MCDCC Chair Says One Thing, MDDEMS Another

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) held training for Democratic precinct officials this past Saturday and several sources report was controversy over access by precinct officials to MDVAN–the Maryland Democratic Party’s voter database.

MDVAN allows users precinct officials to select out different groups (e.g. new voters, Spanish-speaking voters, inconsistent voters) of voters for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) purposes. It also allows the creation of walk lists so that canvassers can conduct their work efficiently. In the past, precinct officials have been given access to the database but only for their one precinct.

MCDCC Chair Kevin Walling Says One Thing

When asked about goals for the training by MCDCC Precinct Coordinator Melissa Pinnick, many responded that they would like to learn how to do more with MDVAN. Eventually, MCDCC Chair Kevin Walling explained that precinct officials would no longer be given access to MDVAN and made clear that this was state party’s decision.

Instead of MDVAN, precinct officials were told that they would be given a PDF with lists of voters from their precincts. Precinct officials were not happy–many have worked their precinct for the Dems for a very long time–and asked who they should contact to do something about it.

But MDDEMS Say Another

Maryland Democratic Party Compliance Director Meredith Bowman explained to me that access to MDVAN is completely at the discretion of county party chairs. I also did not get the impression that the state party was aware of the issue in Montgomery County or that they had demanded the change.

In response to my query about why he decided to deny precinct officials access to  MDVAN and other questions, Kevin Walling communicated via email that he had to consult the MCDCC Executive Committee. While there may well be another side to this story, I don’t know his or MCDCC’s viewpoint.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen

Rep. Van Hollen spoke to the precinct officials on Saturday and gave a good rousing speech that communicated the value he and other elected officials place in the precinct organization for getting out the vote for the party year in and year out.

Apparently, the MDVAN issue would not go away and he was asked publicly about it by a precinct official. Once the issue was explained to him, Rep. Van Hollen said immediately that this is exactly the sort of thing that drives him crazy and that he would see what he could do about it.

MCDCC Reverses its Decision

By Monday, MCDCC was saying that precinct officials who want access to MDVAN can have it. MCDCC confirmed this at its official meeting on Tuesday.

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Sun Poll Gives Brown 7 Point Lead

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown leads challenger Larry Hogan by 7 points among likely voters according to the poll conducted for the Baltimore Sun:

The poll by OpinionWorks of Annapolis found Brown leading Hogan 49 percent to 42 percent.

Though Brown has a 7-point lead, the poll found his backers are less solid in their conviction than Hogan supporters. And many in Brown’s camp are younger voters, a bloc that historically is less likely to vote.

“Hogan has a much more engaged, committed base of support right now,” said OpinionWorks President Steve Raabe.

“This is not by any stretch a locked-up race,” Raabe said. “You can still see Brown winning comfortably. But you also can see Hogan winning.”

The poll of 800 likely voters, conducted Oct. 4 to Oct. 8, has a 3.5 percentage-point margin of error.

Unfortunately, the Sun does not provide the crosstabs, so it’s hard to glean any information beyond that presented in the article. Nonetheless, here are a few thoughts on two problems for Brown and one for Hogan:
  • Brown leads by 88-6 among African-American voters. Compared to other polls, there are many fewer black voters left for Brown to consolidate. Among African Americans, he will need to focus on the solid turnout he needs for victory.
  • The age gap persists with Hogan fairing better among older than younger voters. Brown will need to work to make sure that younger voters show up to vote. If he has success here, he may outpace expectations. Problem: the race has not really grasped the State’s attention.
  • Despite real problems, Brown still has a clear lead, so the current dynamic, though unfavorable to Brown,  doesn’t point to a Hogan win.
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Brown Expands Lead in CBS/NYT/YouGov Poll

CBS/NYT/YouGov has good news for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. According to their poll, Brown leads Larry Hogan by 55-38 among likely voters, including leaners.

Inside the Survey

This poll, conducted September 20-October 1, reveals nice improvement for Brown. Their previous survey in the field from August 18-September 2 had Brown ahead by 51-37 among likely voters. So Brown is up 4 points and further above 50%, while Hogan is up only 1 point and still below 40%.

According to this survey, Brown’s improvement is due entirely to increased support among white voters. While Brown remains at 80% among black voters, he has increased his white support from 37% to 42%. And he still has room to grow among African-American voters.

The gender gap remains cavernous in the recent survey with Brown up 65-27 among women and Hogan up 52-44 among men. While Hogan needs stronger numbers in both groups, the poll indicates that he must make major improvement among women in order to be competitive on Election Day.

The breakdown by party identification reveals the strength of the Democrats. Brown is down 7-93 among Republicans and 37-52 among Independents. But it just doesn’t matter because he is up 86-6 among his fellow Democrats who compose one-half of likely voters according to the survey.

Reading the Tea Leaves

The key question raised by the survey is why did the Lieutenant Governor promise not to raise taxes in the recent debate. Even if it is the top issue for voters, a candidate leading 55-38 doesn’t need to bind his own hands.

Internal polling for the Brown campaign may show a much smaller lead over Hogan–even smaller than the 9 point lead in the recent Washington Post poll. While some Democrats exude confidence, there are also significant rumblings of concern around the State.

Alternatively, it may suggest that a Brown-Ulman Administration would veer away from the course charted by the O’Malley-Brown Administration in terms of tax and economic policy. A surprise to those who see Gov. Brown merely as O’Malley 2.0. Taking taxes off the table forces Brown either to curtail his progressive agenda or restructure State government to accomplish it.

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Looks Like We Have a Governor’s Race

Though we tend to assume that Maryland is a rollover for the Democrats, and often is, gubernatorial elections have been surprisingly competitive since Gov. William Donald Schaefer, whose goal was to win all the votes rather than only most of them, left the Mansion in 1994.

Gov. Parris Glendening barely beat Del. Ellen Sauerbrey, who earned the sobriquet Ellen Sourgrapes when she refused to concede defeat after seeing her claims of fraud evaporate, in 1994. Glendening won by a more convincing 10% in their 1998 rematch.

Republican Rep. Bob Ehrlich had his revenge on the Democrats for redistricting him out of his congressional seat when he ran for governor in 2002 and beat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. But Ehrlich, memorably nicknamed “Bobby Haircut” by Marc Fisher of the Washington Post, was a one-term wonder.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley defeated Ehrlich in for reelection in 2006 by over 6 points. Even though it was great year for Democrats, Ehrlich was the only Republican governor to lose. Ehrlich came back for a rematch but it was no “Return of the King.” O’Malley defeated him by an even greater 14%, although 2010 was a terrible year for Democrats.

In short, though the Democrats have dominated gubernatorial contests–Ehrlich was the first GOP governor since Agnew became the accidental governor–Republicans have run good candidates and viable gubernatorial campaigns even as the state has trended inexorably towards the Democrats in virtually all other elections.

Lieutenant Governor has not been a great launching pad for gubernatorial campaigns since the office was created in 1970. Blair Lee III lost the Democratic primary to Harry Hughes in 1978. Melvin Steinberg lost the Democratic primary to Glendening in 1994. Townsend lost the general election in 2002. (Michael Steele has not run for governor but lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006.)

This year, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown hopes to break the curse by becoming the first Lieutenant Governor to become governor since the office was created in 1970. Certainly, Brown won the primary convincingly in the face of serious opposition.

Despite expectations of a relatively easy campaign, Maryland has a real contest this year. Larry Hogan is serious politico if only because he says “I am not a professional politician” despite having been Ehrlich’s appointments secretary and founding “Change Maryland” as a vehicle for his gubernatorial ambitions. (Sidenote: Would you hire a doctor or plumber who put up a shingle proclaiming “I am not a professional” to get your business?)

Another inkling of a real campaign and that the internal polls may be closer than the recent 9 points reported in the Washington Post is that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown felt it necessary to make a startling promise not to raise taxes even as Hogan faces his own problems regarding “error riddled” identification of government waste that he plans to eliminate.

Next up: an examination of the claims and promises of both the Hogan and Brown campaigns.

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It Doesn’t Get Better

Richard_MadalenoSen. Rich Madaleno comes out to a friend as a Capitals fan

The It Doesn’t Get Better Project’s mission is to communicate to Washington sports fans around the world that it doesn’t get better, and to inspire support for these brave individuals coping with the ongoing disappointment provided by Washington sports teams and the mockery that their fans endure.

This heartrending situation is faced by people in all walks of life. “It was harder for me to come out as a Caps fan than as gay” said Sen. Rich Madaleno in an interview earlier today. “I buy my son Ravens jerseys so people won’t think I’m trying to make him ‘that way.'”

Another fan would not be identified on the record but told 7S: “Between the name and their [bleep] team, I was just too ashamed to go see Washington play football on Monday. And I couldn’t even sell the tickets on StubHub. I had to give them away.”

Stalwart Nationals fan Jonathan Sachs says he has not deleted all of his Nats Ballpark pictures on Facebook but that it’s difficult: “I want to be open and not live a lie about who I am. I believe the Nats can go all the way but it’s hard when they crash in the first round of the playoffs, especially during the High Holidays.”

But the majority just doesn’t always understand their plight.

One partner of a Washington sports fan reported: “Normally, my husband is a mild-mannered guy but I stay away from his man cave when he starts yelling and pounding at the furniture that the Nats failed to score a basket. Again.”

Some are even less sympathetic. Former Chevy Chase Mayor David Lublin argued: “Why did Sen. Madaleno come out of the closet? Why can’t he keep that he is one of those people to himself?” Del. Neil Parrott agreed and has started a petition demanding that fans of DC sports teams “keep their cooties to themselves” in order to protect the children of the State of Maryland.

If you wish to donate to the It Doesn’t Get Better Fund, just send $250, $100, or even $25 to Dan Snyder. Every contribution helps make sure that It Doesn’t Get Better.

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Housing Initiative Partnership Responds

HIP Logo

Last week, I published a blog post on the conundrums facing the Purple Line Compact effort to preserving affordable housing and commercial rents in areas around new Purple Line stations. At the end of the piece, I wrote that I’d welcome hearing more from Compact proponents about “creative ideas to ease the collision of fundamental economic forces with real social needs.” I appreciate that Maryann Dillon, Executive Director of the Housing Initiative Partnership, took up this public invitation. Here are her thoughts:

In his article on October 2, “Fair Development Compact Pipe Dream”, David Lublin rightly argues that a “central goal of the Purple Line is to improve transportation connections” and that, as a result, “the land around the stations should become more desirable and valuable”.

He cites Bethesda, Silver Spring, Ballston and Clarendon as successful examples of places that have become more desirable given their access to transportation including Metro. These places boast stronger tax bases that help local governments provide better services. I think we all can agree that these are four of the most desirable and attractive destinations in the DC metro area, and that, as a result, they naturally have increased in value.

What David fails to note, however, is that all four of these locations are beneficiaries of progressive housing policies by the Montgomery and Arlington County governments put in place well before revitalization occurred.

Forty years ago, Montgomery County pioneered the concept of “inclusionary zoning”. Called Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs), Montgomery County’s program requires developers of over 20 residential units to include 12.5% of the units as affordable to working families earning less than 80% area median income ($85,600 for a family of four). The MPDU program has created thousands of homes affordable to moderate income renters and homebuyers scattered in every neighborhood of the County. In this way, a broader range of residents can live near transportation and jobs, reducing the burdens on our roads from long-distance commutes. A mix of housing types makes it easier for employers to find workers for their restaurants, hotels, offices and local services that make these communities special, let alone the teachers, fire and police personnel necessary to maintain their high quality of life. Montgomery County commits around $50 million annually from its own general revenue to support affordable housing development in its most desirable communities.

Likewise, the Arlington County Affordable Housing Ordinance offers developers seeking additional density in the site plan process the choice of providing affordable units or contributing to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The Special Affordable Housing Protection District (SAHPD) as outlined in the General Land Use Plan identifies existing affordable housing sites within the County’s two Metro Corridors that are planned for site plan projects of 3.24 FAR or higher. Existing affordable housing units are to be replaced on a one-for-one basis, again with the goal of protecting and preserving the mix of housing types and prices that can help keep these corridors dynamic and diverse. Arlington has committed $13 million in the current fiscal year to support its Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

Last year, the Prince George’s County Council passed inclusionary zoning legislation and charged the County Executive with recommending areas of the County in which this zoning would apply. While the recommendations have been made, County Council has not yet taken any action on them. Unlike its neighbors, Prince George’s County does not dedicate any of its own resources to develop or renovate affordable housing.

On August 30, 2014, the Washington Post published a story, “Affordable rents fading away in DC’s housing picture” which described the imbalance between the overbuilt “luxury” rental market and the continued loss of more affordable and moderately prices apartments. Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties share the distinction of having 50% of their renters “cost burdened”, where they spend more than 50% of their gross income on rent. Another surprise… both the District and Montgomery County have a higher number of households earning less than 50% of the area median income than does Prince George’s County, despite perceptions to the contrary.

Surely we all understand that the Purple Line will be an economic boost for the neighborhoods along its way. But, as higher density is introduced into some of these redevelopment corridors, our State and Counties should take measures to protect the residents and small businesses that have kept many of these areas thriving, despite the lack of investment in properties for so many years. These residents kept the faith in the bad years. They should share in the rewards once the good years finally come.

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WABA Launches Petition to Save Tunnel

From the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) blog:

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most traveled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail. . . .

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

WABA Petition

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