Category Archives: District 18

Vic Weissberg

Vic Weissberg, a very active Democrat who lives in District 18, has had a very difficult year and is now in the hospital recovering with a fever. Vic, lots of your friends are thinking about you, miss you, and sharing updates about you. Get well soon!

P.S. Anyone who reads this blog knows it’s Election Day. Go out and vote!

Raskin Supports Frosh, Madaleno

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) is fighting back against the misuse of quotations from him that give the sense that he has endorsed opponents of AG Candidate Brian Frosh and Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-18):

Politics can be a tough business because anybody can say anything, and before it’s all over, they probably will.  But the truth is important, and I want to be clear about something to any of my friends out there.  When all the dust settles on Tuesday, Brian Frosh better be the Democratic nominee for Attorney General and Rich Madaleno better be coming back as the Senator from District 18.  These two public servants—I do not use the term lightly–are indispensable to the people of Montgomery County and Maryland.   Indispensable.  We would not have the toughest gun safety law in America without Brian Frosh, and we would not have marriage equality without Rich Madaleno.  Go out and vote for them with pride in everything they have accomplished and confidence in both their public honor and their passionate commitment to our community.

The boldface is mine.

D18 Democratic Delegate Forum

D18DebateAl Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Emily Shetty, Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Elizabeth Matory, and Rick Kessler

I live tweeted last night’s delegate debate hosted by the D18 Democratic Caucus. Not all went through as the Bushey Theater, formerly Roundhouse Theater, has no wifi and is almost a cell phone dead zone.  Heaven for a theater but the enemy of the twitterati.

These events are great not because they change minds but because they give people a chance to know the candidates as real people and better understand what motivates them and where their real political passion lies.

DEBATE MOMENTS

Oblivious Conservatism on Education: Amazing to hear vocal criticism of basing education funding on a county’s wealth and support for directing it based on the number of students from candidates trying to outdo one another as the most progressive. So two counties with the same number of students should receive the same funds from the State even if one is twice as wealthy?

This populist railing against overcrowded schools will likely fly well with the voters. But conservatives will quite rightly roll their eyes at the incoherent pairing of this call for “fairness” with simultaneous demands for more taxes on the wealthy to pay for services for people striving their way up the ladder.

Smackdown! Moderator Charles Duffy saying to Jeff Waldstreicher “I guess we can move on if you’re not going to answer the question” after Jeff’s answer on school construction. Natali Fani-Gonzalez also took Jeff to task for expressing pride helping to bring an insufficient $40 million back to MoCo for school construction.

Boom. Liz Matory stated “our delegation in the House of Delegates is considered the weakest in the State of Maryland” in arguing her case for a new, more effective delegation. Direct contrast with Ana’s highlighting her seniority on the Appropriations Committee and Jeff doing the same on the Judiciary Committee.

New D18 Drinking Game: Drink when Rick Kessler says “ATM” or anyone says “bringing people together.” Seriously, I was getting worried that someone was going to break out singing “People. People who need people.”

Taxes and Economic Justice: Repeated calls for more taxes on high-income earners and big corporations in this district with some of the wealthiest precincts in the State, though also areas that need a hand. Much support for combined reported and closing the achievement gap. Liz Matory provided a contrast with her concern that current tax rates are making it more difficult to attract business to Montgomery.

No Discussion. Environment. Health Care.

CHALLENGERS

Natali Fani-Gonzalez Strengths: Unquestionably in command when she had the mike, Natali articulated a strong passion for economic justice backed by business and lobbying experience along with an inspiring personal story. Clear winner of the first half of the debate.

Elizabeth Matory Strengths: Forceful and willing to call it as she sees it and aware of the need to attract business to Maryland. Many  with business experience sound arrogant and windy as they talk about how they’ll bring it to bear on government. Not Liz. She communicated well how she’d marry her business smarts to politics.

Rick Kessler Strengths: On message as any presidential candidate, Rick drilled into my head that Montgomery County should not be the State of Maryland’s ATM. Rick clearly gets that candidates must repeat, repeat, repeat to get their message across.

Emily Shetty Strengths: Harnessed her personal history effectively to help show the grounding for her agenda. Drove home her support for more money for schools in Montgomery. @AbeSaffer is her not-so-secret Twitter weapon.

INCUMBENTS

Al Carr Strengths: Calm and relaxed, Al sounds like a real person doing his best to work pragmatically on problems rather than a pol. He highlighted concrete achievements in making our state government more genuinely transparent despite opposition.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez Strengths: Still passionate after twenty years in elected office. No one gets to the left of Ana in a debate–not a bad place to be in the Democratic primary. A very American immigrant story that paved the way for others on the stage.

Jeff Waldstreicher Strengths: No constituent problem is too small. Proud to be Delegate Pothole, Jeff’s opening statement highlighted his success in getting the A/C turned on in a county facility so a Bar Mitzvah could move ahead even though his child was sick. Gave out his cell number.

D18 Delegate Debate

Wednesday, May 14th
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

 Bushey Center
(formerly the Roundhouse Theater)
4010 Randolph Road
Silver Spring, MD
Sponsored by the District 18 Democratic Caucus

The three incumbent delegates running for reelection are Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, and Jeff Waldstreicher. The four challengers are Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Rick Kessler, Liz Matory and Emily Shetty. This is an intelligent, well-spoken group, so it should be a good discussion.

Thoughts on the D18 Delegate Fracas

Recently, Candidate Rick Kessler launched an attack against incumbent Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez for traveling to El Salvador as part of a delegation invited by the Salvadoran parliament to observe the legislative election. CASA Director Gustavo Torres criticized Rick’s statements in the strongest terms (see Rick’s reply here).

An interesting analysis of the politics of Rick’s choice to make an issue out of Ana’s travel from my email:

I had not seen Rick Kessler‘s attack on Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez.  Beyond my disagreement with the point he was trying to make, I don’t get it as a political tactic.  She was the first place finisher in the 2010 primary, not the third, so it seems likely that if you were picking someone to target [it wouldn’t be Ana].  So beyond angering at least one group of voters, what does he hope to accomplish?

A serious candidate, as Kessler appears to be, can’t seriously think he’ll beat Del. Gutierrez, so he must hope that by making this kind of attack he can get some Waldstreicher or Carr voters to give him their third vote.  The funny thing about that, given the approx. 1100 vote gap between Gutierrez and Carr, and the 500 vote gap between Gutierrez and Waldstreicher, is that if the strategy works he’s more likely to take down one of the other incumbents than Gutierrez.

A plausible analysis of the potential impact.

Others were taken aback by Gustavo’s claim that Rick’s attack was race-baiting. District 18 Resident Molly Hauck sent me a letter that included this paragraph:

[Mr. Torres] called Mr. Kessler‘s opinion “thinly disguised race-baiting.” I find this offensive and incendiary. If Ana Sol Gutierrez were to disagree with Mr. Kessler, would we attribute her opinion to his race, religion, country of origin, age, sex, or other personal characteristic? No. It would simply be described as a difference of opinion. When people play the race card, it creates conflict and increases discomfort between different ethnic groups. It is destructive. I hope that if in the future Mr. Torres disagrees with what a candidate says that he will find a different way of expressing it.

My own view is that Rick’s attack was a political mistake in a couple of different ways. First, his original statement suggested merely that Ana left for El Salvador only to vote but did not also mention that she was part of an official delegation to observe the elections and invited by the Salvadoran National Assembly and with the knowledge and approval of the the House Speaker.

Democracy promotion, particularly in a country where many of her constituents have close ties and fled for reasons related to a past civil war and human rights abuses, is a worthy public goal. While I can see why some might think she should stay in Maryland, this set her travel in a very different light.

Even more important, while I understand the desire of challengers to stand out from the pack, attacks generally don’t pay in these multi-candidate delegate elections. Instead of alienating supporters of another candidate, challengers should want to go around and get their votes too because voters possess multiple votes.

On the other hand, precisely because of the ability to give a very good explanation for Ana’s travel, Gustavo’s reply was overkill and polarizing. While it may galvanize support among some Latinos for Ana, it also left some whites, including some of Ana’s supporters, with a bad taste in their mouth.

Kessler Responds to CASA’s Torres

Kessler

Rick Kessler issued the following comment in response to the strong defense of Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez’s decision to travel to El Salvador by CASA de Maryland’s Gustavo Torres .

This is a question of commitment to District 18.  It is about the choices made by one elected official who chose to be absent for two days during the recent Maryland Legislative Session to vote in the Salvadoran election when she could have voted by mail. The Legislative Session only runs for 90 days: I believe that the Session is important and that Delegates are elected to be present and participate. There were important Appropriations Committee budget hearings on those days that she could have attended and still voted in the El Salvador election by mail.I think the people of  District 18 deserve better: they have a right to expect that the priority of their elected legislators is to participate fully in the Maryland legislative process on behalf of the people who elected them.

CASA Slams Kessler Attack

casa logoRecently, Delegate Candidate Rick Kessler (D-18) raised questions about Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez’s decision to travel to El Salvador during the session. CASA Director Gustavo Torres issued this statement in response:

I was extremely disturbed to recently learn that a candidate for state office in the 18th district has chosen to attack Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez for a trip she made to El Salvador during the past legislative session. Rick Kessler’s willingness to engage in this type of thinly-disguised race-baiting reveals that he is not the right representative for any district, let alone one as diverse as the 18th.

To recap, Delegate Sol Gutierrez missed two days of session in order to fly over a weekend to El Salvador and participate as an Official International Observer of the Salvadoran Presidential election. She traveled at the formal invitation of the Salvadoran National Assembly, an invitation that Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch not only approved but described as “an honor.” Legislators miss floor votes and committee hearings all the time due to illness, family emergencies, personal business, and to attend special events. It is hard to imagine an event more important than participating in a historic election for progressive change in a country whose past civil conflict has driven so much immigration to our region and whose leadership impacts so many close relatives of district residents. It seems an odd posture particularly for someone that is actually running for elected office and, we would assume, a believer in the importance of political participation.

I believe that the real purpose of these complaints is to surface that Delegate Sol Gutierrez remains engaged in her country of birth and to imply that this engagement somehow lowers her commitment to this country – one she is so dedicated to that she has chosen to dedicate 20 years to the unusually grueling life path of public service including, for the past 12 years, representing her home district in the Maryland House of Delegates. During the early 20th century, immigrants to the United States were frequently attacked for their continued affiliation with their country of origin and these arguments were used to support profiling, red-lining, and exclusion from political engagement. Reading the Bethesda Now piece, I was reminded once again how very far we have to go. As an organization whose very purpose is to engage immigrants in the political process, leaders like Delegate Gutierrez show that our responsibility is global, our lives cross borders, and our kids can strive to achieve extraordinary triumphs in a multicultural world.   While it is certainly true that not everyone in the 18th District has immigrated to this country, we believe that most of its residents honor diversity, celebrate immigration, and appreciate open cultural and civic engagement, here and abroad.

In closing, while it is true that CASA in Action has endorsed Delegate Sol Gutierrez as well as three additional candidates for delegate, I have not chosen to address this issue because of that support. Regardless of who you support, our community is better than the types of attacks that Mr. Kessler has chosen to engage in.