How Jamie Raskin Could Win

A guest blog by Adam Pagnucco.

Congressional District 8 has three strong Democratic candidates with a chance to win.  One of them is District 20 State Senator Jamie Raskin.


Raskin has successfully established his brand as the effective, results-oriented progressive in the race, and he uses it as a contrast against two well-funded opponents who have never held office and have no local political history.  He started with a geographic base that accounted for roughly a sixth of the district and expanded it into other areas with a nearly year-long ground campaign.  His supporters are passionate, knowledgeable, loyal and numerous.  It would not be a stretch to say that he has wrapped up close to 90% of the district’s regular Democratic activists, the kind of people who play big roles in County Council and state legislative races.  His fundraising has been mostly local and is competitive with Kathleen Matthews.  His mail program has been second only to David Trone’s, although Emily’s List has been catching up in their advocacy for Matthews.


As the third-ranking candidate in terms of finances, Raskin is running a more targeted race than either Matthews or Trone.  He has made a token investment in television in favor of a robust mail campaign, which can be targeted to regular voters.  There is good reason for this, but let’s remember that Rob Garagiola made a similar choice against John Delaney in 2012.  If turnout is high and jammed with low information voters who have not seen Raskin’s mail, he would be at a disadvantage.  Also, Raskin’s dispute with Delegate Kumar Barve over an inaccurate television ad has earned him negative coverage in the Post (twice), the Sun and Bethesda Magazine during the crucial final weeks of the race.

What Our Sources Say

Source: “Raskin has had the clearest message – that you should vote for him because he is the one who has actually passed bills that deliver on the progressive values all of the candidates say they support – but the question is whether he has put enough resources into TV ads to compete with the Trone-a-thon (and to a lesser extent the Matthews ads) that have blanketed the region with spots for his competitors.”

Source: “A hypothetical: If you could choose between a candidate who had a fantastic TV game but mediocre ground game, or a candidate with a fantastic ground game but mediocre TV game, who would you choose?  If you chose the latter, congrats, you’ve picked the winner of the CD8 race.”

Source: “Raskin isn’t a bad guy but the issues he’s advanced in the State Senate that he talks about frequently on the trail — a place with only 14 Republicans — have absolutely ZERO chance of happening in a Republican Congress. The key progressive battles in Congress won’t be waged in the near term on social issues, but as Chris Van Hollen showed, they’ll be fought on budget issues. That’s the effective progressive void CVH will leave in the House and Raskin simply doesn’t have the budget chops to fill it.”

Source: “He inherited Frosh’s very strong Montgomery County network which, along with his own record, gave him an instant third of the vote.  That’s an enviable position to be in.  On the other hand, he has a long voting record in a year of outsiders, is arguably to the left of Bernie Sanders, and doesn’t have a great deal of humility.  Still, if he wins it is a great victory for activism, involvement, and progressivism.”

Source: “Jamie’s candidacy is the test of whether there is value to being in the state legislature for people who aspire to higher profile office (offices on the top of the ballot that most voters learned about in civics class in high school – President, Senate, House). Hard working legislator, deep community connections, excellent reputation and undeniably brilliant. But, does he have any kind of advantage from having all of those elements in front of an electorate that does not follow Annapolis? Do the liberal party insiders who support him have as much electoral power as the state legislators and county councilmembers think they do? We’re about to find out!”

How He Could Win

Raskin supporters tend to be very liberal, know that Raskin is very liberal, and have lots of information about the race.  That message is reinforced through the grass-roots network that Raskin has built.  High information voters like these almost always vote and they will have an outsize impact on a low turnout election.  Turnout in Montgomery County has been trending downwards for years, and if that continues, it will favor Raskin.  Under this scenario, his people will stay with him and the remaining low information voters will be divided between Matthews and Trone.  Whether this will play out in the context of a competitive Democratic presidential primary is anyone’s guess, but Raskin’s base is the envy of the field and he has a good chance to win.


How Kathleen Matthews Could Win

A guest blog by Adam Pagnucco.

Congressional District 8 has three strong Democratic candidates with a chance to win.  One of them is former WJLA anchor and Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews.


Matthews is an attractive, polished female candidate – an advantage in any Democratic primary dominated by women.  She has been a great fundraiser, excels on television and has run an intelligent campaign based on her strengths.  She has been endorsed by the Washington Post, as was John Delaney in 2012.  Emily’s List has basically taken over her mail program, enabling her to shift more money to her home medium of TV.  And she has not made any significant mistakes during the campaign.


Matthews started out with no history in local politics, even though she was once well-known as a local journalist.  That caused skepticism from local Democratic Party activists, most of whom quickly lined up behind Senator Jamie Raskin.  Her history of running Marriott’s PAC, which donated to Republicans as well as Democrats, is an issue for some.  Comptroller Peter Franchot, Delegate Bill Frick and former County Executive Doug Duncan are among her few local endorsements.  She has raised far more money out of state than in state.  And her campaign, while professional, has emphasized more standard national Democratic issues than local issues.  Still, Matthews’s strengths outweigh her weaknesses and she has a very good chance to win.

What Our Sources Say

Source: “Matthews started slow – she was so poorly informed and unfamiliar with the people and issues in the district that she bordered on offensive in early appearance and meetings with activists and other potential supporters – but she has become much more comfortable and has performed reasonably well in later candidate forums and debates. The conventional wisdom – and I suspect it is correct – is that Trone takes a bigger chunk of support from Matthews than from Raskin, because Raskin is presumably strongest among the most intensively engaged Democratic base voters, while Trone and Matthews are competing for voters who are less ideological and are less likely to know much about his legislative record.”

Source: “Among insiders, there’s a sense that Kathleen is running a very generic campaign.  Campaign-in-a-box kinda thing.  But insiders are usually wrong, and she obviously has gender on her side (and isn’t afraid to use it).”

Source: “With all due respect to Kathleen who seems like a perfectly nice and intelligent woman, female voters in this District are far too smart to be pandered to the way she has this election cycle. To talk about her time at Marriott in the context of creating jobs and being a business person is like saying her husband – who was Tip O’Neill’s press secretary – served as Speaker of the House.”

Source: “Strong candidate and strong campaign.  If it weren’t for a completely unprecedented amount of self-funding by another outsider candidate, she would have the race sealed.”

How She Could Win

Matthews and her chief ally, Emily’s List, are running an all-female, all-the-time kind of campaign.  And they are smart to do so since women account for roughly 60% of Montgomery County’s Democratic voters, no matter how you cut the electorate.  If Matthews gets a majority of women, she could start with 35 points.  If she adds just five more points from men, she has 40, and that’s probably good enough to win.


Delegates for Corporate Welfare

The General Assembly managed to pass a tax subsidy worth $37.5 million for Northrup Grumman but not to enact the increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIRC) that both houses favor. Laudably, the House  did not tie the EITC increase to a tax cut for the wealthy like the Senate but instead adopted a broad based tax cut.

Nonetheless, the corporate welfare for Northrup Grumman easily passed the House of Delegates 76-57. Twenty-eight House Democrats supported this giveaway, including several who identify themselves as progressive leaders in the House:

NG Dem DelEight Democrats didn’t vote on the issue, including a few members of the House leadership team:


Two Republicans stood for conservative principles and did not give away your tax dollars to a corporation that already does quite well at the federal trough.



Updated: Fundraising in Congressional District 8

This is a guest blog by Adam Pagnucco.

Last October, we summarized fundraising in Congressional District 8 through the third quarter of 2015.  Today, we present updated numbers incorporating campaign finance reports through April 6, 2016, which are the last reports due before the primary.

First, let’s look at the top-line numbers by category.

Total Wine co-owner David Trone stands out.  His $12.5 million in resources, almost entirely self-funded, accounts for 67% of all money in the race.  Trone has set the all-time nationwide record for self-funding in a U.S. House primary and his financing approaches the range of recent major candidates for Maryland Governor.

Former WJLA anchor and Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews and Senator Jamie Raskin have both done well.  At the beginning of the race, many observers were predicting that it would take $2 million to win, and both Matthews and Raskin are roughly at that mark.  If it were not for Trone, their financial performance would be attracting more comment.  The other candidates combined have accounted for 9% of the election’s funding and face steep challenges to be heard.  (Dan Bolling’s report has not been filed as of this writing, so his numbers are not included here.)

Top Line

Unlike state and county contributions, federal contributions must be designated for the primary or the general.  The candidates have collected relatively little general election money and their budgets are almost entirely available for the primary.

Primary vs General

Burn rate, which is the percentage of money raised that has been spent, is not a terribly meaningful statistic at this point.  Most of the candidates’ money is gone now with the exception of Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, who can afford some late mailers if she wishes.  But Trone and Matthews have additional self-financing capacity, and even Raskin can self-fund to a limited extent.  (So far, he has given himself just $2,700.)  Additionally, this statistic is affected by the timing of bill payments.  Candidates who pay late look better on cash-on-hand than those who pay early.  Note: Trone’s raised figure includes the two self-funding contributions he made last week, but his cash on hand applies to April 6.  That makes his data not strictly comparable to the other candidates, but at this point, he and the others are spending as fast as they take money in.

Burn Rate

The maximum allowable individual contribution is $2,700 per election, both primary and general.  Matthews leads in this category.  Thirty percent of her fundraising has come from maximum checks and her average individual contribution is the highest in the field.  Raskin has the smallest average individual contribution, but that does not include his lead in unitemized contributions of $200 or less.  There’s no way to tell from the campaign finance reports how many of those small contributions he has received, but they total over $300,000.  Raskin is the race’s small dollar leader.

Avg Max Individual

In terms of geography, large amounts of out-of-state cash have been flowing into CD8.  Excluding self-financing and unitemized contributions, only Raskin has received a majority of his contributions from Maryland while Delegate Kumar Barve is close at 47%.  Nearly half of all money from Marylanders in this race has gone to Raskin.  Matthews, Gutierrez, Will Jawando, Joel Rubin and Dave Anderson have all received less than a third of their contributions from Marylanders other than themselves.  Rubin’s take from California is more than double his receipts from Maryland.  Matthews’ number one location of contributions is the District of Columbia and she leads in receipts from the District, Virginia, New York, California and Massachusetts.

By State

Here’s a breakdown by locality, both inside and outside the district.  Matthews leads in funding from Potomac and is basically tied with Raskin in Chevy Chase, while Raskin leads in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, Kensington and Takoma Park (the latter by light years).  Matthews dominates in fundraising from large localities outside the district.  She has raised more than three times as much money from New York City as she has from Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Rockville and Kensington combined.

By City

This data makes clear the fundraising strengths of CD8 candidates.  Trone is self-funding A LOT.  Matthews has tapped into a large monetary base combining national level Democrats, PACs and business money.  Raskin has national and PAC money too, but most of his financing is local and much of it is small dollar.  All three have the resources they need to win.  Given the fact that these three account for 91% of the funding in this race, it’s hard for the other candidates to break through.


On the Trone Campaign

Once this election is over, Democrats all over the Eighth Congressional District are going to feel jilted as the never ending stream of direct mail from David Trone comes to a sudden halt. So I’m playing this one in advance of primary day.

Seriously though, David Trone is running an excellent campaign. Many wealthy people decide to run for office but are completely oblivious to their lack of political expertise and spend their money badly. David Trone has hired experts, and he has hired good ones.

Trone’s direct mail is not only plentiful, it’s attractive and well-designed. It comes in a variety of formats. If you don’t read the postcard, maybe you open the letter. It’s also targeted; I received at least two pieces based on my ethnicity.

His television ads are similarly well done based on the few I’ve seen. Thanks to the blessings of Tivo, I see fewer political ads than many. (Some friends are impressed that I manage to watch TV not see most of Trone’s ads.) Increasingly, I suspect, viewers of commercials on television skew older. But that’s not bad in a primary because so do the voters.

Younger viewers may have been forced to watch when they viewed shows online, as most do nowadays. I imagine I might’ve seen more videos for Trone if I clicked on the many net ads, though I wonder greatly if they are effective.

Trone also has a large staff of paid canvassers. They’re way better than paid people that I’ve seen in most state legislative campaigns, who usually can’t wait to dump the literature and get home. Nonetheless, Trone’s people remain less passionate and knowledgeable than volunteers. Scratch the surface of his pleasant crew, though I am not sure many do, and they don’t know much about their guy.

The canvassers are also well targeted. Anyone who requested an absentee ballot soon had a Trone canvasser at their door. And Trone has very heavily promoted absentee ballot requests from people who have not voted in primaries previously.

If Trone loses, it won’t be because he spent his money badly.

The real question remains why Trone wants to be a freshman member of Congress. It doesn’t seem to be any particular issue passion. A clear campaign weakness is that his stances on public policy are cookie cutter and undeveloped.

Beyond wanting this to acquire this particular political success and to highlight his considerable business acumen, one wonders why he doesn’t run for an office where he could really shake things up. A Trone campaign for County Executive would sure unsettle the plans of most of the County Council.


Senators for Corporate Welfare

The General Assembly couldn’t manage to pass an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) even though both houses supported it. In contrast, the bill giving Northrup Grumman a $37.5 million tax credit sailed to passage.

Who in the Maryland Senate supported this fine example of corporate welfare?

One Republican Against Corporate Welfare

Just about every Republican voted for the bill. Sen. Michael Hough (R-4) was the sole Republican who voted no, possibly because he is a conservative who (1) wants a simple tax code, (2) doesn’t think government should interfere in the free market by helping out only favored businesses, and (3) wonders why his tax paying constituents shouldn’t get the break instead of Northrup Grumman.

Democrats for Corporate Welfare

Nineteen Democrats joined the twelve Republicans who voted for the bill. The following chart lists them in decreasing order of support for Democrat Anthony Brown in the last election:

DforNGThough seven represent legislative districts that voted for Hogan, the rest hail from districts won by Brown. Nine of the 19 represent extremely safe Democratic districts. In these nine, Brown won by 59% or more, and all won election in 2014 by 62% or more.

Four more represent districts carried only narrowly by Brown (i.e. 50-52%). But even these senators do not face serious general election danger. Obama fared much better in the same territory, and Democrats won them by 57% or more in 2014 despite the terrible electoral fortunes faced by Democrats around the country.

Sen. Craig Zucker (D-14), recently appointed to replace retired Sen. Karen Montgomery, is tacking to the right of his predecessor. Besides voting in favor of giving money to Northrup Grumman, he also supported the tax cut for the wealthy. An interesting strategy as incumbent Sen. Rona Kramer lost to then-Del. Montgomery the primary after being attacked as too pro-business.

Dumb Politics

The politics of the legislation make little sense. It’s not even a question of alienating liberals. It’s hard to see how Democrats win more votes here from anyone. Are moderates, let alone liberals, really going to vote Democratic because Northrup Grumman received a tax giveaway?

The icing on the cake is that the Senate simultaneously killed off an increase in the EITC by standing firm in favor of a tax cut for the wealthy instead of for the middle class.


EITC Increase Dies But Northrup Grumman Gets Corporate Welfare

One of the big battles of the General Assembly’s now ended legislative session centered around proposals to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and to cut taxes. Both the Senate and the House proposed an increase in the EITC. But while the Senate tied it to a cut in marginal rates for the top 11.1%, the House passed a broad based tax cut.

No EITC or Middle Class Tax Cuts

Conference negotiations resulted in stalemate, as the Senate held out for its tax cut on the wealthy. As a result, no tax cuts and no increase in the EITC. The political sense in the Senate’s position was lost on me. The Democratic-controlled Senate held the EITC hostage to a tax cut for the wealthy for which the Governor would inevitably claim all the credit. Bad policy and bad politics.

Don’t Worry, We Have Northrup Grumman’s Back

Meanwhile, the General Assembly passed a $37.5 million tax credit for Northrup Grumman. The Senate even voted down an amendment that proposed to make it nonrefundable. While the legislature made progress on other fronts, the General Assembly bombed the fundamentals on tax policy.

Heck, Republicans should have opposed this turkey too. If you really believe in the free market, then you should also believe that government should not pick winners and losers or give some businesses special treatment.

Sen. Rich Madaleno, who opposed the tax cut for the wealthy and the corporate welfare for Northrup Grumman, summed up the situation well in a tweet: “Sadly only Northrup Grumman gets expanded EITC.”

How Did They Vote?

That’s for tomorrow’s post.




House of Delegates Tax Bill Vastly Superior

The Maryland Senate has passed a tax cut that is directed at the top 11.1% of taxpayers. It would reduce marginal tax rates for individual taxpayers who make more than $100,000 and joint taxpayers who make more than $150,000, while the people who earn less than this receive no cut in their rates and get peanuts – or more specifically, money enough to buy a meal at Chipotle.

In contrast, the House of Delegates has passed far superior tax legislation. Instead of focusing the benefits on wealthy Marylanders, the House bill would lower the marginal rates on income earned between $3001 and $100,000 (and up to $150,000 for joint taxpayers). The wealthy would still get a break but this bill, appropriately, directs far more of the benefit to the much-squeezed working and middle classes. Like the Senate bill, the House bill also expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Politically, it should be a no brainer to junk the Senate bill and adopt the House legislation, particularly for Democrats. While maintaining the EITC changes much needed by the working poor, the House bill distributes the tax cut far more widely and equitably. Let’s hope that the House and the Speaker stand firm.


The GOP Bench, Part IV

The following is a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Most attention concerning the next round of state and local elections centers on the Governor’s office. Can the Democrats find a nominee to knock off Larry Hogan or can the Governor earn a second term? But the playing field is much larger than that. In truth, we are about to find out whether Maryland is on its way to becoming a genuine two-party state.

For most of the last few decades, the Maryland Republican Party has been almost irrelevant. Their sole Governor from the seventies through the early 2000s, Bob Ehrlich, was ejected after one term. Their presence in the General Assembly was negligible. Most of the large local governments were controlled by Democrats most of the time. The great debates of the day were driven by discussions within the Democratic Party and were not affected very much by those on the outside. But there is a real question now as to whether that sort of Democratic dominance will continue.

Regardless of whether Governor Hogan is reelected, the GOP enjoys a stronger position for future elections than anyone can recall in recent times. In 2022, the County Executives of Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard could very well be running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination whether Hogan wins a second term or not. If and when they do, Republican council members and/or state legislators will run to fill those Executive seats and become the next generation of local leaders. Competition for local council seats will be fierce in swing jurisdictions like Frederick, Howard and Baltimore County. Term-limited local officials will run for the General Assembly. In other words, in the absence of an earth-shattering event (like a Donald Trump presidency) or a mass revival of the Maryland Democratic Party, the Republicans’ recent gains could become self-sustaining.

The GOP will probably never be the majority party in Maryland in our lifetimes, but they don’t have to be. All they have to do is become competitive. That will enable them to become a factor in public policy debates both through their ability to win and hold elected office and through the threat of their doing so. We may already be seeing the effects of this as a bill to steer public funding to private schools has passed the Maryland Senate. Of the 25 Senators who voted in favor it, 14 were Republicans and some of the Democrats came from competitive areas like Anne Arundel, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. The House did not pass the Senate’s proposal, but did agree to use public money to fund private school scholarships for the first time in the budget. Rising right-wing influence may also be a factor in the Senate’s passage of tax cuts for the rich. This is a reversal from the Senate’s approval of tax hikes for “half millionaires” (those making $500,000 or more) in 2012 and the General Assembly’s approval of a temporary millionaire tax in 2008.

Another consequence of the GOP’s ascent could be the empowerment of its extremist elements. Governor Hogan presents a moderate face to the public. But a recent Baltimore Sun poll found that 34% of Republican primary voters supported Donald Trump for President and another 25% supported Ted Cruz. That is sure to capture the attention of Republican elected officials and influence their behavior. Republicans like race-baiting Delegate Pat McDonough (labeled by the Sun as “the Trump of Baltimore County”); neo-Confederate Anne Arundel Council Member Michael Peroutka; Delegate Neil Parrott, who wants to require HIV victims to get tattoos to obtain medicine; Hogan-appointed anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant Baltimore County school board member Ann Miller; and Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter are all part of the GOP bench. Imagine what they would do with real power.

The challenge facing Maryland Democrats is not just Governor Hogan – it’s also the growth of the GOP in areas other than the two Beltways and the portion of I-95 connecting them. Will the Democrats respond with a sweeping statewide effort to regain their past dominance? Or will Republican gains at the local level be entrenched? That may be an even bigger question than the identity of the next Governor and it could set the political table for many years to come.