UPDATE: Hough Announces Primary Challenge

The battle for Republican purification by Tea Party in Frederick County commences. As expected (see here and here), Del. Michael Hough has announced a primary challenge to incumbent Sen. David Brinkley. Sure enough, Hough is already calling Brinkley a RINO–John Wagner at the WaPo has the story.

Will it make it harder to get these done in the session? Democrats have huge majorities in both chambers. But the challenge incentivizes Brinkley to be not just oppositional but intransigent as Hough will attack any compromise as a heretical betrayal. Result: the Republicans get even less than usual.

For the Maryland GOP, this vote boils down to whether they even want to be relevant in a state hostile to their ideas.

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Marylanders Like Obamacare

The Washington Post reports that Marylanders approve of Obamacare by a 55-40 margin. The poll also says few attach blame to LG Brown but instead to state and federal administrators. One suspects that the share of Democratic primary voters who blame Brown is even lower.

I suspect that this aspect of the poll is more vulnerable to the answer choices provided. It is also unclear or whether voters deem the issue important or have fixed opinions. Campaigns also have the capacity to raise the salience of issues and to frame them in ways that opinions shift (i.e. who oversees those administrators blamed by the voters). However, the poll suggests that has yet to occur despite efforts by both AG Gansler and Del. Mizeur.

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D16 Not so Competitive After All

District 16

District 16 is centered on Bethesda. In redistricting, it lost a small amount of territory around Garrett Park and White Flint. It gained more area in Potomac to compensate. The overall net change is small. The district has a high number of Reform Jewish voters. Asian Americans compose 11% of the voting-age population.

It almost seems like a cliché that this chock full o’lawyers district has produced not one but two candidates for attorney general. Sen. Brian Frosh and Del. Bill Frick are both seeking the office. Brian heads the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate. Bill surprised by winning the delegate appointment and is one of the most talented delegates in Montgomery. (Note: This district is very near to mine and it just feels too weird to call all those people I know or have met by their surnames.)

Their candidacies have produced rare open seats in D16. Well-liked Del. Susan Lee is gliding towards the Senate without opposition despite rumors of everyone from Duchy Trachtenberg to Kyle Lierman entering the race. None has filed and no one is expected to do so. Susan will almost certainly become the first Asian American senator in Montgomery County (in Maryland?)–and not from one of the districts with an especially high Asian populations.

The action is in the delegate race. Del. Ariana Kelly probably never thought she would be the senior delegate when she joined the House in 2011 after having beat Kyle Lierman by 356 votes in the Democratic primary. Read: the election. D16 used to elect liberal Republicans like Sen. Howard Denis and Del. Connie Morella but that era just seems over.

This is probably the wealthiest district in the State and the campaign account balances of the candidates reflect it. Ariana has $120K in her campaign account and is returning to the House of Delegates. She seems most likely to be joined by Marc Korman and Hrant Jamgochian.

Attorney (go figure) Marc Korman has served on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. He is passionate about transit, including an independent funding sources for Metro, the Purple Line, and redecorating the Bethesda Metro station. Marc has $121K in his campaign account. (Note: Marc is a friend and used to write for this blog on occasion. He will likely win a seat despite these flaws.)

Hrant Jamgochian (yep, another attorney) ran in 2010 and made a very good impression. He won the Washington Post endorsement and came in a respectable fifth. Crucially, he carried himself well even after he lost–this does not always happen. Hrant has $116K in his campaign account.

Jordan Cooper is working very, very hard but has only $27K in his campaign account. He is 27 (correction: he’s 28) but looks even younger–an advantage in almost every aspect of life except politics and getting senior citizen discounts. Jordan seems a dark horse in this race but his effort impresses and, at the least, has a political future.

Gareth Murray won election from District 20 in 2002. He won the third slot in the Democratic primary when incumbent Del. Dana Dembrow imploded after being arrested for domestic violence. In 2006, he came in seventh in a field of seven, an unusually poor showing for an incumbent.

He has moved to Potomac but retains ties to Silver Spring as the assistant pastor of a church. No money in his campaign account means a similarly poor finish on primary day but he is a welcome addition to the contest.

Karen Kuker-Kihl is a frequent candidate. In 1998, she came tantalizing close to beating Republican Betty-Ann Krahnke in District 1 (Bethesda-Potomac) with 47%. In 2002, she performed abysmally in the District 16 Democratic primary. She hasn’t filed yet this year but is expected to run.

Peter Dennis has not filed a campaign finance report (unless it is just not coming up on the website). He won only 419 votes in the 2010 Democratic primary and will turn in a repeat performance.

In short, District 16 is less competitive than the number of candidates indicates. Only one question remains: will Susan Lee and Ariana Kelly slate with Hrant Jamgochian or Marc Korman? It’s unusual for incumbents to slate with non-incumbents but hardly in the news of the weird column.

UPDATE: Major egg on my face for forgetting Kevin Walling. An openly gay candidate, Kevin moved to the district to run. While he has $30K in the bank and is a very personable guy who will be good on the campaign trail, I rate Kevin’s chances a below those of Jordan’s, who has a more impressive campaign operation.

 

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Two Fredericks: D3 and D4

In the not too distant past, Republicans looked at counties like Frederick and got excited. Fast growing exurbs like this and the loss of population in places like Baltimore City would gradually shift Maryland in their direction.

Frederick has indeed grown but disappointed the GOP bitterly by becoming much more Democratic in the process. President Obama received 49% in 2008 and 47% in 2012 of Frederick votes. A marked increase compared to the 39% received by Al Gore in 2000.

Under the old legislative district plan, Frederick had all but a tiny piece of District 3. Frederick and Carroll Counties shared District 4 with 4A located in Frederick electing two delegates. District 4B, situated entirely in Carroll except a small bit around Mt. Airy, elected the remaining delegate.

FredCtyDistsOld

The 2010 Frederick Districts

Redistricting has been  good to Frederick. As shown below, Frederick nearly has all of two full districts under the new plan–less than 10% of District 4 remains in Carroll and its subdistricts have accordingly been eliminated.

FredCtyDistsNew

The 2014 Frederick Districts

The new districts follow Frederick’s partisan divisions more closely than the old map. As the map below from Dave’s Redistricting shows, District 3 takes in the most Democratic portions–the City of Frederick and areas to the south–with the remaining much more Republican areas in the County composing District 4.

Additionally, Del. Michael Hough’s (R-3B) home was moved to District 4. Altogether, the changes help Democrats as it strengthens their position in swingy District 3. Meanwhile, District 4 remains a little piece of Republican heaven.

FredCtyPartisanship

Partisan Composition of Frederick (Blue is D and Red is R)

District 3

In District 3, former Frederick Mayor Ron Young toppled shrill right-wing gadlfly Sen. Alex Mooney in 2010. He moved on to running the State GOP into the ground before fleeing to West Virginia for redder pastures where he is now a congressional candidate. Even Maryland Republicans don’t seem to miss him.

Sen. Ron Young has taken liberal stands–he was a strong supporter of marriage equality while Mooney was one of its most vocal opponents–but no one can touch him. He is unopposed in the primary and general election.

All three delegate seats are open. In 3A, neither Del. Patrick Hogan (R) nor Del. Galen Clagett (D) will seek reelection with Hogan’s decision at least partly influenced by the more Democratic version of this Frederick City district. The new redistricting plan placed Del. Michael Hough’s (R-3A) home in District 4.

In District 31A, Sen Ron Young’s wife, Karen Lewis Young has filed for one of the two delegate seats but has not filed a campaign finance report (or at least one doesn’t come up when I search for it). She has a website for her unsuccessful run for the Frederick mayoralty as the Democratic nominee in 2013. In that contest, Young came in second with 32% behind Republican Randy McClement who won with 49%. If elected, Sen. Young and Del. Young would be the only husband and wife team in the General Assembly.

The other potentially strong candidate appears to be Frederick Alderman Carol Krimm. Though she has just $1700 in her campaign account, she has held office and aldermen run citywide, so she is already known throughout a fair portion of the district.

Young and Krimm seems well positioned to win the two seats, if only due to the weakness of the other competition that has filed so far. Candidate Nicholas Bouquet just moved to Frederick one year ago and has also filed no campaign finance report (or again, it just doesn’t appear when I search for it). Roger Wilson has raised no money. The two Republican candidates are poorly funded.

In 3B, Frederick County Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Stephen Slater is the only filed candidate. Of course, the filing deadline has not yet arrived.

District 4

All four seats in District 4 are safe for the Republicans. Though Del. Michael Hough’s website still solicits support for running in 3B, his home is now in District 4  and plans to run for the Senate against incumbent Sen. Minority Leader David Brinkley. Hough’s very active twitter feed of anti-Obamacare, anti-tax. anti-union, global warming denying posts sure has the look of a Republican straining to endear himself to tea-party voters.

Brinkley has a reputation in the Senate of a smart and cordial staunch–but not certifiable–conservative. Which means, of course, that he could be in trouble with the wing of his party that demands total purity and legislative ineffectiveness to gain election.

Brinkley has just $21K in his campaign account and has not yet filed for reelection. Along with Del. Kathy Afzali (R-4A), Brinkley sought unsuccessfully to defeat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the Republican primary. Bartlett limped home with 44% to 20% for Brinkley and 10% for Afzali. Some may speculate that Brinkley may be getting tired of the General Assembly, though he gives every sign of planning to run for reelection.

Michael Hough has a more robust $115K in his campaign account and will make it a humdinger of a primary. Neither Brinkley nor Hough can raise funds during the session, leaving little time before the primary and giving Hough an edge. On the other hand, Hough will need to get known in a lot of new territory that Brinkley has  represented in the House or Senate since the 1994 election. Hough will try to beat Brinkley by running to his right and presenting himself as a more authentic conservative.

Only one Democrat has bothered to file for delegate in District 4 while the Republicans have three filed candidates so far: Del. Kathy Afzali ($66K on hand) and Del. Kelly Schulz ($45K) along with Mt. Airy Councilwoman Wendi Peters ($13K). David Vogt and Ken Timmerman also plan to run but has yet to file. Gaffe-prone Vogt ran for Congress but dropped out before the primary. Timmerman is moving to the district to run for the seat.

The Quinton Report sees Afzali, Schulz and Peters as the front runners, and Vogt and Timmerman as sad cases: “With Vogt getting into the race, it guarantees he will be battling it out with Ken Timmerman to see who finishes last.”

 

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PSC Confirmation Controversy

Governor Martin O’Malley has nominated Anne Hoskins to the Public Services Commission, which regulates and sets rates for utilities in the State of Maryland. The nomination is controversial for several reasons despite efforts to highlight her environmental credentials.

First, Ms. Hoskins resides in New Jersey, though she now plans to live in Baltimore City. Many qualified Marylanders applied for the position, so it seems unusual to go with someone out of state.

Second, Ms. Hoskins will be coming directly from industry. Her previous employer was Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), a major New Jersey power company, and she has made clear that she leans towards the position of the utility companies on many key issues recently before the PSC.

As a result, tonight’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee is garnering scrutiny. Surprisingly, given the interest, the Committee has decided not to permit public testimony, which must now be submitted in writing. Abbe Milstein, who founded Powerupmoco to promote greater power reliability after the 2012 derecho, has come out strongly against the nomination:

Applied in Maryland, the utility industry in our state has co-opted the Public Service Commission.  Power companies and other utilities determine the Commissions’ decisions in their favor, as opposed to the Commission putting the interests of the consumers first. . . .

The Commission granted Pepco its unprecedented GRC surcharge and an increase in rates despite the Commission’s own findings in very recent earlier rate cases of Pepco’s imprudence, negligence and mismanagement.  How can this be?  By stacking the Commission with Commissioners whose interests align with utility companies, no matter how highly educated the Commissioners themselves are, utility customers end up with anti-consumer decisions such as Pepco’s granting of a $24 million tracker in Case No. 0311 and Order No. 86060 from Case No. 9326 where Ms. Hoskins sided with two pro-utility Commissioners in approving a tracker for BGE.  Approval of these surcharges is contrary to the precedent established by our Commission as well as sound regulatory policy. These surcharges will unfairly shift risks that are properly borne by Company shareholders to ratepayers, based on a multi-year forecast of plants that have not been demonstrated to be used or useful and estimated expenses that are not known and measurable.  The decision in Case No. 9311 is so controversial that it is currently under appeal in the Baltimore County Courts.

After my two and one-half hour discussion with Anne Hoskins last fall, it became abundantly clear that Ms. Hoskins, though highly educated and a charming mother of four, overwhelmingly approved of the granting of trackers as a method for utility companies to recover costs from ratepayers and could think of three examples during our conversation where she would implement these surcharges.

In Commissioner Harold Williams’ dissenting opinion from Case No. 9311 he discussed his view of trackers and that he “cannot justify the fundamental shift from long-standing rate-making principles merely to enable Pepco to begin recovering the cost of this project from ratepayers even before the Company begins spending it. … “We explained that ‘surcharges guarantee dollar-for-dollar recovery of specific costs, diminish the Company’s incentive to control those costs, and exclude classic, ongoing utility expenses from the standard, contextual ratemaking analysis.”

As a utility executive from power company Public Service Energy Group of New Jersey whose history of Nuclear Regulatory Commission violations for improper management of its nuclear plants is the foundation for serving on the Public Service Commission of Maryland, Anne Hoskins does not the fit the profile for the class of Commissioner Maryland consumers need or want serving on our Public Service Commission.  Please DO NOT confirm Anne Hoskins to the Public Service Commission of Maryland.

For the uninitiated, trackers are when a power company gets to charge fees ahead of time to pay for improvements. Past practice has traditionally been for companies to come before the PSC and request rate increases based on their expenses.

Tracker opponents argue that they allow the company to maintain a nice bottom line as they don’t have to invest their past profits to invest in infrastructure. Additionally, they reduce incentives to keep costs down as the company doesn’t have to prove or to justify its expenses after the fact.

People are still watching the PSC closely after past frustrating power fiascoes. The demands for better and greater scrutiny of regulatory structures that are perceived to have failed the community will continue.

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Brochin Leads, Lots of Intrigue in D42

D42New

The New Boundaries of Districts 42A and 42B

Redistricting altered substantially the boundaries of Baltimore County’s District 42. While the new district extends from the Baltimore City boundaries to Pennsylvania and is divided into two subdistricts for delegate elections, the old district (shown below) was a much smaller section of territory concentrated close to the City with no subdistricts. D42Old

The Old Boundaries of District 42

The new boundaries seemingly take in many new Republican voters, adding red territory in the northern part of the County and losing Democratic Pikesville precincts. The new District 42 is split in two with District 42B (two delegates) a GOP bastion and District 42A (one delegate) safe for the Democrats. The map below helps capture the partisan complexion of the area with bluer areas more Democratic and red areas more Republican (from Dave’s Redistricting). Dist42Partisanship

Partisan Complexion of northern Baltimore County

The new plan has been widely cast as an attempt to remove Sen. Jim Brochin from Senate by Governor O’Malley and Senate President Mike Miller. Certainly, there is no love lost by either on Brochin. Though Brochin has supported the Governor on some issues, he  vocal opposed him on others. Gov. O’Malley repaid the favor by endorsing his primary opponent, former Del. Connie DeJuliis. Maryland Reporter quotes an unusually restrained Mike Miller as playing it cool:

Miller said Brochin has not asked him for help in the race. “It’s very rare that I get involved in a Democratic primary,” said Miller, who has used a Senate PAC to funnel money to help Democratic incumbents get reelected.

“I wish them both well in the primary,” he said.

Miller is famously blunt when he wants to be–reporters surely bless him daily. But Miller’s lack of support for Brochin is unusual for Miller. He is fiercely protective of his caucus and normally backs them to the hilt in primary as well as general elections. The absence of Miller’s support speaks volumes. Brochin casts himself as the most independent and bipartisan member of the Senate. Some might assume that the new lines are punishment for failure to toe the liberal line. Certainly, the unions have joined O’Malley in lining up behind DeJuliis.

Politics is a team sport and Brochin’s independence can cost him friends. His support for marriage equality thrilled Equality Maryland but his vote against trans equality in the last session had the opposite effect. Picking a side can build allies. But lots of members of the legislature stray while remaining in the good graces of colleagues.

Members of the Democratic leadership are often quite understanding of legislators who cannot support them on a tough vote. Del. David Rudolph is extremely well-liked yet one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. Brochin’s problems lie not so much in his conservatism as his unpredictability. He likes to keep people guessing and changes sides frequently–characteristics that frustrate colleagues who value knowing where you stand, at least privately, with some regularity.

While the intent to hurt Brochin seems clear, and Brochin hated the new district lines enough to sue unsuccessfully over them, it is a bit murkier to me. As much as O’Malley and Miller might be happy to toast Brochin’s departure, neither wants to lose a Democratic seat.

The evidence that the new district is drastically less safer for Democrats is pretty thin on the ground. The old district elected two Republican delegates, though Brochin managed a comfortable if not overwhelming 58% in 2010.

In the Senate race for the new district, the Democrats are also looking good. The one Republican in the race has $7K in his campaign account–Bob Ehrlich’s endorsement hasn’t exactly raked in the cash. Looks like a far more exciting battle for the Democratic nomination between Brochin and DeJuliis.

In the fundraising battle, Brochin has $229K in the bank compared to just $42K for DeJuliis. But she can raise money during the session while Brochin cannot. On the other hand, various interests might not want to cross him during the session.

Money is not everything and DeJuliis could well be on her way to having enough funds to be competitive. Her union backing could give her a wealth of volunteers. However, DeJuliis won her sole delegate election in 1990, so this is not the same as the classic delegate-senator matchups elsewhere.

DeJuliis narrowly last the primary for the 2nd Congressional District with 35% in 1994. She received the nomination in 1996 but got badly beat by Bob Ehrlich. All of which is ancient electoral history at this point. Brochin looks well positioned to win both the primary and the general. Still, even if Brochin wins, O’Malley and Miller sure have made him sweat.

On the House side, Del. Stephen Lafferty can breather easier in cozily Democratic 42A with $86K in his campaign account. Del. Susan Aumann ($63K available) looks ready to coast to reelection in Republican 42B with others battling it out for the second GOP nomination. So far, only one Democrat has even bothered to file in the two seat subdistrict.

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Surprisingly Dull in D39

District 39

None of the four incumbent Democrats that represent District 39 in the General Assembly face opposition–a surprising change from four years ago and not what many expected.

Sen. Nancy King faced fierce competition from Del. Saqib Ali in 2010. Not too long after the 2006 election, Sen. P.J. Hogan stepped down and the MCDCC chose then Del. King, who had won two terms and also served on the Board of Education, for the seat over newly elected Del. Ali.

Ali dogged King relentlessly for the rest of the term, continually attacking her as insufficiently progressive. The 2010 primary was rough with Sleepy Saqib pictures that Ali had posted on his Facebook page appearing in King’s mailers. (Kids, there is a life lesson here.) Ali ran a very strong campaign but The Rumble in Germantown ended with King taking the nomination by 248 votes.

The new redistricting plan just happened to draw Ali’s home into District 15. Unlike for congressional elections, Article III, Section 3 of the Maryland Constitution requires that legislative candidates live in their district. In the words of the Church Lady (late 1980s SNL youngsters), “how convenient.”

But not so surprising. Senate President Mike Miller has zero desire to see Saqib in the Senate. And Ali’s aggressive style in the General Assembly did not win him friends among his colleagues, though it was nearly enough to propel him into the Senate.

Ali could have established residency in the new D39 but committed to D15 when he sought the delegate vacancy last year caused by Del. Brian Feldman’s appointment to the Senate. Ali entered the delegate election in D15 but pulled out in December.

King and Del. Charles Barkley have especially robust campaign accounts–Barkley has 92K compared to 91K for King. Del. Kirill Reznik has a healthy 43K with 26K in Del. Shane Robinson’s account. I guess Reznik needs to serve more expensive hamburgers at his annual Grill with Kirill event. Or maybe Del. Barkley can take him to school.

An enjoyable election season for the incumbents in District 39–but not for those watching elections.

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Pro-Gun Challenger in D14 Going Nowhere

District 14

In District 14, Sen. Karen Montgomery is currently unopposed for a second term. Sen. Montgomery served two terms in the House of Delegates before knocking out incumbent Sen. Rona Kramer in one of 2010’s top-tier Democratic primaries.

On the House side, Dels. Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker are also seeking second terms, while senior delegation member Del. Anne Kaiser is running for a fourth term. The four incumbents in the General Assembly are hanging together and have formed a slate that will campaign and do coordinated mailings.

The House incumbents face one challenger, John Paul Evans of Gaithersburg, a 24 year old graduate of Damascus High School . He explained why he was running in a Gazette profile:

The issues that most concern him are civil rights and government transparency.

“I don’t think we have enough transparency in the slightest,” he said.

Evans said he is reluctant to single out one civil right to focus on.

“We’ve had the gun issue, with assault weapons, and we’ve had issues with the [National Security Agency],” he said.

Evans said gun laws should be based on guns’ functionality, not whether they look like assault weapons.

Those topics have been “a driving force” behind his decision to announce his candidacy, he said.

Evans’ oblique campaign announcement further refers to pro-gun and anti-NSA surveillance stance:

I think our government is not treating our civil rights with the respect they deserve. It’s time someone “stands his ground” to solemnly defend our civil rights. I want to do my part to protect our inalienable rights. I want to be there on the ground floor to say, “No, we cannot violate the people like that”, before a bill ever becomes a law. I want to be the first line of defense and give our community a strong and active voice.

“Stands his ground” sounds more like George Zimmerman than John Lewis. In the Sentinel, Evans made more explicit his opposition to Maryland’s new gun laws on Second Amendment grounds. A member of the Snowden generation, it will be interesting to hear more about how Evans plans to rein in the NSA from Annapolis.

The delegates are comparatively well positioned financially if not incredibly flush based on their last pre-session bank balances with Del. Kaiser at $36K, Del. Luedtke at $26K, Del. Zucker at $42K. Sen. Montgomery has $43K (error corrected from previous version).

Free Citizens for John Evans filed an affidavit attesting the he “does not intend to receive contributions or make expenditures in the cumulative  amount of $1000 or more.” (Information gathered from the most recent 2014 reports in the Maryland Campaign Finance Database.)

All four incumbents are solid liberals and I’d be shocked if they did not collect the usual round of endorsements from unions and progressive groups. Evans seems most likely to gain support from Free State DINOs, a group encouraging Republicans to register to vote in Democratic primaries to unseat incumbents like Montgomery, Kaiser, Luedtke, and Zucker for supporting the gun laws adopted by Maryland in the wake of Newtown shootings.

John Paul Evans is a frequent flyer in the Maryland Judicial Database due to traffic offenses but none contributed to an accident. He drove on a suspended license in 2009 at the age of 19. The prosecutors declined to prosecute and did the same when Evans repeated the offense in 2011. In 2012, he plead guilty to driving without proper vehicle plates. Just last year, Evans plead guilty to failure to display his license when demanded by a police officer and still lacking the proper plates. The latter appeared related to continued problems with a suspended license.

These problems strike me as not life disqualifying from public service but it would be nice if  they were further in the rear view mirror. Regardless, the easy choice for Democrats is to go with the incumbents. They should win easily in any case but face a more vigorous challenge in the general election. Though District 14 has more Republicans than most Montgomery districts, effective campaigns should assure victory in that race too.

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