Category Archives: Montgomery County

Elrich Sends Pro-Business Signals – Anyone Listening?

Immediately after taking office as county executive, Marc Elrich confronted a budget dilemma. The way he handled it deserves far more notice that it has received.

Outgoing Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett promised bond rating agencies that he’d move towards a reserve fund of 10% of the country budget. Increasing the county’s reserves provides evidence of fiscal prudence that bond-rating agencies like, so adherence to Leggett’s target helps preserve the county’s AAA bond rating.

But revenues for the current fiscal year so far have fallen short of projections. I don’t view this as due to wildly unrealistic projections by the outgoing executive or council. Projections are called projections and not certainties for a reason. Sometimes, we end up with more money than expected too.

The shortfall presented newly minted County Executive Elrich with tough choices. Elrich could have declared that the 10% reserves target was unnecessarily high and that he would not be bound by Leggett’s commitment. Alternatively, Elrich could have taken a wait-and-see attitude in expectation that the final revenues for the fiscal year will prove higher.

Elrich chose neither of these more expedient options. Instead, he made the tough choice and pledged to cut spending. By asking county agencies for a variety of options, Elrich also used it as an opportunity to do in a smart, policy-oriented way rather than a uniform across-the-board cut. In short, it’s a first small step towards reshaping country government.

In his first major decision, Elrich also acted in an inclusive way by bringing in Council President Nancy Navarro to discuss it in advance of the decision, though the Council will, of course, need to scrutinize Elrich’s independently developed proposal for cuts.

Business, taxpayers and the bond-rating agencies could hardly have asked for a more fiscally responsible approach. In his first move, Elrich sent a message that he intends to pursue strong, responsible fiscal management and work within fiscal constraints.

Throughout the campaign, Elrich repeatedly explained, at times to deaf ears, that he wants to reshape country government to make it more efficient. He understands that this is imperative if only because the county’s current fiscal path is simply unsustainable.

Moreover, Elrich wants to realize savings precisely because he wants the county government to do more. If the county maintains its current trajectory, that won’t be possible. Squeezing more out of residents isn’t really much of an option, as previous councils have already more or less maxed out the local income and property tax.

It’s a pity that the opinion pages that predicted an Elrich administration as dire for business and proper fiscal management haven’t paid more attention.


$6.7 Million Embezzled from the County

Montgomery County prides itself on its good government reputation. So it’s a bit of a shock to hear from the Washington Post that a county employee managed to steal $6.7 million:

A local official embezzled $6.7 million from Montgomery County through a years-long scheme of diverting county money meant to grow local businesses, federal prosecutors said in court filings unsealed Friday.

Byung Il Bang, the former chief operating officer for Montgomery’s Department of Economic Development, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and making a false statement on a tax return at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md.

He is set to be sentenced Feb. 2, and agreed in court to seek treatment for a “gambling addiction.”


Precinct Results Map for Governor’s Race

The Baltimore Sun has released a cool interactive map showing Maryland’s results by precinct from the gubernatorial election. One major caution is that it only includes votes from election day, as we cannot currently allocate early and absentee votes back to precincts. Darker indicates higher density as well as a higher vote share, so it’s a bit tricky.

While you need to go to the site to check votes for individual precincts, the screenshot above still shows some revealing patterns. Specifically, it appears that Gov. Larry Hogan carried large swaths of the county normally won easily by Democrats.

Republicans usually do well in Laytonsville, Damascus, Clarksburg and Poolesville. On the western side of the county, Hogan also won in Potomac, Chevy Chase and much of Bethesda. The B-CC area is normally a Democratic bastion, so this is quite a shift.

On the east side of the county, Republican support extended much further south than usual, including Olney, Colesville, Sandy Spring and portions of Burtonsville. Hogan also did well in much of Rockville.

Of course, Hogan’s vote share was also up in the portions of the map colored blue. For example, Jealous carried the precinct including the Town of Kensington by just seven votes. In Silver Spring, Hogan won around one-third of the vote in the precincts I checked. In diehard Democratic Takoma Park, a quick scan of precincts suggests that Hogan scored in the 18-33% zone.

In terms of state legislative districts, Hogan clearly won areas of the county encompassing Districts 14 and 15, as they appear uniformly red. It looks like he may have also carried District 16, as much of it is red and the blue areas were not usually won by Jealous by large margins. I’d also be curious to see the results for District 19.



MoCo Early Vote Day 5

Early voting participation bounced back after the slow weekend to the highest so far this year in Montgomery, as 14,247 hit the polls – just 27 more voters than turned out on the first day.

These numbers, however, don’t reflect changes in the composition of who voted early in Maryland’s largest county, The 72.8% share of Democrats among early voters was up 0.7% over the first day. In contrast, the 13.0% share of Republicans was down 2.0% as the share of independents rose.

At the end of day 5, 11.6% of registered Democrats in Montgomery had voted early, compared to 7.0% of Republicans and 5.9% of Democrats. To the extent that Montgomery has been turning out at slightly above state averages, it’s due to Democrats.

While Republicans may make up the difference on Election Day, the banked votes allows Democrats to focus on a smaller number of people who haven’t voted yet. You begin to see why Republicans don’t like early voting.


Democrats Dominate MoCo Early Voting

As has been true in the past, early voting turnout in Montgomery was lower over the weekend. The basic trends, however, remain the same. Democrats comprise the great bulk of early voters in the county, forming 73.0% of all early voters to date.

In contrast, the share of Republicans who voted early, 12.7%, is currently lower than the 13.5% of independent (i.e. unaffiliated) voters who have voted. This is a change from the first day, when the absolute number of Republicans who voted outnumbered independents.

Democrats outnumber Republicans at the polls not only because there are far more of them – 390,400 as opposed to 112,995 Republicans and 142,173 independents – but because they are voting at higher rates.

The share of Democrats participating in early voting has outpaced that of Republicans and independents on each of the first four days of early voting. After leading independents on the first two days, Republicans fell behind these voters who choose not to affiliate with a party over the weekend.

This is bad news for the Montgomery Republicans, as partisans normally participate at higher rates than independents. They will need to make up this difference through absentee voting and turnout at the polls.

The differences really add up over time. Right now, 9.0% of all registered Democrats (i.e. active voters) have voted in early voting. Only 5.4% of Republicans and 4.6% of independents have done the same. Put another way, Democrats are early voting 85% more often than Republicans and 96% more often than independents.

Remember, you can see wait times at early voting centers on the excellent Montgomery County Board of Elections website.


So Who Voted on Day 1 of Early Voting?

Early voting has started in Maryland. The Montgomery County Board of Elections helpfully provided me with statistics on turnout on the first day as well as information on where you can vote early and the lines are shortest.

Is Early Voting Turnout up?

Depends upon how you look at it. In Montgomery County, 14,519 eager voters hit early voting centers yesterday. That’s way up from the 4,321 who did the same in the 2014 midterm election but still decidedly lower than the 21,888 who cast ballots on the first day in the 2016 presidential.

Among the participants, 10,468 were Democrats, 2,168 were Republicans, and 1,883 were unaffiliated, Libertarian or Green party registrants. Based on the number of voters registered at the time of the primary (I can’t seem to locate quickly statistics on current on more recent registration levels), that’s 2.3% of all registered voters.

Good News for Democrats

At the time of the primary, 59.1% of registrants were Democrats, while 17.6% were Republicans and 23.3% were unaffiliated or registered Libertarian or Green.

Early voting statistics look quite different. At the end of the first day, 72.1% of early voters were Democrats – 13.0% higher than their share of the electorate. In contrast, only 14.9% were Republicans, 2.7% less than their share of the electorate.

Unaffiliated voters were the least likely to show up at early voting. Only 13.0% of first-day early voters were unaffiliated (or minor party) registrants. That’s fully 10.3% less than their share of all registered voters.

This last statistic isn’t terribly surprising. While many self-identified independents lean towards one party or the other, core independents who don’t lean towards either party form roughly 10% of the electorate. As a group, these voters know less about politics and participate at lower rates than partisans.

I know someone out there is thinking that this can’t be right because they’re an independent who always votes and some independents are just disenchanted with the two major parties. Remember that this information speaks to the the group of pure independents as a whole and may not apply to individuals.

The data is certainly encouraging for Democrats. However, Republicans tend to be more likely to vote at the polls than take advantage of early voting, so it’d be a mistake to assure that the electorate will necessarily be vastly changed this year.

Early Voting Information

Montgomery County has eleven early voting centers scattered around the county. The county has put together a cool website that now only shows their addresses but has links to maps and wait times.

The center nearest you may not be the quickest if it has a long wait. Traveling just a bit further to another center or going to one near your place of work may take less time if it has no wait. The Damascas Recreation Center, the Mid-County Recreation Center, Sandy Spring Fire Department, and Saint Catherine Laboure tend to have shorter waiting times.

Same Day Registration

On the first day of early voting, 59 people took advantage of the ability to register to vote at early voting. An additional 71 had their address changed or updated. Voters approved same day voter registration during early voting in a 2014 referendum.

Currently, same day voter registration is only allowed at early voting. But voters have a chance to expand this opportunity to election day at the polls by voting FOR Question 2, which would amend the Maryland Constitution to that end. I strongly encourage a vote in favor of this constitutional amendment.


Dear MoCo Democrats, It’s Time to Back the Nominees

By Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39).

You may not know it, but there is a war raging.  It’s mostly among my 3,000 or so Facebook friends.  You see, apparently there is a civil war between the Clintonite, corporatist pseudo-fascists and the Sanderista, Marxist communists for the Presidency of…yeah, it’s the County Executive Primary.  By the way, these are not my descriptions, these are how you have described supporters of David Blair and Marc Elrich.  Don’t believe me?  I have screenshots.

It doesn’t matter that we all agree on literally 90% of all issues.  Yes, that’s right, we do.  But recently, it has become popular to discount any politician or elected official who doesn’t agree with you 100% of the time as the worst example of the other side.

Let’s be very, very clear.  Republicans don’t actually do this.  Yes, they fight in the Primary, and then they back their nominee.  Every. Single. Time.  And they will do it for Robin Ficker.  And they will come out to vote.

I did not support either Marc Elrich or David Blair in the Primary.  I did not support David Trone for Congress.  I did enthusiastically support Ben Jealous for Governor.   But I would have supported Rushern Baker or Rich Madaleno or anyone else, just like I plan to support the Democratic nominees for County Executive and Congress.  Why?  Because they are all 1,000 times better than the alternative.  David Blair is not going to sell the County to the highest bidder and Marc Elrich is not going to put us all into gulags.

I guarantee you that the Republicans will be out in force in November to back Larry Hogan, Amie Hoeber and Ficker, and they will pretend that they are all moderate to siphon votes from our side.  They are so afraid of an educated, healthy and reasonably compensated middle class workforce that they will vote for the Republican nominees no matter what.

They will portray Hogan as moderate.  The guy who nominated a gun nut who thinks that Democrats are responsible for mass shootings to the Handgun Permit Review Board.  The guy who nominated a woman who thinks doctors who perform legal abortions should lose their license to practice medicine to the Maryland Board of Physicians.  The guy who exploited an alleged rape in a high school to deny Montgomery County Public Schools a waiver to extend the school year for five days.  The guy who called teachers “thugs.”  They will portray him as a moderate and they will be out in force to elect him.

They will portray Amie Hoeber as a moderate.  The woman who thinks that separating children from their parents is a “complicated issue.”  The one who will vote for a right wing Speaker of the House dead set on rubber-stamping Donald Trump’s agenda.  They will be out in force for her too.

And if you doubt they will also vote for Robin Ficker, you are kidding yourself.  So go ahead, split the vote with an independent run, launch a write-in campaign, do it all. Cut up the Democratic vote so much that a camouflage shorts-wearing sociopath becomes County Executive.  Don’t think it could happen?  Take a look at the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who received 93,000 votes in Montgomery County.


MoCo Democrats are Badly Divided

By Adam Pagnucco.

This may not be the most polite thing to say in the wake of the MoCo Democrats’ Kiss and Make Up Party, but it’s the truth: MoCo Dems are badly divided.  Consider the following.

The photo finish in the Executive race between Marc Elrich and David Blair is exacerbated by the fact that many Democratic activists are part of Anybody But Elrich or Anybody But Blair factions.  No matter who wins, that person will have 29% of the primary vote, far lower than any prior MoCo Executive.

That’s not the only divide in the Executive race.  The three incumbent Council Members received a combined 52% of the vote.  The three outsiders received 48%.  That suggests an even split between those who want more of what they have seen from the council and those who want something different.

Gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous won MoCo with roughly 36% of the vote, four points ahead of Rushern Baker and 22 points ahead of MoCo State Senator Rich Madaleno.  No one wants to talk about this publicly, but there are quite a few county Dems out there who will consider voting for Governor Larry Hogan.

Now Nancy Floreen has filed a declaration of intent to run for County Executive as an independent.  This is sure to attract the attention of some Dems who are upset that the nine-member County Council will include just one woman.  Floreen is one of the most prominent female Democrats in the county’s history.  No woman has been elected countywide more times than Floreen since charter government was established in 1970.  If she does indeed get on the ballot, a not-insignificant number of Dems – especially women – could vote for her.

All of this adds to county Democrats’ pre-existing divide about land use, the Upcounty vs Downcounty split, long-standing tensions between progressives and moderates and the Hillary vs Bernie disputes of two years ago (and the Hillary vs Obama disputes before that).  Throw that in with the fact that a majority of Democrats voted for term limits and there’s a lot of bubbling in the cauldron right now.

The county’s two most popular Democrats are U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Jamie Raskin.  Neither is known for intervening in and settling local disputes.  County Executive Ike Leggett is widely respected but is leaving office.  The Governor is a Republican who is happy to see Dems fight Dems.

As for the Republicans, they must be kicking themselves that they couldn’t find anyone else to run for Executive other than Robin Ficker.


Not the Year of the Woman in MoCo

Top Line

Despite much talk about the need to vote for women this year, it wasn’t an unusually good year for women running for office. No women will sit in Maryland’s congressional delegation. Only one woman will be on the county council. Women netted two new delegates but no new senators in General Assembly contests.

Looking at the Results

At the federal level, Maryland’s delegation will remain all male as Del. Aruna Miller lost to David Trone for the Democratic nomination in the Sixth Congressional District.

In the county executive race, Rose Krasnow came in third with 15% of the vote but badly trails the two leaders, Marc Elrich and David Blair, who are neck-and-neck at 29%. The four other countywide offices were all won by incumbents.

The county council will have one woman on it: incumbent Nancy Navarro (D-4) who faced only token opposition as she breezed through to nomination for a final term.  The previous council had two women but Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) could not seek reelection and retired from public office.

All four of the county council at-large seats were won by men, incumbent Hans Riemer and newcomers Gabe Albornoz, Will Jawando, and Evan Glass. Marilyn Balcombe came in fifth place but currently trails Albornoz for the fourth seat by 4689 votes.

The district races were no better for women. District 1 had three solid female candidates who came in second, third and fourth. Ana Sol Gutierrez fell 2059 votes behind winner Andrew Friedson. Female challengers to incumbents in Districts 2 and 5 fell far behind the incumbent winners. No woman sought the Democratic nomination in District 3, where incumbent Sidney Katz edged out a male challenger, Ben Shnider.

The state legislative races were a brighter spot for gender parity but nevertheless showed only small gains for women: a net increase of two delegates. However, the latter is significant as it brings women to parity with 12 of the 24 delegate seats The share of women in the MoCo Senate delegation remains unchanged at 3 of 8.

In District 14, two of the delegates – Anne Kaiser and Pam Queen – are women. Lily Qi will replace Del. Aruna Miller in District 15, and will join incumbent Del. Kathleen Dumais.

Sen. Susan Lee was renominated in District 16, as was Del. Ariana Kelly. Right now, Samir Paul is edging out Sara Love for the seat currently held by Bill Frick, so looks like no change there either. Sen. Cheryl Kagan was renominated in District 17. Julie Palakovich Carr won the seat vacated by Andrew Platt, so D17 will gain one female delegate.

In District 18, Emily Shetty won a delegate nomination and looks set to replace Ana Sol Gutierrez as the only woman in the delegation. Three other female candidates ran behind incumbent Del. Al Carr and newcomer Jared Solomon. District 19 also saw turnover but no gender balance change. Charlotte Crutchfield will join sitting Del. Bonnie Cullison in Annapolis, as incumbent Del. Maricé Morales fell just a little short in her reelection effort.

District 20 will have continue to have two female delegates, as Del. Jhenelle Wilkins won renomination. She’ll be joined by Lorig Charkoudian, who will take the seat held by Del. Sheila Hixson. Finally, Sen. Nancy King won renomination in District 39. Lesley Lopez surprised by topping the delegate ballot, so D39 will now have one female delegate – a jump from zero.


First Take: Night of the Plutocrats

At first glance, tonight was a great night for Democratic candidates of rich people (not necessarily for rich people). Consider.

Ben Jealous and Susie Turnbull cast themselves as the left-wing progressive leaders but ultimately received huge sums of money from wealthy Californians. They also benefited enormously by being part of very elite Democratic circles that provided invaluable connections in bringing in national money and support.

In the Sixth Congressional District, David Trone is set to win the nomination after having shifted over from the Eighth. He spent over $10 million on each of his bids. This time, he beat two experienced and well-respected state legislators, Aruna Miller and Roger Manno.

The Montgomery County Executive race is now neck and neck between Marc Elrich and David Blair. As I write this, Elrich has a lead of 452 votes based on the preliminary count over Blair. Like David Trone, David Blair is a very successful businessman and self-funded his campaign, which was also heavily backed by developer interests. Elrich, a local progressive county councilmember, relied on public financing but was also backed by a large IE from progressive groups.

Blair’s campaign sidelined that of experienced politicians, including Roger Berliner, Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow, running in a  similar lane. Essentially, Blair’s ability to write himself large checks helped convince people leaning towards his point of view to back him over other choices.

In Montgomery County Council District 1, well-funded Andrew Friedson prevailed easily over his rivals for the open seat. The Friedson campaign had close ties with Trone and Comptroller Peter Franchot, another very wealthy politician. Franchot also endorsed Blair, and both Blair and Friedson appeared on the Blair-funded Washington Post sample ballot.

Of course, these facts may be totally irrelevant as to how they perform in office. In particular, I look forward to watching Friedson, an energetic budget wonk, in office. But it also reminds me why E. E. Schattschneider once said “The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent.”

So we can debate how good a night it was for the establishment, which usually seems defined as whomever one personally doesn’t like at the moment. But it doesn’t seem a bad night at all for wealthy candidates and the people they support.