No More LGBT Questions from the Catholic Conference

The Maryland Catholic Conference Questionnaire for General Assembly candidates no longer includes questions about marriage equality or other LGBT issues. Perhaps this reflects the very welcome tolerant attitude of Pope Francis, who inspires and gives hope to many of all faiths. I suspect that the definitive vote of the people in 2012 also played a role.

They still ask about other issues, such as abortion rights and physician-assisted suicide. with the “correct” answer being the more conservative. The Catholic Conference is also still hoping for a tax break for nonprofits that donate to private, including Catholic, schools. The Teachers Union and other public education advocates have opposed this in the past.

We’re lucky to have an excellent public school system in Montgomery but I know the Catholic school system has provided a vital alternative for many in D.C. However, I suspect that these schools would not be the major beneficiary of the proposed tax break that would take money out of the budget that could be used to fund public education.

The Catholic Conference is hoping for liberal answers on assistance for the poor and immigration. I wonder how many legislators from either party score a perfect 5 out of 5? Here is a copy of the survey:

Please mark whether you “agree” or “disagree” with each statement.

These responses will be included in the Catholic diocesan newspapers and materials distributed to the parishes. Comments following each statement are limited to 50 words or less.

These comments, along with the responses, will be included online on the newspaper websites and the Conference website, and will not be edited for grammar or spelling.

1. ASSISTANCE FOR THE POOR. Funding in Maryland’s budget to provide necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare to low-income residents of the state should be maintained at current levels, or increased where possible to accommodate increasing demand for basic services.

2. LATE-TERM ABORTION. Current Maryland law allows abortions to be performed after fetal viability in the case of fetal abnormalities, or to protect the life or health of the mother, including mental health. Maryland law should be changed to allow late-term abortions only to protect a woman from death or serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.

3. IMMIGRATION. Maryland should not pass laws restricting the ability of undocumented immigrants to access basic necessities, such as food, shelter, driving privileges, healthcare, and education.

4. TAX CREDITS FOR EDUCATION. Maryland should enact a state income tax credit for businesses that donate to nonprofit organizations that provide financial assistance to public and nonpublic school students for educational expenses.

5. PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE. Maryland should maintain its current law prohibiting physician-assisted suicide.

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Estate Tax Cut Passes

The change in the amount of an estate exempt from state tax has passed the Maryland Senate today. As it already passed the House, it will become law with Gov. O’Malley’s signature. The law will increase the estate tax exemption to $4 million by 2018 and equal to the federal exemption in 2019. I wrote a post arguing for a more working and middle-class oriented tax cut a week ago.

All who voted no are Democrats. The vote in the Senate was 36-10. The following senators voted NAY:

Frosh, Jones-Rodwell, Kelley, Madaleno, Manno, Montgomery, Pinsky, Ramirez, Raskin, Rosapepe.

Sen. Nancy King did not vote.

The vote in the House was 119-14. The following delegates voted NAY:

Barkley, Bobo, Carr, Carter, Fraser-Hidalgo, Gutierrez, Howard, Hucker, Luedtke, Mizeur, S. Robinson, Waldstreicher, A. Washington, M. Washington.

The following eight delegates did not vote:

Barnes, Frank, Healey, Hixson, McDonough, Myers, Simmons, Sophocleus

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Purple Line ROD Signed

From Purple Line Now:

The MTA just announced that the Record of Decision for the Purple Line has been signed. Formal announcement to follow next week.

As the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) website explains, the Record of Decision is:

The final approval of an Environmental Impact Statement which will be issued by Federal Transit Administration. It is a public document that explains the reasons for a project decision and summarizes any mitigation measures that will be incorporated in the project. Obtaining the ROD is the last step in the NEPA process. After a ROD is received, permits and right-of-way can be acquired.

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Green Endorsements

The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club have endorsed a slew of General Assembly candidates. Here is a combined list of the two with non-incumbents in boldface. (L) indicates endorsed just by the League and (S) indicates endorsed just by the Sierra Club.

All of the endorsed non-incumbents for the Senate are currently delegates, though Veronica Turner is the only challenger endorsed over an incumbent for the Senate.

A total of non-incumbents have been endorsed for delegate by either organization–all for open seats. The League endorsed Rick Kessler, as well as the three incumbents in District 18. The LCV also endorsed four including two challengers–David Moon and Darien Unger in District 20..

By far the most endorsements were made in Montgomery County, an indication of the importance of environmental issues to many voters in the County. Prince George’s came up second.

District 3 (Frederick and Washington)
Senate: Ron Young (L)

District 6 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Johnny Olszewski, Jr. (L)

District 10 (Baltimore County)

Senate: Delores Kelly (L)
House: Adrienne Jones (L)

District 11 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Bobby Zirkin (L)
House: Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein

District 13 (Howard)
Senate: Guy Guzzone (L)
House: Shane Pendergrass, Frank Turner

District 14 (Montgomery)
Senate: Karen Montgomery
House: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, Craig Zucker

District 15 (Montgomery)
Senate: Brian Feldman
House: Aruna Miller, Kathleen Dumais

District 16 (Montgomery)
Senate: Susan Lee
House: Ariana Kelly, Hrant Jamgochian (S), Marc Korman (S)

District 17 (Montgomery)
House: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist, Andrew Platt (S)

District 18 (Montgomery)
Senate: Rich Madaleno
House: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Rick Kessler (L)

District 19 (Montgomery)
Senate: Roger Manno
House: Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer, Charlotte Crutchfield (S)

District 20 (Montgomery)
Senate: Jamie Raskin
House: Sheila Hixson, Will Smith, David Moon (L), Darien Unger

District 21 (Anne Arundel and Prince George’s)
Senate: Jim Rosapepe
House: Ben Barnes, Barbara Frush, Joseline Peña-Melnyk

District 22 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Paul Pinsky
House: Anne Healey (L), Tawanna Gaines (L)

District 23 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Doug Peters (L)
House A: Jim Hubbard (S)
House B: Marvin Holmes (L)

District 24 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Joanne Benson (L)
House: Carolyn Howard (L)

District 25 (Prince George’s)
House: Dereck Davis (L)

District 26 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Veronica Turner (L)
House: Kris Valderrama, Jay Walker (L)

District 27 (Calvert and Prince George’s)
House A: James Proctor, Jr. (L)
House C: Sue Kullen

District 28 (Charles)
House: Peter Murphy (L), C.T. Wilson (L)

District 30 (Anne Arundel)
House: Michael Busch

District 32 (Anne Arundel)
House: Pam Beidle

District 39 (Montgomery)
Senate: Nancy King
House: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznick, Shane Robinson

District 40 (Baltimore City)
House: Barbara Robinson (L), Shawn Tarrant (L)

District 41 (Baltimore City)
House: Jill Carter (L), Sandy Rosenberg (L)

District 42 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Jim Brochin
House A: Stephen Lafferty

District 43 (Baltimore City)
House: Curt Anderson (L), Maggie McIntosh, Mary Washington

District 44 (Baltimore City and County)
House A: Kieffer Mitchell (L)

District 45 (Baltimore City)
House; Talmadge Branch (L), Cheryl Glenn (L)

District 46 (Baltimore City)
Senate: Bill Ferguson
House: Luke Clippinger (L), Peter Hammen (L), Brooke Lierman (L)

District 47 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Victor Ramirez (L)
House A: Michael Summers

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Three Delegates, One Seat

D44NewDistricts 44A and 44B

A previous post examined the Senate race in drastically reconfigured District 44–the only one in which the challenger is favored over the incumbent–so I thought I’d look at the competitive delegate race in District 44A.

District 44 drew the short end of the stick in Baltimore City’s redistricting game of musical chairs with most of the district moved out of the City into the County. As a result, three incumbents are now competing for the sole delegate seat in District 44A, the portion left in the City.

District 44A has three incumbents vying for one seat: Dels. Keith Haynes, Kieffer Mitchell, and Melvin Stukes.

Del. Keiffer Mitchell, heir to the Mitchell political dynasty, is a nice guy who came very close to first-place finisher Haynes in his first delegate campaign in 2010. Del. Keith Haynes is running for his fourth term, where he sits on the Appropriations Committee, but has not been a stand out.

Del. Melvin Stukes came in third but well behind Mitchell and Haynes. The City Paper criticized Stukes for his fecklessness as long ago as 1999 when he served on the City Council:

In two terms on the council Stukes has made his mark as an anti- environmentalist, an unflinching rubber stamp for the mayor’s pet projects, and an incurable windbag, but he’s utterly failed to distinguish himself as a representative of the people.

Stukes also attracted deserved negative attention during the fierce debate over marriage equality. After sponsoring the bill for several years, he claimed he thought it allowed civil unions rather than marriage even though the word “marriage” appears in the title. Much was also made of the heat Stukes took from his barber:

In West Baltimore, Lenny Clay, the politically powerful owner of the West Baltimore barbershop Lenny’s House of Naturals, gave Del. Melvin Stukes an earful for sponsoring the same-sex marriage bill in the House.

He recalled telling Stukes: “You should burn your Bible, because you are no longer following your book.”

Instead Stukes took his name off the bill and will not support it.

When the going gets tough, Stukes goes away.

I’m sure Mitchell faced similar criticism from some friends but he seemed very much at peace with his decision and happy to take a leadership role in pushing for the bill in the House. In Stukes’ case, we can either believe he is that stupid or unreliable. Based on his public comments, he wants us to go with stupid.

Regardless, it seems likely that Stukes will be out of the House after the primary. He fared poorly four years ago compared to Haynes and Mitchell. Moreover, he had just $10K cash in his campaign kitty compared to $32K for Haynes and $24K for Mitchell. None can raise more money until the session ends.

It should be a tough race between Haynes and Mitchell. Haynes has four terms under his belt so he has name recognition in the district as well as the cash advantage. Mitchell already showed he is a fierce campaigner in his first outing four years ago.

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Turner-Valderrama-Sloan Form D26 Unity Slate

D26SlateDel. Kris Valderrama, Candidate David Sloan and Del. Veronica Turner

Del. Veronica Turner’s bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Anthony Muse just got a major shot in the arm. Together with Del. Kris Valderrama and David Sloan, Turner has formed the District 26 Unity Slate.

As I explained in my profile of the D26 Senate race, the alliance with Sloan had been rumored for awhile. Valderrama’s participation also does not shock. In 2010, Muse did not endorse Valderrama and then accused her of disseminating misleading information about him.

Like Turner, Valderrama is perceived as more progressive than Muse. Both Turner and Valderrama backed marriage equality despite Muse’s fierce opposition and criticism. Del. Jay Walker joined Muse in speaking at a tea-party organized rally against it.

Walker is supporting Tony Knotts for delegate so this seems a tacit rival to the formally announced D26 Unity Slate, as only three people can win election as delegate. I don’t know if Walker or Knotts are running with Muse. Though this would seemingly be the logical next step, the presence of five other candidates besides Valderrama and Sloan may complicate matters.

The District 26 Unity Slate held their first event on Monday at Mrs. Philippines Home and will hold their office opening on April 12th. The ticket works to the advantage of all the candidates as they benefit from mutual support and can multiply the impact of money and canvassing by working together. Of course, they also lend each other credibility in their campaigns.

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Rorschach Map of Incumbent Desires

Much has been made of the, ahem, “creative” boundaries of Maryland’s current congressional districts. A previous post provided more detailed maps that show the true artistry of the districts. But here is a statewide view that probably doesn’t do it full justice:

CDMDMaryland’s Current Congressional District Map

Many cite the non-compact boundaries as evidence of partisanship. Certainly, the 6th District was reconfigured to aid Democrats, who picked up the seat in 2012. However, Democrats did not have to draw these non-compact districts to gain a 7-1 majority in place of the previous 6-2 split. The following plan has seven districts that Obama won by 15% or more in 2008:

Obama15ptsAlternative Congressional Plan 1

While probably not the most compact plan that could be drawn, it also is clearly much more compact than the enacted plan. Beyond containing seven very Democratic districts, it also still contains two districts that are over 50% black in voting-age population.

A map that gave Democrats at least a 10% advantage in seven districts, again as measured by support for Obama in 2008, could be made even more compact and violate fewer county boundaries:

Obama10ptsAlternative Congressional District Plan 2

In this version, District 8 doesn’t reach the Pennsylvania border or take in any portion of Carroll County, which is no longer split. The Fourth District is also entirely within Prince George’s. Montgomery County has only two districts instead of three.

So why did the Democrats choose to adopt a plan with such meandering districts instead of a simpler version? According to many different sources, the answer lies in the desire to favor the preferences of certain incumbents, even when they were highly idiosyncratic and would not alter their reelection chances.

(1) Rep. Steny Hoyer insisted on continuing to represent UMD College Park, which he has represented since entering Congress. (Love the Turtle!) However, College Park is at the northwestern end of Prince George’s. Accommodating the desires of this powerful representative forced many other changes to plan.

For example, the 4th couldn’t continue to go into Montgomery if the 6th was to take in significant portions of that County, so the 4th now crawls around the edge of Prince George’s to enable it to scoop up Republican voters in Anne Arundel.

(2) Similarly, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger sits on the intelligence committee and wanted to represent both Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground. (Couldn’t we just buy him his own spy cam?) Even more creativity ensued as these two facilities lies at the opposite ends of the Baltimore region

(3) Rep. Elijah Cummings did not want to represent Carroll County, throwing yet another complication into the mix. Carroll is very Republican but would have easily been swamped by Cummings’ Baltimore base. So now Rep. Chris Van Hollen represents parts of Carroll County.

(4) Rep. John Sarbanes felt strongly that he wanted to continue to represent Annapolis, adding another layer of complexity into the plan’s requirements. Drafting a plan to satisfied this demand along with Ruppersberger’s helps explain how the 2nd and 3rd districts took on even more convoluted shapes.

(5) Complicating it all further was that so several representatives–Cummings, Harris, Ruppersberger, and Sarbanes–live with a small area near Baltimore. While living in the district is not required–just ask John Delaney–most prefer to do it.

And that’s how we ended up with this:

CD3

By the way, there is no legal impediment to gerrymandering for incumbents. Indeed, courts have cited it as a legitimate rationale for states to craft plans in a particular manner.

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MCEA Endorsements

The influential Montgomery County Educational Association has issued new endorsements for state legislative elections. So far, these choices are very conservative bets. They have endorsed all but one incumbent running for reelection.

In District 16, Susan Lee is also a lock for the Senate. All of the endorsed non-incumbent delegates are seen as having good chances, though the races in District 16 and 20 are the most up for grabs with other candidates having strong shots.

The only outstanding endorsement is in District 15 where recently appointed incumbent David Fraser-Hidalgo has not been endorsed. Rumor has it that they had planned to endorse challenger Bennett Rushkoff but that he did not receive the required super majority. We’ll see if MCEA picks Fraser-Hidalgo, Rushkoff, or no one.

Here is the current list with non-incumbents in boldface:

District 14
Senate: Karen Montgomery
Delegate: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker

District 15
Senate: Brian Feldman
Delegate: Kathleen Dumais and Aruna Miller (one still pending)

District 16
Senate: Susan Lee
Delegate: Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly and Hrant Jamgochian

District 17
Senate: No Endorsement
Delegate: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist and Andrew Platt

District 18
Senate: Rich Madaleno
Delegate: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez and Jeff Waldstricher

District 19
Senate: Roger Manno
Delegate: Bonnie Cullison and Ben Kramer (no third endorsement)

District 20
Senate: Jamie Raskin
Delegate: Sheila Hixson, David Moon and Will Smith

District 39
Senate: Nancy King
Delegate: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznick and Shane Robinson

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Thanks @MoCoYoungDems

I just wanted to thank the Montgomery County Young Democrats for having me over tonight. I had a blast meeting lots of people and sizing up the races. Oddly enough, I even got to feel young as the MCYDs are older than the students I taught earlier in the day.

Paraphrases of a few of the really good questions they asked: Will the state legislative delegation and county council get along better after the elections? Why isn’t there more competition in the County Council races? Which incumbent is most likely to lose the at-large races? Will the General Assembly take up legislation on GMOs soon? Will our delegation be more progressive after the election? How can our elected officials be more effective in Annapolis?

Kudos to Melissa Pinnick for taking the lead in organizing a MCYD team for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Rockville. Click to sign up for this event or make a donation in support of this event.

I’d say it was great to meet future leaders but this is an active and influential group. Almost all of them are already highly active in leadership roles around the County and the State.

They’re also smart. They found the secret entrance on Platform 2 1/2 of the Bethesda Metro Station to the B-CC Regional Services Center. Marc Korman and Jordan Cooper promised that, if elected, they’ll make it easier to find.

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