Category Archives: District 4

Targeting Navarro


By Adam Pagnucco.

It was the spring of 2008.  Five-term County Council Member Marilyn Praisner, who had represented District 4 since 1990, had passed away and eight candidates were running for her seat.  One of them was a woman.  One of them was a person of color born in another country.

Her name was Nancy Navarro.

At that time, District 4 included most of US-29 north of Downtown Silver Spring to the Howard County border and the areas south of Olney, east of Rockville and north of Wheaton.  It had little in the way of restaurants or shopping.  There was the aging, emptying business district in Burtonsville.  There was the decrepit, asphalt-covered shopping center in Glenmont.  Here and there, small and mid-size retail strips clung to the sides of New Hampshire Avenue and other major roads.  A tiny colony of fast food and lowbrow restaurants had just sprung up on US-29 at Tech Road.  Walkable urban shopping was nowhere to be found.  If residents wanted that, they would have to drive to Downtown Silver Spring to get it.

None of this was an accident.  For years and years, the civic leaders and activists who dominated the district’s politics had worked hard to keep development out.  Mrs. Praisner was their champion.  They regarded development as a bad thing, attracting both traffic and “undesirables.”  But newer residents, including people of color, wanted the restaurants, jobs and shopping that most other people around the county had.  Colesville resident Nancy Navarro was one of them, and soon she became their champion.

Navarro stood out during the 2008 special election, and not just because of her gender and heritage.  The other seven candidates running for Mrs. Praisner’s seat, including her husband Don, adhered to her vision of little or no growth.  (Don Praisner’s campaign slogan was literally “Fulfilling the Vision.”)  Navarro instead talked about the benefits of economic development, such as creating jobs for residents and giving them amenities that they had not previously had.  Navarro was also supported by many in the business and real estate communities and the public employee unions.  None of this sat well with the old guard, who regarded developers as evil and unions as tax-happy.  Navarro quickly became a target.

The March debate at the Aspen Hill library typified the direction of the campaign: nearly every other candidate concentrated their fire on Navarro.  Their attacks centered on the allegation that she was allegedly a “tool” of developers and unions.  (It didn’t help that MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast invited union leaders to his house to get them to endorse Navarro.)  But there was more to it than that.  To Navarro’s supporters, the implication of this “tool” argument was that women and people of color were supposedly not intelligent or strong enough to make up their own minds, and that when they made common cause with others, they would inevitably fall under their “control.”  Furthermore, while Don Praisner’s supporters criticized Navarro for taking contributions from developers and businesses, Mrs. Praisner had done the exact same thing for years.  Later, it was revealed that Don Praisner himself accepted money from a property owner in the district seeking redevelopment.

Much of this is par for the course in the rocky world of political campaigns.  After all, opposition to change frequently arises in politics and outrage can be selective.  But with Navarro on the ballot, it mutated into something far darker: a toxic stew of racism and xenophobia.  Don Praisner defeated Navarro in the 2008 Democratic primary and would serve on the council for less than a year before he passed away.  When Navarro returned to run again in the 2009 special election, the forces of extremism were prepared.

First came the illegal anonymous robocalls, a repeat of a tactic used against Navarro in 2008.  Then came rumors circulated both on-line and off linking Navarro (who was born in Venezuela) to the Hugo Chavez regime.  Help Save Maryland, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “nativist extremist group,” began targeting Navarro for her alleged support of “illegal aliens.”  Their challenge to Navarro was posted on a racist website equating President Obama to Satan.

Most bizarre of all was an email sent to Navarro’s campaign asking about her immigration status.  The author wrote, “I am informally involved with a group of Independents and we are trying to identify a candidate that we feel comfortable endorsing. It would be great if you could put the rumors to rest and provide information as to when (what year) and where, which state, Ms. Navarro received her naturalization or citizenship. Thank you.”  In fact, the author – who used a fake name – was a GOP activist who wrote for the party and had testified against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Robin Ficker was involved too.  The 2008 GOP nominee, Mark Fennel, was a Ficker protégé, had spread the Hugo Chavez rumors and threatened to unleash “the Dogs of War” on Navarro.  In 2009, Ficker “moved” to District 4 to run for the seat and promptly began sending out illegal flyers.  During a televised campaign debate, Ficker waved a set of decade-old tax liens against Navarro and her husband in his opponent’s face.  Ficker did not use Help Save Maryland’s race-baiting tactics directly, but he did not repudiate them either.

Given this history, it’s no surprise that Help Save Maryland’s participation in Ficker’s term limits initiative was spurred in part by a desire to knock off Navarro.  The group has never made its peace with Navarro’s election and has sent out numerous emails slamming her over the years.  Supporters of term limits have many motivations, but Help Save Maryland is quite clear about theirs: they want to slam the county’s gates shut to “illegal aliens.”

Will any of this make a difference in the current debate over term limits?  Probably not.  Few voters have heard of Help Save Maryland and understand what the group believes.  Even Ficker is less infamous now that his NBA heckling days are mostly over.  In any event, voters are more likely to see term limits through the prism of their own perceived self-interest rather than how they impact specific elected officials.

But make no mistake: the treatment of Nancy Navarro during the 2009 special election is a shameful blot on the county’s political history.  It must not be forgotten.  It must not be repeated.  And hopefully, her successors will be treated with the honor and respect that all upstanding candidates deserve.

Share

Top Ten Senate Primaries, Part I

Simmons mailerMail Piece for Del. Simmons is Running for Senate in District 17

The most competitive challenges to incumbent senators usually occur when a delegate runs. In most of Maryland’s 47 legislative districts, three delegates run at-large and represent the exact same constituency as the senator.

As a result, they make excellent challengers. In 2010, then-Del. Karen Montgomery unseated Sen. Rona Kramer in the Democratic primary.  Sen. Nancy King and Sen. Jennie Forehand had very close shaves that same year running against either a delegate or former delegate.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, incumbent senators often eye their delegates with the same askance eye as Queen Victoria viewed the Prince of Wales. Nevertheless, most of the 39 incumbents seeking reelection do not face stiff primaries. These are the seven challenges by delegates or former delegates to incumbents to watch:

  • 4: Sen. Brinkley v. Del. Hough (R).
  • 25: Sen. Currie v. Del. Melony Griffith (D).
  • 26: Sen. Muse v. Del. Turner (D) and two others.
  • 36: Sen. Hershey v. former Del. Sossi (R).
  • 37: Sen. Colburn v. Del. Eckardt (R).
  • 42: Sen. Brochin v. former Del. DeJuliis (D).
  • 44: Sen. Jones-Rodwell v. Del. Nathan-Pulliam (D).

The challenging delegates in Districts 4 and 44 don’t necessarily have quite the same natural advantages as usual for sitting delegates because they ended being redistricted into another district and have represented less of their new district than the senator.

One other Senate challenger attracts notice even though he does not hold a seat in the House:

  • 43: Sen. Conway v. City Councilman Henry (D).

There are also two exciting primaries among the contests for the seven open seats. Both feature delegates looking to move to the Senate:

  • 17: Del. Simmons v. former Del. Kagan (D).
  • 34: Del. James v. former Sen. Helton (D).

Today, I preview and rate three senatorial contests among the ten with interesting primaries.

District 4 (R): Incumbent David Brinkley faces Del. Michael Hough (R 3), who has been redistricted into this very Republican district in Frederick County. While Brinkley has the home turf advantage, Hough has far more money. This will be a bloody contest with Hough coming at Brinkley from the right and arguing that Republicans need a true conservative to carry the flag. Brinkley has committed the heretical sin of working with the majority Democrats on occasion. More info here and here. Rating: Toss-Up.

District 17 (D): Sen. Jennie Forehand is retiring, so this Rockville-Gaithersburg seat in Montgomery is open. Del. Luiz Simmons, who won this district as a Democrat in 2002 (he previous represented it as a Republican from 1979 to 1983) is going for the open seat. He faces tough competition from former Del. Cheryl Kagan, who represented this district from 1995 through 2003. She challenged Forehand four years ago and nearly won, taking 48% of the primary vote.

Kagan will undoubtedly present Simmons as on the wrong or conservative side of too many issues, particularly domestic violence. In the past, Simmons opposed legislation pushed by Sen. Brian Frosh to change Maryland’s standard for obtaining a protective order from a “clear and convincing” standard to the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in every other state (see also WaPo editorial).

Simmons has had an election year change of heart, as outlined in a devastating column by Josh Kurtz. Simmons is working hard to inoculate himself on this issue with mail pieces (see above) and his avid sponsorship of legislation during this session. Still, this video of his interrogation of a domestic violence victim during a public hearing on the topic may cause him problems:

Interestingly, there is no sign that either Del. Kumar Barve or Del. Jim Gilchrist are rushing to slate with Simmons–a common practice when only one runs for Senate. The question remains if either will take the big step to slate with Kagan instead.

Simmons can self-fund, so he’ll outspend Kagan but she at least can fund raise during the session since she’s not in the General Assembly. Kagan has has a base of donors from her previous campaign and possibly can attract new ones who like Forehand but not Simmons.

But most importantly, she’ll need to run a good ground game–knock on doors and coordinate volunteers to do the same–to beat Simmons. He campaigns hard and clearly takes nothing for granted since he is sending out mail this early. Rating: Toss-Up.

District 42 (D): Incumbent Sen. Jim Brochin faces tough primary and general election contests in a greatly reshaped district. Gov. Martin O’Malley is supporting his challenger, former Del. Connie DeJuliis (more info here). However, Brochin is an indefatigable campaigner and has loads more money than DeJuliis, who served in the 1990s, despite her high level support. Unless Gov. O’Malley goes all in on this one–and he has a very competitive streak–Brochin has the edge. Rating: Likely Brochin.

Share

UPDATE: Hough Announces Primary Challenge

The battle for Republican purification by Tea Party in Frederick County commences. As expected (see here and here), Del. Michael Hough has announced a primary challenge to incumbent Sen. David Brinkley. Sure enough, Hough is already calling Brinkley a RINO–John Wagner at the WaPo has the story.

Will it make it harder to get these done in the session? Democrats have huge majorities in both chambers. But the challenge incentivizes Brinkley to be not just oppositional but intransigent as Hough will attack any compromise as a heretical betrayal. Result: the Republicans get even less than usual.

For the Maryland GOP, this vote boils down to whether they even want to be relevant in a state hostile to their ideas.

Share

Two Fredericks: D3 and D4

In the not too distant past, Republicans looked at counties like Frederick and got excited. Fast growing exurbs like this and the loss of population in places like Baltimore City would gradually shift Maryland in their direction.

Frederick has indeed grown but disappointed the GOP bitterly by becoming much more Democratic in the process. President Obama received 49% in 2008 and 47% in 2012 of Frederick votes. A marked increase compared to the 39% received by Al Gore in 2000.

Under the old legislative district plan, Frederick had all but a tiny piece of District 3. Frederick and Carroll Counties shared District 4 with 4A located in Frederick electing two delegates. District 4B, situated entirely in Carroll except a small bit around Mt. Airy, elected the remaining delegate.

FredCtyDistsOld

The 2010 Frederick Districts

Redistricting has been  good to Frederick. As shown below, Frederick nearly has all of two full districts under the new plan–less than 10% of District 4 remains in Carroll and its subdistricts have accordingly been eliminated.

FredCtyDistsNew

The 2014 Frederick Districts

The new districts follow Frederick’s partisan divisions more closely than the old map. As the map below from Dave’s Redistricting shows, District 3 takes in the most Democratic portions–the City of Frederick and areas to the south–with the remaining much more Republican areas in the County composing District 4.

Additionally, Del. Michael Hough’s (R-3B) home was moved to District 4. Altogether, the changes help Democrats as it strengthens their position in swingy District 3. Meanwhile, District 4 remains a little piece of Republican heaven.

FredCtyPartisanship

Partisan Composition of Frederick (Blue is D and Red is R)

District 3

In District 3, former Frederick Mayor Ron Young toppled shrill right-wing gadlfly Sen. Alex Mooney in 2010. He moved on to running the State GOP into the ground before fleeing to West Virginia for redder pastures where he is now a congressional candidate. Even Maryland Republicans don’t seem to miss him.

Sen. Ron Young has taken liberal stands–he was a strong supporter of marriage equality while Mooney was one of its most vocal opponents–but no one can touch him. He is unopposed in the primary and general election.

All three delegate seats are open. In 3A, neither Del. Patrick Hogan (R) nor Del. Galen Clagett (D) will seek reelection with Hogan’s decision at least partly influenced by the more Democratic version of this Frederick City district. The new redistricting plan placed Del. Michael Hough’s (R-3A) home in District 4.

In District 31A, Sen Ron Young’s wife, Karen Lewis Young has filed for one of the two delegate seats but has not filed a campaign finance report (or at least one doesn’t come up when I search for it). She has a website for her unsuccessful run for the Frederick mayoralty as the Democratic nominee in 2013. In that contest, Young came in second with 32% behind Republican Randy McClement who won with 49%. If elected, Sen. Young and Del. Young would be the only husband and wife team in the General Assembly.

The other potentially strong candidate appears to be Frederick Alderman Carol Krimm. Though she has just $1700 in her campaign account, she has held office and aldermen run citywide, so she is already known throughout a fair portion of the district.

Young and Krimm seems well positioned to win the two seats, if only due to the weakness of the other competition that has filed so far. Candidate Nicholas Bouquet just moved to Frederick one year ago and has also filed no campaign finance report (or again, it just doesn’t appear when I search for it). Roger Wilson has raised no money. The two Republican candidates are poorly funded.

In 3B, Frederick County Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Stephen Slater is the only filed candidate. Of course, the filing deadline has not yet arrived.

District 4

All four seats in District 4 are safe for the Republicans. Though Del. Michael Hough’s website still solicits support for running in 3B, his home is now in District 4  and plans to run for the Senate against incumbent Sen. Minority Leader David Brinkley. Hough’s very active twitter feed of anti-Obamacare, anti-tax. anti-union, global warming denying posts sure has the look of a Republican straining to endear himself to tea-party voters.

Brinkley has a reputation in the Senate of a smart and cordial staunch–but not certifiable–conservative. Which means, of course, that he could be in trouble with the wing of his party that demands total purity and legislative ineffectiveness to gain election.

Brinkley has just $21K in his campaign account and has not yet filed for reelection. Along with Del. Kathy Afzali (R-4A), Brinkley sought unsuccessfully to defeat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the Republican primary. Bartlett limped home with 44% to 20% for Brinkley and 10% for Afzali. Some may speculate that Brinkley may be getting tired of the General Assembly, though he gives every sign of planning to run for reelection.

Michael Hough has a more robust $115K in his campaign account and will make it a humdinger of a primary. Neither Brinkley nor Hough can raise funds during the session, leaving little time before the primary and giving Hough an edge. On the other hand, Hough will need to get known in a lot of new territory that Brinkley has  represented in the House or Senate since the 1994 election. Hough will try to beat Brinkley by running to his right and presenting himself as a more authentic conservative.

Only one Democrat has bothered to file for delegate in District 4 while the Republicans have three filed candidates so far: Del. Kathy Afzali ($66K on hand) and Del. Kelly Schulz ($45K) along with Mt. Airy Councilwoman Wendi Peters ($13K). David Vogt and Ken Timmerman also plan to run but has yet to file. Gaffe-prone Vogt ran for Congress but dropped out before the primary. Timmerman is moving to the district to run for the seat.

The Quinton Report sees Afzali, Schulz and Peters as the front runners, and Vogt and Timmerman as sad cases: “With Vogt getting into the race, it guarantees he will be battling it out with Ken Timmerman to see who finishes last.”

 

Share