Top Ten Senate Primaries, Part I

Simmons mailerMail Piece for Del. Simmons is Running for Senate in District 17

The most competitive challenges to incumbent senators usually occur when a delegate runs. In most of Maryland’s 47 legislative districts, three delegates run at-large and represent the exact same constituency as the senator.

As a result, they make excellent challengers. In 2010, then-Del. Karen Montgomery unseated Sen. Rona Kramer in the Democratic primary.  Sen. Nancy King and Sen. Jennie Forehand had very close shaves that same year running against either a delegate or former delegate.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, incumbent senators often eye their delegates with the same askance eye as Queen Victoria viewed the Prince of Wales. Nevertheless, most of the 39 incumbents seeking reelection do not face stiff primaries. These are the seven challenges by delegates or former delegates to incumbents to watch:

  • 4: Sen. Brinkley v. Del. Hough (R).
  • 25: Sen. Currie v. Del. Melony Griffith (D).
  • 26: Sen. Muse v. Del. Turner (D) and two others.
  • 36: Sen. Hershey v. former Del. Sossi (R).
  • 37: Sen. Colburn v. Del. Eckardt (R).
  • 42: Sen. Brochin v. former Del. DeJuliis (D).
  • 44: Sen. Jones-Rodwell v. Del. Nathan-Pulliam (D).

The challenging delegates in Districts 4 and 44 don’t necessarily have quite the same natural advantages as usual for sitting delegates because they ended being redistricted into another district and have represented less of their new district than the senator.

One other Senate challenger attracts notice even though he does not hold a seat in the House:

  • 43: Sen. Conway v. City Councilman Henry (D).

There are also two exciting primaries among the contests for the seven open seats. Both feature delegates looking to move to the Senate:

  • 17: Del. Simmons v. former Del. Kagan (D).
  • 34: Del. James v. former Sen. Helton (D).

Today, I preview and rate three senatorial contests among the ten with interesting primaries.

District 4 (R): Incumbent David Brinkley faces Del. Michael Hough (R 3), who has been redistricted into this very Republican district in Frederick County. While Brinkley has the home turf advantage, Hough has far more money. This will be a bloody contest with Hough coming at Brinkley from the right and arguing that Republicans need a true conservative to carry the flag. Brinkley has committed the heretical sin of working with the majority Democrats on occasion. More info here and here. Rating: Toss-Up.

District 17 (D): Sen. Jennie Forehand is retiring, so this Rockville-Gaithersburg seat in Montgomery is open. Del. Luiz Simmons, who won this district as a Democrat in 2002 (he previous represented it as a Republican from 1979 to 1983) is going for the open seat. He faces tough competition from former Del. Cheryl Kagan, who represented this district from 1995 through 2003. She challenged Forehand four years ago and nearly won, taking 48% of the primary vote.

Kagan will undoubtedly present Simmons as on the wrong or conservative side of too many issues, particularly domestic violence. In the past, Simmons opposed legislation pushed by Sen. Brian Frosh to change Maryland’s standard for obtaining a protective order from a “clear and convincing” standard to the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in every other state (see also WaPo editorial).

Simmons has had an election year change of heart, as outlined in a devastating column by Josh Kurtz. Simmons is working hard to inoculate himself on this issue with mail pieces (see above) and his avid sponsorship of legislation during this session. Still, this video of his interrogation of a domestic violence victim during a public hearing on the topic may cause him problems:

Interestingly, there is no sign that either Del. Kumar Barve or Del. Jim Gilchrist are rushing to slate with Simmons–a common practice when only one runs for Senate. The question remains if either will take the big step to slate with Kagan instead.

Simmons can self-fund, so he’ll outspend Kagan but she at least can fund raise during the session since she’s not in the General Assembly. Kagan has has a base of donors from her previous campaign and possibly can attract new ones who like Forehand but not Simmons.

But most importantly, she’ll need to run a good ground game–knock on doors and coordinate volunteers to do the same–to beat Simmons. He campaigns hard and clearly takes nothing for granted since he is sending out mail this early. Rating: Toss-Up.

District 42 (D): Incumbent Sen. Jim Brochin faces tough primary and general election contests in a greatly reshaped district. Gov. Martin O’Malley is supporting his challenger, former Del. Connie DeJuliis (more info here). However, Brochin is an indefatigable campaigner and has loads more money than DeJuliis, who served in the 1990s, despite her high level support. Unless Gov. O’Malley goes all in on this one–and he has a very competitive streak–Brochin has the edge. Rating: Likely Brochin.

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Wa Times LGBT Obsession

WTpage1

The Washington Times. Who even knew they still printed this rag? It’s like the 1980s are calling and want to know why their paper wasn’t delivered to President Reagan’s Cabinet secretaries.

Yesterday, I happened to have to wait in a place with a copy and turned to the op-ed pages. One column was by a “gay conservative woman” expressing her distress at Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of the so-called “religious freedom” bill designed to allow discrimination against lesbians and gays.

Now that Mary Cheney has become pro-gay rights, someone else  has volunteered to fill the gaping flack void.

Of course, the bill would have also permitted Muslims not to serve Christians but that didn’t cross the minds of supporters until after voting for the bill. The threat to Arizona tourism and business caused an avalanche of business Republican opposition and Brewer vetoed the legislation. Capitalism in action.

The letters to the editor included one attacking Attorney General Eric Holder for his strong support of LGBT rights:

By adding his weight to this final insult, Mr. Holder is dragging the “rotten fruit of the sex revolution” across this land, infecting families and children of all creeds.

Meanwhile, the front page has an article about how DC is going to cover gender reassignment surgery for people with gender dysphoria. This article struck me as fair with quotations from both Mayor Vincent Gray and Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Still, one is struck by the placement. One suspects that it’s designed to be incendiary rather than because the Times’ editors think this is a good or necessary idea. The Washington Post covered the same topic under Post Local.

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Redistricting 2020

MD LD Plan 2012

Maryland’s Current Legislative District Plan

Is it ever too early to discuss the next cycle of redistricting?

The first elections for this decade’s plan are just being held this year since the 2010 elections occurred prior to the decennial redistricting wrangling.

But here at Seventh State, it’s never too early to look ahead, so I’ve taken a peek at the Maryland Department of Planning’s current population estimates for 2020. These estimates can only be taken as a rough basis not just because they’re estimates but because Maryland reallocates prisoners back to their home address for redistricting purposes.

Maryland has been at the forefront of addressing prison-based gerrymandering. The location of a large prison artificially boosts the population of an area even though none of its residents can vote. In Maryland, the allocation of prisoners from prisons in rural areas, such as from the three prisons in Allegany County, just happens to benefit Baltimore City.

Long the center of political power in Maryland, Baltimore City’s representation has declined rapidly in recent decades. The addition of prisoners from the City back into its population for redistricting purposes helps slow its steady loss of seats in the General Assembly.

Having mentioned these very large caveats regarding the reliability of the population estimates, here is what a look at the projected populations suggests for representation in the General Assembly in 2022:

Baltimore City will drop to five legislative districts. The City will gain people over the decade but at a slower pace than the rest of the State. Not enough to staunch the loss of political power. In other words, the new Baltimore City delegation will continue the City’s never ending game of political musical chairs, despite its mighty efforts not to cede representation.

In contrast, Frederick will gain enough population to incorporate the rest of District 4–its second district.

Montgomery will deserve more representation (roughly one-half of one delegate) but will remain close enough to eight districts that the number probably will remain unchanged. The big question is whether Rockville and Gaithersburg will be too large to stay together in one district. The law prohibits unnecessary violations of municipal boundaries, so this could necessitate redrawing the County’s whole map.

Prince George’s will lose roughly 40% of a delegate–almost exactly the share that neighboring Charles will gain.

While Calvert will see little change, St. Mary’s will come very close to no longer having to share a district with another county.

Howard should gain roughly 50% of a delegate–very close to the share than next door Baltimore County will lose.

Western Maryland (Garrett, Allegany and Washington) will retain its two districts with few changes.

Very little change for the nine counties on the Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s Talbot, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester).

Surprisingly, the numbers also project little change for the Baltimore exurbs of Carroll and Harford.

Remember that State law constrains the drawing of districts that violate too many county and municipal boundaries, except to satisfy the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. This limit will prevent any attempt to save Baltimore City’s political weight by drawing pizza pie districts out into the County that remain dominated by the City. The State tried this tactic during the 2000 round but the map was overturned in court.

Of course, these are really just guesstimates at this point. But it’s fun to peek ahead to Maryland’s political future.

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Senate Strengthens Trans Equality Bill

MCTE-corrected-logo-300x111Logo for the Coalition of 44 Members

The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, also known as the Transgender Equality bill, passed second reader in the Senate today by a voice vote. Sen. Rich Madaleno (D 18-Montgomery) is the lead sponsor and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D 20-Montgomery) is the floor leader, as he is on the Judicial Proceedings Committee and a strong supporter of the bill.

The bill was strengthened by an amendment thanks to the hard work of a number of senators, including Sen. Catherine Pugh (D 40-Baltimore City) and Sen. Joseph Getty (R 5-Baltimore and Carroll) as well as Madaleno and Raskin. The Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Getty that adopts a broader definition of gender identity so it includes individuals beyond those who have chosen to have and can afford gender reassignment surgery.

The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality has strongly advocated for the bill. Its members include Equality Maryland, ACLU of Maryland, CASA of Maryland, SEIU, Jews United for Justice, Baltimore Black Pride, and Maryland NOW among the many groups who have allied to support the bill.

 

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Bethesda Just Wants to Have Fun

County Executive Ike Leggett’s Nighttime Economy Task Force has made a number of recommendations to attract a more active nightlife to Montgomery. Sorry I meant to say MoCo. We’re all hipsters now here at 7S.

Aaron Kraut of BethesdaNow.com summarized the key proposed changes:

The Task Force will recommend the county extend the hours of operation for venues with alcohol licenses an hour, to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays and 2 a.m. on weeknights.

That would match D.C. and Prince George’s County and prevent what Pohoryles said restaurant owners call “the mad dash,” the period when Montgomery County bar goers get in their cars and drive to D.C. for another hour of alcohol service. The rule would keep the half-hour “grace period,” in which last call would actually be half-an-hour before closing time.

Also part of the bar-friendly recommendations are changes to the county’s noise ordinance in specific urban areas.

The Task Force will recommend increasing the allowable noise levels for “qualifying arts and entertainment activities in these areas,” to 85 decibels, allowing those levels to midnight and ensuring nearby residents are informed of the law prior to moving in.

So basically more booze + noise = fun. Heck, I suspect any random group of college students could have told you that. The only problem is that downtown Bethesda’s prime demographic is not college students or recent college grads but empty nesters.

Neighborhoods near to downtown Bethesda are a combination of families and empty nesters. In six years on the Town Council of the Town of Chevy Chase, located directly east of downtown Bethesda, I have never heard anyone lament that the bars in Bethesda close too early and that they have to dash elsewhere to keep drinking.

The Task Force’s chair wants to reassure that the changes are meant to benefit everyone:

Heather Dlhopolsky, a Bethesda attorney and chair of the Task Force, made it clear the Task Force wasn’t just about catering to the 20-34 year-old crowd, citing the significant number of empty nesters moving to downtown Bethesda.

Nevertheless, the recommendations have provoked a backlash precisely from that group. Jon Weintraub provided this summary of the thoughts expressed at a meeting of over 40 condo owners from many different buildings in downtown Bethesda:

There is universal opposition to the County Executive’s Nighttime Bethesda proposal, if it means extending bar hours and changing the revenue ratio. It should not move forward! What can be done to ensure that the noise ordinance is not altered for downtown Bethesda?

Instead Weintraub wants to know:

What is the planner standard for public green space, library, and recreational facilities per 1000 units of development in the downtown?

What can the county and the planning board do to improve the quality of metro service to Bethesda given density decisions are tied to the presence of the metro?

The meeting was organized by Jon Weintraub with Jane Fairweather, a very successful local realtor who knows the Bethesda market extremely well and hardly one to object to changes if she thought they would make her market more and not less valuable.

No doubt some will deride their objections as those of anti-business older people who expect unreasonable levels of quiet and have confused the area with an assisted living facility. But my impression is that their objection is not to a vibrant nightlife but want it to fit in with the area’s existing strengths.

Bethesda is filled with restaurants and also has a large number of bars for that matter. However, the empty nesters who can afford to buy all those condos–and provide a lot of custom to these businesses–prefer it quiet before 2am.

The key to keeping Bethesda so successful is make changes that reinforce what is already attractive not just to families and empty nesters but also to many twenty and thirtysomethings. Middle of the night noise, drinking and nightclubs probably aren’t it.

The Task Force has a lot of suggestions to streamline the process of establishing a business that would probably be helpful to that end. Ironically, the one change that would please restauranteurs and bar owners the most is the one that they shied away from adopting:

Montgomery County operates as a control alcohol jurisdiction, with all alcohol purchases coming from a central DLC [Department of Liquor Control] warehouse. That has led to complaints from restaurant owners about the availability of special orders, such as craft beer, and the time it takes to fill an order.

Evan Glass, a Silver Spring activist and prospective County Council candidate, said the group should talk about how necessary the DLC is.

It’s a contentious issue, in large part because the DLC contributes $25-$30 million a year to the county’s General Fund. It also recently opened a new warehouse in Gaithersburg.

Glass suggested the DLC should at least keep a portion of that contribution to hire more employees who could help it be more responsive.

Most agreed that recommending wholesale changes, or the dissolution of the DLC, was too big a task for the Task Force. The final recommendation, when it comes out in the Task Force’s final report next week, will call for a study of the DLC’s effectiveness from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

The irony here is that the Task Force attacked directly requirements that restaurants sell as much food as liquor. Yet, they’ve stayed away from a major barrier to locating restaurants here because alcohol is more expensive in MoCo and unique beers and wines are harder to obtain. The City Paper, practically the definition of urban hip, wrote about the issue back in 2007.

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MCDCC Part I: Question B

AgainstQuestionB

You just gotta love that we have party central committees in the State of Maryland. Both Republicans and Democrats have them in every county of the State. It all feels so retro-Soviet. Why not Politburos? Or at least Praesidiums?

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is currently not the peaceful backwater that one might expect of a relatively obscure organization of party officials. Instead, it is now the center of what some might call renovation and others a hostile takeover despite the recent announcement of a “unity” slate.

The fracas started with the passage of a bill unanimously by the all-Democratic County Council to eliminate “effects bargaining” with the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) designed to give the Police Chief more flexibility and control in the management of police officers. “Effects bargaining” required the Chief to clear all management decisions with the FOP.

The FOP vehemently opposed the changes and petitioned them to referendum in what became known as Question B. While intensely disliking the changes, it was only the latest in what the three non-school related public employee unions (FOP, the Firefighters, and MCGEO) perceived as bad treatment by the County on issues such as disability payments, furloughs and benefits.

MCDCC became involved through its control over the Democratic sample ballot. All precinct officials in the Democratic Party could vote on whether the sample ballot should endorse or oppose the proposal or take no position. At the urging of county councilmembers, the precinct officials voted heavily to endorse the proposal passed unanimously by the County Council.

The Central Committee has the power to change an endorsement of support or opposition by precinct officials to no position by majority vote. Urged on by Chair Gabe Albornoz, (Correction: Gabe was not Chair yet) MCDCC voted to uphold the decision of the County Council and the precinct officials.

The Democratic sample ballot thus endorsed the question. Whether or not it mattered, the voters agreed, voting by 58% in 2012 to keep the law passed by the Council despite vigorous efforts by the FOP and other government employee unions to overturn it.

Needless to say, the unions were NOT happy. More in Part II.

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D13 Shenanigans Continue

So the machinations just keep on going in the District 13 House of Delegates race. Earlier today, I reported that D13 featured the unusual spectacle of husband (Nayab Siddiqui) running against his wife (Janet Siddiqui) and a niece (Vanessa Atterbeary) challenging her uncle (Frank Turner).

Today was the last day to withdraw from the race (i.e. get off the ballot), and lo and behold, School Board Member Janet Siddiqui has dropped out of the race. She had formed a slate with incumbent Dels. Frank Turner and Shane Pendergrass but not her husband.

The “All in the Family” aspect seems less strange (not to mention very awkward at home) than very calculating. Janet Siddiqui’s withdrawal from the race leaves it open for husband, Nayab Siddiqui, who is not currently an elected official.

Del. Frank Turner may have had an inkling that this might happen and encouraged his niece, former District 18 Candidate Vanessa Atterbeary, to jump in too. Pure speculation but it sure makes a lot more sense than the idea that she wanted to take her uncle’s seat.

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun has more details.

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Simmons and Frosh Makeup and Let the Dogs Out

dogbite voteVote on “Dog Bite” bill–Yea is the Responsibility Vote

Not all political feuds last forever. In a previous post, I mentioned how Del. Lou Simmons (D 17) had stated in the media that Sen. Brian Frosh had “reneged” on a deal and was “incompetent.” Frosh was also apparently feckless and disappointing.

Such a louse. But apparently, all is forgiven. In a recent Gazette article, Simmons now called Frosh “the indispensable man.” You can feel the kvelling all the way from Annapolis to Montgomery County.

No mystery why this happened. Frosh played a leading role in amending the Senate dog bite bill much closer to the much weaker version backed by Simmons. In his comments, Simmons went out of his way to say that the Senate did not cave to the House but he “doth protest too much, methinks.”

Because that’s what happened. Otherwise, why would Simmons have his Damascene conversion on Frosh? The version adopted by the Senate will enshrine the one-bite rule into law. This rule means that if a dog has not bitten before that the owner gets a pass on liability no matter the damage even if unprovoked.

I look forward to the State creating a dog bite database.

Kudos to Sen. Bobby Zirkin for fighting the good fight for a stricter interpretation that makes sense. At least his efforts now mean that owners with unleashed dogs that bite will now be held responsible. Above is the vote on the original Zirkin amendment to keep the stricter and more sensible interpretation.

Kudos also to Zirkin for at least making it so that unleashed dogs will be held responsible even without the first bite.

For the record, I don’t think dog owners who are walking a leashed dog should be held responsible if someone pets them without permission. But I don’t see why Simmons wants to allow one who lunges and maims someone to get a pass just because there is no evidence of a previous bite, whether or not one occurred.

 

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Julius Henson will Run from Jail

I haven’t yet had time to profile this year’s legislative elections Baltimore City D45 but had to pass along this News of the Surreal. Julius Henson will be running for the Maryland Senate against incumbent Sen. Nathaniel McFadden from jail.

Henson is a former political consultant who was convicted of election fraud for doing robocalls to African-American voters telling them to stay home and not to worry about the election. He was working for former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich in a transparent attempt to suppress the black and heavily Democratic black vote.

Clearly, a “vile” and “corrupt” individual as one of my informants (not his opponent or anyone who works for him) described him to me. His apparent unending willingness to “play the race card loud and long” only adds to his lack of charm.

A Baltimore City judge has now convicted Henson of violating his probation by running for office. But Henson, who will no doubt revel in his notoriety while cooling his heels for four months in jail, has nonetheless decided not to drop his Senate bid. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham Jail he is not.

Fortunately, the entire Baltimore establishment has lined up behind longtime incumbent Sen. McFadden who should win if only because he is not corrupt. Meanwhile, more fodder for those who would mock politics as a honorable endeavor.

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