Non-Incumbents Embrace Moon Country Club Bill

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate David Moon’s local bill on country clubs, which would have phased out a $10 million special tax break received only by country clubs with golf courses, did not get much love from elected officials.  The County Council did not support it (despite recently passing $53 million in budget cuts), the County Executive outright opposed it and Moon’s colleagues in the MoCo House Delegation killed it on a 17-7 vote.  This story is not quite over though because Moon has a statewide bill that would not eliminate the tax break but would limit country clubs’ assessed land value to one percent of market value.

Elected officials may not have embraced Moon’s bill but there is another group of people who absolutely loved it: non-incumbent candidates for office.  In the wake of the bill’s death, MANY candidates made clear they would support it if elected.  Here’s a sample.

Bill Conway (Council At-Large) tweeted in support of the bill.

Danielle Meitiv (Council At-Large) wrote in support of the bill on Facebook and criticized those who voted against it.

Andy Hoverman (House D-39) took out a Facebook ad supporting the bill.  Among the District 39 Delegates, Shane Robinson voted for the bill while Kirill Reznik and Charles Barkley (who is running for Council At-Large) voted against it.

Three non-incumbent candidates for Delegate in District 18 spoke out in favor of the bill on Seventh State’s Facebook page.

Emily Shetty said, “We have a budget deficit and are struggling to fully fund schools and other high priority services. I support David’s bill, and appreciate and would have supported the amendments he made to further tailor it as well. I don’t think it’s fair for private clubs to benefit from tax breaks otherwise unavailable to families and other employers in the state.”

Mila Johns said, “I 100% support David Moon’s bill. I have previously stated that on this page and I’m extremely grateful to Jeff Waldstreicher and Ana Sol Gutierrez for their principled vote. I read Al Carr’s reasoning and while I understand how he came to his decision, I disagree with it. It’s simply hard to believe so many in our county discarded a very reasonable way to raise revenue in a time of such painful budget shortfalls.”

Leslie Milano said, “Here’s where I stand: We cannot continue to subsidize a luxury restricted to the wealthy when taxpayers do not have access to the very thing they are subsidizing. The fact that only the very wealthy can access this subsidized luxury is extremely distasteful, especially when there is a great deal of poverty in our county as well as a budget shortfall of $120M affecting a variety of areas for every taxpayer. I would sponsor or co-sponsor a revised bill come January to ensure that clubs are paying their fair share. I agree with Ike Leggett that MoCo clubs shouldn’t be taxed differently than clubs in other counties, but I think we need to course correct MoCo clubs first with a local bill – as a sign of good faith – and in a second bill address remaining clubs in the state, which is David’s proposal. It will be easier to pass in two stages and moves us in the right direction.”

Among the District 18 Delegates, Al Carr voted against the bill while Ana Sol Gutierrez (who is running for Council District 1) and Jeff Waldstreicher (who is running for Senate) voted for it.

Several other candidates sent us statements in support of the bill.  They include:

Brandy Brooks (Council At-Large)

Our budget and tax policies should be built around the mutual concept of the common and each contributing their fair share. The common good should guide us in our decisions as well as our interactions with one another. It’s clear the special tax breaks for country clubs benefit only a few.  When wealthy special interests have a major influence over the policy discussions — even around common sense bills to create tax equity — our communities suffer. The county faces a huge budget shortfall, a severe housing crisis, income inequality, and education and opportunity gaps in our schools, to name a few of the pressing issues. Yet, the arguments made by those opposing the bill fail to address these needs. Instead, the country club lobbyist gave lawmakers an ultimatum: kill this bill or workers lose their jobs. All too often, hourly and low wage workers are the first to suffer when management says they need to tighten their belt.   Our policymaking should be focused on the common good. Lawmakers need to hear the voices of everyday people over corporate and big money interests. Our voices — the voices of everyday people — must be central in our policymaking, otherwise we further divide the county into the haves and have nots.

Hoan Dang (Council At-Large)

I strongly backed Delegate Moon’s bill to phase out the special property tax break for Montgomery County country clubs. I was disappointed that this bill was killed by special interests in this County.   This action is another example of why we need more efforts to take money out of politics, such as the public financing of all candidates in Montgomery County from School Board to the General Assembly.

Seth Grimes (Council At-Large)

I support ending special tax treatment for country clubs. Thanks to David Moon for taking a shot. We’ll try again in 2019.

Ben Shnider (Council District 3)

It’s common sense that clubs with annual dues in the tens of thousands of dollars should pay their fair share in taxes when we’re struggling to keep up with vital investments in transportation, school facilities, and other critical infrastructure. It’s not sustainable to keep raising taxes on working families in the County to meet our budgetary needs.

Vaughn Stewart (House D-19)

It’s a shame that this proposal to bring the taxes paid by country clubs in line with the far higher taxes paid by working families and seniors failed to generate wide support. The extra $10 million of revenue per year would be especially beneficial at a time when the county is cutting school funding to address a $120 million budget shortfall caused in part by wealthy residents strategically withholding capital gains. If we can’t afford to pay teachers and staff what they deserve, we can’t afford tax breaks for Montgomery County’s Mar-a-Lagos. I’ve spoken to thousands of District 19 residents since starting this campaign, and they want to know how I’m going to reduce their healthcare costs, create alternatives to traffic congestion, and fully fund their kids’ schools. Not one of them has asked me to continue subsidizing the golf games of our county’s wealthiest few. I look forward to helping Delegate Moon revive this bill next session.

Editor’s Note: All three District 19 Delegates – Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer and Marice Morales – voted against the bill.

Chris Wilhelm (Council At-Large)

I’m disappointed that our County and State representatives weren’t willing to stare down the country club lobbyists on this bill, especially when the County is getting ready to balance the budget by cutting from education and other important services. I see this issue through a racial equity lens: how can we claim to “resist” and stand up for our diverse community when so many of our officials were unwilling in this instance to help shift the tax burden from lower and moderate income residents to the ultra wealthy? This is why Montgomery County needs to stop patting itself on the back for being the most progressive place in the world; we aren’t.


Additionally, institutional supporters of Moon’s bill include SEIU Local 500, MCGEO, National Nurses United, Montgomery County Young Democrats and the Sligo Creek Golf Association (which advocates for a public golf course).

Moon’s statewide bill, which limits but does not abolish the country club tax break, is headed to a hearing before the Ways and Means Committee tomorrow (February 27).  The Chair of the Committee, Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-14), voted against the local version of the bill.


Jill Ortman-Fouse Announces for Council At-Large

By Adam Pagnucco.

Board of Education Member Jill Ortman-Fouse just announced on Facebook that she will be running for Council At-Large.  This comes eleven days after she said she would be running for reelection to the school board.  We will have more to say about this and other events in the Council At-Large race, but for now, we reprint Ortman-Fouse’s Facebook post below.


Black men make up 2% of the nation’s educators in our schools. John Robertson is one of those role models who would like to make a bigger difference as your at-large Board of Education member. As you might recall, that’s my seat. 😉

I’m going to try not to give you whiplash from my candidacy for board announcement last week, but here it goes:

I really appreciated all the amazing responses to my announcement — from educators, students, parents, neighbors and community members. You all are wonderful and I’m extremely blessed to know you.

Then I heard that someone had jumped in my race. Nervously, my whole family set about searching to see who he was.

We found his graduation speech. I read it and I thought, wow. Another search revealed he had a masters in social work. I literally talk about MSWs’ skills in terms of the mental health challenges we are facing in our schools all the time. As you know, our students’ (and their family’s) mental health needs, have been a priority for me. Then I texted some folks to see who might know him. He was described as “smart, mature, innovative.”

My friends said I could beat him. Incumbents always have an advantage — especially in a county of over 1 million people where getting your name out is hard. Then I’d text them the links, and they would agree with me, that he sounds amazing.

So, Mr. Robertson and I had coffee. I went down my list of biggest concerns and things I’m passionate about for our students, staff and school system. We are clearly on the same page. I’m going to step out of the race because I’m confident John would be a great addition to the team, and I can’t wait for you to learn more about him.

What next? Well, one of the things I get in trouble for is working outside my approved lane of education policy — because I care as passionately about the issues that impact our kids and families outside of our schools as the ones inside. So, why not try making it official as a member of our County Council? I realize others have made the suggestion along the way (which I appreciated) and in a much timelier fashion. 😉 But I didn’t want to leave the work unsupported.

I know there are about 30 candidates running for four at-large seats. I know I haven’t even started to raise money for a campaign. I know some organizations have already endorsed, and other candidates have been campaigning for almost a year.

But I also know that we have made a difference together, and I would like to continue to work with our community and our leaders at the county and state level to make our collective vision a reality. I would bring everything you have counted on in my work on the board to the council. I certainly would understand if members of our community were disappointed. I know how valuable your partnership is, but I think we could actually have an even bigger impact together on the council.

I would bring the education focus and knowledge of where the gaps are to continue to advocate for our schools. I would continue to be a strong voice for transparency, accountability and responsiveness, to ensure our county resources are used most efficiently and effectively. And I would bring my experience as an elected leader representing your interests, my desire to listen closely to different voices and respect them — even when I disagree, working as hard as I can for our community to win together, to the council role if I were so fortunate to win that position.

I am going to need 250 contributions of $150 or less, totalling $20,000 in about 75 days to qualify for public financing. I know it’s a very steep climb. But I’m an eternal optimist, and my friends who have volunteered to help are amazing. So, stay tuned…

I know I made you scroll twice. That’s my thing.


Other Systems May Have Problems but Only Metro is Hemorrhaging

One of the responses to Metro’s critics is a variation of “things are tough all over.” Not so fast. Other major subway and light-rail systems may have problems but this graph from yesterday’s Wall St. Journal shows that WMATA is in a class all its own. Ridership is down 19% from 2011 through 2016. And no one thinks those figures are picking up even though SafeTrack is over and we’re theoretically “Back to Good.”

You can make the case that this proves the dire need for more money invested in capital improvements to make the system more reliable. But it also makes the case for improved accountability for WMATA. This goes beyond Paul Wiedefeld to include Metro’s ineffectual board and problematic unions.

Resources are important but it’s also how they are spent. Consider how many escalators have been “fixed” or even completely replaced only to stop working almost immediately. Consider further how many problems federal inspectors found with the tracks even right after SafeTrack passed through an area.

ATU Local 689 has fought against firing track inspectors who falsified inspection reports and put public safety at risk. You can say that the union is doing its job for its workers. But the workers, and the union that defends them, sure aren’t working for Metro’s riders or public safety here.

My sense is that Paul Wiedefeld has pushed change in a positive direction of actually trying to fix the the system. But the ridership numbers tell the story. I want Metro to get more money but I equally want evidence that Metro will spend it better.

We’re hearing a lot from Maryland state legislators, and even the Governor, about dedicated funding. Not as much about reforming its expenditure. Dels. Marc Korman (D-16) and Erek Barron (D-24), who have been leaders on dedicated funding, also have a bill in to improve how we appoint Maryland’s board members. (Sen. Brian Feldman D-15 is sponsoring the Senate bills.) It’s a start. But far, far more is needed to restore public confidence.


SEIU Local 500 To Endorse Five in MoCo Races

By Adam Pagnucco.

SEIU Local 500, one of the largest unions in Maryland, will be endorsing five candidates in MoCo races soon.  The local’s membership of more than 8,000 is concentrated among MCPS support staff, adjunct college faculty and child care workers.  It has one of the most aggressive political operations in the state and its endorsement is highly valued in MoCo.

At this time, the local will be endorsing:

Marc Elrich for County Executive

Gabe Albornoz, Ashwani Jain and Will Jawando for Council At-Large

Ben Shnider for Council District 3

The union has not decided on an endorsement yet in Council District 1 and may announce one later.  It has postponed endorsement decisions for incumbent Council Members outside District 3 pending further actions of the council.  Since MCPS accounts for a significant portion of the local’s membership, budget decisions on the schools may impact the union’s thinking.

Congratulations to the endorsees.  To be continued!


Who is Getting Money from the NRA?

By Adam Pagnucco.

In the wake of the latest mass school shooting, many are asking about the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is dedicated to blocking virtually all restrictions on firearms.  The NRA has not been particularly successful in Maryland, where one of the nation’s strictest gun control laws was signed by Governor Martin O’Malley five years ago.  But that has not stopped the NRA from trying to influence Maryland politicians by contributing money.

We looked up all contributions to state and local political committees in Maryland from the NRA itself and its PAC, the NRA Political Victory Fund, on the State Board of Elections website.  We identified 49 contributions totaling $22,450 from the 2006 cycle on.  Of that total, $12,300 (55%) went to Democratic committees and $10,150 (45%) went to Republicans.  Fourteen committees received $500 or more and we identify them below.  We also list the last date of contribution from the NRA; bear in mind that some folks on this list have not received NRA money in several years.

All of the above candidates were incumbents except Tim Robinson, who ran as a Republican against Senator Jim Brochin (D-42) in 2014.  Brochin was himself a former recipient of NRA money and is now running for Baltimore County Executive.  Democratic Senators Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) and Jim Mathias (D-38) are facing tough GOP challengers this cycle and have accepted NRA money in the last year.

Ten of the above recipients were in the General Assembly when the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, Governor O’Malley’s landmark gun control law, was passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.  Those voting for the bill included Senators Mike Miller (D-27) and Jim Brochin (D-42).  Those voting no included Senators John Astle (D-30), Ed DeGrange (D-32), George Edwards (R-1), Kathy Klausmeier (D-8), Jim Mathias (D-38), E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Bryan Simonaire (R-31) and Delegate Tony O’Donnell (R-29C).

Additionally, Astle’s campaign committee actually gave money to the NRA.  In 2006, Astle’s account made a $300 expenditure to the NRA and remarked, “This membership increases Senator Astle’s visibility and allows him to network with potential voters and contributors.”

One more recipient of NRA cash stands out:  Derek Hopkins, the Republican Register of Wills in Harford County, who collected $100 from the NRA in 2010.  Perhaps this is unsurprising since mass proliferation of guns and the writing of wills seem sadly interrelated.


Who Really Deserves Criminal Charges for Ignoring Known Child Abuse?

By Adam Rosenberg, Executive Director, and Joyce Lombardi, Director of Government Relations, Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

For the past several years, the Baltimore Child Abuse Center has been advocating for a new law that will allow misdemeanor charges against front-line professionals who deliberately chose not to report child abuse.

Sounds like an easy sell, but it isn’t. Not in Maryland. Or, at least not in Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee. The bill (SB132 this year) has already unanimously sailed through the Senate two years in a row thanks to Senator Susan Lee and Senator Robert Zirkin. But, despite the efforts of Delegate Carlo Sanchez, State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks and several Democrats and Republicans, HB500 is still stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.

Why?  Partially it’s because leadership there questions the need for yet another law, and partially because many people rightfully struggle with the idea of putting “jail” and “teacher” or “nurse” in the same sentence.

But many of the dozens and dozens of people we’ve been talking with – which includes social workers, pediatricians and elected officials in Annapolis – instantly picture who this law is talking about: not your average teacher or nurse, but instead the people who knew but chose to protect themselves or their institutions. “Right!” they say, “like at USA Gymnastics or Penn State.”  Yes, bingo. The enablers.

Former Penn State administrators Tim Curley, left, and Gary Schultz (Centre County Correctional Facility, AP)

Still, others struggle.  Instead of seeing the egregious enablers, they see their friends, their kid’s soccer coach, their homeroom teacher, their family doctor.  They see themselves.  They can picture the predators, sure, the eerily bland face of Larry Nasser or maybe even the bulldog mug of Harvey Weinstein. But they can’t see the quiet cadre of adults standing just behind the predators, the ones who are always there, desperately denying the crimes of the colleague or friend or beloved in their midst. They might see the good doctor who isn’t sure the head trauma was abuse and doesn’t report, or they might see a teacher who didn’t report that a girl felt uncomfortable on her colleague’s lap. They see nuance. They see negligence at best.

Professionals in Maryland all have a duty to report SUSPECTED abuse, but this bill, HB 500, isn’t criminalizing negligence.  Instead, it targets those rare but persistent cases when a mandatory reporter “KNOWS” about the abuse and STILL doesn’t act.  Think Morgan State University, USA Gymnastics, and think Penn State. Think about the horror of seeing a naked boy in a shower sexually assaulted by a grown man. Think about several girls coming forward to say their doctor’s hands inside them “didn’t feel right,” “felt wrong,” or “he was aroused.”

There is a a running list of professionals in Maryland who chose not to report, for example: cigarette burns on a girl’s arm;  a 5-year old boy disclosing that “daddy kisses my wee wee and makes it big; ”a distressed tween disclosing that her grandfather takes her to the basement and puts his hand under her dress;  lacerations and scars on an 8-year old; a 3-year old with visible bruises who said he gets hit with a belt, numerous 5th graders disclosing that a volunteer school aide was making boys do “nasty stuff.”

Also, let’s clarify what has been proposed:  a misdemeanor with a max of 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.  That’s the same penalty you get in Maryland if you board someone’s boat for a second time without permission or if you install an air conditioner without a license ((Crim. Law 6-403; Bus. Reg. 9A-501).

Secondly, every other state in the country has a penalty of some sort and most make it a misdemeanor for deliberately failing to report SUSPECTED abuse – except Wyoming and Maryland. In Maryland, after years and years of wrangling and compromise with various legislators and professional associations for doctors, nurses, therapists, etc., this law would only target the worst of the worst: those who ignored KNOWN abuse.  The proposed law (HB500) has an “actual knowledge” standard, an extremely high bar to reach, and one that reaches felony status elsewhere.  The bar is so high that, for the first time, it has gained support from some professional associations and censure from some activists.

Leadership in the House Judiciary Committee questions why we need a new law when there are two on the books that get little use: a fairly new one, sponsored by Delegate Kathleen Dumais in 2015, which provides notice to a licensing board or employer for a failure to report, and an older one that criminalizes anyone who obstructs a report.  Our answer is simply that this law, HB500, fills in the gap between the two.  Saying more than that sounds like an attack on the current laws and their sponsors.  It isn’t meant to be an attack.  It’s a plea for another way. It’s an “And,” not an “Or.”

We all agree that child abuse needs to be reported, we just respectfully disagree whether Maryland needs a new law to help make that happen.  After years of research and experience in the field, we believe that it does and HB500 is that law.

If you agree that Maryland’s children deserve better protections too, call the Maryland House Judiciary Committee at 301-858-3488 or 410-841-3488 to share your support for HB500.


MoCo’s Skyrocketing Debt

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last fall, County Executive Ike Leggett proposed cutting the volume of new general obligation bonds issued by the county in future years and the County Council concurred unanimously.  Advocates for school construction fretted over the move as the county’s needs in that area, as well as in transportation investment, are enormous.  But Leggett and the council had a point.  The county’s debt has skyrocketed in the past twenty years and especially in the last decade.  It now presents a substantial challenge to the county’s fiscal well-being that the next generation of county leaders will have to deal with.

The county government does not use debt to finance its operating budget, but it does use debt to finance its capital budget, known as the Capital Improvements Program (CIP).  The CIP is a six-year budget that is fully renewed every two years and is adjusted in off years.  The Executive’s latest recommended CIP currently totals $4.5 billion, of which $1.8 billion is recommended for school construction.  The CIP has many funding streams for its projects, but the single largest one is debt.  As of June 30, 2017, the county had $4.1 billion of outstanding primary government debt, of which the largest category is general obligation (GO) bonds, which accounts for $2.7 billion.  GO bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of county government.  The fact that the county’s GO bonds have had a AAA rating assigned to them by the nation’s three largest credit agencies for many years is a substantial source of interest savings to the county.  Other major categories of debt are short-term bond anticipation notes ($500 million outstanding), taxable Build America Bonds created during the recession ($308 million) and revenue bonds which are backed by dedicated revenue streams ($222 million).  All of this is separate from the substantial liabilities the county has for pension funding and retiree health benefits.

There are two salient facts about the county’s debt.  First, it has been growing rapidly.  And second, it is paid off through debt service that is part of the county’s operating budget.  These debt service payments MUST be paid and they compete with other spending priorities.  Along with total debt, debt service has also been growing rapidly.

The chart below shows growth in total outstanding primary government debt and in GO bonds over the last twenty years.  While growth has occurred throughout the entire period, it has accelerated since the onset of the Great Recession.  From 1998 through 2008, GO bond debt grew by an average of 2.9% per year, about equal to growth in the Washington-Baltimore CPI (3.0% per year).  Total debt grew by an average of 5.2% annually over that period.  From 2009 through 2017, GO bond debt grew by an annual average of 8.1%.  Total debt grew by 8.4% annually.  The average rate of inflation in the Washington-Baltimore CPI was 1.5%.  Over the last eight years, the county’s debt has been growing by more than 5 times the rate of inflation.

Relative to the size of the population, the debt has been rising too.  When we compared the county’s total debt levels to population estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, we found that total debt per capita has grown from $1,370 in 1997 to $3,768 in 2017.

As for debt service, it has risen from $140 million in FY97 to $408 million in FY18.  If debt service was a county agency, it would be the largest agency in county government other than MCPS.  Debt service payments are mandatory and cannot be cut like most other categories of spending during recessions.  The pit of the Great Recession came in FY11, when debt service was $258 million and the county slashed services, doubled the energy tax and furloughed its workforce.  Now that debt service exceeds $400 million a year, it will present a much greater impediment to the maintenance of county services when the next recession comes.

Let’s remember that debt is not an inherently bad thing.  It is the primary vehicle by which the county pays for core government functions like school construction and transportation projects.  The county’s needs in those areas are absolutely undeniable.  Also, construction costs were moderated during the recession, so the county was able to take advantage of that to build relatively cheaply in those years.  But over the long term, if you are going to have rapidly growing debt, you need to have a rapidly growing economy to pay for it.  And MoCo does not have that – instead, it has had weak growth in employment and incomes in recent years.  It saw 57 new business filings in 2015 and 19 new filings a year later.  It passed a 9% property tax hike and a year and a half later suffered a $120 million budget shortfall.

This is evidence yet again that an economic revival has to be a huge priority for the next generation of county elected officials.  Without it, debt service will consume larger and larger chunks of the budget and eventually lead to service cuts and/or tax hikes.  As for those who oppose economic growth or have worked to undermine it, the debt situation makes this clear: you cannot oppose growth and favor expanding school construction and transportation investment.  The economy and the credit markets won’t allow elected leaders to have it both ways.

Bear that in mind as we head to Election Day.


Lamone Backs Election Observers in Letter to Kagan

State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone continues to stand by Maryland’s traditional willingness to welcome international elections observers in a letter to Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17), despite absurd Maryland Republican hysteria raised over the prospect of Russian interference as a result.

Will Gov. Larry Hogan now finally stand up and put a stop to these shameless anti-democratic attacks by the Maryland GOP?

Here is a copy of the letter:

SBE Letter to Kagan on Election Observers by David Lublin on Scribd


Women’s Democratic Club President Responds to Cooper

The following piece by Fran Rothstein, President of the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club, is a response to Jordan Cooper’s critique of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s (MCDCC) recent actions.

As a lifelong Democrat and a 36-year resident of Montgomery County, I must protest Jordan Cooper’s recent opinion piece, “Montgomery County Democrats make a mockery of democracy.”

I know what a mockery of democracy looks like, and Montgomery County isn’t it.  I grew up in Washington DC, where my parents were completely disenfranchised. They couldn’t even vote for President until 1964. I grew up with no home rule at all.  Even today, Washingtonians remain scandalously unable to participate fully in our democracy.

Contrary to Mr. Cooper’s assertion that “the Democratic Party of Maryland has long prioritized the party above the public interest,” I see exactly the opposite in today’s State and County Party.

At the State level, Maryland Democratic Party chair Kathleen Matthews has worked tirelessly to reach out to the many new activists who have come together in new groups since the 2016 election.  Some of these activists are outspoken Democrats; others are progressives active in new nonpartisan but progressive organizations.  She has met with them, she’s invited them into the Party’s big tent, and quite a few of them have joined the Woman’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County (WDC), which I lead.

At the County level, rather than the “gross abuse of the public trust” Mr. Cooper sees, I see a Democratic Central Committee striving to expand voter choice in selecting our representation.  I happened to be at the most recent Central Committee meeting, when the Committee became the first in Maryland to endorse Del. David Moon’s legislative proposal to create special elections to fill a General Assembly vacancies.  Why is this important?  If passed, a state Senator or Delegate vacancy in the first year of a term would trigger a special election, rather than being filled by Central Committee appointment as is now the practice.  (When a vacancy occurs later in a term, the Central Committee would make a temporary appointment, with a special election held during the next Presidential election, thus avoiding the cost of a special election when a regularly scheduled election is on the horizon.)

The vote that seems to have prompted Mr. Cooper’s protestation was the adoption of a proposal to restrict candidates from running on the same ballot for a government office as well as the Central Committee.  This makes great sense, for several reasons.  First, it would avoid the possibility that a candidate may – intentionally or not – use public financing and traditional financing simultaneously.  Second, it avoids the possibility of conflicts of interest that would inevitably arise should one person hold both positions.  And third, from my perspective, is that it opens up more opportunities for the many newly energized Democrats to serve in leadership positions.

Personally, I appreciate the County Central Committee leadership’s willingness – indeed, enthusiasm – to engage in collaborative efforts.  Among many examples, the Central Committee and WDC are working together to recruit and train precinct officials, a critically important function.  Precinct officials are the ones who rally local residents to vote – certainly the essence of a strong democracy.