Category Archives: Hans Riemer

Updated: Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

This morning, we posted preliminary fundraising totals for candidates in public financing.  But one of those reports was wrong because of a problem with the State Board of Elections’ processing software.  This post contains updated information.

Shortly after our original post, we received the following communication from Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang’s campaign.

Hi Adam, this is Jonathon Rowland, campaign manager for Hoan Dang.  Thank you for the article this morning.  I just want to correct the amount stated.  When we filed with the Board of Elections, our report was duplicated because of a glitch in the system giving us double the amount of donations.  We have been in contact with the Board of Elections since Monday to resolve this issue.  The actual amount of donations is 316.

When your author called Rowland for more details, he said that the Dang campaign found the error first and asked the board to correct it.  Board staff acknowledged the mistake and said that they were working with their IT developer to fix it going forward.  No public funds were ever distributed before the Dang campaign caught the mistake.

Including information provided by Dang’s campaign today, here is the updated comparison of the five campaigns who have applied for public financing.

Dang is not the leader in public financing.  George Leventhal, who is running for Executive, is the overall leader in qualifying contributors and receipts.  (Executive candidates get higher match rates than council candidates.)  Among the council candidates, incumbent Hans Riemer leads in qualifying contributors and Bill Conway leads in matching funds.  This should not discount a strong performance by Dang, whose financial numbers are not terribly different from Riemer’s.

Going forward, we hope the state prevents the kinds of mistakes that affected Dang’s campaign.  In the initial glitchy filing, Dang supposedly requested $148,328 in public matching funds.  (Again, the IT glitch was not Dang’s fault.)  In the updated filing, Dang requested $74,144 in public matching funds.  That’s a $74,184 difference.  If Dang had not caught the mistake, could that difference have conceivably been paid out?  There’s no evidence available on that point.  But for the good of public confidence in the county’s public financing system, we hope such a mistake never happens.

On a different issue, we asked what happened to Council Member Marc Elrich’s filing for public matching funds in our original post.  Elrich said he had enough contributors to qualify back in June but has not filed yet.  When asked about it on Leventhal surrogate Saqib Ali’s Facebook page, Elrich said his delay in filing was related to a payment his campaign had made to the county party, which was subsequently ruled to not be in compliance with public financing requirements.  We reprint Elrich’s statement below.

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Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

Correction: The numbers for Hoan Dang in this post are inaccurate.  For updated numbers on Dang and a response by Marc Elrich, please visit our updated post.

One of the virtues of public campaign financing is the rapid release of financial reports for participating candidates.  That’s right, folks – for this group of candidates, there is no need to wait until January to see fundraising numbers.  That’s because when they qualify for public matching funds and request them from the state, their financial reports are released almost immediately.  This is terrific for all data junkies like your author as well as inquiring minds among the readers!

Below is a summary for the five candidates who have applied to receive matching funds from the state.  Bear in mind the following characteristics of the data.  First, the number of qualifying contributors means the number of contributors who live in Montgomery County.  Non-residents can contribute up to $150 each but the state will not authorize matching funds for them.  Second, the individual contribution amounts are the basis on which the state determines how much in public matching funds will be released.  Third, the date of cash balance is important because it varies depending on when the applications were sent in.  That is unlike the regular reporting dates on which financial positions are summarized at the same time for all candidates.  And fourth, for those candidates who have only filed once (which includes everyone except George Leventhal), the cash balances do not include public funds from the state.  To estimate the cash positions of those candidates, the cash balance should be added to the public matching funds they requested.

What do we make of this?

1.  Let’s start with the obvious: there are a lot of small checks out there!  While many contributors are probably donating to more than one of these five campaigns, it’s not a stretch to say that close to a thousand people will have contributed by some point in the near future.  It’s hard to make comparisons with the past without exquisitely detailed research to back it up (anyone want to pay us for that?) but our hunch is that this is a larger early donor pool than in prior cycles.

2.  The big story here is Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang.  At-Large Council Members George Leventhal (who is running for Executive) and Hans Riemer (the only incumbent running for reelection) have a combined 22 years of representing the whole county.  But Dang had more in-county contributors than either one of them!  How does that happen?  Dang ran for Delegate in District 19 in 2010.  He was financially competitive, raising $103,418, but he finished fifth out of six candidates.  There was no reason going into this race to believe that Dang would receive more grassroots financial support than Leventhal or Riemer.  But so far, he has.

3.  Dang is not the only story.  Look at first-time candidate Bill Conway, who collected more private funds than Riemer primarily by having a larger average contribution.  In most elections, challengers struggle to be financially competitive with incumbents.  But the early performances of Conway and Dang relative to Riemer suggest that, at least among publicly-financed candidates, some or all of that gap may be closed.  Our hunch is that a group of at-large candidates will all hit the public matching funds cap of $250,000 and therefore have similar budgets heading into mail season.  The big question will then become how those totals compare to what candidates in the traditional system, like Marilyn Balcombe, Charlie Barkley, Ashwani Jain and Cherri Branson, will raise.

4.  Where is Marc Elrich?  The three-term at-large Council Member and Executive candidate announced that he had qualified for matching funds back in June at roughly the same time that Leventhal and Riemer said the same.  Riemer followed up by filing for matching funds and Leventhal did it twice.  Why hasn’t Elrich filed more than two months after his announcement?  One suspects that the bewildering paperwork requirements of public financing are responsible for the delay, but political types are starting to chatter about it.

That’s all for now.  Candidates, keep those reports coming in so your favorite blog has more material for the readers!

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A Troublesome Situation

By Adam Pagnucco.

By running for an at-large County Council seat and retaining his position as the council’s spokesman, Neil Greenberger is creating a troublesome situation for both the council and the public.  That situation is rooted in the significant conflicts that Greenberger will now have between his two roles.

As we have previously written, the position of spokesperson for an elected official – or in Greenberger’s case, nine of them – is a position of trust.  Elected officials must believe that their communications personnel will represent their positions and actions fairly towards members of the public, who after all will determine if those officials are reelected.  That’s hard to believe when the spokesperson is a candidate who is running for the same office held by the elected officials he is supposed to represent.  In at least one case – incumbent Council Member Hans Riemer – Greenberger is running in the exact same contest.  (Disclosure: your author is Riemer’s former Chief of Staff and regularly worked with Greenberger.)  That means Greenberger is supposed to be trusted to represent Riemer fairly during his day job while he could very well criticize him or his positions on the campaign trail after hours.  The same situation could apply to District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker, who may run at-large.

This is not a hypothetical scenario.  Greenberger is already running against last year’s tax hikes, telling MCM, “This county cannot take another property tax hike… I will guarantee no budget in the four years I’m in office will exceed the charter limit. That’s a guarantee.”  He also told the Sentinel, “The number one thing is, no matter what their incomes, people are still feeling the pain of the big tax increases – actually the two tax increases of last year… And I don’t think they need any more tax increases in the next four years.”  Your author has some sympathy for Greenberger’s opinions.  But the fact is that all nine of the Council Members Greenberger represents in his day job voted for the tax hikes and those who are running again will be defending them on the campaign trail.  And yet their own spokesman is contradicting them.

There is more.  Greenberger runs the council side of the county government’s cable channel, County Cable Montgomery (CCM).  He even hosts his own county TV show.  He is also a liaison between the council and Montgomery Community Media (MCM), a non-profit that covers the county and receives county funding.  In those capacities, Greenberger will be in a position to influence the coverage his opponents – including those who employ him – receive.  It’s a huge conflict.  But Greenberger ignores that.  According to the Sentinel, “Greenberger said he plans to continue to work his job while he campaigns for County Council, saying there is not a conflict of interest because his job is not political nor is he required by law to quit.”  That’s a questionable contention at best.  Many communications from elected officials to the public have a political dimension to them.  Elected officials who issue communications making themselves look bad may not be elected for long!

Neil Greenberger interviews one of his nine employers – and future political rival – Hans Riemer on his county television show in 2011.

The natural reaction of elected officials who face the prospect of their own spokesperson publicly critiquing them is to stop using the spokesperson altogether.  Think about it – who on Earth would want to employ a critic or outright opponent to write press releases about them?  Here’s where the situation becomes problematic for taxpayers.  Greenberger was paid $148,091 in 2016.  If Council Members stop going through him and start relying exclusively on their own personal staff for communications, there is a possibility that his ability to perform his day job would be impaired.

These are not garden-variety conflicts, folks.  Greenberger’s compensation as well as the media outlets he influences directly and indirectly are publicly funded.  That leads us to ask what safeguards will be put in place to prevent any potential use of public resources to benefit a specific candidate, especially if it comes at the expense of others.

Greenberger has as much right to run for office as anyone else.  He is also a merit staffer and can’t be fired for political activity after hours.  But given the above facts, Greenberger should request a transfer to a less politically sensitive position and the job of council spokesperson should be converted to an at-will appointment.  Should he fail to act accordingly, voters should consider his sense of judgment on this issue when they decide how to cast their votes.

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Hucker, Riemer Targeted by Enviros

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), one of Maryland’s major environmental organizations, is targeting County Council Members Tom Hucker (D-5) and Hans Riemer (At-Large) for not supporting a bill that would have required the county’s benefits funds to divest their holdings of fossil fuel company stocks.  The bill, lead-sponsored by Council Members Roger Berliner (D-1) and Nancy Navarro (D-4) and co-sponsored by Council Member Marc Elrich (At-Large), was converted into a non-binding resolution because it could not gather five affirmative votes.  The resolution was passed today.

Hucker has received numerous environmental endorsements during his history as a candidate.  The Maryland League of Conservation Voters gave him a 99% lifetime score when he was in the House of Delegates.  Riemer was endorsed by the Sierra Club in 2010 but not in 2014.

Following is the text of the blast email from CCAN Executive Director Mike Tidwell.  CCAN is also asking its supporters to email Hucker.

*****

Subject Line: Time to keep up the divestment fight.

Dear ,

First, the good news: We made real progress today in divesting our county’s massive pension funds from dirty fossil fuels. The Montgomery County Council just passed a resolution encouraging the employee pension boards to finally STOP buying and holding stocks in companies like ExxonMobil and Arch Coal. This is a positive step.

However, it’s only a resolution. It’s not the stronger legislation – an actual bill – that CCAN and many of you had asked for.

By a vote of 8-to-1, the Council approved today the carbon divestment resolution sponsored by Council President Roger Berliner (thank you, Roger!). It asks the county pension boards to report in six months (and every 12 months after that) on efforts to divest from the 200 biggest global warming polluters. With record high temperatures, rising seas, and ExxonMobil basically running our nation’s foreign policy, it is outrageous that our county pension funds hold over $70 million in mega-pollution stock. It’s YOUR county money, after all.

Please thank your Councilmember Tom Hucker for voting for the divestment resolution. But remind Tom he’s pledged to get real results from this resolution. We need action, not delay, on dirty energy investments.

Over the past several months, many of you have attended town hall meetings and contacted the MoCo Council on this issue. You demanded that actual legislation – not just a resolution – be passed to move our county toward divestment. Thank you for your citizen activism! And big thanks to Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Navarro, and Marc Elrich for sponsoring and supporting this legislation!

But Councilmembers Tom Hucker (D-Silver Spring) and Hans Riemer (D-at large) never supported the stronger bill. And because they were swing votes, the bill died. Instead, Councilmember Hucker repeatedly told CCAN and other advocates that a nonbinding resolution was his preference. He pledged to use the resolution as leverage and then lead the fight to demand that the county’s two pension boards actually divest in the coming months.

Our message to Tom Hucker: Thank you for your efforts and we look forward to the real results you’ve said could come from your preferred resolution approach. We now want to invite Councilmember Hucker to a countywide town hall meeting exactly six months from now, where he and Hans Reimer will have the opportunity to update citizens on their efforts to persuade the pension boards to voluntarily divest from high-polluting companies.

Please thank your Councilmember Tom Hucker for voting for the divestment resolution. But remind Tom he’s pledged to get real results from this resolution. We need action, not delay, on dirty energy investments!

A little background now. For too long, our county has sought to lead on climate change policy while also investing tens of millions of dollars in the very companies whose business plans and actions are causing the climate crisis. It’s wrong to profit from these companies – and we don’t need to. The evidence is clear that properly diversified funds perform as well or better without fossil fuel companies. We don’t need to invest in ExxonMobil to have a healthy pension system.

The good news is that pension divestment can be accomplished, as we have seen from just a few miles away. The D.C. Retirement Board eliminated direct investments in the 200 most harmful fossil fuel companies shortly after a divestment resolution passed the D.C. Council in 2014.

But we’ll need real commitment from Montgomery leaders like Hucker and Riemer – and pressure from citizens like you – to replicate the D.C. success here.

So, on we go. Change is never easy, even in a progressive county like ours. We’ll be in touch in the coming months to update you on the next phase of the divestment fight in Montgomery County. And in November we’ll invite you to the big town hall meeting where we hope our leaders can confirm the real progress they’ve said is possible in the coming months.

And thanks again for all you do!

Best,

Mike Tidwell

Executive Director

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Two Tiers in the At-Large Council Race, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

In Part One, we spotlighted five losing candidates who went on to be elected to multiple terms on the Montgomery County Council.  That illustrates a key point: candidates with electoral experience often come back stronger in future races, even if they lose their first elections.  The top tier of potential at-large council candidates includes the following people who have earned lots of votes in prior races for council and the General Assembly and presumably know how to earn them in the future.

Hans Riemer

49,932 votes in the 2014 at-large primary, third place

Your author admits to being partial to Riemer as a former member of his staff.  That said, he is the only incumbent in the race as his three current colleagues have been tossed out by term limits.  Back in 2010, we ran a series on why MoCo incumbents lose and identified four reasons: they were Republicans, they were lazy, they made lots of enemies (especially in their districts) and they had great challengers.  Riemer is not a Republican, he’s not lazy and he has no more enemies than most other local politicians.  Great challengers are rare, and because Riemer is the only incumbent running for one of four seats, four great challengers would have to get in to knock him out.  That’s just not going to happen.  The only certainty in this race is that Riemer will be reelected.

Beth Daly

39,642 votes in the 2014 at-large primary, fifth place

Dickerson activist Beth Daly ran a solid at-large campaign in 2014.  Her support crossed over with incumbent Marc Elrich and she got many valuable endorsements from the labor and environmental communities.  Daly’s problem had less to do with her and more to do with the field as she was running against four incumbents.  So did Riemer in 2010, but he benefited from incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg’s blowing up her relationships with labor and sitting on a huge unspent campaign balance.  None of the 2014 incumbents committed mistakes of that magnitude, and Daly, despite all the things she did right, could not break through.  We don’t know if she has any interest in running again, but if she does, she would be a strong contender in a wide open race.

Tom Hucker

7,667 votes in the 2014 District 5 primary, winner

If Hucker stays in District 5, he will be defending a safe seat.  Pay no attention to his close victory in 2014; Hucker and his super-duper staff led by MCDCC Chair Dave Kunes have locked down the district.  But there are rumors that Hucker could run at-large.  If he does, he would be formidable.  Hucker has a true-blue progressive voting record in both Rockville and Annapolis, and with more than 20 years of political experience, he knows how to win.  Labor and the environmentalists will be there for him, too.  Note: it’s misleading to compare the vote totals of Hucker and his 2014 opponent, Evan Glass, to the other candidates on this list.  Hucker and Glass ran in a vote-for-one race whereas most of the others ran in multiple-vote races.

Evan Glass

7,445 votes in the 2014 District 5 primary, second place

Former journalist and uber-activist Evan Glass nearly shocked the world by coming close to beating heavy favorite Hucker in 2014.  Since then, he has kept busy by running youth film non-profit Gandhi Brigade and serving on Committee for Montgomery’s board.  He has well-wishers in many parts of the county’s political community and could be a consensus candidate in whatever election he enters.  It’s important to note that Glass and Hucker won’t be in the same race.  One will run in District 5 and the other will run at-large.  Our prediction: there is a strong possibility that the two former rivals will be council colleagues in December 2018.

Will Jawando

5,620 votes in the 2014 Legislative District 20 primary, fourth place

5,634 votes in MoCo in the 2016 Congressional District 8 primary, fifth place

Former Obama aide Will Jawando is the kind of candidate you could fall in love with.  He’s handsome, well-spoken and ridiculously charismatic.  He’s also good at raising money.  But after running strong for a District 20 House seat in 2014, he inexplicably ran for Congress in 2016.  Our prediction is that Delegate Sheila Hixson, who just gave up a committee chair she held for more than twenty years, will retire and Jawando will run for her seat.  But if Jawando runs for council at-large instead, he will get more than his fair share of votes.

Charles Barkley

4,896 votes in the 2014 Legislative District 39 primary, first place

Note: the above race had no challengers

District 39 Delegate Charles Barkley was first elected in 1998 as part of a slate of Democrats who took out three Republican Delegates.  He has coasted to victory in the district ever since.  Something of a maverick in Annapolis, Barkley has told Bethesda Magazine that he will likely be running for council at-large.  Barkley’s problems are that he has never run a modern campaign including social media and blast email and his district has the smallest number of regular Democratic voters of any legislative district in the county.  But he reported a $205,478 campaign account balance in January 2017, and if he doesn’t enroll in public financing, he can spend every cent of that in a race for council.

That’s the top tier.  The second tier is everyone else.  There are some noteworthy candidates stepping forward.  Chris Wilhelm is a progressive MCPS teacher who has worked for Delegate David Moon (D-20) and is off to a fast start.  Marilyn Balcombe, President/CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is well-known in the business community and is smart and pragmatic.  School board members Rebecca Smondrowski and Jill Ortman-Fouse have not publicly said they’re interested in the council – yet – but both of them ran against MCEA-endorsed opponents and won.  Would any of them, or any of the many other people thinking about running, be top-notch candidates?  There’s no way to tell right now.  But given the number of at-large openings and the high probability that some of the top-tier people won’t get in, at least one new candidate will probably win.

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Two Tiers in the At-Large Council Race, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

The race for Montgomery County Executive is starting to draw some attention from the press, but relatively little has been written about the upcoming election for the County Council’s four at-large seats.  That’s too bad considering the historic nature of the race.  The council has never had three open at-large seats since its current structure was created in 1990, but it does now thanks to term limits.  Combined with the open District 1 seat, the council will have four openings in 2018.  Whoever wins those seats, along with the next County Executive, will be running the county for as long as the next twelve years.

We are fourteen months out from the election and the race is just now beginning to form, but we are reasonably sure of one thing: candidates who have run before, even if they lost (respectably), will have an advantage over those who have not.  That’s because of two reasons.  First, they have electoral experience and don’t have the often-steep learning curve of brand-new candidates.  Second, they will have leftover support, relationships and name recognition from their prior races.  Why do we emphasize this?  MoCo electoral history is full of candidates who lost and later came back to win.  Consider just a few examples.

Steve Silverman

Silver Spring attorney Steve Silverman took on all three incumbent District 20 Delegates in 1994 and lost by more than 2,000 votes.  But he captured a council at-large seat four years later and finished first for reelection in 2002.  Silverman, as shrewd and canny as they come, is still a player in county politics as a co-founder of the advocacy group Empower Montgomery and as a successful lobbyist.

A 1994 Silverman mailer about school construction.  Some things never change.

Phil Andrews

Former Common Cause of Maryland Executive Director Phil Andrews ran for an at-large council seat in 1994 emphasizing his work on curbing lobbyists and big campaign donors.  He finished sixth, but came back four years later to knock out District 3 incumbent Bill Hanna.  Andrews would go on to serve four terms on the council.

A 1994 Andrews mailer.  Reading his comments on his time at Common Cause, it is no surprise that he would create the county’s public campaign financing system twenty years later.

Roger Berliner

Energy sector lawyer Roger Berliner ran in the 2000 District 1 special election primary and lost to Pat Baptiste, who subsequently was defeated by Republican Howie Denis for the seat.  Berliner came back six years later to beat Denis and has represented the district ever since.

A Berliner mailer from 2000.  He has much better glasses now!

Hans Riemer

Former Rock the Vote political director Hans Riemer lost a 2006 open seat race in District 5 to school board member Valerie Ervin.  Four years later, Riemer finished second in the at-large race and is the only incumbent eligible to run again.

Riemer vows to build the Purple Line in 2006 or die trying.  For the sake of his wife and two kids, we hope the project is allowed to proceed!

Marc Elrich

Former MCPS teacher and Takoma Park City Council Member Marc Elrich is the patron saint of persistent candidates.  Elrich ran four straight times for County Council before being elected at-large in 2006 and has finished first in the last two elections.  Elrich’s longevity, tenacity and consistency of message will make him a formidable candidate for Executive.

An Elrich mailer from 1994.  What did we say about things never changing?

We love history like many Seventh State readers.  But what does this have to do with 2018?  We’ll explore that in Part Two.

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At-Large MoCo Council Race, Pt. III

hansHans Riemer

Along with George Leventhal, Hans Riemer is viewed by many as among the more vulnerable at-large incumbents this season. This conclusion may puzzle as newcomer Hans catapulted over three incumbents to win second place in 2010. Moreover, incumbents are usually seen as safer bets.

Hans’s problems come in several varietals. First, he has disappointed some more ardent progressives who expected him to champion their issues. Most notably, he was more hesitant to hike the minimum wage as high or as fast as they wanted.

At the same time, developers don’t seem him as their best buddy either. His support for protecting Ten Mile Creek over their strong opposition didn’t give them the warm fuzzies. In short, he’s too progressive for business and too conservative for the lefties.

Finally, some argue that he just doesn’t fit the profile of a councilmember because he is too young and doesn’t have the typical background in business or politics. However, this “problem” strikes me as a strength rather than a weakeness. Not fitting a stereotype is a welcome breath of fresh air for many voters.

So the bloom is off the rose for Hans. And like the other incumbents, the government employee unions just aren’t showing the love. He also lost support from the Sierra Club and Progressive Maryland. Still, Hans is not friendless with endorsements from SEIU, CASA, and the volunteer firefighters. Also, he’s an affable, pleasant guy who many people just seem to like–not a bad quality in politics.

So, like George Leventhal, but for very different reasons, Hans has some tricky waters to navigate this primary season.

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