Category Archives: District 18

Almost as Many Candidates as Voters: the D18 Dem Caucus Forum

Ten (!) candidates participated in the District 18 Democratic Caucus forum for the open delegate nomination that MCDCC will fill tomorrow night.

I was first struck by who wasn’t there: Ardy Kamali, Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher’s legislative aide who raced down to file for the office but now doesn’t seem interested. I reached out to Waldstreicher for Kamali’s contact information but he has not replied. I’m still wondering if Kamali lives in the district, how he heard about the vacancy, and why he raced down to Annapolis.

The forum started on a poor note with the first ten minutes given over to an “introduction” that was essentially advertising for the three incumbents state legislator running for reelection. A little ironic in a party that highlights leveling the playing field so strongly.

The ten candidates who participated were:

Cecily Baskir
Carlos Camacho
Marla Hollander
Aaron Kaufman
Mark Lande
Leslie Milano
Jose Ortiz
Joel Rubin
Ron Sachs
Michael Tardif

Each candidate got to give an opening statement and then up to one minute to answer three questions posed by the moderator. The first two questions essentially asked them to highlight a key issue with the focus in the second being on local questions. The third query was whether everyone in District 18 can live comfortably. (Is there any community where the answer would be “yes”?)

The candidate in a strong position who helped himself most is Central Committee Member Aaron Kaufman. Now 35, Aaron is no longer the teenager I first met years ago through our mutual involvement in local politics. A “lifelong District 18 resident,” he believes “fervently in serving my community,” “serving those with significant needs” and “would bring unique diversity because I have cerebral palsy.”

Kaufman combined a general passion on the issues with mention of specific proposals he supports to address them. He gave the best answer on the greatest local problem, highlighting food insecurity. “Our streets haven’t been paved with gold in a long time. We have more kids on free and reduced meals than the DC public school system.” Kaufman argued he was best positioned to address the issues, “You have to know what levers to push and have relationships with people. I do.”

Former Chevy Chase Councilmember Cecily Baskir outlined a wealth of experience on the PTA, a law practice representing indigent defendants, and teaching part-time at Catholic University Law School. She reminded us that she knows how to build effective coalitions, through her work building the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents (CBAR) before she joined the TOCC Council.

Her primary issue was education; she wants to work to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s future as well as combat COVID learning loss, school overcrowding, and the mental health crisis. Baskir did an excellent job connoting knowledge in experience in a tight time frame.

Michael Tardif’s brand of politics may not exactly be mine, but he made his case well and convincingly. Tardif has an interesting personal story, growing up speaking French as his first language in a small town in Maine and the son of a labor leader. He and his husband have been married and living in the area for 24 years. Tardif described how he was named the 2021 Democrat of the Year for working “tirelessly for the local party to improve communications, voter access, and scheduling over 150 town hall meetings with officials.”

Tardif gave perhaps the most skillful answer on what one issue he thought was most important by subverting the question, saying that “housing is a human right, health care is a human right, we have to move fast on climate change, protect LGBT students and adults. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, and advance all of these priorities as fast as we can.” It’s the sort of answer that highlights possibilities and Democrats like.

At 69, newcomer Ron Sachs may have been the oldest candidate in the race but his life experience was a needed reminder of its value in a culture that venerates the young. Sachs has lived in the district for four decades and advocated for the First Amendment as a photojournalist and member of the White House News Association. He’s not interested in using this as a steppingstone to higher office and wants to advocate for people like his daughter, Melissa, a child with special needs. He raised several issues, but this seemed to be his passion along with reducing prescription drug prices—a key problem for older voters.

Carlos Camacho is not someone who I had seen previously but got me interested. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, he explained that he’s “running because top-down governance isn’t effective.” He worked for the county council until recently but left because it was “too hierarchical.” I’m not sure he’d find the House of Delegates any more congenial. Camacho now works for Baltimore City Parks & Rec as a community liaison. He emphasized the importance of education, including “high quality virtual education” and “pathways to higher education in high value fields.”

In addition to her fourth-place finish in 2018, Leslie Milano highlighted her experience in leadership positions at the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club, Committee for Montgomery, CCES PTA and the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission. Milano was most intriguing when arguing that “Maryland is a small state with opportunity to pass progressive legislation. We need to understand the real value we have in that role” and we must think about the “possibilities of what Maryland is.”

Joel Rubin tagged himself as a “real fighter for democracy,” explaining that he “tried to file on Friday after the first Seder so we can fight for our democracy” and that he is similarly ready to “sprint to Annapolis to work for you.” I had trouble following his answer to the first question. In contrast, his very cogent answer to the final question will no doubt divide people but should win points precisely for not staying on utterly safe ground. Rubin explained that “development has run amok.” We need to “right size development while we get the benefit of development, but so that people are lifted up, with enough green space, investment in schools and infrastructure.”

Jose Ortiz worked for Democrats for the last twenty years, living here for the past ten. Beyond serving as a precinct chair, he has been “active in this diverse community” and is a “small business owner.” Democrats could use more candidates and officials who have experience in business rather than government, so I’d like to know more. Ortiz heavily highlighted his work with former Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez on many issues.

Marla Hollander has lived in Kensington for nine years. She says we “need leaders who can find pathways to a new normal where anyone can thrive.” A member of the 2022 Emerge class, she has worked with nonprofits to champion community-led solutions. I would have liked to hear more detail, but the forum wasn’t conducive to lengthy explanation. When speaking on health policy, her reference to “breaking down silos” brought back bad memories of these trendy academic buzzwords from a few years back, but that’s just my bedbug.

Mark Lande expressed a real passion for ending Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Kudos for putting himself out there but it’s probably not a good focus for the state legislature.

Share

Afternoon Update: No D18 Poll & Brooks Campaign

Rubin Mistaken on Poll

Town of Chevy Chase Councilmember Joel Rubin, one of the candidates for the vacant delegate nomination sent out an email today regarding tonight’s candidate forum and tomorrow’s MCDCC vote. He’s asking voters to attend to the forum tonight because there will be a “public poll” of District 18 voters after the forum:

Here’s My Request: It would be outstanding if you could attend the Candidates Forum tonight, as there will be a public poll taking place after it for District 18 voters. Your participation and support for me after the forum will go a long way towards strengthening my candidacy on Tuesday night at MCDCC election time.

To show support for me, after the Candidates Forum ends at 7:25pm – but only if you’re a District 18 voter – please email the MCDCC at “office@mcdcc.org” by no later than 11:59pm tonight (Monday 4/18) with your support.

MCDCC Chair Arthur Edmunds and District 18 Democratic Caucus Chair Laura Johnson have separately confirmed that neither MCDCC nor the D18 Caucus will be conducting a poll after the candidate forum. MCDCC has helped publicize the forum but it is being conducted independently by the D18 Caucus.

UPDATE: Joel Rubin contacted me after the publication of this post. He explained that he wrote the email based on the following language that was included in the D18 Caucus forum invitation:

Following the candidate forum, District 18 Democratic voters are urged to forward an email of support for their preferred candidate to: Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. office@mcdcc.org, preferably no later than 11:59 pm, Monday, April 18, 2022.

Brooks Laying Off Staff

I have heard that Brandy Brooks’s campaign for an at-large Montgomery County Council seat is laying off field staff. It’s unclear whether this is temporary while Brooks is taking two weeks away from the campaign for self-care and to reflect after allegations that she created a hostile work environment. Lack of funds might also explain the layoffs.  

Share

D18 Forum Tonight for Open Nomination

It has been a busy weekend in Legislative District 18, where Del. Al Carr’s surprise last minute decision not to seek reelection has left open a vacant nomination.

Maryland Matters reported the drama as two candidates tried unsuccessfully to register for the vacancy at the last minute. Ardy Kamali, the Legislative Director for Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher’s office, arrived in time to file but lacked the required Treasurer. Town of Chevy Chase Councilmember Joel Rubin, also a Waldstreicher supporter, arrived moments too late.

No one else interested in the seat heard about the vacancy in time. Waldstreicher would certainly benefit if an ally rather than a potential challenger took the seat. MM Editor-in-Chief Danielle Gaines captured an incredible photo of Kamali fruitlessly trying to register as Rubin stood just outside of the locked door.

If Kamali or Rubin want to run in what is effectively the oddest race for a full delegate term being held this year, they’ll now have to apply to the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC), which can fill the vacant nomination. MCDCC has to make the appointment on Tuesday night.

The District 18 Democratic Caucus has organized a candidate forum for Monday night that will be moderated by Danielle Gaines. You can register to watch by going to bit.ly/d18-04-18. Kudos to the Caucus for organizing the forum.

So who is running? Or rumored to be running? Candidates have until 11:59pm on Monday to submit a cover letter and resume to MCDCC, so we won’t even necessarily know all the candidates in advance of the forum. But here are some of the names being floated:

Shruti Bhatnagar. She is an appointed member of MCDCC and a member of the Maryland Democratic Party Executive Committee. Bhatnagar ran for an at-large county council seat in 2018 and came in fifteenth in the Democratic primary with 2.1% of the vote (equivalent to 8.4% if you assume that everyone voted for four candidates). She is a past chair of the Montgomery County Group of the Sierra Club and the D18 Democratic Caucus.

Aaron Kaufman was elected to MCDCC in 2018 and chairs its Issues Committee. He is a Senior Legislative Associate at the Jewish Federations of North America. Long active in District 18, he is best known as an advocate for disability rights and inclusion. Way back in 2007, when this blog was called Maryland Politics Watch, I published his testimony on a bill on health insurance before the General Assembly. Then Sen. Richard Madaleno said “you could have heard a pin drop while he spoke” and that “he really had an impact.”

Michael Tardif was appointed relatively recently to MCDCC but has been organizing and greatly improving their communications over the past two years. An architect, Tardif is the managing partner of Building Informatics Group. Tardif was named Democrat of the Year at the Montgomery County Democratic Party Gala in 2021. He has served on the Host Committee of a fundraiser for Max Socol, Waldstreicher’s challenger. Active in the LGBTQ Caucus, he joined Socol in calling for stronger police reforms.  

Leslie Milano ran for the House of Delegates four years ago and came in fourth in the Democratic primary with 14.2% of the vote, 1,557 behind now Del. Jared Solomon. Currently, she is President of the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club. She is the Chief Executive Officer at APIC Consulting Services, which specializes in “infection prevention and control solutions.”

Joel Rubin is a Town of Chevy Chase councilmember, an office he won unopposed three times. He ran for the House of Delegates in 2018 and placed fifth with 11.2% or 2,011 votes out of the money. In 2016, he ran for the open Eighth CD and won only 1.1% or 1,426 votes. A former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and frequent media commentator, Rubin has also worked at J-Street, as Bernie Sanders’s Jewish liaison in 2020, and is now Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress.

Other people mentioned include Max Socol and Natali Fani-Gonzalez, though I expect both candidates to stick with their current races.

Share

MCDCC to Fill Vacant D18 Delegate Nomination

In the wake of Del. Al Carr’s decision to seek election to the county council rather than reelection, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is moving to fill the vacant nomination:

NOTICE OF VACANCY IN CANDIDACY FOR STATE DELEGATE, DISTRICT 18

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will meet at 7:30 pm, Tuesday, April 19, 2022, via Zoom Meeting to interview candidates to fill the vacancy in candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates created by the withdrawal of Delegate Al Carr as a candidate for re-election from Legislative District 18. Delegate Carr has instead filed to run for election to the Montgomery County Council, District 4.

The MCDCC derives its authority to fill this vacancy in candidacy from the Maryland Elections Code, § 5-901 [2002] and from the Rules of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee as last amended May 12, 2021.

By order of the Maryland Court of Appeals dated March 15, 2022, the MCDCC must fill the vacancy in candidacy no later than Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Candidates should submit a cover letter and resume by email to office@mcdcc.org no later than 11:59 pm, Monday, April 18, 2022, with the subject line Application for Vacancy in Candidacy, District 18 Delegate.

Candidates should also provide their current home address or legal residence.

An applicant must be a registered Democratic voter in the State of Maryland, a resident of Legislative District 18, and have attained the age of 21 years.

Candidates who meet the above qualifications will be invited to make introductory statements at the April 19 meeting, to be followed by questions posed to the candidates by members of the Central Committee

The Central Committee will vote publicly to fill the vacancy immediately after concluding the interviews.

The April 19 meeting will be conducted via Zoom Meeting and will be open to the public. Any person wishing to attend must register in advance at bit.ly/mcdcc-04-19. Registrants will receive an auto-reply email with the Zoom Meeting link.

Please email any questions to office@mcdcc.org.

Share

Del. Al Carr Jumps in Council Race, Leaves Vacancy

Even as Tom Hucker (D-5) was abandoning his quixotic county executive bid, Del. Al Carr (D-18) jumped from a safe, unopposed re-election to one of the three delegate seats in his district to the District 4 Council race.

He joins Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart and Friends of White Flint Executive Director Amy Ginsburg among others in that contest for this seat extending from White Flint through Kensington to Takoma Park. Carr is a former Kensington Town Councilmember.

Does this mean District 18 will have a Republican delegate? One Republican did file. However, party central committees can fill vacant nominations. Unhappily, this means that the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee will choose D18’s next delegate.

The big winners from this are Dels. Jared Solomon and Emily Shetty, who will not face a contested primary. The big losers are other potential candidates and the voters. Instead of an open contest with many candidates who would likely try to fill a vacancy, D18 voters will see MCDCC members from all over the county choose their next delegate.

Among others, Max Socol, Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher’s challenger could seek the seat. I doubt that will happen for several reasons. While Sen. Waldstreicher would likely love to dispense with a tough challenger, he’s hardly likely to set him up to dog him in the General Assembly for four years and would oppose it from behind the scenes. Socol also seems very focused on unseating Waldstreicher, though an easy seat in the House of Delegates is appealing.

Finally, the extremely identity conscious MCDCC is likely to think hard before replacing an African American delegate with a white male. Natali Fani-Gonzalez, who served on the Planning Board and ran a respectable race for delegate four years ago would be a strong candidate. But she seems all in on her own race for County Council in District 6.

Share

Waldstreicher Misrepresents

What a difference two letters can make.

In the tweet pictured above, Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher touted that he was “honored to be recognized by Maryland Matters today as a champion of racial justice.”

Except that he wasn’t recognized by Maryland Matters. At most, he was “recognized” in Maryland Matters by the author of a guest opinion piece. It’s like a politician claiming he was endorsed by the Washington Post because a guest columnist wrote a piece saying nice words about him somewhere in the paper.

The opinion piece is also longer on politician speak than concrete evidence. It explains that Jeff Waldstreicher “led” and “fought for” various goals rather than reporting specific bills he passed or how he played a critical role beyond serving as Vice Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. You could probably write a similar piece about most Montgomery legislators.

What makes this tweet an especially sorry twisting of the truth is that it served no purpose. There was no material benefit to touting being “honored to be recognized by Maryland Matters” instead of simply thanking the constituent who wrote the piece. Instead of political nous, it shows an odd desperation by a four-term legislator who has raised over $400,000 for his reelection campaign.

Sen. Waldstreicher often likes to say that he is “humbled” when he receives an endorsement. This tweet is humbug, not humble.

Share

Grosfeld endorses Socol

Most Maryland Senate incumbents face their fiercest challenges from sitting delegates. They usually represent exactly the same people, which leads to many senators casting a wary eye on their partners in the House who can be opponents or slate mates.

Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18) appears to be facing a strong challenge from newcomer Max Socol. Yesterday, Sharon Grosfeld, who represented the same district previously for two terms in the House and another in the Senate, endorsed Socol:

Since hearing in depth about Max’s values, exemplified by his unwavering support for a woman’s right to choose, equal rights for LGBTQ+, advocacy on behalf of tenants rights and protecting the environment, coupled with his leadership positions fighting for racial justice, including criminal justice reform, it is my great privilege to officially endorse Max in his campaign to be the next District 18 state senator.”

Grosfeld was known as a staunch, liberal advocate, particularly on women’s issues. Her endorsement plays to Socol’s theme that Waldstreicher isn’t really a leader on progressive issues like his recent predecessors, Sens. Van Hollen, Grosfeld and Madaleno.

Still, it has been 20 years since Grosfeld last won an election in District 18. At this point, the prime endorsements that can move voters are those of Sen. Chris Van Hollen or Rep. Jamie Raskin. It will be interesting to see if they get involved in the D18 primary this year.

The real question is whether they endorse Waldstreicher or decide to give the race a pass. The incumbent would benefit greatly from their support–both are extremely well-liked in this district—and I imagine he will do his formidable best to secure them. But I don’t really see any benefit to them from it, as it seems more likely to divide or to alienate a bunch of existing supporters rather than gain new ones.

Share

Waldstreicher Challenger Gets Prominent Grassroots Support

Max Socol is running as a progressive challenger to incumbent Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher who is seeking reelection to the Maryland Senate after having also served three terms in the House of Delegates. That Socol is holding a fundraiser is hardly news.

The names on the invitation, however, grabbed my attention. All are well known in Montgomery County politics. Many are exactly the sort of people you’d think would be supporting an incumbent who touts himself as a “proud progressive” and “champion for justice” but are instead lined up squarely behind his challenger.

Former Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, who served with Waldstreicher for three terms in the House and ran on a ticket with him twice (!) is now working to defeat her former slate-mate. Always an alliance of convenience, I can’t say I find this shocking.

Brandy Brooks is making her second bid for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council. Like Socol, she is positioning herself as a progressive activist outsider. Brooks is considered one of the leading candidates in her own race.

Michelle Whittaker is a communications and campaign strategist. She is the former Communications Manager for Manna Foods and the former Director of Communications for FairVote among other organizations. She has testified for removing police officers from public schools and ranked choice voting. (She is also Brandy Brooks’s sister.)

Fran Rothstein, Diana Conway and Beth Tomasello are Past Presidents of the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County. An informant tells me Conway has previously hosted an event for Waldstreicher. An environmentalist, Conway has been very active in the fight against synthetic turf playing fields. Tomasello is an attorney who has advocated on criminal justice reform.

Laura Stewart is currently the First Vice President of the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County but probably better known as a PTA leader, an active supporter of County Executive Marc Elrich in 2018 and many other progressive causes.

Zola Shaw serves on Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee and is a member of the Board of the Montgomery County Chapter of Our Revolution Maryland. Michael Tardif was named Democrat of the Year by the Montgomery County Democratic Party in 2021.

Bottom Line

Whether Socol can build the coalition and the campaign needed to unseat Waldstreicher, a reelection-focused incumbent if there ever was one, remains to be seen. But the early strength indicates that Waldstreicher hasn’t nailed down his base even after sixteen year in the General Assembly.

Share