The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) has revoked their endorsement of Brandy Brooks and instead endorsed Council President Gabe Albornoz.
The teachers overlooked Tom Hucker, who is attempting to jump from District 5 to an at-large seat after pulling back from a bid for county executive. Some may see this as a bit of a snub since Hucker had been supportive and close to labor in the past.
In their choice, MCEA went with a safe bet for re-election and also overlooked one fresh candidate, Scott Goldberg. (Note: this is a correction. I mistakenly wrote Laurie-Anne Sayles was also overlooked but she had been endorsed by MCEA previously.)
Their decision is the latest in a line of organizations, such as CASA and DSA, that have pulled their endorsements from Brooks in the wake of a former staffer’s accusation of sexual harassment. Brooks has started participating in forums again but still has not spoken directly on the issue.
County County Candidate Brandy Brooks sent a blast email an hour ago entitled “A Test of Leadership” that’ says she stands for “Leadership that is accountable, transparent, and committed to equity and justice. I also believe that the test of leadership isn’t what a leader does when things are easy, but what she does when the going gets hard, amid challenges, conflict, and stress.”
Yet neither this email nor a linked longer explanation mentions what she did or how she has been held accountable in any meaningful way. It describes a process run by her campaign manager but omits that Michelle Whittaker is her sister. Imagine what Brooks would say if a political opponent delegated handling an incident like this to a relative?
Even as she touts her transparency, Brooks explains that she asked her endorsing partners for confidentiality. She never mentions harassment let alone the sexual harassment described in the Washington Post.
Rather than taking ownership of the problem and taking decisive action, she went away for two weeks for self-care and “intensive reflection” which juxtaposes uneasily with her claims of “organizing” to promote “equity” and staying in the race for her volunteers and supporters. Disappearing for two weeks when the “going gets hard” isn’t the best advertisement for her leadership skills.
Even more strangely, despite writing about preparing some sort of statement of acknowledging wrongdoing during her two weeks of reflection, there has been no public statement of accountability on her part. All she says is that the employee complained of a “hostile work environment” but never owns it.
Instead of transparency and accountability, her email is a ultimately a whinge that essentially says “I tried” and then attempts to transform Brooks into a victim of her endorsers who didn’t keep quiet and her victim for supposedly pulling out of the mediated agreement and speaking out.
Brooks did remember to include a “Donate” button in her email.
When Brooks made the issue public on Twitter, she announced that she was taking a two-week period “to care for myself and to reflect with my trusted advisors.” While the episode is undoubtedly extremely stressful for Brooks, this approach put the focus on caring for herself rather than the victim. It also showed an inability to act decisively and transparently to address even an office crisis.
In short, Brooks is neither able to flatly deny the allegations nor take responsibility in a way that closes the issue. More organizations are considering revoking endorsements. Brooks is now hemorrhaging core supporters even as she relaunches her campaign with less staff and little money.
Metro DC DSA issued a statement after meeting with embattled at-large Montgomery County Council Candidate Brandy Brooks. Their claims are damning: “At no point did she deny the allegations against her” and “we’re disappointed to see her twist the language of abolition and restorative justice to try to deflect from her actions.”
The DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) are a left-wing organization that has been closely aligned with and highly supportive of Brooks. Here is their complete statement:
Yesterday, at-large County Council Candidate Brandy Brooks announced that she is “taking a period of two weeks to care for myself and reflecting” in the wake of a “report of a hostile workplace environment caused by me.” Brooks says that “a mediated agreement was developed and the terms of that agreement executed.”
While stating that she seeks “to be as transparent as possible” and decrying “increasingly inaccurate and malicious reports,” Brooks’s campaign has not disclosed more information about the matter.
Campaign Manager Michelle Whittaker let me know via email that she disagreed with my post stating that Brooks “has suspended her campaign.”
I guess Whittaker can say that taking two weeks off is “taking a brief break” rather than “suspending her campaign.” In Dave, a comedy from back in 1993, the White House claimed that the president had “suffered what doctors describe as a minor circulatory problem of the head” after a major stroke. But engaging in self-care and reflecting doesn’t sound like an active campaign. It’s hard to imagine others will be working hard on it when the candidate and campaign manager aren’t.
When asked about the hostile work environment claim, Whittaker explained that: “I cannot add further comment about that at this time. If you have a question about the campaign operations, I may be able to provide more information.”
The campaign has been plagued by rumors regarding its high burn rate—campaign argot for spending money fast—and that it doesn’t have enough left for printing and sending campaign mailers and other forms of voter contact as the primary approaches.
Brooks’s most recent campaign finance filing, filed on February 15, reported $55,227.76 in the bank—significantly below what is normally needed for a viable countywide campaign. Nothing in the media, printing or postage sections of either the January or February filings indicate that the Brooks campaign has prepaid for mailers or much other media. She reported spending a total of $1,803.21 on Facebook ads.
According to these two most recent filings, 61% of $47,178.07 in expenditures were on salaries and other compensation. Payments to MCW Creative, Michelle Whittaker’s company accounted for $7,550.00, or 16%, of the total spent on salaries and other compensation. Besides being Brooks’s campaign manager and a communications professional, Whittaker is also her sister.
Here are the screenshots from the reports:
Whittaker did not respond last night to questions on the total amount paid to her or the cash-on-hand available to the campaign.
In shocking news, at-large Democratic candidate Brandy Brooks has suspended her campaign due to an internal claim that she has created “a hostile workplace environment.” Here is a copy of Brooks’s post explaining why from her Twitter feed:
Jews United for Justice has already suspended its support in response:
I imagine that Brooks suspended rather than ended her campaign for the same reason as presidential campaigns: money. If she ends her campaign, it has implications for the public funds that she has received or will receive under Montgomery County’s public financing law.
Brooks could reenter the campaign after her “two weeks to care for myself and reflect” but political campaigns aren’t monasteries that provide time for introspective contemplation. Taking two hours off is a luxury. Announcing that there was a an accusation, let alone an executed “mediated agreement”, means it is very serious.
The post about the Capitol insurrection by Julie Tagen, who is Congressman Jamie Raskin’s Chief of Staff, is the first one to lead our list two months in a row. After a strong run in January, this article took off again starting February 9 when Raskin told this story to the U.S. Senate in his opening argument at the impeachment trial. It remains one of the most riveting items we have ever posted on Seventh State.
The article about White Flint is the first item to appear on our list three months in a row. This one won’t go away. It’s about more than politics; it’s about whether our county can build appealing new communities that can compete with the rest of the region. There is a real hunger for that in MoCo and it will resume prominence after the COVID pandemic winds down.
Then there are the stories about solar in the agricultural reserve. They reveal a split not just among politicians but also inside the county’s environmental community. Some see environmentalism as concerned with the preservation of nature. Others see environmentalism’s biggest priority as preventing climate change from making Earth inhospitable to humans. Both sides are right, of course, but in the case of solar in the ag reserve, their short-term prescriptions for action were at odds. This is not the first sign of an enviro split in MoCo. The Sierra Club’s endorsement of Roger Berliner over Marc Elrich in the 2018 county executive primary was extremely controversial. We may be headed for more internal conflicts in the environmental community in the future.
Because she is on an incredible pace to qualify for matching funds in the county’s public financing program.
MoCo candidates who opt into the county’s public financing program don’t get public matching funds right away. They need to meet a threshold of contributions from in-county residents which depends on the office for which they are running. According to Sec. 16-21 of the county code, council at-large candidates must collect at least 250 contributions from in-county residents totaling at least $20,000 before they are eligible to collect matching funds.
Now check this out. Brooks’s fundraising site went live on Saturday, February 6. Here is what it looks like as of 11:30 AM on Wednesday, February 10.
Yeah, you saw it: $19,161 from 211 donations. I hear a supermajority of those contributions have come from in-county residents. I’m sure we will hear more about that soon enough.
Now you might be tempted to say that $19,161 is not a lot of money. But this is public financing, in which public money amplifies individual contributions through matching funds. In MoCo’s system, for a council candidate, the maximum individual contribution allowed is $250. (It was $150 last time.) The first $50 is matched 4 to 1, the second $50 is matched 3 to 1 and the third $50 is matched 2 to 1. So a $250 contribution from an in-county resident is matched by $450 in public funds, thereby earning $700 for the receiving candidate.
Brooks is building a large team of progressives. This list is just going to grow.
So what does this mean? Brooks won’t get any public money right away. The county doesn’t start paying matching funds until a year before the primary, which occurs on June 28, 2022. So Brooks has to wait a while to get the big bucks. But when she does apply, she will probably get an infusion of at least $100,000 and she can apply for more matching funds as she gets more in-county contributions. The cap for matching funds receivable by council at-large candidates is $250,000 for the primary and another $250,000 for the general election. Even after a candidate hits the matching fund cap, that candidate can still collect as many individual contributions of up to $250 each as he or she can get.
Does this mean that Brooks is a shoo-in for election? Well, let’s consider the field in which she is running. Incumbent Hans Riemer can’t run again due to term limits, thereby creating one open seat. Incumbents Evan Glass and Gabe Albornoz used public financing last time and still have their donor lists. If they enroll in public financing again, they should have little problem raising money from their existing lists and qualifying for matching funds. Their status as incumbents should bring in new money too. Incumbent Will Jawando was the leading council fundraiser in public financing last time, but he has opted for the traditional system this time around. That said, Jawando has been a strong fundraiser in his prior campaigns, whatever the system, and there is little reason to believe that has changed now that he’s an incumbent.
So all of that probably places Brooks on a close-to-even financial footing with the incumbents. That’s a good thing for any challenger. And if any other candidates get into the at-large race and use public financing without prior experience in the system, they could take a while to get matching funds while Brooks and the incumbents are rolling in money. If you’re on Team Brandy, there is nothing but goodness in this scenario.
I said it once and I’ll say it again. Don’t underestimate Brandy Brooks.
[An aside: to whichever county officials are responsible for this, you need to update your website materials and the online county code to reflect changes to public financing made by Bill 31-20. Otherwise you will have a helluva mess as candidates try to comply with the system believing that the old provisions still apply.]
One of 2018’s most talented county council candidates is back: Brandy Brooks. Her announcement that she is running again for an at-large county council seat effectively kicks off the 2022 council campaign season and will have a big impact on MoCo politics.
First, about Brandy Brooks. When she ran for an at-large council seat in 2018, she was a new resident, having moved here from Massachusetts. Most political players didn’t know her and didn’t know what to expect. What they found was an eloquent, passionate progressive who was equally adept in the spoken and written word. Brooks was arguably the best speaker in every room she entered, inspiring a loyalty in her supporters that is unusual in MoCo politics. One of her rivals told me, “I just hated following her in candidate forums!”
Brandy Brooks is back.
Progressive politics is not new in MoCo but Brooks proved to be a superior organizer. She joined forces with MCPS teacher Chris Wilhelm to form “Team Progressive” and the two fanned out across the county. Both of them picked up numerous endorsements, with Brooks supported by MCEA, Casa in Action, SEIU Local 32-BJ, MCGEO, UFCW Local 400, the Democratic Socialists, Progressive Maryland, and the AFL-CIO among others.
Brooks and Wilhelm ask whether corporate welfare for Amazon is worth it.
In the end, Brooks finished 7th in the four-seat race, right behind Wilhelm. The table below shows her performance by geography. She was particularly strong in Montgomery Village, Burtonsville, Silver Spring East County and Takoma Park. (See here for my methodology.) If the election were decided solely by upcounty residents, she would have won.
The table below shows her performance by demographics. Brooks did not do well in heavily white and Asian precincts, such as many located in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac, but she finished in the top four in Black and Latino precincts.
Many first-time candidates who don’t win disappear and never run again. Not Brooks. She has remained active in county politics, running for planning board, joining the board of the MoCo Renters Alliance and commenting frequently on county issues. By all appearances, she has retained most if not all of her 2018 loyalists. Among the advantages she brings to her second run for office are her experience from the first race, her understanding of raising money in public financing, her proven electoral performance in many parts of the county and her possession of relationships that she did not have as a brand-new candidate. She should be an even stronger candidate this time around.
Brooks’s announcement will have two consequences. First, other potential candidates fancying the open at-large seat created by term limits (incumbent Hans Riemer is termed out) will have to decide what they want to do. Brooks is raising money and campaigning at the very moment I write this. Some folks will rush out of the gate. Others will decide to run in other races or perhaps not run at all. Expect other prospects to announce their intentions soon.
Second, Brooks is no mealy-mouthed wallflower; she is a loud, proud progressive. The current county council has numerous issues before it of importance to progressives, including rent stabilization, police reform and (soon) a budget with a potential tax hike in it. You can bet that Brooks will have something to say about all of those things and more. That’s going to affect the incumbents, especially the ones who will be in her race. Because the council will be looking over their shoulders at Brooks’s big blue cheering section, her very presence in the race could wind up moving the council slightly – or maybe not so slightly – to the left. If that happens, expect progressives to give Brooks the credit for it.
It’s too early to pick favorites, especially since we don’t know which other candidates will be running for council at-large. (Those seats tend to attract crowds.) But for now, I will just say this.