Oprah Yes

By now, you’ve surely heard about Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes that has led to serious talk about Oprah making a bid for the White House. Take it seriously. A University of Maryland study concluded that Oprah’s 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama gained him more than 1 million votes in the Democratic primary.

I don’t know if Oprah should run for president. A true American success story, she has done so much in the private sector that it it would be a shame if she gave it up. Revealing incredible business acumen, she didn’t just become the most successful talk show host but the leader of a business empire.

As head of that empire, Oprah has been willing to use her power and influence for good in many ways. She has hired and promoted women, especially, minority women, to the top of her team. Smart business – why not grab talent others overlook – that helped create a new cohort of minority and female business leaders.

Oprah has also leveraged her wealth and power to present African-American women and stories in media from magazines to movies in a far more positive light. Most importantly, she does it in a way that is utterly normal and marketable, rather than forced tokenism. In other words, the way it should be.

At this point, there is a strong case to be made that the black community and America need more African-American business owners than more African-American politicians. Business brings money and influence – assets that make it far easier to exercise and to magnify political power.

The argument for Oprah for President is also clear. She is a great American communicator. Oprah has all the graciousness and dignity that Trump lacks. While Trump has empathy only for himself, Winfrey has deep compassion for others.

Trump slithers in the gutter appealing to dark impulses, but Oprah hearkens to the better angels of our nature. Trump excludes while Oprah includes. Even her strong advocacy for the “me too” movement and minority progress is inclusive and designed to raise people up rather than put others down.

Oprah grew up poor and created a business empire, while Trump inherited millions and prides himself on bilking people and treating others like garbage. Oprah has demonstrated an ability to delegate – she has to in such a large organization – even as she assimilates new information quickly.

Nevertheless, she lacks experience in politics and public policy. Obama had to pick up the economic and foreign policy wreckage of the Bush administration. The next president will face the arguably even greater challenge of restoring political norms and institutions as well as frayed foreign alliances.

We’ll see if Oprah chooses to take the plunge into politics. Her role as a powerful business leader, however, is not one to give up lightly and would be missed if she did.

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Campaign Finance Reports: Council At-Large, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Now to the swarming Council At-Large race, a fascinating contest with a cast of candidates exceeding the population of several small island nations.  In accordance with our prior post on the Executive candidates, let’s review our methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Many candidates, particularly in other races we will discuss, have been campaigning for more than a year and we want to capture that.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Total raised does not include in-kind contributions.  Third, for self-financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in cash on hand (which we call adjusted cash balance).  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

And now, on to the financial presentation.  (We hope this graphic can fit on your screen.)  Two candidates – Brandy Brooks and Darwin Romero – have not filed reports at this writing.

Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) is a big winner here with the largest cash on hand in the race.  He has used his unique perch as the House’s point man on liquor issues to raise large amounts of money, adding to a war chest he has been accumulating for twenty years.  But the last time Barkley had a competitive election, Facebook did not exist and black and white mailers were still in use.  This is a big field full of hungry candidates and Barkley needs to do more than raise alcohol money to win.

Council Member Hans Riemer, the only incumbent in the race, continues to excel.  He has the highest amount raised ($219,103) and a low burn rate of 11%.  Add to that his two terms in office, his experience running countywide, his history of influential endorsements and his campaign skills and he looks like a safe bet to return.

Bill Conway has gone from being Diana Conway’s husband to being perhaps the one non-incumbent candidate that his rivals say is most likely to win.  Conway’s total raise ($215,881) is almost equal to Riemer’s and he actually collected more than Riemer from individuals.  The difference is that he has spent a lot more than Riemer by employing a campaign manager from the early days of his candidacy.  But since that campaign manager is former Raskin field staffer Doug Wallick, that was a good decision.  Conway combines a MoCo-targeted message of education, transportation and jobs with a likable personality and a staggering ability to learn quickly.  So far, so good.

The Council At-Large candidates pose for their Class of ’18 picture.

Next come the others who have qualified for public financing, most of whom have done so recently.  Evan Glass ran strong in District 5 last time, knows the county well and has a lot of fans from his service on more advisory boards and task forces than your author can count.  Chris Wilhelm is a progressive teacher who should appeal to his union, the powerhouse MCEA.  Will Jawando is a skilled candidate who would be in the House of Delegates now if it weren’t for Jamie Raskin’s 2014 slate.  Gabe Albornoz combines several networks – party, Leggett supporters and folks who have known him from his day job at the Recreation Department – and is liked by basically everyone who meets him.  A group of nine candidates – Glass, Wilhelm, Jawando, Albornoz, Hoan Dang, Seth Grimes, Shruti Bhatnagar, Mohammed Siddique and Ashwani Jain – are basically clustered together financially.  Danielle Meitiv will be right there too because she is close to qualifying for matching funds.

And then there are the rest.  Look folks – it’s popular to say that there are more than 30 candidates in this race.  But in all truth, the number of viable candidates is at most half that number.  To everyone who filed an affidavit or is not close to qualifying for matching funds: it’s not gonna happen for you, OK?  You’re the gazelle trying to run with a pack of hungry cheetahs.  You need to show some game or don’t show up at candidate forums asking for your ninety seconds of speaking time along with the folks that are busting their rear ends and getting several hundred residents to contribute.

We have a lot of questions about this data, such as: who is giving money?  Which candidates are drawing support from specific parts of the county?  And why aren’t the female candidates doing better?  (Of the top twelve fundraising candidates, only one – Shruti Bhatnagar – is a woman.)  All of that analysis will have to wait as we are done for now.

Next: the district council candidates.

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Campaign Finance Reports: County Executive, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Christmas morning is over and your blogger is done opening the presents – errrrr, campaign finance reports.  Now we get to share them with you!  And we will start by breaking down the Montgomery County Executive race.

Before we start playing with the toys, let’s clear away the wrapping and discuss a few data issues.  Our numbers are different from what you will read in other outlets.  That’s because Seventh State readers are special and we are going to give you only the best!  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Many candidates, particularly in other races we will discuss, have been campaigning for more than a year and we want to capture that.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Total raised does not include in-kind contributions.  Third, for self-financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in cash on hand (which we call adjusted cash balance).  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

And now, we reveal the numbers you all have been craving: the first round of fundraising reports for the seven people running for County Executive.

This is exactly the kind of race Council Member Marc Elrich wants.  He is up against five other candidates, only one of whom has run countywide before, who are nothing like him and cannot steal votes from his progressive and anti-development base.  Better yet, because of public financing, he has the resources to be financially competitive.  (The thought of Elrich with money is almost as strange as the sight of Elrich wearing a suit and tie.)  Elrich has been building a grass roots base for thirty years and he will be able to combine it with substantial labor, progressive and environmental support.  This election is starting to turn into Elrich and a competition to become the non-Elrich alternative.

Council Member Roger Berliner has to feel good about his report.  He leads the field in total raised for the cycle and cash on hand, and also has the lowest burn rate.  Berliner can now start making the case to those who are not inclined to support Elrich that he is the most viable alternative to Elrich.  Doing that is essential for his path to victory.  (Disclosure: your author is a publicly-listed supporter of Berliner and has done work for him in the past.)

Businessman David Blair is sometimes compared to fellow businessman David Trone, but he is not using a Trone-like strategy.  When Trone entered the CD8 race last year, he staffed up rapidly and began spending millions on television within weeks.  Accordingly, some observers expected Blair to write himself a million dollar check, putting opponents on notice and perhaps intimidating one or two of them to withdraw.  But while Trone plays to win, Blair looks like he’s playing around.  He gave himself just enough money ($300,000) to equal the formerly penniless Elrich in cash on hand and trail Berliner.  As for private sector fundraising, Berliner has raked in almost three times as much as Blair.  Blair needs to sharpen his message, learn more about the county and show a hunger to win.

Council Member George Leventhal is plenty hungry.  He might be the hardest-working candidate in the race and he clearly believes he’s the best person for the job.  But Leventhal is killing his campaign with his sky-high burn rate (46%), which is more than double the burn rates of Elrich (19%) and Berliner (18%).  Like Berliner, Leventhal needs to show to non-Elrich folks that he is the most viable alternative to Elrich.  To do that, he needs to tighten up his spending and get some big endorsements – sooner rather than later.

Bill Frick, you know we love you.  We admire your heroism on the liquor monopoly and we appreciate all the great fodder you have given us over the years.  But you showed a cash balance of $150,753 – less than half what Berliner, Elrich and Blair reported.  Why are you doing this, Bill?  We want many more years of you in public office, so please take our advice: stay in the House and run to succeed Brian Frosh as Attorney General when the time comes.  We will help you do it!  We will even write dozens of blog posts just like this one.

Former Planning Department staffer and Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow is an appealing, substantive and competent candidate with fans in both the business and smart growth communities.  The fact that she is the only female candidate running against five men in a Democratic primary electorate that is almost 60% female is a big plus.  Her numbers are not in yet, but she told Bethesda Magazine that she had raised $39,800 from small contributions in the public financing system.  If that’s true, it means she is on pace to qualify for public matching funds much faster than either Elrich or Leventhal did.  Still, we don’t understand why she entered public financing.  It takes a long time to raise money that way and it prevents her from tapping into what could be substantial business support.  Even if she qualifies for matching funds, she could very well trail all the other Democrats in fundraising except maybe Frick.

Republican Robin Ficker appears roughly halfway to qualifying for public matching funds.  That means the county’s most infamous anti-tax activist could wind up campaigning on the public dole.  And all of you MoCo residents will be paying for that!

Next up: the council at-large candidates.

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SEIU Local 32BJ Endorses Ben Shnider

By Adam Pagnucco.

SEIU Local 32BJ, the mammoth building services union that is one of the biggest and most powerful locals in SEIU, has endorsed insurgent candidate Ben Shnider in his challenge to District 3 Council Member Sidney Katz.  Shnider has been working hard to topple Katz from the left but it’s an uphill challenge.  An endorsement of this kind grants legitimacy to Shnider and will help him draw more progressive support.  We will have a lot more to say about this race, but for now, we reprint the union’s press release below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Julie Karant: jkarant@seiu32bj.org

32BJ SEIU ENDORSES BEN SHNIDER’S BID TO UNSEAT MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL INCUMBENT, SIDNEY KATZ

Shnider’s Unwavering Support for Working Families Sharply Contrasts Katz’s Record of Opposing the $15 Minimum Wage

Washington, D.C. – Janitors and security officers from 32BJ of the Service Employees International (SEIU), today announced their endorsement of Ben Shnider’s campaign to replace Montgomery County Council District 3 incumbent, Sidney Katz.

“Sidney Katz originally voted against the $15 minimum wage which delayed the effort to raise the wages for struggling workers,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras. “Montgomery County deserves a reliable champion like Ben Shnider who will fight for working families not industry lobbyists.”

32BJ members will knock on doors and speak out within their communities towards the primary election scheduled for June 26th.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the backing of the incredible members of 32BJ. I’m running to ensure that every resident of Montgomery County can afford to live and thrive in this community that I love. I’m proud of the grassroots coalition we’re assembling to bring new leadership to District 3. I’ll work tirelessly on the County Council to provide the members of 32BJ — and all county residents — with the bold, progressive leadership they deserve,” said Shnider.

32BJ members are also inspired by Shnider’s leadership on immigrant rights and racial justice during his tenure with Bend the Arc.

With more than 163,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

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Chelsea No

Chelsea Manning has decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Hey, it’s a free country. We let Robin Ficker run for office, so why not Chelsea Manning? That doesn’t mean it’s not an easy lift for Democrats to  say hell no and renominate Sen. Ben Cardin.

Chelsea Manning is a traitor. While supporters view her actions of those of a whistleblower, she turned over hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. Since her release, Manning has taken responsibility for her actions:

In an interview broadcast on Friday morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, Manning said she had “accepted responsibility” for her actions.

“Anything I’ve done, it’s me,” she said. “There’s no one else. No one told me to do this. Nobody directed me to do this. This is me. It’s on me.”

Taking responsibility may not mean accepting that what she did was wrong. However, even if she views her actions as serving the larger good, accepting responsibility should mean that she accepts that she grossly violated her oath and the trust placed in her.

A major argument for Manning’s pardon was compassion over her mental state. While incarcerated at Leavenworth, she tried to commit suicide twice. Indeed, her deteriorated mental health was a key part of Manning’s defense at her trial. While lots of people have mental health issues and still serve valuable public roles, this seems a big step less than one year after her release from prison.

In her leaks, she chose to give the information to Julian Assange, someone who is not an American and with no affection, let alone loyalty, to this country. Or, as it turns out, to liberal democracy. While holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London resisting extradition on rape charges, Assange worked directly to undermine American democracy by working in service to Putin.

Manning’s campaign announcement seems especially ill-timed coming less than one week after Sen. Ben Cardin released a detailed report on Russia and Putin’s coordinated interference in our elections and actions that the U.S. needs to take to protect them from similar problems in 2018 and 2020.

While Manning has neither the experience nor the record to be a good senator, Ben Cardin has quietly worked hard for Maryland and the U.S. for decades. Cardin is not just knowledgeable but effective – a rare enough combination in public life. He has advocated for liberal causes since before Manning was born.

Manning refers to Maryland as her “home state” but she was born in Oklahoma and grew up there and Wales. She lived for 15 months with an aunt in Potomac. While military personnel often have short stays in a place for obvious reasons, even if she returned occasionally, one wonders how up she is on the state. Does she know, say, where Garrett and Somerset Counties are located?

Some make the case that Manning’s campaign will lead to debate over important questions. If anything, her record as a traitor will simply serve to undermine legitimate and important questions over Russian interference and American policy more generally.

Manning will undoubtedly attract lots of press coverage as a celebrity. Donald Trump did too. Perhaps it’s time we seek other qualities in our public officials than the ability to command media attention, especially when we have an outstanding public servant in Ben Cardin already in office.

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The Floreen Path to At-Large Success

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County’s At-Large County Council race may be the hardest contest in the county to predict.  That’s because it doesn’t necessarily involve candidates running against each other directly.  It operates more like a political market in which the four candidates who are able to sell their product to the most people win.  That’s why candidates who are completely different from each other – who are selling entirely different things – often finish in the top four together.  Viewed in this way, there are multiple paths to victory available in every at-large election.  One path worth examining for this year is the one taken by four-term incumbent Nancy Floreen.

Floreen, a former Planning Board Member and Mayor of Garrett Park, was first elected as part of Doug Duncan’s End Gridlock slate in 2002.  With four terms in office, she is by far the longest-serving female at-large Council Member since the council’s current structure was established in 1990.  She has enjoyed strong support from the business and real estate communities for her entire tenure in office and has also drawn some labor and progressive backing.  One union that has never endorsed her is MCEA – indeed, she is the only council candidate who has been elected four straight times without the Apple Ballot since MCEA began using it in the 1990s.  Floreen is not known for initiating progressive bills, but she has often voted for them, including the 2008 prevailing wage law, the 2013 and 2017 minimum wage hikes, the 2014 public campaign financing law and the 2015 paid sick leave law.  Despite her reputation for business-friendly positions, Floreen passed three major tax hikes during her two years as Council President and voted for others.  Progressives don’t give her enough credit for her willingness to support new revenue for government.  And so it’s fair to say that she has balanced between the left and the center during her four terms in office.

A Floreen mailer from her first campaign in 2002.  Note how she shows support from two very different County Executives.

The electoral trajectory of Council Member Marc Elrich, who went from losing four straight council races to finishing first at-large two cycles in a row, is well known.  Several candidates have tried to emulate his success over the years but none have matched it.  Floreen’s success is less recognized but still substantial.  Since 2002, she has finished third, fourth, third and second in the Democratic primaries in that order.  Since her first election, she has cut the vote gap between herself and the first-place finisher by more than half.  If she were not covered by term limits and chose to run for reelection, she would be the odds-on favorite to finish first in the next at-large race with Elrich running for Executive.

Below are Floreen’s ranks of finish in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 primaries by state legislative and council district.  Also displayed is her percentage of the vote in 2014.  She enjoyed significant gains in 2014, especially in Upcounty districts where she finished first or second.

Below is the same information displayed by city and town.  In 2014, Floreen became the top vote-getter in most Upcounty areas including Brookeville, Clarksburg, Damascus, Darnestown, Germantown, Laytonsville and Montgomery Village as well as Burtonsville, Gaithersburg, Sandy Spring and Wheaton.  Her vote percentages ranged from 18-22% with the exceptions of Dickerson, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park, areas with local favorites in the race.

Floreen combines schools and jobs in a 2014 mailer.

So what has Floreen been selling in the at-large political market?  She has run as a center-left, business-backed candidate emphasizing economic growth, job creation, schools and social liberalism.  She has also been aided by the fact that in three of her four terms, she was the only female at-large incumbent.  That combination allowed her to pick up lots of votes in relatively moderate Upcounty and Midcounty areas as well as from people who felt the council should have at least one woman who represented the whole county.  Not only has that been a successful strategy, it has been increasingly successful over time.  And it’s not just due to incumbency – during Floreen’s tenure in office, two of her at-large colleagues were defeated and another (George Leventhal) slid from finishing first in 2006 to fourth in the next two cycles.  By 2014, enough voters wanted to buy Floreen’s product that they elevated her above everyone else save Elrich.

There are echoes of Elrich all over the evolving at-large race.  Several candidates are advocating his positions in favor of raising the minimum wage, limiting the influence of corporate money, protecting renters and working to reduce income inequality.  But Floreen’s path to at-large success is a proven winner too.  Will anyone take it?

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Madaleno-Hettleman to Sponsor $15 Minimum Wage Legislation

Here is the press release from the Madaleno campaign:

ECHOING THE WORDS OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, MADALENO TO INTRODUCE $15 MINIMUM WAGE LEGISLATION

To quote Dr. King, ‘Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”

Annapolis, MD – Advocates, faith, labor and community leaders, social justice organizers, and elected officials gathered in Annapolis Monday in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth and spirit of social and economic justice by calling for enactment of legislation to increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour.  Senator Richard S. Madaleno, Jr. (D-18), who is also a Democratic candidate for governor, is the lead sponsor in the Maryland Senate.  Delegate Shelly Hettleman (D-11) is the lead sponsor in the Maryland House.

“Today we not only honor the spirit and legacy of Dr. King, but we heed his words by taking action to benefit those who perform the work that so few of us would choose to do, yet do the work that is indispensible to a functioning society,” said Senator Madaleno.  “Whether it be cleaning offices, serving food, or taking care of those who need assistance, there is dignity in all work, and we need to recognize and honor that dignity.”

The Madaleno-Hettleman legislation phases in a minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 1, 2023.  Once the minimum wage hits $15, the minimum wage may increase further since it is indexed to inflation.  Other important provisions in the bill include a phase-out of the “tipped credit”, an issue Sen. Madaleno has been working on for many years.  Eliminating the tipped credit is a significant step toward addressing the wage gap between men and women, particularly in the restaurant industry, an industry dominated by women.

Madaleno concluded, “In Dr. King’s acceptance speech upon being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he said, ‘Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”  Today surrounded by so many whom are living the words of Dr. King through their deeds, we ask that the General Assembly and Governor Hogan join us in supporting, passing and enacting a $15 minimum wage.  Because, to quote another Dr. King phrase, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’”

Rich Madaleno has served Montgomery County for 15 years in the Maryland General Assembly.  Rich has the distinction of being the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland House of Delegates and the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland State Senate. He is an expert on budget issues, serving as Vice-Chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee.  Additionally, Rich has been a leader in passing legislation on key progressive issues like marriage equality, ensuring funding for Planned Parenthood, investing in education, gender identity anti-discrimination, and protecting the environment.

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BY AUTHORITY: Marylanders for Rich Madaleno. Linda Eisenstadt, Treasurer.

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Polling the D18 Senate Race

The state senate primary is really heating up! A fellow District 18 resident reported to me that someone is out with a very lengthy poll for the state senate race. Dana Beyer mentioned to me just the other day that “I’m getting started this week, with my polling,” so I imagine it’s for her campaign.

The poll tested potential negatives that could be used against Beyer, including concerns about her being a millionaire and whether she is all about her own agenda while Jeff Waldstreicher has been getting the work done.

Neither candidate is impoverished and Jeff is a corporate attorney, so I’m not sure how or why Jeff would use Dana’s wealth against her. In any case, attacking your opponent based on their wealth seems ill-advised in a district dominated by affluent communities like Chevy Chase, Kensington and Silver Spring.

Similarly, though Jeff is a three-term incumbent and Dana has achieved name recognition through her past campaigns, I doubt the vast majority of primary voters have more than vague knowledge about the achievements or deficits of either. It’s not a knock against them but just the nature of Maryland state legislative races.

Testing the negatives might ironically give them more exposure than they would receive otherwise. The late Jonathan Shurberg, a good friend and political ally of Dana Beyer, made the same polling decision when he ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2014.

Dana Beyer’s willingness to drop a lot of money on a poll once again shows her serious determination to win this race. Having a good message is key to any race. At the same time, I believe that most campaigns would be well advised to focus more directly on voter contact. It’s even more critical and it doesn’t really take a poll to divine the major issues that concern Democrats these days.

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Vote Analysis on Sick Leave Override

As far as I can tell, the sick leave override was almost a complete party line vote in the House of Delegates. Dels. Eric Bromwell (D-8) and Ned Carey (D-31A) were the only Democrats who voted no. Interestingly, Del. C.T. Wilson (D-28) was recorded as absent but initially voted no according to a legislator on the floor.

The Senate was more suspenseful but it turned out that the Democrats had one vote to spare. Just three Democrats – Sens. Jim Brochin (D-42), Ed DeGrange (D-32) and Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) – voted with the governor. Brochin and Klausmeier represent Baltimore County while DeGrange hails from Anne Arundel.

This year, Brochin is running for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County Executive. Klausmeier is locked in a fierce reelection battle against Del. Christian Miele in her Baltimore County district. It voted for Hogan by 36 points but for Trump by less than 1. Bromwell represents the same turf.

In Anne Arundel, DeGrange has already announced his retirement from the Senate. His district went for Hogan by 17 but for Clinton by 12. Del. Pam Beidle, who is running for the Senate vacancy, voted to override Hogan’s veto in the House. Carey represents a more Republican leaning slice of Anne Arundel that went for Hogan by 30 points but gave Trump just 4% more than Clinton.

Wilson represents increasingly safe Democratic turf in Charles County – it went for Brown by 4 and Clinton beat Trump by 23 – so his flirtation with voting no would not have been due to reelection concerns. All other legislators from his district voted to override.

Despite the few defections by Democrats in both houses, party trumped any fear of Hogan. Increasingly, Democrats are betting that the political landscape in their district will resemble 2016 more than 2014. Even though Hogan will undoubtedly do better than Trump, his ability to pressure Democrats into agreement appears limited.

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