Tom Moore’s Thoughts on MCDCC

The following is by Tom Moore, a former Rockville City Councilmember and and candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Montgomery County Council’s 3rd District seat in 2014. I disagree completely with Tom’s suggestions for the future focus of MCDCC but thought it would be interesting to present an alternative viewpoint.

Two years ago, David Lublin asked, “How can we measure the success of MCDCC in the future?” and listed four areas of metrics being discussed by MCDCC leaders that might do the trick: Fundraising, precinct organization, field organization, and policymaking.

Now, these were certainly important things to track, but they mostly seem to be chasing the main political party metric, the only one that really matters: So, how many of your candidates won this year?

Because the MCDCC scores an envious 100% just about every year on that metric, subsidiary metrics like fundraising and precinct and field organizations miss the point.

They don’t get nearly to the heart of the question facing the Montgomery County Democratic Party:  What is the role of a party organization when it effectively doesn’t have a party opposing it?

If Montgomery County were home to a robust county GOP, the role of the MCDCC would be obvious: Build and maintain the organization that will vanquish as many Republicans as possible every November.  Funds would be raised for a reason. Precinct and field organizations would have a clear mission to pursue.

Now, the day may arrive when the GOP decides to start nominating electable candidates, and when it does, the MCDCC can revert to being a regular political party with a traditional mission.  But the MCDCC has to figure out what do to with itself until that day arrives – which I’m not betting will be anytime soon.

Because until that day arrives, it will be impossible to build a precinct organization when it doesn’t really have anything to do, or to build a field operation when it doesn’t really have anything to do, or to raise funds for the MCDCC when it has no opposing party. You need continuously competitive local races versus another party to sustain that kind of interest, and we simply don’t have them. People simply have better things to do with their time and money.

What can the MCDCC do until that day arrives? Recruit and train good progressive Democrats to run for office, and help all of them when they do run.  Provide information. Pool the costs of running that can be shared across all candidates.

We’re Democrats.  We deeply care about how well our government works – would we rather our standard-bearers spend more time raising funds, or more time making our government work well?  The cheaper and easier we can make it for our fellow Democrats to run for office here, the more time our candidates and officeholders can actually spend making good policy, and the more money Montgomery County Democratic contributors can keep in their pockets.

I was taken aback during my campaign for the Montgomery County Council’s 3rd District seat in 2014 to learn that I would receive absolutely no support from the MCDCC during the primary season, and wouldn’t receive any were I in the general election, as there was no Republican on the ballot.  I called the MCDCC and found that no county voter data was available. My only formal interaction with the Democratic Party at any level was to pay the state party a good chunk of money for my voter data.

Much better would have been for me to be able to send my volunteers to MCDCC classes on field operations, or fundraising, or communications, or data analysis.  (I wouldn’t particularly have cared had they been sitting next to my opponents’ staff – there are some easily teachable basics that all Democratic activists should know.)  Much better would have been for the MCDCC to have provided me and my opponents with free voter data, and to have some expertise on hand to help us understand it when we had questions.

I don’t suggest that the MCDCC directly intervene in primaries; of course that’s improper.  But there’s no reason why the MCDCC can’t offer training  – or provide data – to any Democrat who requests it.  That’s not helping some candidates at the expense of others, that’s evenhandedly helping every Democrat who bothers to take advantage of the opportunity.

Campaigns end. But Montgomery County’s need for trained and engaged political activists continues. Two years ago, my supporters and I engaged in a spirited contest versus Sidney Katz, Ryan Spiegel, and Guled Kassim and their supporters for that 3rd District seat. This fall, I found myself working with Councilmember Katz, his supporters, and others in the attempt to beat back the developer-supported term-limits initiative. It would have been helpful to have had a corps of progressive activists who were trained in field operations and fundraising and media, regardless of who they supported two years ago, and regardless of who they’ll support two years from now.

We’re in a special situation here.  The focus should be on building the MCDCC we need for the situation the MCDCC actually finds itself in, and not the situation that a party with a functional opposing party is in.

The MCDCC could really be helpful to its candidates if it adjusted its approach; right now, it really isn’t doing anything much at all for anyone.  The party has an opportunity to chart a new course – a useful one: Recruit good candidates. Train them and their volunteers. Support all of them.

Tom Moore lives in Rockville. He is president of the board of Common Cause Maryland. He is a former Rockville City Councilmember and ran for the Democratic nomination for the Montgomery County Council’s 3rd District seat in 2014.



SEIU Fuming Over Smith Appointment

A reliable source reports that SEIU is not happy that MCDCC voted to appoint Del. Will Smith over Del. David Moon to the District 20 Senate vacancy caused by Jamie Raskin’s resignation, in order to take up his seat in the U.S. House.

Several members of the Central Committee who voted for Smith plan to seek elected office in 2018, and SEIU is already making noises about wreaking its revenge at that time. Whether this is just talk in the heat of the moment or serious, only time will tell.

The outcome is interesting if only because the current MCDCC was packed with union supporters in the wake of union unhappiness with the Committee’s support for the all-Democratic Council’s position on police bargaining.

However, while SEIU, MCGEO (county employees), UNITE and Mid-Atlantic Laborers supported Moon, the FOP (police) and IAFF (firefighters) supported Smith. Perhaps the outcome only speaks to SEIU and MCGEO’s relative influence compared to FOP and IAFF.

In any case, the group of unions that supported Moon has promised to stick together during the 2018 elections. MCGEO’s efforts to throw its weight around in 2016 were notably ineffective. We’ll see if this new coalition has any more impact.

The bitterness coming from SEIU notably contrasts with the positive tone expressed by Del. Moon and his other supporters today. On his Facebook page, Moon very graciously wrote:

Congratulations to my new Senator and homie William Colonel Smith Jr! Though I campaigned vigorously to represent the activist wing of the party, I know he’ll do a fine job. As I told the Washington Post, this is a proud moment for Montgomery County.

It’s not always easy to write notes like these. However, it was not only the right but also politically smart approach.


How MCDCC Members Voted on the D20 Senate Appointment

Here is how the members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee voted on the District 20 Senate vacancy:

Will Smith (19)
Darrell Anderson
Mumin Barre
Juan Cardenas
Arthur Edmunds
Natalia Farrar
Loretta Jean Garcia
Marjorie Goldman
Johntel Greene
Julian Haffner
Mimi Hassanein
Jennifer Hosey
Marlin Jenkins
Aaron Kaufman
Linda Mahoney
Jonathan Prutow
Venattia Vann
Tim Whitehouse
Jheanelle Wilkins
Brenda Wolff

David Moon (8)
Luisa María Arévalo
Alan Banov
Wendy Cohen
Harold Diamond
Michael Gruenberg
Dave Kunes
Emily Shetty
Erin Yeagley

Abstained (1)
Chris Bradbury


Will Smith is the New D20 Senator

Congratulations to Will Smith on becoming the new senator from Distric 20,, after Jamie Raskin resigned in anticipation of taking his in the U.S. House of House of Representatives. Del. Smith is serving his first term in the House of Delegates, as is his major rival for the seat, Del. David Moon.

MCDCC’s choice of Del. Smith was expected at least by me, but Del. Moon put up a stronger fight than I anticipated. I look forward to seeing what soon-to-be Sen. Smith can do in the Maryland Senate and the continued service of Del. Moon, who has made an excellent start in that body.

Will Smith will be the first African-American Senator from Montgomery County–a welcome first in a county that is almost one-fifth African American. At the same time, he will bring talents to the Senate beyond racial symbolism.

Congratulations to Will Smith. Thanks also to David Moon, Darien Unger, Scott Brown, and Arthur Jackson, Jr. for throwing their hats into the ring. Now, on to filling the delegate vacancy.



MoCo Democrats, It’s Time for Change

By Adam Pagnucco.

December 13 will be an important date for the fortunes of Democrats across the State of Maryland.  It’s not because that is the date of a primary election; that won’t happen for another year and a half.  It’s not because a critical piece of legislation will be passing; the General Assembly won’t be in session.  And it won’t be because Donald Trump will decide that being President isn’t worth it (although one can dream).

December 13 is the day on which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will select its new officers.  And it comes at a critical time for county Democrats, as well as party members all over the state.

When MCDCC is acknowledged by the general public at all, it is usually because of its power under the state’s constitution to fill state legislative vacancies.  But the Central Committee does far more than that.  Its principal purposes are to build the party, support Democratic candidates and turn out its members to vote.  Every four years, the county party raises more than $200,000 for state and local elections and more than $700,000 for federal elections.  Major uses of funds include voter registration, production of the party’s sample ballot, coordinated campaigning with Democratic candidates in general elections and overhead associated with the party’s office in Kensington.

MoCo’s Democratic Party has played a fabled role in state politics for many years.  It is by far the wealthiest local party organization in the state.  It draws on hundreds of precinct officials and other activists for volunteer activities.  It has delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to statewide candidates like former Governors William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley, none of whom represented MoCo in their prior positions.  The party’s influence has been so extensive that statewide Democratic nominees could offset their losses in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore by racking up votes in MoCo, thereby leaving the Baltimore suburbs as the battle ground in which most races are decided.

But those halcyon days are coming to an end.  The MoCo Democratic Party is in trouble, and that means the state Democratic Party is also in trouble.  Consider the following.

Turnout of MoCo Democrats Has Plummeted in Gubernatorial General Elections

In recent years, federal Democratic candidates almost always win across Maryland in presidential elections outside of the GOP-packed First Congressional District.  The real purpose of the party apparatus is to win the races for Governor.  From 1990 through 2006, MoCo played an outsize role in Democratic gubernatorial victories.  Turnout rates among MoCo Democrats varied from 62% to 69% and, aside from Robert Ehrlich’s win in 2002, contributed heavily to Democratic victories.  But turnout among MoCo Democrats fell to 55% in 2010 and 45% in 2014.  Part of that was due to soaring voter registrations during the Obama years.  But the absolute number of MoCo Democrats who voted declined by nearly 20,000 between 2006 and 2014.  Simply put, the county party has lost its ability to turn out its members for gubernatorial general elections.


MoCo Democrats Contribute Fewer Votes to Statewide Races

From 1990 through 2006, roughly 10% of all votes in gubernatorial general elections came from MoCo Democrats.  This was a major factor in wins by Schaefer, Glendening and O’Malley.  But MoCo Democrats accounted for 9.6% of total votes in 2010 and 9.3% in 2014, the lowest percentages in decades.  Let’s put it another way.  Between 2006 and 2014, the total number of votes in gubernatorial elections decreased by 60,928.  The number of votes cast by MoCo Democrats declined by 19,653.  That means MoCo Democrats accounted for nearly one-third of all voter losses statewide over two cycles.


Finally, consider this.  Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in 2014 by 65,510 votes.  If the turnout rate among MoCo Democrats in 2014 was the same as it was in 2006, they would have cast an additional 77,375 votes.  The decline of the MoCo Democratic Party played a huge role in putting Larry Hogan into Government House.

Why is this happening?  Let’s recall that 2006 was a recent peak of party performance and two massive changes in campaigning have happened since: the rise of political email and the rise of political social media.  Those two things contributed mightily to the success of Barack Obama.  State and local candidates across Maryland use them aggressively.  But not MCDCC.  The party’s Facebook page is devoid of interesting content and has just over 1,000 likes in a county that has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.  Its email program is practically non-existent.  The party does almost nothing to promote the successes of Democratic elected officials and makes no case against the state’s GOP Governor, who has a 66% job approval rating in MoCo.  Even the party’s clunky sample ballot, a vestige of a time when paper was the primary means of political communication, was only mailed out this year to newly registered Democrats when it was once mailed out to all.

MCDCC desperately needs new, aggressive and modern leadership.  It needs leaders who understand how to campaign in the 21st Century.  It needs leaders who are committed to reaching out to people of color and immigrants who disproportionately do not vote in gubernatorial general elections.  It needs a new culture of innovation, a culture which values trying new things over and over until some of them actually work.

MoCo Democrats, it’s time for change.

Will we get it?