Category Archives: Marc Elrich

Campaign Finance Reports: County Executive, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

The May campaign finance reports are in and we will start breaking them down with the County Executive race.  A note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Below is our fundraising summary for the County Executive candidates.

Council Member Roger Berliner (whom your author supports) is the leader in money raised other than self-funding and also in cash on hand.  He is closing in on a million dollars raised for the race, which was roughly Ike Leggett’s total in 2006.  He has enough money to be heard in the final month.

Council Member Marc Elrich is the leader among the publicly financed candidates.  His total raised of $745,352 is almost five times what he raised in his 2014 council race when public financing was not yet available.  Elrich has a long history of vastly outperforming his fundraising because of his large and loyal base of supporters, some of whom have been with him for decades.  With more than $400,000 to spend in the final month, he won’t blow anyone out, but he can combine that with a grass-roots field program to finish strong.

Businessman David Blair is going to break Steve Silverman’s fundraising record in 2006 with more than $2 million.  The difference is that Silverman raised his money from the business community while Blair is mostly a self-funder.  Blair’s self-financing of $1.9 million sends a message that he is deadly serious about winning.  He is the strongest of the outsider candidates.

Council Member George Leventhal will get votes because of his longevity, name recognition and sheer hard work in the campaign cycle.  (His brilliant Avengers-themed video could get some votes too!)  But he doesn’t have enough resources to make a big push at the end.

Former Mayor of Rockville Rose Krasnow is a substantive and knowledgeable candidate who impresses those she meets.  But she made two big mistakes in this campaign: getting in late and using public financing.  Those mistakes reinforce each other.  If she had gotten in early, she might have been able to raise enough in public financing to compete with the totals accumulated by Elrich and Leventhal.  Since she did get in late, traditional financing offered a better option to raise money in a hurry.  Now she is in the same situation as Leventhal and Bill Frick: struggling to make a final push.

Your author likes Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) a lot personally but he doesn’t have the resources to make his case.  We wish Frick had stayed in the House of Delegates and plotted a course to succeed his former district mate, Brian Frosh, as Attorney General.  The path not taken will be harder now.

Republican Robin Ficker has applied for public financing, but as of this writing, we don’t know whether he will receive it.

Overall, there are two competing narratives among those who are really focused on this race – admittedly, a minority of the voters.  First, there is the view that the county should be more progressive.  It should be bolder about closing the achievement gap, do more to help vulnerable residents (including renters), institute tougher environmental protections and push back against the influence of developers and big businesses.  People with that perspective are mostly rallying behind Elrich, who is the overwhelming choice of progressive endorsing organizations.

Then there is the narrative advanced by your author’s writings on the county budget and the economy, the Washington Post’s endorsement editorials and the now-famous report by Sage Policy Group: to pay for progressive priorities, the county needs a stronger tax base.  That message plays more to the outsider candidates, especially Blair, who put it in a recent mailer.  But there’s no reason why Berliner and Leventhal shouldn’t embrace that perspective too.

It’s important to recognize that these views are not mutually exclusive.  Not all progressives are skeptical of economic growth.  And not all people who would like to see a stronger economy oppose spending the resulting revenue on progressive priorities.  But the two messages contain differences in emphasis and differences in potential for attracting blocs of voters.  Both of them represent change in some form, implying that running on resume and experience won’t be enough in this cycle – at least not in the Executive contest.  Everyone needs to pick a path forward to win.

Next: the Council At-Large race.

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On Marc Elrich and Socialism

After all this time, it still often ends up amazing me how much fracas a single turn of phrase can cause. Adam’s recent comment referring to Marc Elrich as “a decades-long socialist” has been one of those moments.

In many ways, I saw Adam’s description as  a stereotype of how many voters will see Marc. Adam has also argued with justification that it’s simply true. Moreover, while it’s tempting to say “labels are for cans,” they are also highly useful shortcuts in identifying political views and general outlook.

The problem here is the way the word “socialism” has been used in American politics. Back in the day of the Soviet Union, well within the lifespan of the bulk of Democratic primary voters, socialism was often used as a synonym for communism. The full name of the USSR, after all, was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Americans rightly reviled this soul-destroying system that murdered millions of people and was imposed on the peoples of Eastern and East-Central Europe after World War II.

However, as Nik Sushka explained on the Seventh State Facebook page:

There is a chasm of difference between the DSA and the way “socialism” is used against people on the left. If you like public schools, public safety, public libraries, public defense, and public transit—including public roads—then you like Democratic socialism so far. If you want public health care and public utilities—including net neutrality—you might desire greater “socialism.”

Can we at least try to have a fair conversation about why these distinctions exist and why a candidate trying to defend his record on supporting business and robust economies might say—hey, stop saying I have a “socialist” business agenda?

I disagree with Marc Elrich on various issues. The liquor monopoly needs to go and Adam isn’t wrong that it’s among the more “socialist” of county policies. But it was created before Marc arrived on the scene and is a legitimate topic for debate. Rent stabilization is also a bad idea, but Marc would be the first to tell you it’s not on Montgomery’s agenda.

Marc also holds many positions that I admire. While the Washington Post wants to cast him as Dr. No, he’s the guy who brought the creation of a BRT system for Montgomery to the agenda. Far more affordable than light rail or heavy rail – we would have saved literally billions of dollars if the Purple Line had been planned this way – it provides a real means to provide a transportation system for Montgomery. In other words, it addresses traffic concerns of existing residents yet also paves the way for additional development and economic growth.

Marc also is known as the guy on the Council who goes around to every neighborhood in the County and listens and talks to people. His argument that infrastructure for schools, police, fire, and so forth should match the pace of new development is seemingly radical to many on the current Council. It’s not to residents.

Ditto on the idea that one needs to be sensitive to the impact of new development on existing neighborhoods. Change will occur but it doesn’t have to mean placing a 20-story building right next to a single-family home in the name of “you can’t stop progress!”

In many ways, I saw Marc and Adam as talking past one another. Marc’s reply struck me as not a denial of being a democratic socialist but as being in the thoughtful vein of “OK, what does this term mean in this day and age, and for how I would govern as county executive” and that he’s practical rather than an ideologue.

Whatever you think of Marc’s views, I see remarkable consistency is the way he presents himself in various forums, questionnaires, and the like. What you see is what you get.

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Marc Elrich Said He’s a Socialist – And I Believe Him

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Member Marc Elrich, who is running for County Executive, has posted a guest blog denying that he is a socialist.  Since he made that claim in a rebuttal to our writings, it is only fair that your author responds.  Why have we said that he is a socialist?  It’s because we have an unimpeachable source who says he has been a socialist organization member for decades.  That source’s name is…

Marc Elrich.

In 2013, Bethesda Magazine asked Elrich flat out whether he is a socialist.

Elrich declines to say whether he considers himself a socialist. “It’s irrelevant,” he says.  “…I was in the business world. I appreciate how things are done. I’m not doing anything that will undo the business world or bring socialism to Montgomery County.”

If he is not a socialist, why not say so?

Elrich was more forthcoming with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), who describe themselves on their website as “the largest socialist organization in the United States.”  In his completed questionnaire for DSA, Elrich answered as follows to their questions on his membership and identification as a socialist.

Why are you soliciting Metro DC DSA’s endorsement for this office?

I am a member and have been impressed with Metro DC DSA’s work. A lot of my positions and values align closely with the positions and values of the organization. The organization has also been very effective recently in encouraging voter turnout and helping tenants and is gaining a reputation as a real force in progressive politics.

Do you identify as a democratic socialist?

Democratic socialism doesn’t have a hard and fast definition; I see it as a philosophy that envisions a more democratic society. I believe in democracy in both the political and economic spheres.

What does socialism mean now? We are living in the 21st century, and simply reducing political analysis to a debate between 18th century capitalism and 19th century Marxism doesn’t help us find solutions. There are ideas that have worked and have moved society forward that have evolved from both perspectives, as well as things that haven’t turned out so well from both. So a lot of the ideals of democratic socialism contribute to my thinking, but they don’t entirely define my thinking.

Are you a member of Democratic Socialists of America? If so, when did you join?

Yes; I joined many decades ago and was involved in both the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and New America Movement (NAM) stages of the organization.

It’s worth noting the history of the two organizations he cited in his response.  The Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee was founded by socialist leader Michael Harrington, who personally identified with socialists like Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas but preached advocating for a socialist agenda inside the Democratic Party.  The New American Movement was an openly socialist group.  According to its Wikipedia entry:

In its early years, NAM shared much of the political framework of the New Communist Movement, but rejected the strategy of building a “vanguard party”, a position prominent NAM members defended in a debate in the pages of The Guardian. The organization was built around local groups called “chapters,” which emphasized Marxist study, discussion of contemporary issues, support of local labor actions, and work in the community to raise awareness.

These two socialist organizations combined to form DSA in 1982.

The Democratic Socialists of America don’t hide the fact that they are socialists.  They say it openly on their website.

Now let’s be fair.  Today’s American socialists have come a loooooong way since dialectical materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Karl Marx wouldn’t recognize them as socialists.  Their platform is much closer to contemporary progressivism than to nineteenth century Marxism.  And like DSA’s co-founder, Michael Harrington, their agenda is not actual revolution but to join the Democratic Party and push it as far to the left as possible.  That’s a reasonable description of Marc Elrich’s three decades in public office and a big reason why he is so admired by many Montgomery County progressives.  In fact, if Elrich were to say in public that he has been a socialist organization member for decades, many of his supporters would probably love it and work even harder for him!

Elrich told Seventh State, “I don’t have a socialist agenda that I’m trying to bring here.”  Well, maybe.  A genuinely Marxist policy agenda would be precluded by federal and state law.  But Elrich’s socialist beliefs have manifested themselves at least twice during his time as a County Council Member.

First, he is arguably the strongest supporter of an indisputably socialist institution: the county’s liquor monopoly.  The notion that a county government should have a monopoly on the wholesale distribution of alcohol is about as socialist as one can get.  Not only is Elrich one of the monopoly’s biggest defenders – he actually accused restaurant owners who wanted freedom from it of “whining” and wanting to “steal everything.”  That got him banned from four restaurants that had protested the monopoly.  As a County Executive candidate, he promises to increase the monopoly’s sales, thereby expanding the reach of MoCo’s most prominent socialist institution.

Second, Elrich once recruited the socialist government of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to participate in providing county services.  In 2007, the Washington Post reported:

Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) invited Venezuela’s ambassador this month to meet community leaders and possibly get involved in funding local social programs, only to find himself yesterday at the center of a heated international political debate…

The visit, planned for Oct. 23, was conceived after Elrich met a representative from the embassy at a District rally to support domestic workers. They talked about poverty and the health-care needs of the county, and Elrich said the diplomat expressed interest in learning more about Montgomery’s community services.

In an e-mail to more than a dozen community leaders Tuesday, including to Leggett’s directors for economic development and health and human services, a legislative aide to Elrich described the visit as part of a “project currently underway to promote future socio-economic partnerships for the development of a common goal to address community needs.”

“The first step toward this goal is to convene a meeting to introduce the Ambassador” to the county and “to begin a dialogue on how to productively address those needs,” the e-mail said…

Talk of a visit was so potentially explosive that [County Executive Ike] Leggett issued a strongly worded statement from Israel. “We do not want to be involved in this visit. We are not involved with this visit,” he said. “Montgomery County can take care of its own problems. Thank you. No thank you.”

The visit did not happen and Elrich’s envisioned cooperation between the county and a socialist foreign government fell through.

Look folks, we respect Marc Elrich for having deeply held principles that have guided his political philosophy for many years.  Some politicians have no principles of any kind.  Elrich has deployed his on behalf of progressive causes like his signature minimum wage bills.  His supporters love him for that, and from their perspective, rightly so.  We have found him to be a creative, intelligent and thought-provoking Council Member.  And he deserves massive credit for authoring the county’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit system ten years ago.  But Elrich has told “the largest socialist organization in the United States” that he is a member who “joined many decades ago.”  He put that in writing.

So why not just admit it to the rest of us?

Disclosure: the author wrote this in reply to Marc Elrich’s guest blog and supports Roger Berliner for Executive.

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What the Post’s Endorsement of Blair Means

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post’s endorsement of businessman David Blair hit like a grenade this past weekend, blowing up the County Executive race.  What does it mean?

First, in reading the language of the Post’s endorsement, we are struck by how closely their views on the challenges facing the county resemble our own.  The majority of these opening three paragraphs mirror what we have been writing about the county economy for years.

These seem like boom times in Montgomery County, the mainly rich suburb that has absorbed roughly 100,000 new residents since 2010 to a population now approaching 1.1 million. Amazon (whose CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Post) has shortlisted the county for its second corporate headquarters; construction cranes tower over Bethesda and Silver Spring; and the public school system, one of the nation’s largest, includes some of the best high schools anywhere.

That’s why it’s easy to overlook some ominous signs of fiscal and economic trouble ahead. A burgeoning population of retirees, immigrants and other less affluent residents has strained local resources and budgets. Those moving into the county tend to be poorer than those leaving. The chasm between economically prosperous pockets (such as the ones dominated by cranes) and stagnant ones is widening. Most worrying, business and job growth are anemic.

That’s the unsettling backdrop for the June 26 Democratic primary, which is likely to determine who will run the county for the next four years. County Executive Isiah Leggett, a deft and capable manager, is retiring after 12 years in the job (and no Republican has won an election in Montgomery since 2002). The central question is which of the candidates for county executive is most capable of juicing a sluggish commercial environment — the only way to broaden the local tax base so it can sustain the county’s excellent schools and progressive services.

The Post framed the election’s central question correctly.  And their policy view, clearly established in the language above, will no doubt influence their choices for County Council.  That said, they do not share your author’s view that governing experience is useful for addressing these challenges.  So be it.

The Post has a pretty good record in top-tier MoCo Democratic primaries.  They endorsed Chris Van Hollen (CD-8) in 2002, Ike Leggett (County Executive) in 2006 and 2014 and John Delaney (CD-6) in 2012.  They also endorsed Kathleen Matthews (CD-8) in 2016, who finished third.

Even so, the Post is not a king-maker; one of the good things about MoCo politics is that we have no king-makers here.  But their endorsement matters, especially when five candidates are vying to be the chief rival for Marc Elrich.  Consider what Roger Berliner (your author’s choice), Bill Frick or Rose Krasnow would have said if they had gotten the Post endorsement.  If Berliner had received it, he would have told non-Elrich voters, “I am the one who combines the Sierra Club, moderates, District 1 voters and now the Post.  I’m the alternative to Elrich.”  Frick would have said something similar while substituting realtors for the Sierra Club.  If Krasnow had received it, she would have said, “I am the only woman in a primary in which sixty percent of voters will be women and now I have the Post.  I’m the alternative to Elrich.”  None of these things can be said now.  All three lose the opportunity to leverage the Post endorsement to expand outside their geographic bases.

It is sometimes said that Elrich has a ceiling.  Some voters will find a decades-long socialist who equates transit-oriented development with ethnic cleansing and favors rent control unappealing.  But Blair has a ceiling too.  That was expressed by a commenter on Seventh State’s Facebook page who wrote, “I don’t want a businessman political newcomer who is trying to buy the election.”  Fair or not, that is a common sentiment among Democratic activists, and those who feel this way are not persuadable on this point.  Blair can send them thirty mailers and they won’t budge.  How many rank-and-file voters have this view?  David Trone, who shares this handicap, received 22% of MoCo’s vote in the 2016 Congressional District 8 race.  That’s an imperfect analogy because CD8 omits some relatively moderate areas in MoCo’s Upcounty and Trone was not talking about the unpopular nine percent property tax hike in his campaign.  Still, Blair will need more than 22% to win.

Besides Blair, the other big winner from the Post’s endorsement is Elrich.  Elrich has been crusading against rival candidates who have been supported by wealthy businessmen for years; now he gets an ACTUAL wealthy businessman as perhaps his chief opponent.  Elrich is no doubt rubbing his hands together in glee as his progressive hordes gird for battle against plutocracy.  His field coordinator must be dizzy with joy.

Both the Elrich and Blair campaigns need to consider the following question.  Which group is larger in the Democratic primary electorate: the people who believe that taxes have gone up but their service quality has not or the people in Elrich’s base?  If the former outnumber the latter – not an impossible prospect considering that a majority of Democrats voted for term limits two years ago – then maybe an outsider has a shot.  It would be totally unprecedented given that every prior MoCo Executive has had governing experience before assuming office.  But Robin Ficker winning a charter amendment vote by forty points was also unprecedented.

Thanks to the Post, a wild election has gotten a little wilder.  There are only forty-three days to go before this story reaches its momentous conclusion!

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The Executive Contest is a Two-Candidate Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post recently published an article declaring that the contest to succeed County Executive Ike Leggett was seen as “anybody’s race.”  Pshaw!  One of two candidates will win it.  One of them is Council Member Marc Elrich, who finished first in the last two Council At-Large primaries and is nearly sweeping progressive endorsements.  The other is…

We don’t know yet.  And we don’t know if we ever will.

During the 2016 Congressional District 8 race, your author called up one of the smartest people in state politics we know.  This fellow lives outside MoCo but he tracks all parts of the state and has sources everywhere.  When we asked him who was going to win, he said, “When I talk to the various campaigns, all of them say they’re gonna be the last one at the end along with Jamie Raskin.  When I hear that over and over, when I see that they all think that Jamie is the man to beat, that leads me to think Jamie will win.”  That dynamic is going on now in the Executive race.

Elrich’s long-time message combining opposition to development with far-left progressivism has earned him an overlapping base of land-use voters, liberals and Downcounty residents, especially in and near Takoma Park, where he served 19 years on the City Council.  In the 2014 Council At-Large race, Elrich finished first in every council district except 2 (where he finished second to Nancy Floreen) and first or second in every local area in the county except Damascus and Laytonsville.  He finished first in 138 of 251 precincts.  In the 2010 Council At-Large race, Elrich finished first in all five council districts and in every local area in the county except Cabin John, Damascus, Darnestown and Laytonsville.  He finished first in 166 of 243 precincts.  No other MoCo politician running for county office in this cycle has a base of this kind.

How did he assemble it?  For many years, Elrich has been assisting residents who oppose master plans all over the county.  And whether they won or lost, those development opponents came away from the fight with Elrich as their hero.  Here is an illustration: an email sent out by the East Bethesda Citizens Association on 6/2/16, on the eve of the council’s consideration of the Downtown Bethesda Master Plan, describing their meeting with Elrich and calling for action:

A year later, Elrich cast the lone vote against that master plan as he has with several other plans.  This plan’s opponents have now been incorporated into Elrich’s base – assuming they were not part of it already.

While other candidates struggle to attract volunteers, Elrich’s volunteer base is well established.  In 2014, the campaigns of Elrich and his ally, Beth Daly, posted poll coverage sign-ups on Signupgenius.com.  They were able to recruit coverage on 67 precincts, many on more than one shift, with particular strength in the voter-rich areas of Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Leisure World.  No one other than the Apple Ballot could touch this.  Now that he is running for the county’s highest office, how many precincts will Elrich be able to cover?

Among the influencers and highly informed activists, this election is rapidly becoming defined by whether you’re with Elrich or not.  If you don’t believe us, check out the Council District 1 candidates.  They’re an interesting group that collectively spans the differences of opinions in the county district containing the most Democrats.  Bethesda Magazine reporter Andrew Metcalf asked them during a recent debate for whom each was going to vote in the Executive election.  After significant prodding, here’s how the candidates responded:

Bill Cook – would vote for Marc Elrich

Pete Fosselman – undecided; wouldn’t vote for Elrich

Andrew Friedson – undecided; disinclined to vote for Elrich

Ana Sol Gutierrez – torn between Elrich and George Leventhal

Jim McGee – would probably vote for Elrich

Reggie Oldak – refused to say; would not vote for Elrich

Dalbin Osorio – would vote for Elrich

Meredith Wellington – undecided

All of the non-Elrich candidates have potential as well as challenges.  Council Members Roger Berliner and George Leventhal are running on their experience and qualifications.  (Disclosure: your author respects both but supports Berliner.)  Berliner is trying to get known outside his council district and Leventhal has been severely out-polled by Elrich in the last two elections.  Delegate Bill Frick, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow and businessman David Blair are the fresh faces.  But they are little-known in most parts of the county and Blair started as a complete unknown.  All of these candidates have a long way to go and each of them is in the others’ way.

To contrast with Elrich effectively, a non-Elrich candidate needs to hit this sweet spot dead-on: “We live in a great county, but we can be even better.  Here are some ways we can improve.”  That involves a bit of threading the needle for the two council incumbents.  It’s understandable that they might react to critiques of the county’s economic performance as criticism of their records, but they should think of it like this: every Executive leaves unfinished business for the next Executive.  Ike Leggett inherited his share of problems from Doug Duncan, who in turn inherited some issues from Neal Potter.  This is entirely normal, so who is the best choice to lead in the future?  As for the non-incumbents, they aggressively point to the need to improve, but they tend not to have many specific proposals to get better because they don’t know the history and operations of county government as well as the two Council Members.  To be fair, how could they?  If no one hits this sweet spot, that leaves Elrich as the only candidate with a crystal-clear message that is distinct from the others.  Those who hear Elrich’s message and agree with it are less likely to peel off to someone else than tentative supporters of the other candidates who might change their preferences between them.

One more thing: we wouldn’t be surprised if most, if not all, of the non-Elrich candidates have polled.  If so, they all probably found similar results.  And so they could all tailor their messages in similar ways and maybe even say the exact same things.  That would blur the differences between them and make Elrich stand out even more.  This may already be happening as Berliner, Blair and Frick all repeatedly mentioned “innovation” at last Friday’s Executive forum.  Was that a coincidence?

If questioned privately, we bet all of the non-Elrich candidates would grudgingly admit that it’s a problem that five of them are in the race.  Each of them wants to be the person who gets to take on Elrich one-on-one.  So each of the five is looking at the others and saying, “If YOU all get out of the way, I can beat Elrich.”  But no one is dropping out because they all think they have a shot.  The big winner from this is – you guessed it – Marc Elrich.

One non-Elrich candidate needs to emerge from the pack and consolidate everyone that is not in Elrich’s camp.  If that happens, Elrich is beatable.  But if nothing changes and this election continues down the path it is on, Elrich will win with less than 40% of the vote.

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Executive Candidates React to Sage Consulting Report on MoCo Economy

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last Friday, the candidates for County Executive attended a forum to discuss a report by Sage Consulting listing numerous problems with the county’s economy.  Afterwards, most of the Executive candidates commented on the report and on the economy more generally via email and social media.  Their responses say a lot about which ones take the economy seriously, an issue that has drawn much attention from Seventh State.

Council Member Roger Berliner (whom your author supports) sent out this email over the weekend.

Our county has serious work to do to improve our business climate, diversify our economy, and increase the number of good jobs. It must be Priority #1 if we are going to be able to meet the needs of our school system, reduce congestion, invest in public safety, and protect our environment.

I have a record that I am proud of on improving our economy and a vision for our future that you can read about here. Some of my competitors have records too. Others have just words. It’s important to consider what we have done in pursuit of increasing prosperity, not just what we say we will do.

My record includes leading the successful effort to reduce our energy tax three years in a row; creating the small business navigator and a micro-loan program to help our local small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive; and playing a leading role in our Amazon bid. My vision is of a forward leaning county that embraces innovation, education geared towards the jobs of tomorrow, and vibrant urban centers served by state-of-the-art transit.

Yesterday, a consultant tasked with assessing our business climate and outlook, issued a scathing report. It highlighted one startling statistic: that “between 2011 and 2016, the number of [business] establishments in Montgomery County increased by 6, or roughly the population of businesses at a strip mall.” The report concludes that “Montgomery County therefore desperately needs to step up efforts to expand its commercial tax base.” You will get no debate from me on that point.

At the same time, the report declares:

This should not be mistaken for an assertion that Montgomery County is anything other than the finest possible location for Amazon HQ2. It will be difficult for Amazon to identify an area that is as open to new ideas, offers such abundant human capital, is as saturated with transportation options, supports such high quality public education, is as institutionally rich, and is as committed to shared prosperity as Montgomery County, MD.

So, while it is true that we have our challenges, challenges that must be met head-on, it is also true that we have extraordinary assets and a quality of life to match. I will build on our assets as your next County Executive, work diligently to improve our business climate, and am 100% committed to expanding a “shared prosperity.”

Life is good in Montgomery County, but we can make it better still. That’s my goal: a “more perfect” Montgomery County.

In service,

Roger Berliner

Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) sent out this email hours after the Executive forum ended.

Something doesn’t add up. How does a county with our talent, our people, our great public schools and our values lag behind the rest of our region in job growth and economic development? How is it that private sector employment has declined by 12,500 jobs from 2006 to 2016? How is it that, during that same time period, Montgomery County created on net just six new businesses?

The answer is clear. As I told the Montgomery County Business Roundtable earlier today, it is our political culture. My opponents have built a political culture in Montgomery County that doesn’t want to work with businesses to thrive and grow here in our County.  And if we elect someone to be County Executive who is part of that culture, things will not get better for business.

I am an outsider to Montgomery County Government and yet I have real governmental leadership experience as the Majority Leader of Maryland’s General Assembly. I have the relationships in Annapolis that can help our County. But since I am not a multi-millionaire, and unlike three of my opponents, I am not spending your taxpayer dollars to fund my campaign, I need your help to communicate with Montgomery County residents who deserve leadership that the current members of the County Council will not provide.

Montgomery County is an awesome place to live. It’s why I’m raising my two children here and sending them to our public schools. But we have a problem, and that is that we must reform in order to create new private sector jobs and increase our tax base. We have to focus on the core functions of county government – education, public safety, and transportation – and those need to be our priorities for our budget. Our County Government does not need to be in the liquor business, a failed venture that is hurting our food culture to the benefit of downtown DC restaurants. We have to have a culture of ‘yes’ in county government so that we are trying to find reasons to say yes to businesses rather than find reasons to say no.

Sincerely,

Bill

Former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow ran this Facebook ad.

David Blair commented on Twitter.

Council Member George Leventhal commented on Facebook.

We are not aware of Council Member Marc Elrich commenting via email, Facebook or Twitter.

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Krasnow to Pass Leventhal in Cash Balance

By Adam Pagnucco.

Tracking fundraising for publicly financed candidates is challenging because it is a moving target.  Unlike traditional candidates, who file according to the state’s regular reporting schedule, publicly financed candidates report whenever they ask for public contributions in addition to scheduled filings.  So at any one time, the latest tabulations are snapshots taken at different dates.  With all of that said, the latest reports for County Executive candidates show two things.  First, Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of whom have been involved in local politics for decades, have done very well in public financing.  But second, former Rockville Mayor and planning staffer Rose Krasnow, who started much later than either of them, is about to pass Leventhal in cash balance.

In explaining the above statement, let’s review how to read campaign finance reports.  Candidates in the traditional system report the equivalent of a cash flow statement.  They list a starting cash balance, money coming in, money going out and an ending cash balance.  That’s it.  Publicly financed candidates list those things too, but they also report the amount of new public contributions they are requesting.  Those contributions have not been received and are thus not part of the ending cash balance.  They might show up on the next statement, provided that the state approves the requested contribution and does not change the amount.  (In fact, the state can and does change requested public contributions after reviewing them and even sometimes disqualifies them.)

On March 6, Krasnow reported a cash balance of $41,668 and had two outstanding requests for public contributions totaling $245,794.  If those requests are met, her cash balance will be $287,462 (minus any future spending).  On March 20, Leventhal reported a cash balance of $198,585 and had two outstanding requests for public contributions totaling $53,500.  If those requests are met, his cash balance will be $252,085 (minus any future spending).  In other words, Krasnow is on pace to have roughly $35,000 more in the bank than Leventhal.

We show the latest financial standings for all seven Executive candidates below.  Note the differences in last date filed.

There are two reasons why Krasnow is about to pass Leventhal in cash balance.  First, she qualified for public funds in 109 days, much faster than either Leventhal (278 days) or Elrich (209 days).  Second, she has not started to spend serious money yet.  Her burn rate (total spent divided by total raised) is just 9%.  Leventhal’s burn rate is 48%, meaning that he has spent almost half the money he has raised.  Leventhal has raised more money than Krasnow and has a much more geographically diverse base of support.  But his decision to spend big early has allowed Krasnow to vault past him in just five months.

Meanwhile, Marc Elrich keeps chugging along.  He is dominating in small contributions from the critical Democratic Crescent area and is cleaning up on progressive endorsements.  He has a base of supporters among progressives, people who oppose development and Downcounty residents who will never abandon him.  So Elrich must be delighted that he is running against five capable candidates who have so far not been able to knock each other out of the race.  As long as all five remain viable, Elrich won’t have to add a lot to his existing base to win.

Disclosure: The author is a publicly-listed supporter of Roger Berliner for Executive.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

It’s time to start looking at the geography of in-county contributions for the thirteen candidates who have so far qualified for public matching funds: County Executive candidates Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow and George Leventhal and Council At-Large candidates Gabe Albornoz, Bill Conway, Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Seth Grimes, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, Hans Riemer, Mohammad Siddique and Chris Wilhelm.  While all participate in the same system, there are immense differences between them in where they are raising money.

First, an overview.

Long-time Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal lead in public financing fundraising.  But former Rockville Mayor and Planning Department staffer Rose Krasnow is closing on them.  Krasnow qualified for matching funds in 109 days, far faster than Elrich (209 days) and Leventhal (278 days).  All three lead the Council At-Large candidates in total raised primarily because of the higher public matching rate for Executive candidates.  Riemer, Conway and Glass lead the council candidates while Meitiv, Siddique and Grimes trail.  The fact that some candidates last reported two months ago while others reported within the last few weeks will affect this data somewhat.  Including the traditionally funded candidates, Roger Berliner so far leads the Executive candidates while Delegate Charles Barkley is one of the Council At-Large leaders and Ashwani Jain is competitive.

Here’s an important thing to note about public financing: it’s not just about money.  It’s also a cornerstone for a field program.  The same folks who show up at campaign events and bring small checks are the people who can be tapped for neighbor-to-neighbor letters, canvassing, phone banking, lit drops and poll coverage.  The total amount raised is a useful proxy for the number of ardent supporters, so money raised in a local area may be a possible, partial precursor to actual electoral performance.

Now to the three Executive candidates.

Marc Elrich

Elrich is the number one fundraiser in Downtown Silver Spring, Olney and Takoma Park, the latter by a mile.  His contributions have been heavily concentrated in the Democratic Crescent, which accounts for 53% of all in-county contributions and 68% of in-county contributions to Elrich.  This resembles the Downcounty support for Jamie Raskin in his 2016 race for Congress.  That distribution along with Elrich’s number one finish in the last two at-large elections and his many progressive endorsements makes him the front runner in the eyes of most observers.

George Leventhal

Leventhal, a former Chair of the county Democratic Party, has leveraged his more than twenty years in county politics to assemble the most geographically diverse contribution distribution of the Executive candidates.  He is the number one fundraiser in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Montgomery Village.  Leventhal leads Elrich in Upcounty but trails him by a lot in the Democratic Crescent.  Can Leventhal pull enough votes from Midcounty and Upcounty to overwhelm Elrich’s strength in Silver Spring and Takoma Park and break through?

Rose Krasnow

Krasnow was an elected official in Rockville between 1991 and 2001 and she is crushing both Elrich and Leventhal in money raised from the city.  On the other hand, she trails them badly in the Democratic Crescent.  Krasnow is off to a fast start in public financing but she needs more exposure in Downcounty areas like Downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.  Elrich and Leventhal have been working those places for years and time is getting short.

Next, we will start looking at the Council At-Large candidates.

Disclosure: the author is a publicly-listed supporter of Berliner for Executive.

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MoCo Endorsements: March 9, 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

We have entered the thick of endorsement season and a big one just came out: a partial decision by MCEA, holder of the mighty Apple Ballot.  We have updated our institutional endorsement matrix and offer some comments below.

First, a note.  Many of the listed endorsing organizations have not finished their processes and may be announcing more decisions in the future.  Other important organizations (like the Washington Post, the Realtors and the Volunteer Fire Fighters) have not endorsed yet at all.  So this list is a work in progress.

That said, here are a few impressions.

Senator Roger Manno, who might be the most pro-union member of the entire General Assembly, is sweeping labor endorsements in his run for Congress District 6.  How far will that take him against Delegate Aruna Miller and Total Wine co-owner David Trone?

Council Member Marc Elrich, who is running for Executive, has put together an impressive string of progressive endorsements and he will be getting more of them.  He is definitely the favored Executive candidate of the left.

Ben Shnider, who is challenging District 3 County Council candidate Sidney Katz, has also become a darling of the left.  Will that be enough to take out Katz, who has been the most prominent politician in Gaithersburg for decades?  We will have an opinion on that in the near future.

Will Jawando, who is running for Council At-Large, has had a great six weeks.  He is the only non-incumbent who has assembled four influential institutional endorsements, including the Apple.  (Chris Wilhelm has three and Danielle Meitiv and Brandy Brooks have two each.)  Combine that with Jawando’s fundraising success, electoral experience and natural charisma and he is looking strong right now.

The good news for Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, who is running for the District 18 Senate seat being vacated by Rich Madaleno, is that he is dominating the institutional endorsements over Dana Beyer and Michelle Carhart.  The bad news is that his dispute with House candidate Helga Luest is escalating.  Women are 60% of MoCo Democrats and this is a particularly bad cycle to run afoul of them.

While MCEA has made some county-level endorsements, it has postponed its decision on the incumbents (except for Sidney Katz).  The teachers are unhappy with recent MCPS budget decisions made by the County Council, especially with the breaking of their collective bargaining agreement two years ago.  With Ike Leggett’s recommended budget coming next week, we will learn more about what might happen to MCPS this year and that will affect the union’s thinking.  The remaining non-incumbents in the Council At-Large race will be paying rapt attention!

Speaking of the At-Large race, we wrote last April that the sole incumbent running, Hans Riemer, was going to be reelected.  We still believe that will happen and so do most of the folks running in his race.  But what happens if he is passed over by both the Apple Ballot and the Post?  The Apple is skeptical of council incumbents right now.  As for the Post, the newspaper endorsed Riemer in the 2014 primary in part because it said challenger Beth Daly was “dead wrong.”  But it dumped Riemer for a no-name Republican in the general election, saying he was “a first-termer with modest achievements.”  The Post has a lot more options in the 2018 At-Large field than it did last time.  Then throw in the facts that there are a lot of good folks in the At-Large race and Riemer’s name will be appearing near the end of a VERY long ballot.  If Riemer loses both the Apple and the Post and the hungry field of non-incumbents continues to impress, is he still a lock to win?  (Disclosure: your author used to work for Riemer.)

That’s it for now.  We’ll have more when the next wave of endorsements comes in!

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