By Adam Pagnucco.
Danielle Meitiv, Silver Spring
Danielle Meitiv is from Queens. You can hear it in her voice. But she is also quintessentially MoCo. Our county is full of people who moved here from somewhere else and are principally concerned with national or international issues. Some keep up with local issues and vote regularly, but many others have little idea who their state or county elected officials are. Meitiv was once in the former group. But then she had a Great Awakening.
We are of course referring to Meitiv’s international fame as the Free Range Mom, during which she battled – and defeated – MoCo’s Child Protective Services (CPS). Nearly everyone in the county has heard the story of how CPS detained Meitiv’s children for walking alone in public and how her family fought back. For Meitiv, the incident drove home the importance of local government and the unequal resources possessed by residents who have to deal with its bad side. It left a permanent mark on a person who was once little different from so many other MoCo voters.
In many ways, Meitiv is a conventional county liberal. The issues she brings up – BRT, walkable neighborhoods, the Purple Line, civil rights, climate change – are mostly the same as the other at-large candidates. But Meitiv adds something else: her calls for greater transparency and responsiveness by county government based on her own searing experience with CPS. Few voters have gone through what she did, but virtually everyone has a story to tell of unresponsive bureaucracy and/or unresponsive elected officials. That plus Meitiv’s appealing combination of passion and intelligence make her relatable and brings potential to her run for office.
Chris Wilhelm, Chevy Chase
MoCo has a reputation as the most progressive county in Maryland. But Chris Wilhelm doesn’t think we are progressive enough. He writes on his website, “Yes, the biggest threat to our progressive priorities is coming from the current occupant of the White House and Republicans in Congress. But too many leaders in our County and Party act in ways that go against the progressive agenda that residents are demanding.”
Wilhelm sees many local issues as reflections of national issues. Senator Bernie Sanders, whom Wilhelm admires, made free college a key element of his platform. Wilhelm thinks the state and the county should do everything they can to make Montgomery College free for county residents. After all, if deep-red Garrett County is doing it, why can’t we? He supports Roger Berliner’s fossil fuel divestment bill because he sees it as a way for MoCo to contribute to a nationwide movement towards clean energy. He deplores corporate welfare for big companies and favors local support for small businesses both across the country and here at home. And his demand that all county candidates enroll in public financing is rooted in a belief that corporate campaign money is a problem both nationally and locally.
Wilhelm has two advantages over his competitors. First, he is an ESOL teacher in MCPS. He can speak in very detailed, compelling terms about the school system – always a huge issue in local races – and the things it can do to improve. Second, he has more campaign experience than most of his rivals, having worked in the field for Barack Obama (2008) and David Moon (2014). The principles of how to run an effective campaign are not new to him.
Chris Wilhelm is clearly positioning himself in the most liberal part of the field. If you want a serious, thoughtful progressive who will help move the council to the left, you should give him a close look.
We will conclude in Part Four.