Moms Demand Action

Editor’s Note: Aimee Olivo of Cheverly wrote this guest post on Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Good news: you don’t have to be a Mom to support this terrific organization.

How does a trickle become a stream? A cry become a rally? A mom become a movement?

When enough gather with one voice to demand action.

And that’s what’s happening in Maryland and across the nation through Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

I’m so grateful to be part of this group working to save lives across our country and invite you to join us.

Like so many others, I was devastated by Newtown. I was outraged by Trayvon Martin. But if I’m honest with myself, I was content to simply be, as my friend Jennifer says, a “clicktivist” on common sense gun reform. I shared my outrage and devastation about those events and so many others that happen every day across our country via Facebook links, likes and comments. I cheered when the Maryland General Assembly passed the Maryland Firearm Safety Act of 2013, but I didn’t really do anything more.

But at my first Maryland Moms Demand Action event, I learned that there are a lot of moms and dads and folks who aren’t parents who care deeply enough about this issue to invest a great deal of time and effort in it.

And that is pretty inspiring.

Since its founding as a simple Facebook page the day after Newtown, Moms Demand Action has become a powerful, nonpartisan grassroots movement with a chapter in every state across the country. Recently joining forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, this group is now the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country with more than 1.5 million grassroots supporters.

The goals really are, in my opinion, common sense solutions that support the 2nd Amendment and sensible laws that will protect our families and communities. This movement of mothers will no longer be silent as Congress, companies and colleges turn their back on sensible gun laws and policies. We are organizing to effectively lobby and apply pressure that will result in stronger, sensible gun laws and policies that will protect our children and families. As we grow, the message becomes even louder and more clear.

Maryland members of Moms Demand Action were instrumental in pushing the General Assembly to pass the Firearm Safety Act. But, the fight is far from over. The gun lobby is hard at work trying to erase these common sense reforms. (Just take a look at this questionnaire.)

So visit the site: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Like” the Moms Demand Action – MD Facebook page. Make a donation to support this important work. Come to a local event. And then talk to your friends and encourage them to do the same.

Because it’s time for gun sense in America.

Aimee lives in Cheverly, MD, with her husband and two sons.

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D18 NARAL Endorsement Controversy

NARAL_logo
Natali Fani-Gonzalez, one of the challengers to the three incumbent delegates in District 18, was naturally thrilled to receive the following email from Maida Schifter’s email account with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland on April 4th:

Dear Natali,

I would like to congratulate you on earning NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC endorsement.  We are excited about your candidacy and look forward to working with you as we advance the agenda for reproductive rights in Maryland.

We will be issuing a press release and posting to social media about our endorsement on or about April 14 and at that time will also make available an NCPM ENDORSED logo for your use.  Our staff will be happy to answer any questions you or your campaign may have.

Thank you for your service.

Warmest regards,
Edward Terry
PAC Chair

Endorsements like these serve a number of valuable purposes. In strongly pro-choice districts like D18, it serves as an excellent imprimatur that the candidate is “right” on a set of issues important to voters. They are especially valuable for challengers as they further attest to the seriousness and often viability of a campaign–great for helping to attract additional support.

However, it apparently was not meant to be. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC Chair Edward Terry called to say that the letter had been mistakenly sent out by an intern. Here is Natali Fani-Gonzalez’s email response to that phone call which she sent yesterday on April 9th:

Hi Maida –
I have just received a phone call (8:24 pm) from your NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC Chair Edward Terry.  He stated that you are an intern at NARAL Pro-Choice and that you mistakenly sent me an endorsement letter five days ago (your email below) on behalf of your organization. Moreover, I received a phone call from NARAL a few days before your endorsement announcement to further inquire about my answer with regards to the taboo of reproductive-rights within the Latino community. During the call, I was also informed that my answers to the questionnaire were great.Excited about the news, I announced your endorsement via Twitter and received lots of great feedback.However, Mr. Terry’s story is flawed:

2. I know that incumbents in D18 were disconcerted with the endorsement.
3. I know that a “serious organization” such as NARAL will never allow interns to distribute sensitive information such as political endorsements.

Over the past decade, I have been part of numerous Boards, including Goucher College, Emerge Maryland, the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice, to name a few.Therefore, I would appreciate if you do not insult my intelligence with such frivolous rationalization.
The true story: you decided to take back my endorsement under external forces’ pressure.

Respectfully,
Natali Fani-Gonzalez

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District 16 Delegate Poll

District 16

A few days ago,  a one of three Democratic primary voter reached out to me to with some mildly interesting news: they had received a live telephone survey testing positive and negative messages regarding Jordan Cooper’s candidacy in the District 16 delegate race.

My educated guess would be that the poll is from Jordan Cooper’s campaign since any other candidate polling would not have focused on him, or at least also asked questions about Marc Korman, Hrant Jamgochian, Ariana Kelly and Bill Frick.

Except that Jordan Cooper says he did not do the poll. At any rate, it should make him feel good that someone is taking him very seriously. I guess we’ll see when the next campaign finance reports come out.

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Voting Rights and Redistricting

Many people know that the Voting Rights Act can require the creation of majority-minority districts to protect minority representation. But the actual demands of the Act are often misunderstood.

The Supreme Court outlined the basics of when states must create districts designed to advance minority opportunity in a 1986 case called Thornburg v. Gingles. The case outlined a three-prong test that plaintiffs must meet in order to win a case arguing for the creation of a new majority-minority district.

Specifically, the minority group must prove that (1) it is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) it is politically cohesive; and (3) racial-bloc voting usually defeats the minority’s preferred candidate.

I think of the first prong as the “is there a solution?” prong. Courts generally are not in the business of taking cases where they cannot offer relief. So if it is not possible to create a geographically compact single-member district with a group majority, don’t bother.

Of course, this still leaves room open for interpretation. For example, how compact must a district be to be deemed “geographically compact?” In more recent cases, courts have inveighed against minority districts with bizarre boundaries drawn for racial reasons–even as the Court has deemed it acceptable to gerrymander for partisan reasons.

This prong is one reason why there has been little litigation to create Asian-American majority districts. It’s just not possible to draw these districts  in most areas of the country just as it would likely be very difficult at best to create one anywhere in Maryland.

The second prong requires that the minority group tends to vote together. Obviously, 100% cohesion never actually occurs and is not needed to meet this requirement. Moreover, the level of cohesion can still vary across races.

But the basic idea is that you cannot draw a district designed to protect the interests of minority if the minority is not cohesive. For example, how would one advantage the interests of a group that splits its votes evenly between Democrats and Republicans?

The third prong is often the most critical. If the first prong focuses on the potential for a solution, this prong assesses whether there is a problem. Voting must be racially polarized–that is, the minority and majority groups must regularly, though not always, support different candidates.

Moreover, racial-bloc voting must be sufficiently great to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. After all, if a black candidate in a 40% black district receives 85% of the black vote and 35% of the white vote, the black candidate will still win with 55%.

If the minority candidate can win without drawing a district with a majority of group members, the Court did not really see a problem. Why should courts intervene to aid minority candidates if they have a good shot even without their help?

So the racial-bloc voting has to be sufficient to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. For example, in the same district, if the black candidates rarely received more than 10% of the white vote, they would usually lose and meet the requirement.

In cases in which minorities can win with reasonable frequency even if they do not constitute a majority, courts are more reluctant to create districts. Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez has argued for creating a subdistrict in District 18 to elect a Latino candidate. But her repeated election from a district without a Latino majority would provide evidence for the other side in a court case.

Note that I refer to the minority’s preferred candidate. The point is the candidate preferred by the minority group regardless of the race of the candidate. So white candidates who receive a majority of the black vote running against a black candidate are still minority-preferred candidates–or candidates of choice in the argot. Still, results from elections with candidates of the same race as the group at issue are considered especially valuable in assessing racial polarization in voting rights cases.

One also has to be careful not to lump minority groups together willy-nilly. Courts do not just combine African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans into a single category. On the contrary, one would need to prove that such groups consistently vote together to  begin to make such a case. And they often don’t.

If you’d like to know more, you can buy a copy of my book, The Paradox of Representation: Racial Gerrymandering and Minority Interests in Congress, (the perfect Easter or Passover gift) or look online at Google Scholar or Research Gate for my articles in various political science and law journals.

 

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Prince George’s County Council Run Down (1-3)

District 1

Incumbent Mary Lehman is has no opponent in the primary or general election. She has already won.

Rating: Safe Lehman

District 2

Doyle Nieman chose to avoid a tough member vs member fight brought on by redistricting by dropping down to run for the council seat left open by term limited Council member Will Campos (who is running for a legislative seat district 47).  Neimman had roughly $27,000 in his campaign account as of the last filing.

Doyle faces off with suicide prevention advocate Deni Taveras, who is slated with Senator Victor Ramirez.  Taveras has roughly $16,000 in her account as of January.

Nieman brings a powerhouse of resume and history to the contest. Taveras will benefit from the rapidly changing demographics in the district. The average Council race in Prince George’s runs $80,000-$100,000 so both have a lot of call time to do in the next few months.

Rating: Toss Up

District 3

Eric Olsen is term limited. His Chief of Staff, Dannielle Glaros is running for the open seat. She faces mental health counselor Terence Collins and former New Carrolton City Councilman Jim Wildoner (who ran for this seat as a Republican in 2006). Glaros had $28,000 in the kitty as of January and should be a lock.

Outlook: Safe Glaros

Check back soon for profiles on races 4-9.

 

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Don’t Pick Up the Phone

The General Assembly is out of session. There are now around ten weeks between now and the primary. So it’s that dangerous time when the thoughts of legislative candidates turn to their campaign accounts. And how they wish there was more in them.

Whatever you do, don’t pick up the phone unless you want to open your wallet, volunteer to give time, or just feel like having a nice chat with a stranger. No amount is too small. Don’t have $100. How about $50. Or even $25 so we can broaden our contribution base? Even $10 can help.

If you’re really wealthy, you can’t even use the excuse of having maxed out anymore because the Supreme Court did away with the limits on the total amount anyone can donate with the McCutcheon decision, though the limits on the amount you can donate to a single candidate remain in place.

Lobbyists really hate the McCutcheon decision as they know they’ll be dunned more than ever. While the wealthy can at least just say no, it’s harder for lobbyists who know that they may well be knocking on these same people’s door and at least want a hearing.

Of course, the not so big secret of campaign finance is that most candidates hate asking for money even more than other people hate giving it. They didn’t seek office to become fundraisers. Oh sure, some are good at it and thrive on it. But most would rather do just about anything else.

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Duchy Fundraiser Attacks Sierra Club

Developer Jim Soltesz is decrying Roger Berliner’s embrace of the “vicious” Sierra Club’s endorsement as part of his effort to raise money for Duchy Trachtenberg. (h/t Washington Post). The email is practically an ad for Roger Berliner. Truly unhelpful in this very pro-environment district.

Duchy needs to repudiate this email and cancel this fundraiser if she wants to salvage the situation. I look forward to hearing her response to this attack.

Soltesz

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Good News for Sexual Assault Survivors

From Del. Ariana Kelly:

This weekend the Maryland Senate passed my legislation (HB 963) to establish process for treating sexual assault survivors in EVERY hospital in Maryland.

What’s that you say, every hospital in Maryland doesn’t currently treat victims of sexual assault?

That’s true! This is an issue I’ve been working on since my days as Executive Director at NARAL Pro Choice Maryland. Only one hospital in every county is designated to provide forensic medical exams for sexual assault survivors.

In Montgomery County, under the current law only Shady Grove Hospital is fully equipped to handle victims of sexual assault. If you are raped and show up at Holy Cross, Suburban, Montgomery General, or Washington Adventist Hospital, you may not be able to get access to a sexual assault forensic exam. These exams are vital pieces of evidence if victims wish to pursue charges against their assailant and without these exams, rapists are allowed to walk free.

Showing up in the Emergency Room at these other hospitals, you might be told to get back in your car and drive yourself to Shady Grove Hospital. Or in instances of trauma, you could be taken to Suburban Hospital and then transferred to Shady Grove, all the while being advised not to bathe or use the bathroom so as to not tamper with the evidence from the rape.

Thanks to this legislation which passed both houses unanimously every hospital will now have to establish a protocol for treating victims of sexual assault.

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