seats to get them up to 74.
Note that many of the current occupants of these may run for other offices or retire. In Montgomery, Dels. Luedtke, Platt, Carr, Waldstreicher, Kramer and Barkley may run for county office. Dels. Frick and Kelly have also expressed interest in running for other offices should the opportunity arise. There is also speculation that Dels. Gutierrez and Hixson may retire.
As in the Senate, the question is not whether Democrats will win a majority but if they can retain their ability to override vetoes should Governor Hogan win reelection.
Part II will look at safe Republican seats..
By Adam Pagnucco.
Total Wine co-owner and former Eighth Congressional District Candidate David Trone launched a poll this week on a potential race for Montgomery County Executive. Following is a description of the poll’s questions from a resident who was called.
Rate Doug Duncan as County Executive
Ike Leggett is ineligible. So, for whom would you vote if the primary was held today… (see above list).
Who would be your 2nd choice.
Who would be your 3rd choice.
Who would be your 4th choice.
How seriously would you consider voting for (see above list)? Very – Not at all seriously.
ISSUES: Very concerned, etc.
Transportation, Roads and Traffic
Available affordable housing
Special interests in government
What kind of candidate would you prefer?
Take time to get people to work together for solutions / Someone who takes charge to get things done quickly.
Montgomery County needs to grow / Too much growth right now.
A candidate who accepts public financing / A candidate who funds his own campaign.
Career politician / Businessman new to politics.
Make some changes / Shake things up.
Three statements about David Trone: Very persuasive, somewhat persuasive…not at all persuasive.
Grew up on farm that went broke, Wharton, Total Wine.
Montgomery County potential wasted by insider politics and politicians interested in helping their friends.
In business, David Trone has focused on practical issues and solutions while politicians argue about politics.
Takes no money from corporations and would accept no donation of more than $500 per person.
Final ballot (names from above list).
Not too long ago, a web page popped up touting County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large) as the next “Mayor” (i.e. County Executive) of Montgomery County. George is widely known to be interested in the race – he ran last time but withdrew before the primary to run for reelection.
The webpage is funny and gives a list of ten reasons – some serious, some joking – why Leventhal should be the next Exec. The author is seemingly the anonymous “Mayor of Moco:”
In addition to creating the web page, Saqib has created an anonymous twitter account:
Saqib Ali has been very active in MoCo politics. He won election to the House of Delegates on a slate from District 39 in 2006. When the Senate seat became vacant, he sought it but the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee selected the much more experienced Del. Nancy King for the vacancy.
Del. Ali spent most of the next four years of his term in the House openly preparing to challenge King for the Senate seat. Indeed, the 2010 Senate primary was exceedingly close but King prevailed over Sleepy Saqib – as Sen. King labelled him during the campaign – by a margin of 3.4%.
In 2012, Saqib made a much less successful run for a Board of Education seat. In 2014, he announced but then pulled back for a run for a seat in the House of Delegates. Since then, he has become known for his activism in support of the BDS Movement, which advocates for boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel.
At the Montgomery Priorities Hearing, Saqib testified against legislation advocated by Del. Ben Kramer that would have resulted in the State boycotting companies and institutions that boycott Israel. More recently, he testified as a member of the Steering Committee of Marylanders for BDS on legislation before George’s committee on the Council on County legislation.
During his testimony, Saqib stated that Israeli settlements are “quite close to a war crime.” He then drops the qualifier when he says that “settlements meet the Geneva Convention definition for ‘war crime.” In short, he is now a strong and public advocate for BDS.
George Leventhal’s Viewpoint
George Leventhal kindly replied to my questions regarding the web page and BDS via email. Regarding the web page, George told me:
Saqib is a longtime friend. He let me know that he was planning to express his enthusiasm online about my potential candidacy for County Executive, but the “Mayor of MoCo” initiative is his alone, and I have had no involvement in it.
If I decide to run for County Executive, I will welcome Saqib’s involvement and will hope to win the support of a wide range of county residents, but I am a long way from making any decisions regarding 2018. In my four successful election campaigns, I am honored to have had the support of many activists in both the Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as many other communities. As an at-large councilmember who has represented more than one million constituents for nearly 14 years, I would not expect to agree with every opinion of every one of my supporters.
George’s point about not agreeing with everyone of his supporters is a good one. Who does? However, Saqib is not some random supporter among many. Saqib and George may well have become closer allies over George’s support for efforts to incorporate a Muslim holiday into the school calendar – a positive effort that is about recognition and inclusion. But George’s “longtime friend” is also leading local activist in support of BDS who is a former state legislator and has testified at least twice on the issue. At the very least, George raised no objection to this page, which represents his first public move for a bid for County Executive. As a result, pro-BDS Saqib seems more than some minor supporter.
George also shared his views on the BDS Movement:
I do not associate myself with efforts to boycott Israel or divest from it or impose sanctions on it. I feel a deep affinity for Israel, which I have visited three times. My sister lived there for several years. I support a two-state solution. In general, I would describe my views on the Israel/Palestine issue as consistent with those of J Street.
I would not characterize Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a war crime, although I think they are extremely counterproductive to the goal of peace in the Middle East.
While many might disagree with George’s views on BDS or Israeli settlements as either too liberal or too conservative, I’d say they fall right in the mainstream of Jewish and American opinion.
Some might argue that Donna Edwards’s identification with liberal J Street did her some harm in the Democratic primary, and that the same fate could befall George. More hardline pro-Israel voters do indeed reject J Street. Many others, however, would find George’s viewpoints utterly reasonable.
The more serious political problem is when a candidate is perceived fundamentally unsympathetic to Israel. In George’s comments, that is clearly not the case, as he strikes a smart balance of “deep affinity for Israel” and support for a “two-state solution.” But linkage with a prominent BDS supporter in what is essentially his prospective campaign’s first outing undermines that perception.
Moreover, Saqib is working to make this linkage stronger. He has now become the first person to attack me on Twitter before I even drafted a piece. Expressing anger at my “smears” and “appalling tactics,” Saqib then turned to faux outrage that I won’t open up this space to him. I look forward to all the pro-BDS webpages opening up their space to AIPAC and J Street.
All of this is helpful to getting Saqib Ali more attention but it sure doesn’t help George Leventhal.
Foreign Policy in County Elections?
Normally, I would not think foreign policy terribly relevant to a campaign for county executive. Aside from the nice Sister Cities program, my hope would be that any county executive focus on the nuts and bolts of making the County work well. But Saqib’s repeated public interventions show how views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can become intertwined with even local politics.
The injection of a prominent BDS supporter as part of George’s effort to stick his political toe publicly in the water will likely raise concerns among the many voters who oppose BDS and does not help us keep focused on the issues that matter – the ones on which George Leventhal has spent the vast majority of his career and has exhibited a great deal of genuine passion for over the years.