By Adam Pagnucco.
In a post on Senator Cheryl Kagan’s Facebook page, Council Member George Leventhal has blamed the voters’ passage of term limits on “right wing populism.” Yes folks, you read that correctly!
On Sunday, Senator Kagan posted an innocuous account of the number of reusable bags she has accumulated in the wake of the county’s use of a bag tax. (Your author and many others can relate!) Her post had nothing to do with term limits and she even stated her support of the bag tax. Nevertheless, Leventhal replied within ten minutes. “Constituents have told me the bag tax was a primary reason term limits passed. I support the bag tax too, but I’m just letting you know that you walk a thin line when you associate with right wing populism by identifying yourself with term limits.”
First, Kagan did nothing to identify herself with term limits or with right wing populism of any kind. No reasonable person would make those leaps of illogic by reading her post. Second, while Robin Ficker and Help Save Maryland may have gathered signatures for the term limits charter amendment, 70% of the county’s voters (and a majority of Democrats) voted for term limits. Third, at the same time that “right wing populism” was apparently sweeping the county, those same voters supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 75%-19%. The alleged right wingers also voted for Chris Van Hollen and Jamie Raskin by more than 50 points each.
Large majorities of every part of the county except Takoma Park voted for term limits. Is right wing populism running wild in MoCo?
Part of what is going on here may be a reaction to Kagan’s consideration of a run for County Executive, an office which Leventhal is seeking. Potential rivals are right to fear Kagan. She is an outstanding candidate who is a veteran of two recent hard-fought Senate races and has many fans inside and outside of her district. She is also plenty tough, having sent out mail against her 2014 opponent showing him “gallivanting around as a Republican elephant masquerading in a Democrat donkey mask.” She is unlikely to be intimidated by unfriendly statements on Facebook.
There are many reasons for the passage of term limits: the giant tax hike of 2016, declining local media coverage, falling voter turnout, unhappiness with nanny state laws and, in some areas, dissatisfaction with recent master plans. These factors and more combined to produce the biggest political revolt in MoCo in fifty years. But there is no evidence that right wing populism played a decisive role here. Leventhal’s remarks are reminiscent of his equating term limits supporters with Brexit voters and his branding of the entire effort as “dumb and unnecessary.” His views do not appear to have changed.