Ginsburg hoped to reshape district she looks to represent

Bethesda Beat reports that Friends of White Flint Executive Director Amy Ginsburg is looking at running for the Montgomery County Council from newly crafted District 4.

Prior to announcing her interest in running for the Council, Ginsburg used her position at Friends of White Flint to advocate vocally for a very different version of District 4. Here is one email sent out by Friends of White Flint:

From an email sent by Friends of White Flint on November 18th.

The map configurations promoted by Ginsburg would almost certainly have excluded Takoma Park, home to Mayor Kate Stewart–the other publicly interested candidate–and included more territory in closer proximity to White Flint (a.k.a. North Bethesda).

Friends of White Flint is one of those “neighborhood” organizations that is put together by developers and business to advocate for their interests. A quick glance at the its leadership confirms that business and developer representatives compose two-thirds of the board.

While Ginsburg says her background makes her a natural candidate for “the most progressive district in the county,” Friends of White Flint has consistently argued in favor of business and development interests. Supporters of developer interests regularly repackage them in social justice language, but I suspect Ginsburg’s record at other nonprofits, such as Neediest Kids and Manna Food Center, does more to burnish her progressive credentials.


Smart Choice, Puzzling Choice

Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates have already chosen running mates for the Lt. Governor slot on their ticket. One created buzz but the other inspired head scratching.

Wes Moore Picks Aruna Miller

Former Del. Aruna Miller (D-15) is well-liked and well-respected among her former colleagues in the General Assembly and more generally among people active in Montgomery politics. For Wes Moore, a running mate from the D.C. area balances his own roots in Baltimore. It also is a choice that indicates not only that Moore is dead set on becoming governor but also that he’s supported by a respected former legislator and cares seriously about governing.

Four years ago, Miller ran for the U.S. House in the Sixth District. Despite having a good base of volunteer support and solid fundraising, she lost to now Rep. David Trone, who had pots of money and was already well-known in the media market due to his unsuccessful run in the neighboring Eighth. Though ending in disappointment, the run raised Miller’s profile and created a positive impression.

Rushern Baker Picks Nancy Navarro

Baker has thrown any sense of geographic balance to the wind by reaching out all the way from Prince George’s to Montgomery to pick Nancy Navarro. Though a former County Council President, Navarro’s profile in the county is not especially high outside of her council district. Navarro’s emphasis on being a tribune for the Latino community has limited her broad appeal without nailing down the Latino vote, which is sticking with Tom Perez. Navarro is known neither as a prolific fundraiser nor a relentless campaigner.

At the Committee for Montgomery Forum, Rushern Baker touted Navarro’s racial equity legislation that requires analysis of all legislation from a racial equity perspective as what he’d bring to Maryland to address racial disparities. Whatever one thinks of expanding the diversity bureaucracy, it’s a proposal that connects with a narrow base rather than a broad swath of voters and jars with Baker’s image as a proud Black but non-identity based politician.


First Impressions

Doug Gansler, Wes Moore, Tom Perez and Rushern Baker

The Committee for Montgomery’s annual legislative breakfast at the Bethesda Marriott Conference Center is one of those annual events that brings together the political class of Montgomery County for a good schmooze. This year, CfM also held a forum moderated by Washington Post Reporter Ovetta Wiggins that was open to all gubernatorial candidates. For me, it was either the first time seeing the candidate or the first time in a long while.

Wes Moore is the candidate that stood out as a comer. By far the best speaker in the group, he came across as authentic rather than simply silver tongued. Getting former Del. Aruna Miller to be his running mate adds legislative experience. I still don’t know much about him but he’s one to watch.

After getting shellacked by Anthony Brown in 2014, former Attorney General Doug Gansler is back for another go. He’s running as a practical liberal—moderate by Maryland standards—who has the experience to get things done. The subtext is that he’s also matured and grown since his time out from politics.

Tom Perez would be the first Latino governor but is also running as the insider, establishment candidate who knows just everyone. As well he should. Since he finished his one term on the Montgomery County Council in 2006, he’s served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Secretary of Labor and DNC Chair. That gives him a lot of chits and fundraising ability but also means that he’s little known by voters.

Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, one of the most decent people in Maryland politics, lost the primary for governor in 2018 but left many thinking he would’ve been the better nominee. The forum left me wondering exactly why he wants to be governor. He highlighted his Montgomery running mate, Nancy Navarro.

Ashwani Jain is campaigning as young, smart and passionate progressive, but I just don’t get it. He ran for one of four at-large county council seats in 2018 and came in eighth in the primary. Not a signal to run for governor. Likes to consult his diary.

Former New York Education Commissioner and Secretary of Education John King seems like another smart guy who nobody knows and who failed to stand out, even on education, in a crowd of candidates who are better known and more experienced on the Maryland scene. Left me wondering why he’s running.

Jon Baron struck me as yet another earnest, perfectly likeable candidate with primarily Washington experience who won’t gain traction. This year’s Alec Ross?

Comptroller Peter Franchot is from Montgomery County yet didn’t show. Not especially popular with the political class, he returned the compliment. They aren’t the base of this former hard progressive, now moderate, so I doubt it matters.

Robin Ficker showed up with his hackneyed anti-tax message. He promised to cut the sales tax by 2%, which he oddly labelled a rebate, but per usual didn’t mention one spending item he’d cut. He attacked teachers “Where were they?” for not teaching and went after mask mandates for school kids, though he’s vaccinated.

Neither Del. Dan Cox, (R-QAnon) nor former Del. and Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz showed. Perhaps a missed opportunity for Schulz. Though a Democratic heartland, Montgomery still casts a lot of Republican primary votes and she’ll need to make inroads here like Larry Hogan to win in the general.

Libertarian Larry Lashar came across as what Republicans used to be—a bit dull but with a coherent viewpoint and some innovative ideas, like school choice. If the Republicans nominate a wackadoodle, he could get more votes than your usual third-party candidate.

Ovetta Wiggins did an excellent job as moderator by asking straightforward policy-oriented questions and letting the forum be about the candidates.


Redistricting Plan analysis

Montgomery County’s decennial redistricting not only had to equalize populations but also had to squeeze in two new districts in addition to the existing five. The County additionally elects four at-large members.

Montgomery County Council Districts 2022-2030

All of the districts in the final plan are within 5% of the ideal district population of 151,816. At 4.7% above the ideal, the new Third (Gaithersburg-Rockville) is the most populous. But the new Second (Germantown-Poolsville) is not far behind at 4.6%. The new Fourth (Kensington-Takoma) is the smallest–4.3% undersized–followed closely by the new Sixth (Wheaton), which is 4.2% too small.

The 65% White First (Bethesda-Potomac) is the only district where a single race predominates. The 47% White Fourth and the 43% White Seventh (Olney-Damascus) are the only two other districts where a single group forms more than 40% of the population.

Whites form pluralities in two more districts–the Second and the Third–but Blacks (37%) are the largest group in the Fifth (Burtonsville) and Latinos (35%) in the Sixth. Blacks will likely comprise a much larger share in the open Fifth’s critical Democratic primary due to lopsided Democratic registration rates among African Americans.

On the other hand, the share of Latinos in the primary remains cloudier. Latinos are also disproportionately Democratic, but less so than Blacks. More importantly, immigrant communities have many non-citizens who cannot participate.

Participation rates among Latinos who are citizens is generally lower than for other groups. One reason is that eligible Latino voters skew young, as they are more likely to be citizens, and young people vote at far lower rates than older voters.

A multiplicity of Latino candidates could also split the vote. Former Planning Board Member Natalie Fani-Gonzalez and former Del. Maricé Morales are among the candidates seeking the seat. Councilmember Nancy Navarro currently represents the area.

I’d be careful not to overestimate the extent to which Montgomery voters cast ballots on racial lines. African-American Councilmember Craig Rice now represents the district with the highest share of Whites and lowest share of Blacks in the county. Both Black and Latino candidates won at-large seats in 2018.

Asians are not the most numerous group in any district. The Second has the highest share of Asians at 24%. No Asian American has ever been elected to the Montgomery County Council. Will that change in 2022 with the addition of two new districts?