In Lane 2: The Wealthy Businessman

David Blair has more or less been running for county executive since he had a heartbreakingly close 80 vote loss to then-Councilmember Marc Elrich in the 2018 Democratic primary. It’s safe to say that no one will mistake the politics of one for the other.

The most promising issue for Blair—and one that leans into his business experience—is Montgomery’s record in attracting business and jobs. Not only is it substantive issue and a genuine problem, it is also one his opponents have left wide open. Far too often, county government treats real estate development as the one and only issue. The County Council focuses heavily on zoning and various ways to spur development but gives seemingly short shrift to the rest.

But residential development doesn’t do much to grow the tax base. Residents are expensive, especially if they have children who use the public schools. If they do, chances are that they receive more in spending than they pay in taxes towards the one-half of the county budget dedicated to the Montgomery County Public Schools.

Montgomery has always provided its residents an impressive array of services beyond the schools. Unlike in some jurisdictions with comparable tax rates, you can look around and see a fair amount being provided for your money. But if we want to continue to grow the tax base to maintain it, we need more non-development business. That gives Blair both a subject that he can claim as his as well as a message.

Blair, however, is not running as an anti-tax candidate. Like the County Executive and the County Council, he strongly supported Question A in 2020, which will have the effect of raising property taxes higher than would have been possible in the past.

Instead, Blair promises to bring the executive leadership that made him so successful in business to Montgomery County government. While many would argue that shaking up the tree might well be a good thing, government is very different from business. As Truman once said regarding his successor: “He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army.” Does Blair know how to operate the levers of government?

At times, Blair has sent mixed or unconvincing messages on that question and what he thinks. For example, he recently set himself apart by coming out in favor of ending Montgomery County’s antiquated liquor monopoly. But this is after previously hiring Robert Dorfman—the former head of the then-Department of Liquor Control—as his campaign manager. Dorfman is no longer with the Blair campaign.

Moreover, how does Blair plan to get either the county council or state legislative delegation to vote for his plan? Egged on by MCGEO, both have been adamantly opposed to dismantling the monopoly. He’ll have to do a lot of persuading to make it happen.

Blair’s Economic Development Plan is a grab bag. Some appear to be more wish list items than plans, such as “Attract Venture Capital Funding” and “Attracting Hospitality Tech Companies.” Others sound like old ideas repackaged, such as creating a “microincubator program” for life sciences.

I like his idea of cutting barriers to doing business but more specifics would help. His plan states that businesses should not be “bogged down by strict regulations, cost-prohibitive processes and unsatisfactory customer service.” Great, but concrete examples are badly needed to make it meaningful instead of a campaign slogan like his catchily named “Montgomery County Business Bill of Rights.”

People voted for Elrich and Blair last time in a rejection of the status quo.. Blair needs to show that he knows the real nuts and bolts of creating change even as he identifies with the problems faced by ordinary businessmen and residents. And show that it isn’t just a redux of focusing on development interests yet again.

Blair’s huge advantage, of course, will be his cavernously deep pockets. I imagine that, as in 2018, he will spend incredible sums to dominate the airwaves, internet ads and any other form of communication. He’ll also be able to pay an army of campaign advisors and workers. It worked for Reps. David Trone (who used his resources very skillfully) and John Delaney, so I don’t see why it couldn’t work for him.

No doubt his business record will come under close scrutiny. Many will also ask “If he wasn’t so wealthy, would anyone be interested in what he had to say?”

Even if the answer is no, opponents would do well to remember that Americans, including poor ones, tend to admire successful businessmen and women. We don’t hate them; we want to be them. After all, it’s the American Dream.


CSG Snaps Back

The Coalition for Smarter Growth seems to think I was wrong to expose their and Jane Lyons’s ethical violations and put out a statement to that effect.

Before they get to attacking me for exposing their dirty laundry, the executive director says he takes “full responsibility” and says that they “have implemented an improved tracking system to ensure such an oversight does not happen again.” It’s great that he takes full responsibility, though it’s unclear that this has resulted in any consequences for him or Jane Lyons.

Nonetheless, they quickly move from taking “full responsibility” to attacking the messenger:

Mr. Lublin’s two posts impugn the reputation of a young and extremely accomplished person — a 2019 graduate of the University of Maryland who has demonstrated utmost integrity in advocating for policies which she and the Coalition for Smarter Growth believe to be important for our collective future.

We believe Mr. Lublin’s attack on Ms. Lyons is driven primarily by his policy disagreements with CSG. Of greatest concern to us is that Mr. Lublin has ignited a round of online harassment and intimidation on Twitter, Facebook, and NextDoor that is is all too common today, as he must certainly be aware.

I don’t see how not registering as a lobbyist in a timely manner demonstrates “utmost integrity” in lobbying. I mentioned Ms. Lyons’s credentials and accomplishments in my post yesterday. It doesn’t explain why she didn’t register or why CSG failed to make sure she did. College educations make people better able to navigate bureaucracy. One reason education is the demographic that best predicts voting is that it gives you the skills to navigate the barriers to getting on the rolls.

In terms of my views, I agree with CSG on some issues and disagree on others. If you summed up my perspective, it would probably be that I agree with the broad thrust of where they want to go but think they are sometimes are overzealous. In any case, it’s a strange and new notion that people can only point out failings on the part on people with whom they agree all of the time.

It’s certainly not an approach that CSG and their allies have taken in their own attacks and would seemingly have prevented them from issuing their own “personal attack” to discredit me. Recently, CSG attacked both an individual homeowner as a hypocrite and anti-Thrive 2050 protestors generally in a press release. And they and their friends haven’t shied away from attacking the ethics of their opponents.

One area I do very much agree with CSG is the lamentable state of social media. That’s why (unlike CSG) I stopped putting out blog posts on Twitter and Facebook. (I’m sufficiently a philistine that I had to look up NextDoor after reading their statement.) While some people manage the rare feat of holding thoughtful discussions, social media promotes incredible negativity and piling on.

Again, I have never seen CSG object when their supporters engage in this behavior and attack people who disagree with them. Today, in fact, CSG Executive Director Stewart Schwartz liked a tweet by former Councilmember George Leventhal (a guy not exactly known for being unwilling to attack people) suggesting that I’m a misogynist. I haven’t seen the harassment of Lyons mentioned here but I hope it is no worse than served to me on occasion. “Politics ain’t beanbag” so I’m not surprised people are unhappy with me on occasion even if, like CSG and Lyons, I might wish they were kinder about it.

I received a polite email from a friend of Lyons telling me that they have found her an ethical and thoughtful person. I don’t know Lyons but I am not surprised that people find her this way. Effective advocates usually are personable and, while CSG and Lyons have their perspective on the issues, they are certainly informed and knowledgeable–as are their opponents. But she and CSG should have been on top of these problems. I’m glad they’ve taken the time to address them.

CSG is an influential, effective organization with tight links over at the Planning Board and the County Council as well with business interests. Indeed, Councilmember Hans Riemer complimented Jane Lyons for “chairing” the discussion on Thrive 2050. Clearly, I’ve stepped on some powerful and influential toes.


Coalition for Smarter Growth Lobbyist Didn’t Register with State

Coalition for Smarter Growth Lobbyist Jane Lyons did not register with the State of Maryland despite having testified before the Montgomery County delegation on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth in December 2020. Lyons is the paid Maryland Advocacy Manager of the Coalition, so she is required to register under the law. Paid lobbyists must register unless they earn under the $2500 minimum compensation for related activities.

This new violation of state lobbyist law follows on last week’s report that Lyons failed twice to register as a lobbyist with Montgomery County. She did this despite knowing about the county legal requirement since she had registered previously.

This repeated failure to comply with lobbying laws contrasts with CSG’s touting that Lyons’s experience “spans multiple levels of government” including the “Maryland General Assembly” and a “fellowship at the Montgomery County Council.” Lyons has an BA and Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Should Montgomery Adopt a Vaccine Passport?

It’s not news that masking and vaccines inspire a lot of passion. At a public hearing on a proposed vaccine passport for Montgomery County, Bethany Mandel focused mainly on the politics instead of the facts. This ardent anti-masker and anti-vaccine passport activist bluntly threatened the political futures of county councilmembers who support it.

While Mandel has a legion of over 95,000 Twitter followers, it’s hard to take her threats seriously because of very high vaccination rates in Montgomery—higher than any other large county in the country—and because one suspects that people who agree with her are more likely to vote in the locally unimportant Republican primary.

Yet the County Council appears ready to go along with her, at least for now, by postponing any decision on a vaccine passport today. Instead, they will lengthen the mask mandate through the end of February. County Executive Marc Elrich has been an advocate of both masking and the vaccine passport.

The County Council will focus on the short term today, but we need to think seriously about where we go from here. As the Omicron wave begins to wind down, no one thinks COVID-19 is over.

My preference is that Maryland create a vaccine passport but allow each county to determine how their use. Some can ignore them entirely. Others can make them required for entry to various public places. A lack in uniformity is not ideal from a health point of view but it will allow our geographically large counties to pick the policy that fits them. Montgomery can go it alone if Maryland doesn’t act.

In an age where politics is increasingly divided on geographic lines, it shows respect for local preference. While Mandel obviously feels otherwise, many in Montgomery would welcome passport requirements to enter places like restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters both to reduce spread and to pressure their neighbors to get the shot.

Mandatory masking should be wound down. Weariness weighed against the reduced dangers of COVID-19 for the fully vaccinated increasingly recommends this approach. Of course, individuals should still be free to wear them. Stores should also be able to mandate them if they prefer to protect employees or to match customer preference. Rapid and PCR tests should continue to be made widely available to catch infections early both for treatment and to prevent spread.

Unfortunately, we live in an age in which each side deems winning to be of maximal importance and sees little room for compromise or that people can disagree on aspects of this. No, I’m not saying that there is reasonable debate about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines—the evidence for that is overwhelming and it’s benighted to believe otherwise. But that still leaves a lot of room for debate about how to best manage the virus at this point.

Like you, I’ll continue to follow what is happening, what others are saying and new information. But we need to start thinking about the long-term future with COVID as well as managing today.


Planning Board Abuses its Consent Agenda

Increased attention is being paid to how the U.S. Supreme Court uses its shadow docket to make decisions without public argument. One Montgomery County equivalent is how the Planning Board uses its consent agenda to evade public hearing requirements in apparent violation of the Code.

The Montgomery County Zoning Code requires public notice along with “the same hearing procedures” as for the original site plan when there is a major amendment to a site plan. The code defines a “major amendment” as “any request to increase density or height; change a use; decrease open space; deviate from a binding element or a condition of approval; or alter a basic element of the plan.” (See Section 7.3.4. “J. Amendments.”)

Under the leadership of Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, the Montgomery County Planning Board has been declaring changes that appear to fit the legal definition of “major amendment” as minor amendments and then approving them on its consent agenda, which excludes opportunities for public comment. Unless an especially perspicacious and tenacious resident requests its move to the regular agenda, the amendment will almost certainly sail through with the blessing of the Planning Staff as a “minor change.”

The resulting Planning Board resolutions approving the amendments nonetheless often falsely state that they did hold a public hearing despite having been dealt with on the consent agenda. These resolutions all had to go through the M-NCPPC Legal Department and were signed by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson.

I imagine that these matters were placed on the consent agenda to keep the process moving or to ease the passage of potentially controversial items favored by the developer. But these goals don’t allow the Planning Board to evade the commands of the Zoning Code.

If these items are truly not controversial or on the border between minor and major amendments, why not just place them on the regular agenda? If no one shows up to testify, the Planning Board can move through just as speedily. And why lie about holding public hearings in the resolution if they aren’t legally required?

Where is this Happening?

Examples of affected site plans placed on the consent agenda despite involving changes that seemingly “deviate from a binding element or a condition of approval” or “conditions of use” or alter building footprints in a way that impact open spaces as well as density have occurred all over Montgomery.

Montgomery Village Center

Request to modify condition no. 4 to reflect the revised/approved stormwater management concept; reduce building footprint for the main retail building; minor modifications to the three retail pad sites; shared-use path will be revised to avoid existing streetlights; and slight modification of the property lines for the condos. (Plan Amendment #82018002A, April 25, 2019 Consent Agenda.)

Randolph Farms

Request to move MPDU designation from Lot 109 to Lot 46; revise Lot 109 from 16′ to 20′ wide; revise Lots 45-47 from 4/3-story units, to 3-story units and remove retaining walls/stairs in front of units; revisions to the central recreation area; and other minor alterations. (Plan Amendment #82017002A, October 3, 2019 Consent Agenda.)

Chevy Chase Lake Block B

Request to reduce required onsite parking, eliminate garage access on Chevy Chase Lake Terrace, revise the Manor Rd./Connecticut Ave. intersection improvements, make changes to the secondary driveway at the Manor Rd. intersection, modify bio-retention planters, relocate transformers, and make associated modification to the site design of sidewalks, landscaping and lighting. (Plan Amendment #82016019B, October 10, 2019 Consent Agenda.)

850 Sligo Avenue

Request to remove the age-restricted use from the multifamily portion of the project. (Plan Amendment #82019005A, October 10, 2019 Consent Agenda.)

Dowden Station

Amendment to delay the construction trigger from the 14th to the 31st building permit for the multi-age playground area located in the northern portion of the property. (Plan Amendment #82016006C, April 30, 2020 Consent Agenda.)

Fairchild Apartments

Request to modify the approved setbacks as well as the location of outdoor grills. (Plan Amendment #82018022B, December 17, 2020 Consent Agenda.)

Poplar Grove

Amend condition 15 to clarify that rough grading, stockpiling, sediment and erosion control, re-grading for stockpiling and interim uses are allowed without amending the Site Plan or entering into a Surety and Maintenance Agreement for the Site Plan. (Plan Amendment #82019006A, January 21, 2021 Consent Agenda.)

Mt. Prospect (Hanson Farm)

Request to modify conditions for development triggers and modifications conditions requested regarding stormwater, landscaping, recreation area, lighting, limits of disturbance, and forest conservation. (Plan Amendment #82017016B, January 27, 2022 Consent Agenda.)

Resolutions Incorrectly Stating Public Hearings were Held

These Planning Board resolutions giving approval appear for requested changes appear to state falsely that public hearings were held:

Chevy Chase Lake Block B

WHEREAS, on October 10, 2019, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the Application at which it heard testimony and received evidence submitted for the record on the Application.

850 Sligo Avenue

WHEREAS, on October 10, 2019, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the Application at which it heard testimony and received evidence submitted for the record on the Application.

Fairchild Apartments

WHEREAS, on December 17, 2020, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the Application at which it received evidence submitted for the record on the Application.

Poplar Grove

WHEREAS, on January 21, 2021, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the Application, and at the hearing at the Planning Board heard testimony and received evidence submitted for the record on the Application.


Coalition for Smarter Growth Lobbyist Didn’t Comply with County Ethics Law

Lobbying laws? What lobbying laws?

Jane Lyons, a lobbyist for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, failed to register as a lobbyist during 2020 despite conducting paid lobbying activities on behalf of the organization.

The evidence appears on the Montgomery County Ethics Commission website. Timestamps on the reports reveal that they were not submitted until the end of July 2021, well after the filing deadline.

Jan 1-June 30, 2020 Report Timestamp
July 1-Dec 30, 2020 Report Timestamp

But she need not worry. It turns out that Montgomery County’s lobbying laws have no teeth. According to Robert Cobb, Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the County Ethics Commission, there is no real penalty for failing to register or to report earnings:

Typically, we will have no idea if a registration is made late because we normally do not have insight as to when (or even if) the criteria for registration has been met. If someone registers for a prior year, that is likely to suggest non-compliance with the lobbying requirements. We have not sought to penalize entities when they subsequently register after having been notified by the Commission of registration requirements.  We have emphasized obtaining compliance.

Cobb goes on to explain why they do not enforce penalties:

[A] program of aggressive seeking of penalties for non-compliance would affect the non-profit communities the most.  Non-profit enterprises occasionally engage in lobbying activity and trip the registration requirements without registering.  This may be a consequence of inadvertence or lack of sophistication in meeting regulatory requirements.  Nonetheless, we have again focused on obtaining compliance rather than instituting punitive measures.

Except that Lyons cannot plead ignorance of the law because she had filed reports in 2019 when she had also acted as a paid lobbyist.

From the way Cobb tells it, lobbyists have little to fear:

In theory there could be a situation where an entity repeatedly fails to register and is intransigent towards efforts to obtain compliance that Commission staff or the Ethics Commission itself believes warrants further action including imposition of a penalty.  This would require compelling evidence of noncompliance and persistent reluctance to register.

In other words, the Commission doesn’t even engage in public sanction for failure to comply, let alone impose a meaningful monetary penalty. If lobbyists like Lyons who clearly know better can avoid even the slightest sanction by filing whenever, it is hard to see how public interest in knowing who is being paid to lobby in a timely fashion is being served.

Ethics, schmethics.


MD State Redistricting: Where Will Be Over or Underrepresented?

Data calculated by author.

The General Assembly is moving forward with the redistricting plan recommended by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission.

Redistricting in America emphasizes population equality very heavily. Congressional plans have been overturned by federal courts for unjustified deviations from population equality of as little of 20 people. Many states adopt plans in which the most populous district has only one more person than the least populous district to insulate them from challenges on these grounds.

The federal courts have usually given state legislative plans more wiggle room, though they have not always deferred to jurisdictions that meet a standard of having deviations less than 5 percent above or below the ideal population, or 10 percent total.

The Maryland plan meets the 10 percent standard but the cumulative impact of variations in legislative district size across multiple districts within some jurisdictions may raise eyebrows. Some counties are noticeably over or underrepresented compared to others.

The table at the top of this post shows the legislative district (LD) entitlement of various jurisdictions based on population. Each LD elects one senator and three delegates with some divided into two or three subdistricts for purposes of delegate elections.

The table further reveals the how many LDs were allocated to jurisdictions along with the difference from their entitlement based on population. The final column shows the same information in terms of the number of delegates, which is just three times larger than for the entire LD. Where a proposed subdistrict or district spans a county line, I allotted the representation from the district based on population.

Most areas are quite close to their population entitlement, but a few areas stand out as winners and losers. Together Baltimore City and County have nearly an entire delegate more than they are entitled to based on population. Baltimore City has 55% of a delegate more than entitled to based on population while neighboring Baltimore County has 44% more.

Meanwhile, Prince George’s has 70% less of a delegate than it merits based on population. Prince George’s together with the three southern Maryland counties of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s together merit an additional delegate based on population. The Eastern Shore as a whole is also down 28% of a delegate.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that House Speaker Adrienne Jones lives in Baltimore County and the Senate President Bill Ferguson lives in Baltimore City. It is also part of a history of Democrats trying to protect Baltimore City from its long-term population decline.

The City of Baltimore had 11 LDs in 1974 but will be down to 4 2/3 if this plan goes into effect for 2022. Past efforts to preserve City influence by extending existing City districts into Baltimore County led to the Maryland Court of Appeals overturning the 2001 map for General Assembly districts.


Planning Board Violated Open Meetings Act

Like many institutions, the Montgomery County Planning Board has taken to holding meetings online during the pandemic. Incredibly, they chose not to give public notice about how members of the public could attend the meeting online.

Del. Al Carr (D-18) filed a complaint on November 1 alleging that the Development Review Committee (DRC) of the Montgomery County Planning Board repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to provide the public this information.

Unbelievably, the Planning Board Counsel, overseen by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, defended this decision as acceptable because there was no physical location for the meetings:

Since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DRC meetings have been held via Microsoft Teams. Someone wishing to join the Teams meeting would call the Information Counter (number provided on the website) and request to be added to the Teams meeting. There was no in-person option so no “location” was required.

The Open Meetings Compliance Board did not agree:

We believe the DRC construes the Act’s notice requirement too narrowly. The purpose of § 3-302(b)(2) is to ensure that members of the public who would like to attend a public body’s meeting have enough information to be able to do so.

An individual cannot attend a meeting without knowing where the meeting will take place. And while a virtual meeting may not happen in a physical location in the traditional sense, a person hoping to attend the meeting must still know where to go to observe the public body’s business. . .

The notices further indicated that “project applicants and their team” would receive information about “how to participate in the DRC meeting[s]” remotely. But the notices gave no indication of how an interested member of the public could obtain access information for the meeting. In its response, the DRC asserts that “[s]omeone wishing to join [a] Teams meeting would call the Information Counter” and “request to be added to the Teams meeting.” But the DRC fails to explain how an individual interested in attending such a meeting would even know to call “the Information Counter” or where to find that number, as such details are missing from the meeting notices.

Notice that the Board not only called out the Planning Board for failing to provide the information but also for their disingenuous claim that members of the public would somehow magically know to call the Information Center to be added to the meeting.

As with M-NCPPC’s complete ignoring of lobbying disclosure requirements and failure to address this ongoing violation despite their assurances, the Planning Board’s failure shows contempt for ethics laws and the public that they are supposed to serve.

In this case, the Planning Board finally altered its behavior in response to Del. Carr’s complaint But it should not take action by a member of the General Assembly for the Montgomery County Planning Board and M-NCPPC to comply with ethics laws.

And why didn’t the County Council, which has responsibility for appointing and overseeing the Planning Board, take action? Or do they condone this illegal nexus between the Board and the interests that they are supposed to regulate.


Executive Race Lane 1: The Incumbent

Marc Elrich drove the other members of the Montgomery County Council a bit nuts by winning the Democratic Primary in 2018. It was an unpleasant surprise for them that primary voters opted for him despite their frequent rejection of his ideas as either too progressive or anti-business. One of his Democratic colleagues, Nancy Floreen, even went so far as to leave the party so she could challenge him unsuccessfully in the general election. Hans Riemer, also an at-large member, had to think hard before endorsing him.

When asked about his greatest challenges as prime minister, Harold Macmillan famously replied “Events, my dear boy, events.” So it has been for County Executive Marc Elrich, who no doubt had intended to concentrate his term on pushing forward with vision for a more effective, progressive county but instead faced the major health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis has provided opportunities and pitfalls for Elrich. Montgomery has the highest rate of vaccination of any county in the nation of its size and has done an especially impressive job of vaccinating Black and Hispanic residents compared to other jurisdictions. However, Elrich has also had to make tough choices regarding school closings, masking, dining, and vaccination requirements that were virtually guaranteed to anger large constituencies no matter the decision.

But he has made them and it’s hard to argue that the county has fared badly or that he strayed from science in the process. Council opponents have snapped at his heels all the way, but I don’t know it has had much public impact. The Council has trouble gaining attention even at the most placid of times.

Elrich was most vociferously attacked for not having imposed vaccine requirements on the police. But in a time of rising crime did we want to potentially find ourselves without substantial numbers of officers and further alienate the police—the group of county employees with the highest non-vaccination rate? While many said “damn the torpedoes,” it is easy to bet that the same people would rush to the front of the line to attack Elrich for any increase in crime that resulted.

To my mind, Elrich faces two challenges as he seeks reelection. First, he needs to communicate clearly what he has done. Elrich explains things well and laudably avoids jargon in the process—one reason residents find him accessible—but is not known for being succinct. He needs to sell a short list of top accomplishments concisely.

Beyond arguing that he’s kept the county safe during the pandemic, Elrich can argue that he got the new FLASH new bus-rapid transit line built with more to come. Elrich also needs to articulate how his administration has worked successfully to protect struggling Montgomeryites throughout the pandemic despite opposition. Everyone likes someone who stands up for the underdog.

This last point will help Elrich with his second challenge: keeping movement progressives on side and active. In both parties today, many expect politicians to work miracles and are ready to attack anyone who hasn’t accomplished them even amidst a world roiling pandemic and absent legislative support. While Elrich’s alliance with labor should hold firm, will progressives be as active for him in 2022 as in 2018?

His opponents may unwittingly help him out there by continuing to caricature him as a throwback Marxist who can’t manage money. And yet, pensions are funded. The county retains its AAA bond rating. Attacks by financial scolds rely more on stereotypes than balance sheets. County finances are in better shape as they have been in recent memory despite the wrenching economic ups and downs of the pandemic.


Grosfeld endorses Socol

Most Maryland Senate incumbents face their fiercest challenges from sitting delegates. They usually represent exactly the same people, which leads to many senators casting a wary eye on their partners in the House who can be opponents or slate mates.

Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18) appears to be facing a strong challenge from newcomer Max Socol. Yesterday, Sharon Grosfeld, who represented the same district previously for two terms in the House and another in the Senate, endorsed Socol:

Since hearing in depth about Max’s values, exemplified by his unwavering support for a woman’s right to choose, equal rights for LGBTQ+, advocacy on behalf of tenants rights and protecting the environment, coupled with his leadership positions fighting for racial justice, including criminal justice reform, it is my great privilege to officially endorse Max in his campaign to be the next District 18 state senator.”

Grosfeld was known as a staunch, liberal advocate, particularly on women’s issues. Her endorsement plays to Socol’s theme that Waldstreicher isn’t really a leader on progressive issues like his recent predecessors, Sens. Van Hollen, Grosfeld and Madaleno.

Still, it has been 20 years since Grosfeld last won an election in District 18. At this point, the prime endorsements that can move voters are those of Sen. Chris Van Hollen or Rep. Jamie Raskin. It will be interesting to see if they get involved in the D18 primary this year.

The real question is whether they endorse Waldstreicher or decide to give the race a pass. The incumbent would benefit greatly from their support–both are extremely well-liked in this district—and I imagine he will do his formidable best to secure them. But I don’t really see any benefit to them from it, as it seems more likely to divide or to alienate a bunch of existing supporters rather than gain new ones.