Category Archives: Montgomery County

Untangling vaccine confusion

As we roll out the big effort to vaccinate everyone, there has been some confusion. Here’s some information that will hopefully help you sort out what’s going on and why.

State Announcement Jumped the Gun

Governor Larry Hogan announced that people 75 and older in Priority Group 1B would be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning this past Monday. Hogan notified the counties around two hours before the announcement.

The problem, however, is that many counties have not finished vaccinating the people in Priority Group 1A, which includes healthcare providers who could easily become vectors of spreading the virus. As Adam detailed yesterday, Montgomery has received comparatively little vaccine but been vaccinating at a high rate.

Each group is also divided into three tiers. In 1B, Tier 1 includes people 75 and over. Some thought that everyone in Tier 1B would become eligible at once but the county is starting with Tier 1. If you are a Montgomery resident in this tier, you can now preregister for an appointment.

The Governor’s announcement has preceded availability here in Montgomery. This naturally created confusion and unhappiness among some that residents over 75 who thought that they could get the vaccine or even cannot be legally barred from receiving it.

Appointment Software SNAFU

The State has mandated that all county governments use the same appointment software, which was originally designed for the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is usually plentiful, but we unfortunately have to ration COVID-19 vaccine and have eligibility requirements.

Designed for a situation with plenty of vaccine and the desire to vaccinate as fast as possible, the state-mandated software spits out offers for appointments as soon as they are available and doesn’t take into account eligibility.

This has resulted in people in 1B who thought they were eligible making appointments and then getting turned away because they weren’t. Even though Montgomery is still trying to finish vaccinating 1A, the county began on Thursday to allow anyone who is 75 and over (i.e. Tier 1 of 1B) and showed up for an appointment to get the vaccine.

Councilmember Email Blasts Exacerbated Confusion

Email blasts from some county councilmembers compounded the problem created by the Governor’s announcement by indicating that the county was moving to 1B now and urging people to sign up in all tiers.

Hospitals v. County Vaccination Centers

For whatever reason, 40-50% of people working in hospitals have decided not to get the vaccine. As a result, hospitals have extra. Rather than let it go to waste, they have sensibly been vaccinating people 75 and over, so hospitals have operated differently from county centers.

Ready for More Vaccine

I have heard that vaccination centers have far more people ready to do the vaccinations than people to receive it. While this may seem bizarre, it’s good news because it means that Montgomery may be better prepared for mass vaccinations as more vaccine becomes available.

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Pierre Trailing in Challenge to Incumbent Judges

Based on the report run just after midnight, progressive challenger Marylin Pierre is trailing in her bid to unseat one of the four incumbent judges.

These are incomplete results but they show Pierre with a substantial deficit of over 50,000 votes behind Christopher Fogleman in fourth place.

Note that the number of under votes, the people who cast ballots but chose not to vote in the contest, is far higher than the number of votes received by an of the judicial candidates. There are no partisan cues and most people don’t know the candidates.

Pierre has run a spirited challenge, winning a slot in the general election by defeating one of the incumbents in the Democratic primary. She won some noted endorsements, including one from Prince George’s State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy the other day.

At the same time, Pierre’s campaign made several missteps. Previously, the progressive-backed candidate had donated to Republicans. Her twitter account suggested wrongly that burden of proof was on accused police in the George Floyd case to show that they are not guilty. Pierre blamed the misstep on a volunteer who failed to follow guidelines in managing the Twitter account.

The incumbent judges proved ready to capitalize aggressively on these errors, even to the point of getting a restraining order against Pierre for a campaign volunteer who inaccurately portrayed her as Judge Pierre. These problems combined with a very different electorate that of the Democratic Primary appear to have left Pierre short last night with the incumbent slate of four judges returning to the bench in Montgomery.

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Once Again, MoCo’s Two Electorates

By Adam Pagnucco.

In November 2016, I wrote a three-part series called MoCo’s Two Electorates. (Here are the links to Part One, Part Two and Part Three.) I also wrote a piece titled “MoCo Revolts” in the wake of the term limits vote.

The combined thesis of those pieces are the following.

1. MoCo has two electorates: people who regularly vote in Democratic primaries and people who vote in general elections. Both electorates are important. Democratic primaries choose the county’s elected officials while general elections decide ballot questions and charter amendments.

2. There are roughly 40,000 Super Democrats in MoCo who vote in every primary. Relative to general election voters, they tend to be slightly more female, older, slightly higher income, slightly more likely to live in a single family home and more concentrated in downcounty. They are also slightly LESS diverse than general election voters.

3. Democrats comprise roughly 60% of general election voters with some variation by year. Republicans have outnumbered unaffiliated voters among the rest of actual voters though not by a lot. That means Republicans and unaffiliated voters can team up with a minority of Democrats to pass ballot questions.

4. On four straight meaningful local ballot questions since 2008, the general electorate took arguably the less progressive position in their votes. They voted in favor of Robin Ficker’s anti-tax charter amendment in 2008, against Ike Leggett’s ambulance fee in 2010, in favor of repealing some collective bargaining rights for police in 2012 and for term limits in 2016. This trend among the general electorate should not be comforting to the left. Term limits passed with a whopping 70% of the vote and only four precincts in the entire county voted against them.

Accordingly, these are the prophecies I made back then.

November 7, 2016: “Term limits is the issue of the day and will be decided soon enough. But a broader question looms. Given the differences between MoCo’s Two Electorates, what happens when elected officials cater to one of them at the heavy expense of the other? The recent large property tax hike, which was spread all across county government, was aimed at the priorities of liberal Democratic voters. It also became the core of the push for term limits which is aimed at the general electorate. This suggests a need for balance and restraint by those running the government. Because if one of the two electorates feels unheeded, either one has the tools to strike back – either by unseating incumbents or by shackling them with more ballot questions and charter amendments.”

November 11, 2016: “Opponents of term limits may be right about one thing – they may change the names of elected officials, but not the type of them. Democrats, often very liberal ones, will continue to be elected because of our closed primary system. But the combined message of the last four ballot questions imposes a hard choice on the elected officials of today and tomorrow. They can try to balance the interests of various constituencies across the political spectrum at the possible cost of losing the progressive support that influences Democratic primaries. Or they can stay the course and watch more moderate general election voters pass even more restrictive ballot questions, including perhaps the ultimate bane of progressivism – a hard tax cap.”

What has happened since then? First, let’s consider these two facts from the 2018 elections.

Geography: In the 2018 Democratic primary, the Democratic Crescent (a term I coined for the areas in and near the Beltway stretching from Takoma Park to Kensington and Bethesda) accounted for 34% of voter turnout while Upcounty accounted for 25%. In the 2018 general election, the Democratic Crescent accounted for 27% of voter turnout while Upcounty accounted for 31%. (The rest of the county accounted for 42% in each case.)

Diversity: Precincts that were majority white cast 60% of the votes in the 2018 Democratic primary and 58% of the votes in the 2018 general election. Precincts that were at least three-quarters white cast 22% of the votes in the Dem primary and 20% of the votes in the general. Precincts that were less than 40% white cast 24% of the votes in the Dem primary and 26% of the votes in the general. All of this suggests that the general electorate is slightly more diverse than MoCo’s Democratic primary electorate, which I also found in the 2014 data I examined years ago.

In other words, despite the substantial growth in voting in 2018, the differences between MoCo’s two electorates continued.

Two years later, ballot questions are THE local issue now. The county’s elected officials are up in arms about Ficker’s newest anti-tax charter amendment (which I predicted four years ago) and the nine districts charter amendment. Groups like Nine Districts for MoCo and former school board candidate Stephen Austin’s Facebook group did not exist in 2016, but they are playing in county politics now. Austin’s group has 8,500 members, bigger than any other online group devoted to MCPS. Nine Districts gathered more than 16,000 petition signatures for their charter amendment, of which 11,522 were found to be valid. Both groups direct their influence at the general electorate rather than just Democratic primary voters. Neither depends on the blessings of the Democratic Party but rather employs a combination of social media, press interest and (in Nine Districts’ case) developer money to get their points across. As for the Republican Party, it has found new life in promoting ballot questions like Ficker’s Question B and Nine Districts’ Question D.

Guess what? These kinds of things are here to stay. Regardless of what happens this year, don’t be surprised if more charter amendments appear on the ballot in 2022 and 2024 that arouse the ire of those in power. Tough beans for them because they are powerless to prevent it.

Have today’s county elected officials heeded the prophecies of 2016? For the most part, their agenda reflects the wishes of the progressive left – defunding the police, pursuing racial equity, cracking down on rent increases, resisting ICE and emphasizing transit over road construction. The one exception is that the county council (unlike the executive) has been resistant to tax hikes. Progressives sometimes complain that the county government doesn’t go far enough, but it does go in their direction. The problem is that other groups in the general electorate – Republicans, unaffiliated people and moderate to conservative Democrats – either don’t rank these priorities as highly as do progressives or in some cases might even oppose them. Mix that in with the county’s perceived anti-business reputation and geographically specific issues like school boundary lines and M-83 and many in the general electorate are not in the same place as the Super Democrats.

MoCo still has two electorates. One has the power to pick elected officials. The other can decide ballot questions that fundamentally change the structure of county government. We shall soon discover the depth of differences between them as well as their relative balance of power in controlling the county’s destiny.

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Explaining Question A and Why I Voted No. (Definitely Vote No on Question B.)

How Property Taxes Work in Montgomery

Under current law, Montgomery County may only collect the same total amount in property taxes across the county as the previous year – also known as the constant yield tax rate –adjusted for inflation. So if the County collected $100,000,000 in property taxes last year and inflation is 3%, it may collect $103,000,000 this year. The only exception is if the County Council votes unanimously to raise property taxes.

This legal limit forces the county to adjust the tax rate based on changes in total value of assessed property in the tax. If the county’s tax base increases by 10% due to increases in real property values, the County treasury does not because the County must adjust the property tax rate downward, so it collects no more than last year adjusted for inflation. The county can also adjust rates upward if needed to collect the permitted amount.

Question A changes that system. It would cap property tax rates instead of receipts. Montgomery would see great increases in the amount of property tax collected when property tax values grow without changing the rate because they would no longer need to adjust the rate downward so they don’t collect more money.

Councilmembers will claim that they did not increase property taxes because they left the rate unchanged, but the County will collect a lot more. By keeping the focus on the rate rather than amount collected, the county can even nominally reduce the rate and claim that they reduced property taxes even as they go up in real terms and the county collects more than previously.

How Question A Raises Property Taxes

Councilmember Andrew Friedson, the sponsor of the amendment, argues that residents will benefit when housing values go down. However, the Council can vote to increase the rate to collect as much as the previous year as under the current system, just like the 8.7% tax increase that they adopted in 2017. There seems little doubt that they would do this if needed to avoid substantial cuts in spending.

In times when property values rise quickly, this can add up fast, Property taxes increases are limited to 10% a year but this is far above inflation and add up very quickly. If you pay $5000 in property taxes now, you would pay $6655 if you had the maximum increase each year for three years. The key caveat, of course, is that it all depends on how your property values change. But the amendment has no limit on the rate of growth in property taxes.

Confusing Wording

I’m not thrilled that the wording of this charter amendment focuses on limiting rates, and thus gives a rather deceptive impression that it limits, rather than increases, property taxes. (Some proponents argue that it doesn’t but since the unquestionable purpose is to allow the county to reap more revenue, it seems a fair characterization.)

Timing and Impact During an Economic Crisis

Normally, in an economic crisis, it’s not unusual to see housing values fall. But many in Montgomery have paradoxically seen their housing values rise because the crisis is due to COVID and more people are seeking larger spaces with some attached outdoor space. No one knows the future, but this would result in higher property taxes with the next set of assessments.

Many property owners in the county have seen salaries and benefits cut sharply due to the shutdown and economic crisis. Federal government workers haven’t seen pay cuts, but they haven’t had a decent pay raise in years. That’s true of many people.

As a result, a lot of people are ill-positioned to pay a property tax increase even though they may well receive one as a result of this charter amendment the next time that their properties are assessed.

Higher Taxes for Residents, Lower Taxes for Favored Developers

For me, the final straw is that the county council overrode the county executive’s veto of a huge dollop of corporate welfare for developers in the form of 15-year tax breaks (!) by 7-2 the other day. While I realize that opponents as well as the executive support Question A, and I am grateful for their votes and outspokenness on the issue, the Council seems far too inclined to continue down this path after the election. If they can afford giving tax cuts to developers to build high-priced apartments, I don’t see why they need to raise mine.

We Need Property Tax Reform, This Isn’t It

There are unquestionably problems with the county tax system. The three-year assessment cycle creates some odd quirks. Additionally, the current limit doesn’t take into account a growing population as well as other needs. In short, the budget corset is too tight. The unanimity requirement further limits the authority of our representatives too much, even if the voters passed it. But this isn’t the right way to do it, or the time, so I voted no.

But Others See It Differently

Adam outlined previously why some view this property tax increase as a good idea. Even leaving aside one’s desire to fund progressive policies, as I mentioned in the previous section, the current system does not provide sufficient funding with increases over time because it doesn’t into account factors like population growth and other needs. So I can see how other people might see this differently.

I mention this because, like much in politics, I see this as an issue on which reasonable people can disagree. Much of the rhetoric surrounding the ballot questions, even the form of the county council, has been getting more and more vehement on social media. Since we’re in a moment that is already overheated on steroids (now there’s a mixed metaphor!), it seems worth a mention that we’ll manage whatever the outcome of this ballot question.

Question B

Vote No. This is Robin Ficker’s latest very bad idea that would make current problems with the property tax system worse.

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Council Must Sustain Elrich’s Veto of Corporate Welfare

On a 7-2 vote, the Montgomery County Council approved a bill that would completely exempt real estate developments on WMATA property from property taxes for 15 years. Councilmembers Tom Hucker and Will Jawando voted against. The Council should sustain County Executive Marc Elrich’s veto of this corporate welfare masked as a social justice housing project.

This bill is such a bad idea that one hardly knows where to begin.

Proponents of transit endlessly sell the considerable funding required for it as the motor for development and smart growth that not only attracts jobs but increases land values and property tax revenues. We are told “if you build it, they will come.” Now, these same people tell us that they won’t come unless we “incentivize” (read: pay) them.

Even stranger, we are to pay these incentives to build high-priced apartments in desirable locations with very little extra affordable housing thrown in above normal requirements. I understand establishing enterprise zones with lower taxes in struggling neighborhoods, but Grosvenor-Strathmore and other Red Line stops don’t fit the bill.

Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D-1) has been quite aggressive in trying to sell Councilmember Hans Riemer’s bill:

None of the WMATA sites are being developed and developers with Joint Development Agreements are walking away all over the region, due to unique infrastructure requirements on these sites, high costs of high-rise construction, etc.

These sites currently collect ZERO property tax, generate ZERO housing, and provide virtually no public benefits aside from surface parking. I view that as an abject public failure, but respect anyone who prefers this status quo.

Multiple fiscal analyses have demonstrated both that high-rise projects don’t work without the incentive and that the Grosvenor project in particular would generate more revenue to the County in impact and income taxes than the property tax abatement (which the county wouldn’t otherwise receive without a project).

Councilmember Friedson argues we need to step up our corporate welfare game to compete when we shouldn’t even play this game. His argument also ignores that demand for homes in Frederick or Fairfax is based on other factors that far outweigh tax incentives linked to individual projects.

The uniqueness of the site argument fails to impress as somehow many buildings have been constructed around the whole region, indeed the whole country, around transit and difficult sites without the magic of tax incentives. (Manhattan exists!) I’m sure WMATA, developers and their supporters on the Council are happy to produce analyses showing otherwise, just as they always have in support of public spending on their agenda.

The incentives are a roundabout subsidy to WMATA. When we establish tax incentives the land becomes more valuable, so WMATA raises the price and recoups much of it. So it’s not even clear what share of this supposedly badly needed incentive the developers will see.

This tax giveaway also won’t increase the housing stock. When it’s built, Councilmembers Riemer and Friedson will point to it and say, “look what we did!” Except there will be another nearby project that didn’t happen because you’ve already pre-satisfied any demand with this one. Montgomery has plenty of land zoned for housing and buildings.

Councilmember Friedson also neglects to mention that the building will not have a zero cost to the county. Providing county services will cost money but Montgomery will receive a lot less than normal to cover those costs.

Andrew Friedson has been touted with much hope, including here, as the Council’s bright new economic light. If he wants to live up to this promise, he needs to shift his focus fast from this old-style ineffective developer welfare to more original ideas to attract commercial business to Montgomery.

The bill reflects Councilmember Hans Riemer’s long-term approach over several terms to housing, which has long dominated the Council. Unfortunately, it has had far more success in pleasing monied interests than it has accomplished in producing affordable housing. No doubt it also pleases David Blair’s developer-heavy crowd.

Councilmember Nancy Navarro has presented herself as second to none as a champion for social justice. She has stood up unflinchingly for often abused undocumented immigrants to the frequent dismay of their opponents around the State. Here, she argued that the Council needed to “be bold” and support this bill.

Except there is nothing remotely new, let alone bold, about giving a tax subsidy to developers. Speeding the production of high-priced apartments strikes me as the opposite of social justice.

I cannot help but wonder why this proudly progressive Council is focused on this legislation at this time when so many county residents are facing far more immediate and desperate problems. Even managing the day to day is still far from ordinary.

Charter Amendment A on Property Taxes

The crowning insult of this legislation is its juxtaposition with County Charter Amendment A. The short version is that the Council majority is now proposing to collect more in property taxes from ordinary residents even as it engages in this tax giveaway that has no valid economic or public purpose.

Charter Amendment A garners support from many because the current property tax system is not ideal for a variety of reasons (not the subject of this post). It effectively asks voters to loosen the very tight tax corset (it can only rise with the rate of inflation) so that the county can collect more if property values rise, as would likely happen now if the measure passes. It’s a tough ask at a time when many have seen incomes drop. One can argue that it is necessary when so many are in need.

But it is insupportable for the majority of the Montgomery County Council to offer a tax holiday to developers while increasing the take from ordinary citizens. It’s not progressive. It’s not liberal. It’s just bad economic policy wrapped in gaudy rhetoric that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It goes against this county’s good government traditions.

County Executive Elrich was right to veto this bad bill. The Council should vote to uphold his veto tomorrow.

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That Day When Our County Exec Had to Explain Economics to the Council in a Veto Message

Yesterday, Montgomery County Executive issued the first veto of his administration. It was of a major tax giveaway bill to developers — the county would likely lose over $400 million in revenue according to Elrich — passed in the name of sparking additional housing development around Metro.

My favorite part of the veto message in where Elrich, a progressive often accused of being an impractical lefty by opponents, explained the economics of these sorts of tax subsidies:

Under Federal law, WMATA must seek the highest and best price for their land. Land that is exempted from all property taxes for 15 years is more valuable because the calculation of its value includes the costs to acquire and develop, including taxes, weighed against market rents. If two properties are side by side, one exempt from taxes and the other not, and they were producing the same value of unit, the land value of the exempt property would be greater because its cost of development would be less than the cost to develop the tax-paying property. This would, in turn, likely raise the parcel’s appraised value. The Bill could potentially be counterproductive by raising the value of WMATA’s land.

Put another way, by reducing the tax burden, all the county has done is make WMATA’s land more valuable and increased the amount that they can charge for it. They will capture that value in the sale price of the land with Montgomery County taxpayers, who already heavily subsidize WMATA, having footed the bill.

They say you can’t get something for nothing. But if you’re not careful, you can get nothing for something. Or, at P.T. Barnum put it, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

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Navarro Demands Respect and Then She and Rice Attack Constituents

As Adam Pagnucco showed today, councilmembers are in high dudgeon over County Executive Marc Elrich’s hot mic comments. Councilmember Nancy Navarro blasted Elrich, ending her Facebook post with a demand for respect and stating (in Spanish) “Enough already! What a shame!”

Our diverse community has unsurprisingly had a diverse response. Navarro received supportive comments from people who were also appalled at Elrich’s remarks and appreciate Navarro’s efforts. Others were more temperate but also thought Elrich needs to apologize. But, as they are wont to do, some constituents were critical.

A critical comment quickly degenerated into the sort of Facebook discussion that didn’t exactly cover anyone with glory. Attacks by Navarro and Councilmember Craig Rice juxtapose incongruously with Navarro’s call for respect in the original post and her criticism of Elrich for a lack of it. (Screenshots of the exchange are at the bottom of the post so you can judge for yourselves.)

Two constituents, Chip Py and Helen Elizabeth, express a desire for the Council and the Executive to work better together. This is a common thought from constituents even if some tension between the two bodies can be healthy. During the current crisis, impressions of squabbling by either the Executive or the Council play very poorly.

Navarro’s response presenting concrete facts about how she tries to work with Elrich is basically a good one. Except then she and Rice go after their constituents, which is almost never a good look on a politician. Just ask George Leventhal who became infamous for attacking constituents (often more strongly than either Navarro or Rice here). His campaign for county executive suffered greatly from this well-earned reputation.

A big part of the job of all elected officials is to listen respectfully to their constituents, regardless of what they think of their views. Navarro and Rice know this as I have lauded them for it on other occasions. But here, there isn’t a lot of respect for the constituents despite the original post being about the executive not showing respect to constituents.

Both councilmembers get obviously annoyed at the idea that they are acting politically. It can be frustrating, as constituents tend to think everything is political. At the same time, the idea that both of these term-limited officials might want to run for higher office is far from bizarre.

It’s also well-known that there is quite a bit of tension between the Exec and the Council. Navarro’s original statement that “some of use have been working around the clock” (but implying Elrich has not) along with her literally claiming credit here for all major initiatives on this issue by the CE certainly does nothing to dispel it.

The idea that Navarro or Rice might want to run for higher office is not only perfectly fine but normal–no one owns their elected office and ambition is as natural in politics as any other profession. Consequently, the notion that there might be a weensy bit of political hay making going on here hardly shocks. I doubt that any councilmember’s office is a snark-free environment–if only because Adam Pagnucco used to work there!

That doesn’t really matter because it is the public presentation that counts, which is why Elrich landed in the soup here. It’s also why Navarro and Rice haven’t helped themselves on Facebook.

Navarro’s most unfortunate statement is her claim that “As a woman of color, I don’t owe you or anyone an explanation, my record speaks for itself.” The idea that she is a strong and proud Latina, who sees an important role for herself in standing up for the needs of the Latino community, is great. But all councilmembers are accountable to their constituents who have every right to criticize them regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

This sort of argument makes all involved look smaller. Councilmembers who have said the least have probably gained the most, demonstrating that saying nothing publicly can often be the best option. County Executive Ike Leggett won a record-tying three terms in part because he was better than anyone at exercising this self-discipline.

Councilmember Gabe Albornoz’s statement works somewhat better than Navarro’s because the emphasis is less on credit claiming, though it’s there, but more about problems and working with others. Which at the end of the day is what we all need.

My bottom line: Elrich should apologize because it’s the right and gracious thing to do. The Council should accept and express that we can all do better to serve our community. A little humility can go a long way. Most important, this fight to protect everyone is our community is far from over. Doing our collective best is owed to everyone, including more focus on helping the disproportionately hit Black and Brown communities.

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Why Marc Elrich Might Think the Council is Fact Proof

Yesterday, County Executive Marc Elrich got dinged by Adam Pagnucco and the Montgomery County Council for joking snarkily that the County Council is “fact proof” on a hot mic. However, Councilmember Hans Riemer has been busy proving him right by trumpeting terribly inaccurate information regarding positive test rates among Latinos in Montgomery on Facebook:

Except that it’s not true. Riemer later put out an update to explain that it is incorrect that 70% of Latinos test positive. Instead, 70% of new cases in June were of Latinos. Oops.

As Adam Pagnucco correctly documented, Latinos unquestionably disproportionately suffer from COVID-19. But this gross error on a very basic fact undercuts Riemer’s ability to take offense at the impolitique remarks by the county executive he regularly criticizes and plans to challenge in the Democratic primary in 2022.

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Ademiluyi and Pierre Beat Incumbent Judges in Democratic Primary

Most of the races in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are very sleepy this year. The judicial races have become a surprise exception. Though there are still votes that have yet to be counted, it looks like challengers upset a member of the incumbent judges slate in the Democratic primary for circuit court judge in both counties.

Maryland judicial races have an unusual process. After being appointed by the Governor, the incumbent judges must face the voters and any other candidates that decide to run. All candidates are placed on each party’s ballot. All of the candidates who place high enough on any party’s ballot continue on to the general election.

Though they lost the Democratic primary, the incumbents will also continue to the general because they still won one of the top four spots in the much lower turnout Republican primaries. In both Montgomery and Prince George’s, the challengers are African-American women and the incumbents are white men who were appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Ademiluyi Upsets Bereano in Prince George’s

In Prince George’s County, April Ademiluyi beat incumbent Judge Byron Bereano in the Democratic Primary for Judge of the Circuit Court. The daughter of African immigrants, Ademiluyi is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and received her law degree from George Mason. According to currently available numbers, Ademiluyi won 105,725 votes to 87,017 for Bereano, the son of controversial lobbyist Bruce Bereano.

Bruce Bereano was convicted of campaign finance fraud in 1994–he got his employees to make campaign donations and then illegally reimburses them under the guise of lobbying expenses. Besides going to jail, he was disbarred and lost his license to practice law.

Neither stopped him from coming back as a highly influential lobbyist or from exerting influence on judicial nominations and elections.

As Josh Kurtz explained:

[Bereano asked] his friends to contribute to something called the Prince George’s Committee to Elect Sitting Judges. This is a campaign committee for five Circuit Court judges — four of whom were recently appointed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) — seeking 15-year terms to the bench in the 2020 election. One of them happens to be his son, Judge Bryon Bereano, appointed first by Hogan to the District Court, then late last year, to the Circuit Court.

Stranger still, consider the identity of the man chairing the sitting judges’ election campaign in Prince George’s County: That would be Alexander Williams, the former federal judge and close Bruce Bereano ally who is surely Hogan’s favorite Democrat. Hogan has rescued Williams from retirement, appointing him to several key appointed posts. Those include his role as chairman of the Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission.

Bruce Bereano has also been heavily involved in Anne Arundel judicial races.

Despite losing the Democratic primary, Byron Bereano will also appear on the general election ballot. He won a spot with just 4,970 votes — all that was needed in heavily Democratic county home to few Republicans. Bereano attended the University of Baltimore School of Law and formerly worked at Lerch, Early and Brewer.

Pierre Edges Out Fogleman in Montgomery

In Montgomery, challenger Marylin Pierre beat incumbent Christopher Fogleman. Pierre gained 79,673 votes to 77,976 for Fogleman who was appointed by Gov. Hogan. Pierre, a former army lieutenant and Howard law graduate, ran as a progressive alternative to the incumbent slate. Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin was her sole endorsement from an elected official.

This was Pierre’s second attempt as an insurgent judicial candidate. In 2018, Pierre failed to win either party’s nomination. However, she nevertheless did quite respectably for someone not part of the incumbent slate in a contest that is below the radar of most voters.

Fogleman served for three years as a public defender in the 1980s. The American University law graduate also was appointed by former County Executive Ike Leggett to the county’s Juvenile Justice Commission. Fogleman served for ten years, including as the commission’s chair.

Like Bereano in Prince George’s, Fogleman will advance to the general election due to his success in the Republican primary in which he earned 14,085 votes compared to 6,893 for Pierre.

The outcomes in the two party primaries were strikingly reversed for the other incumbents. Incumbent African-American Judge Bibi Berry ran away as an easy first place in the Democratic primary with 106,128 votes — over 23,000 votes more than the second place candidate. But in the Republican primary, Berry came in fourth with 11,492 votes, which is roughly 3000 votes less than her white male running mates.

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