Tag Archives: Gino Renne

Ready for His Closeup: MCGEO’s Gino Renne

GinoRenneMCGEO President Gino Renne

MCGEO President Gino Renne should be on reality television instead of leading a union. When it comes to political drama, few serve it up more regularly than him. Unfortunately, his members appear to be bit parts in the MCGEO drama. Renne’s leadership has lost them allies in the past–and now it is costing them jobs.

The 2014 Election

In the 2014 Democratic primary, Renne bet large, thinking that taking down a number of incumbents would set him up as labor’s leader in the County and put the fear of Gino into the County Council. It backfired, big time, as an array of MCGEO-backed challengers and candidates for open seats lost.

Beyond wasting the dues of his members on campaign contributions for candidates that didn’t win, his actions alienated his members from their employers. After all, MCGEO (UFCW Local 1994) is the union that represents Montgomery County government employees, so the County Council sets their salaries.

Look at Me! I’m Still Relevant!

But Gino Renne raised the bar in the hearing on the independent Transit Authority (ITA) proposed by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. Opposing it did not just tee off the County Executive but actually undermined the prospect of steady work for his members.

The ITA would allow the County Council to create a property tax that went specifically to transportation projects. As a result, it would provide a steady funding stream for work done by MCGEO members, expanding employment and allowing the union to grow.

But Renne nonetheless fought the state legislation to allow the County to create an ITA and turned the bill hearing on it into quite the event. Flanked by 50 often vocal yellow shirts, Renne argued that his union would no longer be assured of representing workers employed by the authority.

Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15) did her best to point out that this concern was directly addressed in the bill (see p. 8, lines 14-20):

(II) for collective bargaining for Transit Authority employees with arbitration or other impasse resolution procedures with authorized representatives of Transit Authority employees; and

(III) that the authorized representative of Transit Authority employees shall remain the authorized representative of those employees unless decertified by the employees under the collective bargaining law enacted under this subsection.

In other words, why was Renne there? Or more to the point, why wasn’t Renne leading the charge for the bill? Renne made himself the star of the Gino Renne show at the very real cost to his membership. Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe it.

Share

MCGEO Paves the Way for Alcohol Reform

[UPDATE at the end of this post.]

During his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Montgomery County District 5, Evan Glass pushed hard for liberalization of Montgomery’s antiquated monopoly on the sale of alcohol in the County. Despite his narrow defeat, the next four years presents the best opportunity for reform in ages.

MCGEO, the union that represents the employees at County owned liquor stores, bet disastrously on the wrong candidates in the recent Democratic primary. The attempt by MCGEO under the leadership of Gino Renne to flex its muscle and become the leading force among unions and possibly in County politics backfired and earned the union far more enemies than friends.

Montgomery County Council
Let’s look first at County Council races. In District 1, MCGEO endorsed Duchy Trachtenberg’s bid to return to the Council in a challenge to incumbent Roger Berliner. Duchy even hired MCGEO’s former executive director as her campaign manager. Trachtenberg lost with 21% of the vote. MCGEO didn’t just lose; it looked puny and ineffectual.

The big race in District 3 went no better for MCGEO, Gaithersburg Mayor Sid Katz defeated their choice of Ryan Spiegel, who won less than one-quarter of the vote. In Districts 2 and 4, MCGEO did not endorse either incumbent in the primary even though they were unopposed. No relationships built there.

Tom Hucker, who was expected to win by more, limped home to the District 5 nomination in his battle against newcomer Evan Glass. While MCGEO should have a friend in Hucker, his narrow victory hardly impresses and its not clear yet how much weight this new member of the Council will carry with his colleagues.

In the at-large races, MCGEO supported incumbent Marc Elrich so a bright spot for them there. However, they also supported Beth Daly, the most serious challenger to the other incumbents, who all won reelection. No real reason for Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, or Hans Riemer to prioritize MCGEO’s interests. And Hans has already expressed public interest in alcohol reform.

General Assembly
MCGEO played it safer in the General Assembly but surely has teed off the three incumbents whose opponents it supported in District 18. It gave $1000 to Sen. Rich Madaleno’s opponent. Madaleno won despite being heavily outspent by his self-funding opponent who dumped over $300K in the attempt. Unfortunately for MCGEO, he is already one of the more influential insiders on the Budget and Taxation Committee.

While MCGEO supported Jeff Waldstreicher, it also gave $1000 to Natali Fani-Gonzalez, which certainly cannot especially please incumbents Al Carr and Ana Sol Gutierrez. The two incumbents romped home easily with Fani-Gonzalez placing sixth out of seven candidates.

The Results
MCGEO spent a lot of money and political capital in an effort to look strong but made its weakness apparent. Its ill-conceived campaign to plant friends on the Council and instill respect of its power has left it vulnerable. Montgomery officials can move ahead with alcohol reform. They know they have nothing to fear.

UPDATE: MCGEO made another terrible investment in the District 17 Senate race. They donated $6000 to Del. Lou Simmons, another heavy self-funder. Despite having a clear financial advantage, Lou lost the nomination to former Del. Cheryl Kagan by 9 points.

Share

MCDCC Part III: Renovation or Takeover?

Kunes AlbornozDave Kunes and Gabe Albornoz

Check out Part I and Part II of this four part series on the contretemps at MCDCC.

In the wake of the boycott of the Spring Ball, the Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) and labor unions started applying pressure for major changes on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) to include more labor representation and more young people.

The prime movers in this effort appear to be Dave Kunes, Chair of MCYD at age 24, and Gino Renne, MCGEO President. Renne is the most senior of the leaders of the three unions–the others are the FOP and the Firefighters–involved in government operations in Montgomery County.

Labor talked up running an alternative slate for MCDCC. Kunes, who then worked for Del. Tom Hucker and now works for MSEA as well as chairing MCYD, organized a PAC to back candidates for MCDCC. MCGEO donated to the PAC. At this point, perspectives on the story diverge.

No one disagrees on the basic facts, essentially a meeting occurred between MCDCC Chair Gabe Albornoz and others, including Kunes, where they agreed to put together a unity slate that would incorporate significant new members.

It’s the interpretation that varies. Some see Gabe as taking advantage of the situation to renovate a MCDCC in need of new ideas and new blood. Others see it as Gabe suing for peace in order to avoid competing slates and more acrimony within the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Either way, the result turned out the same. MCDCC set up committees of five people who were not running for MCDCC to interview people for slots on the unity slate. So far, so good.

Except that laudable step was undercut completely by the closed, secret nature of the process. Only certain people, essentially current MCDCC members and selected Young Democrats, were invited to apply. If the goal is truly renovation rather than major change to benefit specifically MCYD and labor, why keep it secret and limit applications?

The people involved may call on Captain Hindsight to lament this approach. Sorry but not buying. They organized it specifically to accomplish their goals. They own it.

Regardless, this lack of transparency and the limited nature of the invitations had the desired effect. Roughly eight members of the unity slate, or one-third of candidates, are young Democrats. As a result, the committee is set to take in a major influx of people who helped place the pressure on MCDCC to change.

Additionally, some changes were further negotiated between the major players behind the scenes after the interviews. In particular, the unity slate dropped Young Democrat Brígida Krzysztofik in favor of Kevin Walling, who had raised money for his delegate race in District 16. Both are LGBT. Krzysztofik was quietly promised that she would get a slot next time.

Some of the unity slate choices make more sense than others. I was surprised to learn that the slate didn’t include Jay Wilson, a very talented, smart Young Democrat and Vice President of the African-American Democratic Club. (I know Jay through his work for a nonprofit that we both support.) Despite passing on Jay, African Americans comprise roughly one-third of the slate.

Most of the retiring members have done so by choice but a few were defenestrated from the slate against their will. The primary example is Harold Diamond, who won a seat in District 19 challenging the slate in 2010, but was not selected for the unity slate.

Diamond chaired both the Ballot Questions Advisory Committee as well as the precinct officials meeting to vote on them. He had the nice sounding but dreadful in practice idea of populating the committee with essentially anyone who volunteered. Not the best means to recruit a group of volunteers who are particularly sensible, representative, or sensitive to the variety of interests and trends within the party.

The meeting of the precinct officials also left several key issues until very late in the evening and Diamond repeatedly tried to steer matters in the direction he favored. No surprise he was left off the slate. Nonetheless, he will be seeking reelection from District 19.

Despite labor’s grievances avowedly being a prime motive for unhappiness with MCDCC, only one of the new members has a direct link to the three governmental unions who were upset with MCDCC–Erin Yeagley works for MCGEO. However, Dave Kunes also works for MSEA and the Young Dems as a group are perceived as labor proxies.

The oddness doesn’t end there. The dispute began because labor was frustrated with the County Council. But MCDCC’s major power is to fill vacancies in the legislature. Vacancies on the County Council are filled by appointment. On the other hand, Gino Renne will likely view it as mission accomplished if he can prevent MCDCC from sending out another sample ballot endorsing a question opposed by organized labor even if unanimously supported by an all-Democratic County Council.

Some view all of this as simply an power play by Dave Kunes supported by the unions. Certainly, the idea that crisis is another word for opportunity has more than a dollop of truth. Nevertheless, harnessing ambition for public goals can be a powerful force for change. Kunes revitalized the Young Democrats and made them a force in the County. Regardless of how it came about, the changes at MCDCC provide a real chance to regenerate the party.

Politics is perhaps the only profession in which people are supposed to loudly protest their lack of ambition or desire for advancement as they move their way up the ladder. So what if ambition played a role in his organization of this renovation/partial takeover? All our officials should be so skilled and talented.

The final part in this series will explore the upcoming election for MCDCC as well as its future.

Share