David Trone’s Historic Spending

Today, I am pleased to present the following guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

CD8 residents are in the midst of an historic election, not merely because the congressional seat is opening up for the first time in fourteen years.  What makes it historic is that one candidate, Total Wine co-owner David Trone, is on pace to shatter spending records in local races.  In fact, he may wind up being the top self-funder in a U.S. House race anywhere in the country for all time.

Since announcing for Congress a month ago, Trone has deluged CD8 residents in mail, digital ads, paid social media, television commercials and more.  Our sources estimate that Trone has spent roughly $2.5 million on television and radio ads alone through the end of February.  (That’s about five times what Kathleen Matthews has spent.)  Throw in the cost of mail, digital, staff, vendors and campaign expenses and Trone has probably spent at least $3 million in one month of campaigning.  That puts Trone on pace to spend $10 million – and probably much more – by the end of the primary.

How does that stack up against expenditures in other prominent local races?

We added up spending totals of recent competitive races for Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and Montgomery County Executive contests.  For Governor, we included Lieutenant Governor and slate accounts and deducted transfers between them.  Primaries and generals are listed separately unless either one was non-competitive, in which case we combine them and list them as “both.”  The data appears below.

Campaign Spending Recent MD

Trone’s spending could eventually be comparable to some gubernatorial races.  He probably won’t touch Bob Ehrlich’s total as an incumbent in 2006.  But he could approach the totals of Martin O’Malley’s two races and the amount spent by Anthony Brown in the 2014 primary.  He will almost certainly exceed what Ben Cardin and Michael Steele spent in their 2006 U.S. Senate race.  And he will blow away any candidates in U.S. House and Montgomery County Executive races in recent years.

Trone’s campaign is almost entirely self-funded.  He has said that he will spend “whatever it takes” to win.  How will he compare to other self-funders in U.S. House races?  The Center for Responsive Politics periodically releases estimates of self-funding.  Below is a compilation of everyone we can identify who has contributed at least $3 million to their own campaigns, which is roughly the level Trone has so far given to his.

Top Self Funders US House Races

Self-funders come from both parties, often run in big states and usually lose.  The combined record of the above candidates is 6-18.  Phil Maloof, the leading self-funder, should have an asterisk next to his name because he lost both a special election and a general election to future Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the same year.  (Interestingly, Maloof’s family derived part of its fortune from beer distribution.)  If Maloof is discounted from the above list, David Trone could well be the top self-funder in a U.S. House race of all time, anywhere.  Even including Maloof, Trone could still be number one.

The Big Question in CD8 is . . . will it work?


Rules for Dealing with Reporters

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco.

One of the most critical tasks for politicians, operatives and staffers is dealing with press. If you do it right, you can make sure that your point of view gets represented fairly and regularly. But if you do it wrong, you will lose opportunities to get your message across. Working with a number of sources who have experience in journalism, I present the following rules for dealing with reporters.

  1. Reporters are not your friends and they’re not your enemies. They are people who are doing their jobs. That’s it.
  1. Tell the truth. If you try to spin them, they will know. (You are not their first source!) If you lie to them and they find out, you are done and they just might expose you. They will never regard you as a trustworthy source again.
  1. Talk like a human being and don’t rely on canned pablum. A source says, “More and more operatives and flaks will only respond with prepared emails. It may feel safer, but it precludes exchanges that can actually be helpful or even enlightening.”
  1. If you have a problem with a story, point out the issue civilly and supply evidence that you’re right. Everyone makes mistakes, even seasoned pros. Never, ever question their integrity. And don’t go over their heads to their bosses. That’s a sure way to make an enemy.
  1. In regards to seeking a correction, it’s acceptable to dispute a factual matter but you will have less success in arguing against a reporter’s analysis or interpretation of events. Source: “There’s a distinction between a factual error – which a reporter will want to correct immediately – and, say, a disagreement with a reporter’s analysis, which is a different matter entirely.” Another source: “Any source who insists on a correction for what’s really interpretation will lose the respect of the editor.”
  1. Deal with multiple reporters and learn their interests. Over time, you will be able to match the right reporter with the right story.
  1. Until you have a relationship with them, always make clear when you are talking on the record or off the record. Source: “Tell the reporter in advance that you have information that can’t be attached to your name. Negotiate how the source will be attributed. Always inform the reporter that information isn’t on the record BEFORE sharing the information.” Another source: “Always assume that if you haven’t set up a prior arrangement and haven’t said the conversation is off the record, that it isn’t off the record. It is on the record.”
  1. Understand the limits of reporters’ ability to control the presentation of their story. Editors play in this. They can and do write headlines and change language in the article. One reporter I knew was regularly embarrassed by headlines written by editors. Source: “Reporters can’t promise a specific headline, placement in the paper or really what the story says.”
  1. If you try to overtly kill a story, it will probably backfire. Source: “Jumping up and down and yelling ‘There’s no story here’ will only encourage the scribe to persevere.”
  1. Deal in facts whenever possible. Never mischaracterize a rumor as a fact. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”
  1. When you get a request from a reporter, respond rapidly. Source: “In today’s day and age reporters expect you to get back to them quickly – in hours, not days. Even if you don’t have all the info, it’s best to get back to them with something initially, let them know you’re looking for the information and then once you have it, provide it to them.” Another source: “Please don’t ask ‘When’s your deadline?’ In digital 2016, that’s like asking for the nearest pay phone. Deadline is now. It’s as soon as you can provide whatever is being asked for.”
  1. Understand that you are one source among many. If you stop talking to a reporter, he or she will just move on to another source – and possibly a source who opposes your agenda and/or you. So get past the article that irked you last week and keep the dialogue going.
  1. Forget about Friday night surprises. Source: “Folks still believe that they can somehow sneak a negative story under the radar if they put it out late Friday afternoon. This thing called the Interwebs makes it a quaint idea. It only alienates the reporter by screwing up the start to his weekend.”
  1. Pick your shots. Not everything is newsworthy. Source: “A chief of staff, campaign manager or press secretary who tries to convince a reporter that there’s a story every time his or her boss goes to the bathroom will quickly become background noise and risks being ignored.”
  1. Never share a tip given to you by a reporter with another reporter. You are risking having a competitor scoop the person who was generous enough to give you that tip. And the person who got scooped will know it was your fault.
  1. Reporters don’t decide newspaper endorsements. If you get mad at a reporter because his or her publication didn’t endorse you, you are not helping yourself.
  1. Understand that some reporters talk to each other and to their successors when they leave. Your reputation as a source, good or bad, will make the rounds.
  1. Have a sense of humor! Reporters may not be at liberty to say what they really think about certain things, but almost all of them appreciate a good joke.

If this all seems like common sense, it should be. But I have seen many people run afoul of these rules. Some politicians believe that reporters can be schmoozed into being “friends.” Then when their “friend” prints an article they disagree with, they feel betrayed. Other politicians distrust the press so much that they speak rarely to them, if at all – thereby creating openings for their competitors. Many politicians perceive bias when a reporter makes a simple mistake. Some believe they can “control” the press when in reality a more achievable goal is to get your voice heard.


Those who break one or more of the above rules probably outnumber the ones who respect them. So be one of the people who adhere to them. If you do, you will have an advantage over the folks who don’t!


Larry Hogan Does Not Play Well with Others

 Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore) condemns Gov. Larry Hogan’s attack on the General Assembly. Source: Bryan P. Sears.

Josh Kurtz deserves the prescient pundit award for the week for his column in Center Maryland:

On the day state Senate Democrats voted to override his veto of legislation restoring voting rights to 44,000 parolees and probationers, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) . . . was quick to condemn the vote and suggested that there could be political consequences for the senators who went against his wishes. Some, he predicted, “won’t survive the vote.”

Minutes later, like clockwork, Change Maryland, Hogan’s political organization, listed the 29 Democrats who had voted to override the veto, accusing them of “ignoring an overwhelming majority of Marylanders” and suggesting that they be targeted for their votes. In the days that followed, angry Marylanders let these lawmakers know how they felt – sometimes in intemperate, threatening ways.

Can we please, please discard the notion . . . that Hogan is a bipartisan governor?

Yesterday, Hogan confirmed his new, ahem, approach by doing a canonball right into the middle of the General Assembly:

Two-thirds of people approve of the job I’m doing and the legislature has decided to focus on the one third, and I’m not sure how any of them can get reelected by doing that. They come down to Annapolis like its spring break, breaking furniture, throwing beer bottles off balconies, and thankfully they’re going to go home in a few weeks and we can get back to running the State.

Bragging about how popular you are is much more Donald Trump than bipartisan leader. Popularity also often proves ephemeral, while the Governor will have to work with the General Assembly every year that he is in office.

Hogan’s comments may prove less than helpful to some of his friends. I can already hear the voice over in attack ads of Hogan telling Sen. Kathy Szeliga to stop acting like it’s Spring Break and then the narrator suggesting she do her job in Annapolis before running for U.S. Senate.

The Governor has huge advantages in commanding the attention of the press and the people. So it’s an impressive day when the Governor manages unaided to look like the kid in the sandbox who needs to be placed in time out.


Metro Ridership Down Another 5% Last Year–Now at 2004 Levels

metro ridership

Metro ridership is down 5% over last year. As Metro did not project this decline, this means that Metro faces a substantial budget shortfall of $15 million from the decline in rail revenue and $5 million in bus revenue. Yet, Metro plans to add another 59 employees to the system.

If it raises fares, ridership will decline even further. Metro also needs to spend money on the rail system, as its reliability still seemingly continues to decline on a near daily basis. People don’t want to ride a system that is undependable.

Bringing it home to Maryland, it would be interesting to know how many few people are boarding or alighting at Maryland Metro stops. Additionally, how does the steady decline in ridership affect the projections for Purple Line ridership, as many of its passengers are expected to change to the Red or Orange Lines?



Does Making Registration Easier Cause More Voting?

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

In this year’s session of the General Assembly, Democrats will be introducing legislation providing for automatic registration of voters.  While the details vary between proposals, the concept is that state agencies would proactively “forward to election officials data about anyone who meets the age, residency and citizenship criteria to vote.”  Individuals would be allowed to opt out if they wish.  Democrats clearly believe this would increase the number of voters who support their party.  Republicans also believe that since they are openly opposing the idea.

Are they right?  Would more registration lead to more voting?

The State of Maryland has taken many steps to make registering and voting easier, including early voting (2010), online registration (2012) and expansion of early voting from six to eight days (2013).  Same day registration during early voting will be in effect for the first time in 2016.  The state has also offered applicants for driver’s licenses the opportunity to register as voters in conformance with federal law since 1995.

Maryland has seen steady increases in voter registration over the years.  The graph below shows statewide registered voters in both primary and general elections since 1990.  While there are slight variations in individual cycles, registration has gone up by about 4-5% every two years.

Voter Registrations graph

Has that resulted in more voting?  Much has been made of declining turnout in the past, and there is something to that: the turnout rate has fallen from 61% in the 1994 general election to 47% in 2014.  It has also declined from 81% in the 1992 general election to 74% in 2012.  But looking at the turnout rate alone can be misleading.  If the number of actual voters increases at a slower rate than the number of registered voters, the turnout rate can fall even if actual voting rises.  In fact, if more aggressive voter registration outreach brings in voters who are less likely to vote, that is exactly what could happen.  The test here is whether actual voting is going up along with registration.

First, let’s look at primaries.  The graph below shows the total number of primary election voters in Maryland since the 1990 elections.  These elections are very sensitive to the circumstances of offices on the ballot.  At the gubernatorial level, primary voting peaked in 1994, 2002 and 2006.  The former two years saw open Governor seats while the latter saw a rare competitive U.S. Senate race.  Primary voting tanked in 1990 and 1998, when incumbent Democrat Governors were running for second terms.  At the presidential level, primary voting surged in 2008 when Barack Obama was in a competitive race with Hillary Clinton.  Primary voting fell dramatically in years when an incumbent President was on the ballot (1996, 2004 and 2012).  These candidate dynamics overwhelmed any effects of increasing registrations.

Primary Voting graph

General elections see much steadier patterns of voting.  The graph below shows the total number of general election voters in Maryland since the 1990 elections.  The absolute number of voters in both gubernatorial generals and presidential generals has been rising steadily since the 1990s – with the notable exception of a divergence in the 2010-2014 period.  Presidential voting has gone up every year since 1996, but gubernatorial voting went down between 2010 and 2014.  This is the same period during which early voting (2010), online registration (2012) and an increase in early voting days (2013) were implemented.

General Voting graph

Let’s look at this presidential vs. gubernatorial split more closely.  The popularity of President Barack Obama may be a factor in increasing the number of voters in recent presidential elections.  Obama gained 62% of the vote in Maryland in both 2008 and 2012 and his approval rating in Maryland has been above 50% for most of his time in office.  The chart below shows changes in registrations and voting for each Maryland jurisdiction between the 2004 and 2012 general elections.  The two counties that gave Obama more than 80% of their vote in 2012 – Baltimore City and Prince George’s County – saw increases in both registrations and the number of actual voters greatly exceeding state averages.  Counties opposing Obama saw rises in registration and voting too, but not nearly as much.

Presidential Voting chart

The gubernatorial elections tell a very different story.  The chart below shows changes in registrations and voting for each Maryland jurisdiction between the 2010 and 2014 general elections.  Statewide, registrations were up by 7% while the number of voters fell by 7%.  But voting behavior differed between counties supporting Larry Hogan and those supporting Anthony Brown.  In the ten jurisdictions that gave Hogan 70% or more of their vote, the actual number of voters fell by 3%.  In the four jurisdictions that supported Brown, the actual number of voters fell by 8%.  Registrations rose by 7% for both groups.

Gubernatorial Voting chart

Increased registration has coincided with more voting in presidential elections and less voting in the 2014 gubernatorial election.  Why is that happening?  Here’s a theory: voters have access to much more information about presidential candidates than state or local candidates and are therefore more likely to vote for the former.  In fact, state and local candidates target voters with long histories of regular voting with their mail and field programs while they ignore voters with sparse histories – including new voters.  Declining local media coverage of state and local races reinforces this information gap.  So the registration efforts of Democrats through legislation and party activities may help fortify the margins of presidential candidates and federal candidates running in presidential years, but they did not help the party in 2014.  Not only did the Democratic nominee for Governor lose, but the Republicans picked up a record number of seats in the House of Delegates, captured the Howard County Executive seat and almost knocked off Congressman John Delaney – all while voter registration was rising.

There’s nothing wrong with making voter registration more convenient.  But given the above, there is little evidence to suggest that Democrats at the state and local level will significantly benefit from it.  There is also little evidence that Republicans should fear it.


Sebastian Johnson Announces Wave of Endorsements

Former Student Board of Education Member Sebastian Johnson is  seeking an at-large seat in the 2016.

Advantages and Challenges

Johnson’s strongest asset is his impressive resume. After graduating from Montgomery Blair, Johnson received his B.A. in Economics and Government from Georgetown and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. Johnson has already worked with kids in the classroom as a teacher and in the community. He’s done a lot at a young age.

Johnson’s biggest campaign challenge is that he is not an MCPS parent. As a result, he doesn’t have experience with MCPS from that perspective. Nor does he have links to the PTA network that often produces successful Board of Education candidates.


Today, his campaign was pleased to announce endorsements from seven elected officials:

Maryland State Delegate David Moon (D-20)
Maryland State Delegate Marice Morales (D-19) Maryland State Delegate Will Smith (D-20)
Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal (D-AL) Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-4)
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart
Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin

Some of the positive comments from elected officials included:

Nancy Navarro: I had the privilege of serving on the Board of Education with Sebastian, and I witnessed his steadfast dedication to public service. He has a keen understanding of the current issues facing our school system, and he brings a fresh perspective to the Board table. I am proud to endorse his candidacy.

George Leventhal: I’m very excited by the prospect of Sebastian returning to the Board of Education, where he served as student member. Sebastian’s life story embodies the success that we seek for all students. I wholeheartedly support his candidacy.

Kate Stewart: As mayor, an advocate for young people and a parent, I trust Sebastian to do what’s right for all of our kids. As a product of Montgomery County schools, he brings a keen insight to the challenges we face today. I can’t think of a better person to serve on the Board of Education, and I strongly endorse his candidacy.


Federal Employees in CD4 and CD8

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

Candidates in both Congressional Districts 4 and 8 are targeting predictable Democratic Party constituencies like women, liberals, environmentalists, African Americans and Latinos for votes. That’s standard operating procedure in most Democratic primaries. But because of the geographic peculiarity of the two districts, there’s another constituency that could play a major role in deciding the election: federal employees.

Because Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties border the District of Columbia, they have countless thousands of residents who commute to federal jobs downtown every day. The two counties also have numerous large federal employers of their own, including the National Institutes of Health, Andrews Air Force Base, the Census Bureau, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, Walter Reed, NOAA and more. Prince George’s is making a strong bid to host the FBI. Anne Arundel County, which has part of CD4, is home to Fort Meade and the Naval Academy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, federal employers constitute about ten percent of each county’s employment and personal income.

Federal Employees MoCo PG

But this counts only federal establishments located within each county; it does not count residents who commute outside their boundaries. It also doesn’t count contractors who depend on federal clients or the various industries surrounding the federal government, like lobbying, consulting and legal services. One private sector economic firm estimates that 52% of the Washington area’s total job base is tied in one way or another to the federal government. Regardless of the statistics, it’s reasonable to assume that both CD4 and CD8 have tens of thousands of residents who either work directly for the federal government or who have family or friends who do so. It’s also reasonable to assume that they vote, particularly in Democratic primaries.

One thing that can be said about this group is that they are under stress. Consider recent events pertaining to federal employees.


While many federal employees are represented by unions, their pay levels are set by federal law and not by collective bargaining. Federal pay was frozen during the 2011-2013 period and rose by 1% in 2014, 1% in 2015 and 1.3% in 2016. Accounting for local area price inflation, federal employee pay fell by 7% in real dollars between 2010 and 2015.

Parental Leave

Federal employees do not have paid parental leave. When they have children, they must either use accumulated sick leave and vacation time or accept unpaid leave. When Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bill to provide paid leave last year, Schatz noted, “While private companies are beginning to see the benefits of providing paid family leave, America is still the only industrial nation in the world without a program that gives working parents the time off and income they need to care for a new child.” President Obama provided for paid leave in his latest budget, but congressional Republicans are ignoring it.

Sequester and Shutdown

The rise of a Tea Party Congress led to a spending sequester and a government shutdown in 2013. Shutdowns were barely avoided in September and December of 2015. The sequester has chilled not merely the federal government but the entire regional economy for years.

Budget Uncertainty

Congress’s growing reliance on continuing resolutions and last-minute budgetary showdowns have played havoc with department budgets and make it harder for federal employees to do their jobs. One federal manager commented, “What people don’t realize is that once the budget is approved, it takes time for the money to trickle down to agencies. For example, managers in my agency still don’t have the ability to spend their budgets without getting approval for everything from a contract to a stapler. And we don’t have a firm estimate of when we will be able to spend freely.” Training and travel are often adversely affected.

Retirements and Turnover

Led by Baby Boomers, an exodus of federal employees is underway. Turnover among young workers is also considerable. This puts pressure on those who remain. One federal lawyer commented, “I see that all around me – so many young lawyers that were in my office when I started 5 years ago are gone. Sure, some are leaving because they get fed up with bureaucracy, or want to move onto something else, but being a pawn and/or punching bag of Congress doesn’t help. And the advantages of working in the private or non-profit sector for attorneys can be huge in terms of schedule flexibility (non-profit sector, including universities) or salary/benefits (private sector).”

Republicans in Congress

Make no mistake: Congressional Republicans are targeting federal employees. Last year, the House and Senate each proposed budgets that went after the federal workforce. According to the Sun, “While details of the House and Senate versions of the budget differ, both chambers have approved slashing the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition, increasing the contribution workers make toward their retirement savings and cutting the share of health insurance covered by the government.” Months later, Senate Republicans floated a plan to fund highway spending by cutting federal pension rates of return. The Chair of the Senate’s committee that oversees the federal workforce opposes the existence of federal unions, wants to trim pension benefits and wants to cut the federal workforce by 10% and contractors by 15%. Another Republican Congressman wants to eliminate dues checkoff for federal unions, a move designed to cripple their finances.

Republican Presidential Candidates

The federal government and its employees are a frequent target of GOP presidential candidates. Carly Fiorina has said, “We have come to a pivotal point in our nation’s history where this nation’s possibilities and potential are being crushed by a government grown so big, so powerful, so inept, so corrupt, and a political class that refuses to do anything about it. . . . the truth is 75 percent of the American people think the government is corrupt.” Rand Paul has said he would like to see “a government so small I can barely see it.” John Kasich wrote that “Washington is obsolete” and wants to gut the Education and Transportation departments. Scott Walker wanted to ban federal unions. But none of them can touch Ted Cruz, who wants to eliminate five departments and 25 smaller agencies that he says “prop up special interests at the taxpayer’s expense.” Cruz’s targets include Commerce, Education, Energy, HUD and the IRS. Cruz would also replace across-the-board pay raises for federal workers with “more opportunities for merit-based pay increases.”

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman Chris Van Hollen have been strong advocates for federal employees and that has been a component of their immense popularity with their constituents. All candidates in both CD4 and CD8 would be wise to emulate their example. Whoever emerges as the top defender of the federal workforce might get an edge in what could be two close races.


Leventhal Endorses Taylor

George’s letter to MCDCC:

I’m writing to express my hope that MCDCC will appoint Herman Taylor to the District 14 Delegate seat.

With a Republican governor in Annapolis, it is more important than ever that Montgomery County build closer relationships with other Democratic-majority jurisdictions, especially Baltimore and Prince George’s County. Herman was an officer of the Legislative Black Caucus and has warm, long-standing friendships with the senators and delegates from those jurisdictions.

The central committee’s process is — correctly in my judgment — being criticized for failing to give District 14 voters a voice. Herman was elected by those voters twice already, in 2002 and 2006.

I like and respect Pam Queen, Chris Bradbury and Mark Feinroth. I understand these are tough choices. But there is no doubt in my mind that Montgomery County will be best served at this moment by putting Herman back in the seat he occupied previously.

Thank you for considering my point of view.

Warm regards,
George Leventhal


Herman Taylor on LGBT Rights

The contest for the vacant delegate seat continues to heat up. While the District 14 delegation, Muslim Democratic Club, and MD NARAL PAC have backed Pam Queen, the Montgomery County Democratic Clubs of Color, Councilmember Nancy Navarro, and the NAACP Political Chair are behind Herman Taylor.

Taylor has defended his record on abortion rights vociferously in response to attacks on his past voting record in the House of Delegates by MD NARAL PAC. Backed by supporters, Taylor promises a 100% pro-choice voting record. Competing records on LGBT rights may well become the next issue to come under scrutiny as the Central Committee fills the vacancy this evening.

In 2008, almost all Montgomery County delegates received perfect ratings of 100 from Equality Maryland’s PAC. Taylor tied with Luiz Simmons, defeated in his 2014 bid for the Senate, for the lowest score in the House delegation at 60. Taylor stood out in the MoCo delegation one of only three delegates not to sponsor marriage equality. No votes were held on the issue, so sponsorship was a key signal of support.

Taylor again tied Simmons for the lowest score among Montgomery delegates in 2009. He was one of the few legislators in the County not to consponsor either marriage equality or the bill to add gender identity to existing state law prohibiting discrimination. Again, votes were not held, so sponsorship was a key signal of public support.

As anti-LGBT bills continue to surface in the General Assembly, I hope the Central Committee asks not just Herman Taylor but all of the candidates good questions on their views regarding protections for LGBT Marylanders.

Here are the complete 2008 and 2009 scorecards from Equality Maryland PAC: