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.