Council At-Large Undervoting, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

In the Montgomery County Council At-Large race, voters can vote for up to four candidates and the leading four vote-getters win.  That gives candidates a lot of ways to get votes.  A common statement heard from candidates is, “You have four votes to cast.  There are a lot of good candidates in this race.  I hope I can earn one of your votes.”

But that statement, while politically appealing, doesn’t actually reflect the reality of at-large voting.  Lots of voters don’t cast four votes in the at-large race.  On average, they cast only three.

The chart below shows the total number of Council At-Large votes cast in Democratic primaries and the total number of Democrats voting over the last five cycles.  If everyone was casting four at-large votes, the number of at-large votes divided by the number of voters should be four.  Instead, the ratio of at-large votes to voters ranges from 3.0 to 3.2, averaging 3.1.  That tight range holds regardless of the number of candidates running and the presence of open seats.

What about the timing of votes?  The conventional wisdom is that early voters are unusually well informed, know exactly who they’re voting for and can’t wait to vote.  If anyone would be willing and able to use all four of their at-large votes, it should be early voters.  But in fact, that isn’t true.  There is not much difference between early voters, election day voters and absentee voters in terms of how many at-large votes they cast.  All of them are right around three each, with provisional voters coming in near 2.5.

Why does this happen?  Now we’re in the realm of speculation.  Here is a theory.  For all its importance to the function of county government, the Council At-Large race is seen by many as a down-ballot affair.  It doesn’t attract the attention of races for Congress, Governor and Executive.  It competes with state legislative and council district races in the voters’ mail, Facebook feeds and email inboxes.  The name recognition of incumbents is modest.  (How many voters can actually name all their Council Members?)

Now think about the voting process of the average voter.  Perhaps the voter was aided by At-Large Incumbent X in some way, maybe through constituent service or a vote on a bill, master plan or budget item.  The voter really likes X and will vote for him.  Next, perhaps a voter will pick At-Large Candidate Y because she was endorsed by the Washington Post, the teachers or the Sierra Club.  And then perhaps the voter will pick At-Large Candidate Z because a neighbor said something nice about him or handed her his lit.  Or maybe Z knocked on the voter’s door.  Or maybe Z lives in the same community as the voter.  Or maybe Z is the only other candidate the voter recognizes.  Or maybe… you get the idea.  Often, these voting decisions do not involve great strategic deliberation or deep research on the candidates.

But there is one more variable to examine: geography.  We have previously written that Democrats in Downcounty areas, especially those in the Democratic Crescent (Cabin Branch, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park) are much more likely to vote in mid-term primaries than Upcounty Democrats.  Do Democrats in Downcounty vote for more at-large candidates than those in Upcounty?  We’ll find out in Part Two.

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Guest Blog on Stormwater Changes

By Timothy Male.

County Executive Leggett’s proposal to take a new approach to use contracts to deliver our clean water goals is an exciting opportunity for the county.  In 2015, Prince George’s County took a similar approach, signing a $100 million contract with the firm, Corvias.  Contrary to Seventh States’ coverage on this issue, this is not privatization – private companies already bid for and complete Montgomery County stormwater projects.  What Prince Georges does – and Montgomery County could do – is give those companies incentives to deliver projects faster and more creatively while creating local jobs, job training and benefits for schools.

In Prince George’s County, the partnership between the county and Corvias delivered more than 1,300 acres of impervious surface treatment in just 2 years and is on track to achieve the 2,500 acres – 500 more than established in the contract.  The partnership is important for its equity benefits as well.  The county set explicit goals for local workforce development, local subcontracting, and school-based projects that have educational benefits.  More than 80 percent of contracted funds are procured to locally owned, small, minority- or woman- owned businesses.  This form of social impact partnership ensures that environmental projects also deliver wins for disadvantaged communities.  What’s more, you can find all this data easily in Prince George’s County, through annual reports and an up-to-date online dashboard, because the company has a strong incentive (and requirement) to report back to the county on their progress.

Prince George’s County is not the only local jurisdiction building a record of success by taking an innovative approach to stormwater.  DC Water – Washington’s water utility – has won national accolades for creating one of the nation’s first “environmental impact bonds.”  In this case, DC Water raised private funding to pay for green infrastructure projects in northwest DC.  An important distinction in DC’s case is that the funding is a pay-for-success initiative, like many similar efforts launched by the Obama Administration.  If the projects work to store and filter stormwater, the foundation and company that loaned DC Water the money get paid back, but if the project doesn’t work then DC Water does not have to pay them back.  This is a great example of how government can help ensure that taxpayers (or ratepayers) don’t bear the risks from trying something new.  The ultimate goal of DC’s project is that, if it works, they will have an opportunity to use green infrastructure along with all the social and aesthetic values it produces in place of big underground pipes to move and treat stormwater.

Montgomery County has a chance to put together the best of DC and Prince George’s initiatives.  Build a program where the private sector takes the risk of failure and has incentives to exceed performance goals or deliver projects more quickly, like DC, but also add in social goals around workforce development, local training and environmental justice, like Prince George’s county.  In just a few years, instead of having a program that is over-budget and behind schedule, maybe we too would be getting national awards and would have stronger evidence that we are doing our part for Chesapeake Bay.

Timothy Male is the Executive Director of the Environmental Policy Innovation Center and a former Takoma Park City Councilmember.

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Fed-Up SEIU Launches “Take a Hike Mike” Website and Super PAC

By Adam Pagnucco.

SEIU Local 500 launched its anti-Mike Miller campaign on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis today.  Attending the rally in addition to SEIU members were former Delegate Jill Carter, who is running for Senate in the district of the recently resigned Nathaniel Oaks; Sheldon Laskin, who is running for Senate against incumbent Bobby Zirkin; Mila Johns, who is running for Delegate in District 18; and of course Miller’s mortal enemy, Comptroller Peter Franchot.  Daily Record reporter Bryan Sears streamed video of the event on Facebook.  The union announced the launch of a new anti-Miller super PAC and a “Take a Hike Mike” website which we screen shot below.

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Maryland GOP Catching Up to Democrats in Fundraising

By Adam Pagnucco.

Maryland is a majority Democratic state.  So one would expect that in financial competition between the two state parties, the Democrats would blow the Republicans away.  That may have been the case a few years ago, but not anymore.

In Maryland, the two state parties have two campaign accounts each: a federal account used for promoting federal candidates and a state account used for promoting state and county candidates.  Contributions to the federal account are regulated by federal election law while contributions to the state account are regulated by state election law.  Both federal and state money can be used for purposes like paying staff, voter registration and voter turnout so there is a bit of flexibility in use.  There are a few local party accounts but they are dwarfed by the state parties.

Below is the distribution of federal and state fundraising for the Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland.  A few things stand out.  First, because there are many Democratic federal elected officials, federal fundraising often exceeds state fundraising.  Second, election year receipts are far greater than off-year receipts.  Third, the presence of a Democratic Governor and/or a marquee federal race (like the 2006 U.S. Senate contest between Ben Cardin and Michael Steele) is good for fundraising.  In 2017, the first year for current Democratic Chair Kathleen Matthews, the party exceeded its off-year pace in federal money but slightly lagged its typical state fundraising.  Still, despite not having the Governor’s seat, the party did pretty well and finished 2017 with almost $800,000 in the bank.

Below is the same information for the Republican State Central Committee of Maryland.  The GOP’s federal fundraising is often puny due to its lack of federal elected officials.  (The 2006 race involving Michael Steele was a big exception.)  But in state money, the Republicans do better than the Democrats when they have an incumbent Governor.  They have led the Democrats in state fundraising four years in a row and exceeded them in total money raised in 2005, 2014 and 2017.  Their total cash on hand at the end of 2017 was about a quarter of the Democrats.

The chart below shows GOP fundraising as a percentage of the Democrats.  Again, notice how the last four years stand out in how the Republicans have exceeded the Democrats in state-level fundraising.  The Democrats’ advantage in federal fundraising can be used for staff and voter activity but it cannot be used to directly promote the party’s gubernatorial nominee in the coming election.

Governor Larry Hogan will have an enormous financial advantage against whoever wins the Democratic nomination and the two parties could be at rough parity.  If Hogan wins, it’s reasonable to assume that the GOP will continue to raise as much or more in state-level money as the Democrats during his second term.  That would be a nice boost for the next generation of Republicans looking to succeed him.

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Fight for 15 Unveils Poll Results in Key Senate Districts

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Maryland Fight for 15 Campaign has published poll results showing the popularity of a $15 minimum wage in three key Senate districts.  The polling comes as Annapolis heads to Sine Die on Monday.

The $15 minimum wage bill, lead-sponsored by Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18) and Delegate Shelly Hettleman (D-11), has not received a committee vote in either the House or the Senate.  That is despite the fact that it has 21 Senate sponsors (close to the 24 votes needed for passage) and 74 House sponsors (a majority of that chamber).  From a purely political perspective, we can’t understand why General Assembly Democrats have not sent that bill to Hogan’s desk.  Polling shows that the issue is enormously popular and having Hogan veto it – as he did with sick leave – would enable the Democratic gubernatorial nominee to draw a huge contrast with the Governor.  A veto override would also have been a big progressive victory for Democratic rank and file lawmakers.

Fight for 15 has released poll results showing net support for a $15 minimum wage in three Senate districts: 8, 28 and 38.  There’s a reason why they picked those three districts.  District 28 is represented by Senator Mac Middleton, who chairs the Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over the bill.  District 8 Senator Kathy Klausmeier and District 38 Senator Jim Mathias are also on the Finance Committee and are facing strong Republican challengers.  Both have taken money within the last year from the NRA.  Each of them could use a boost from voting for the minimum wage bill to motivate Democrats to turn out on their behalf.  And the poll results show that minimum wage has a net favorability of 17 points in Mathias’s district and 32 points in Klausmeier’s district.

Will the Democrats take this opportunity to draw a contrast with the GOP and energize progressives?  Or will minimum wage wait for next year?

We reprint Fight for 15’s press release and polling memo below.

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Luest Asks D18 Candidates to Sign Anti-Waldstreicher Statement

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 18 Delegate candidate Helga Luest, who has accused Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher of asking her to switch races to benefit his Senate candidacy, has circulated a statement against him to other candidates in the district requesting that they sign it.  The deadline she set passed and after the statement leaked to the press, the effort collapsed.

Luest has previously accused Waldstreicher of asking her to run in the Senate race to reduce the chances of rival Dana Beyer of winning.  Waldstreicher replied in Bethesda Magazine, “These claims are false, defamatory, and born of actual malice… When they go low, I go high—standing up for our community’s progressive values, leading the fight for $15 minimum wage, investing in our schools and resisting the Trump administration at every turn.”

Luest then circulated the statement below to the other candidates for Senate and House in District 18, including the two running against Waldstreicher, and asked them to sign it.  We reprint Luest’s proposed statement and her transmittal email below (with the private email addresses of recipients redacted).

Fellow House candidate Joel Rubin pushed back, writing this email to Luest and the other candidates.

Dear Helga – After careful consideration, I’ve decided to neither provide edits to nor sign on to this letter.

I have spent my entire life as a son, brother, grandson, husband, father, nephew, and son-in-law to powerful, smart, amazing women. Professionally, I have dedicated years of my public sector service to programs that advance women’s rights as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Latin America and to women’s economic advancement in the Middle East as a State Department officer. And politically, I have supported women candidates for office both financially and with advice and support. In fact, I was recently endorsed for State Delegate by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky – the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.

This is why I’m not signing the letter. Because what I have learned from all these women in my life – not to be bullied – empowers me to say no. Yet that is precisely how you are approaching this letter.

This letter is about an issue that you have with another candidate. You have made your concerns about his behavior clear publicly. And you have gotten significant press coverage about this issue. It is not hidden from public scrutiny. In addition, I have privately spoken with you to express my admiration for your willingness to stand up for yourself on an issue that you find of ethical importance.

Yet instead of making this your own fight, you’re now attempting to re-frame this issue as one about women versus men. And you made it clear in your outreach to me that if I didn’t sign the letter, I would be portrayed as anti-woman. This type of approach undermines your claims of principled behavior. Not only are you using bullying tactics, but you are also engaging in guilt by association and the potential smearing of my reputation because I may not support your personal position expressed in this letter.

I think it’s wrong that someone whom I barely know and met just a couple of months ago on the campaign trail believes that they have the right to define for me what it means to be a supporter of women. My personal and professional track record speaks for itself and runs counter to these claims.

It therefore seems that this letter is more about politics than about principle. It appears to be an attempt to leverage the #MeToo movement for personal political benefit. And that is a real shame.

I prefer to stick to principle when it comes to advancing women’s rights. It is time to build alliances between women and the men who are already on their side.

All the best,

Joel

After Rubin’s email was sent, the statement leaked to the press and Luest’s deadline on Wednesday at 5 PM passed with no consensus.  Then the discussion ended.

We make no judgment on whether Luest’s account or Waldstreicher’s is closer to the truth.  But we understand why Luest’s statement failed to get traction.  In District 18, the House and Senate contests are fundamentally different.  The House race is a popularity contest.  Whichever three candidates have the most appeal for voters will win.  Controversy does not facilitate victory.  The Senate race is going to be a war.  At some point, Beyer and Waldstreicher – neither of whom are the other’s devoted fan – will start launching live fire.  Only the strongest will survive.  Why would the House candidates want to be in the middle of that?

Here is a prediction: this is not the last time we will hear of this.  As Waldstreicher is a three-term House incumbent, he has the advantages of name recognition, constituent service, community relationships and endorsements over Beyer.  Since the two have virtually identical positions on issues, Beyer will seek an edge to make the case that she is a better choice than Waldstreicher despite his twelve years of service.  Luest’s story will therefore live on – in Dana Beyer’s mail.

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MoCo Green Democrats Announce Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Green Democrats have announced their endorsements of the following candidates:

Governor – Rich Madaleno
Senator – Ben Cardin
Congress 3 – John Sarbanes
Congress 6 – Roger Manno
Congress 8 – Jamie Raskin
State Senate 16 – Susan Lee
State Senate 18 – Jeff Waldstreicher
State Senate 20 – Will Smith
State Delegate 14 – Pamela Queen
State Delegate 16 – Samir Paul, Marc Korman
State Delegate 17 – Kumar Barve
State Delegate 18 – Al Carr, Jared Solomon
State Delegate 19 – Vaughn Stewart, Brian Crider
State Delegate 20 – David Moon, Lorig Charkoudian
County Executive – Marc Elrich
County Council at-large – Bill Conway, Danielle Meitiv, Chris Wilhelm
County Council District 5 – Tom Hucker
Sheriff – Darren Popkin
MCDCC at-large male – Erwin Rose

The press release below lays out the club’s endorsement process.  Additionally, those who would like to read the candidates’ completed questionnaires can find them here.

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SEIU Political Director Calls Miller “Piece of Excrement”

SEIU Local 500 Political Director Mark McLaurin has termed Senate President Mike Miller a “piece of excrement that calls himself the Senate President.” Not in my copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People but it’s one option. McLaurin loves a good feud like few others, so it’s not exactly shocking.

Complaining about the failure of “my bill” is a double-edged sword because it highlights McLaurin’s ineffectiveness as well as Miller’s opposition. After all, he hasn’t been able to find a way to get the bill through the Democratic Senate even as lots of other liberal legislation passed.

Adding the #buckletupbuttercup may prove more controversial as it’s slang for “a sensitive female” and the sort of insult normally associated with the hard right. Mike Miller probably cares less but it doesn’t provide the image I’d want for SEIU as a group that lashes out at people as sensitive or female.

See Adam Pagnucco’s piece from this morning for more information on SEIU’s no holds barred effort to go after Miller.

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