Tag Archives: Jeff Waldstreicher

More Giraffes Than Black People

UPDATE: Visit Maryland has now removed the video from YouTube. Twitter reports that it is also gone from Baltimore’s Penn Station. @visitmaryland is so far quiet on the subject.

Visit Maryland has air-brushed African Americans out of Baltimore. If the above official tourism promotion video, playing on an endless loop in Baltimore’s Penn Station, is to be believed, more giraffes live in Baltimore than African Americans.

Black people should not be deemed too scary to feature in videos touting any part of Maryland. Nevertheless, their absence is especially glaring–and I imagine galling–in a video about majority-black Baltimore City.

Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) noticed the video during a visit to Charm City and has written the Commerce Secretary to demand its removal from public circulation:

Letter to Secretary GillBeyond the blatant racism, the video is also economically foolish. African Americans have a lot of tourism dollars to spend. As Del. Waldstreicher points out, there is enormous cultural and historical richness in Baltimore black history. Don’t we want African-American tourists to think of Baltimore as a potential destination?

Whitewashing Baltimore is not going to make Baltimore more appealing or its well-known problems go away.

Share

D18 Democratic Delegate Forum

D18DebateAl Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Emily Shetty, Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Elizabeth Matory, and Rick Kessler

I live tweeted last night’s delegate debate hosted by the D18 Democratic Caucus. Not all went through as the Bushey Theater, formerly Roundhouse Theater, has no wifi and is almost a cell phone dead zone.  Heaven for a theater but the enemy of the twitterati.

These events are great not because they change minds but because they give people a chance to know the candidates as real people and better understand what motivates them and where their real political passion lies.

DEBATE MOMENTS

Oblivious Conservatism on Education: Amazing to hear vocal criticism of basing education funding on a county’s wealth and support for directing it based on the number of students from candidates trying to outdo one another as the most progressive. So two counties with the same number of students should receive the same funds from the State even if one is twice as wealthy?

This populist railing against overcrowded schools will likely fly well with the voters. But conservatives will quite rightly roll their eyes at the incoherent pairing of this call for “fairness” with simultaneous demands for more taxes on the wealthy to pay for services for people striving their way up the ladder.

Smackdown! Moderator Charles Duffy saying to Jeff Waldstreicher “I guess we can move on if you’re not going to answer the question” after Jeff’s answer on school construction. Natali Fani-Gonzalez also took Jeff to task for expressing pride helping to bring an insufficient $40 million back to MoCo for school construction.

Boom. Liz Matory stated “our delegation in the House of Delegates is considered the weakest in the State of Maryland” in arguing her case for a new, more effective delegation. Direct contrast with Ana’s highlighting her seniority on the Appropriations Committee and Jeff doing the same on the Judiciary Committee.

New D18 Drinking Game: Drink when Rick Kessler says “ATM” or anyone says “bringing people together.” Seriously, I was getting worried that someone was going to break out singing “People. People who need people.”

Taxes and Economic Justice: Repeated calls for more taxes on high-income earners and big corporations in this district with some of the wealthiest precincts in the State, though also areas that need a hand. Much support for combined reported and closing the achievement gap. Liz Matory provided a contrast with her concern that current tax rates are making it more difficult to attract business to Montgomery.

No Discussion. Environment. Health Care.

CHALLENGERS

Natali Fani-Gonzalez Strengths: Unquestionably in command when she had the mike, Natali articulated a strong passion for economic justice backed by business and lobbying experience along with an inspiring personal story. Clear winner of the first half of the debate.

Elizabeth Matory Strengths: Forceful and willing to call it as she sees it and aware of the need to attract business to Maryland. Many  with business experience sound arrogant and windy as they talk about how they’ll bring it to bear on government. Not Liz. She communicated well how she’d marry her business smarts to politics.

Rick Kessler Strengths: On message as any presidential candidate, Rick drilled into my head that Montgomery County should not be the State of Maryland’s ATM. Rick clearly gets that candidates must repeat, repeat, repeat to get their message across.

Emily Shetty Strengths: Harnessed her personal history effectively to help show the grounding for her agenda. Drove home her support for more money for schools in Montgomery. @AbeSaffer is her not-so-secret Twitter weapon.

INCUMBENTS

Al Carr Strengths: Calm and relaxed, Al sounds like a real person doing his best to work pragmatically on problems rather than a pol. He highlighted concrete achievements in making our state government more genuinely transparent despite opposition.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez Strengths: Still passionate after twenty years in elected office. No one gets to the left of Ana in a debate–not a bad place to be in the Democratic primary. A very American immigrant story that paved the way for others on the stage.

Jeff Waldstreicher Strengths: No constituent problem is too small. Proud to be Delegate Pothole, Jeff’s opening statement highlighted his success in getting the A/C turned on in a county facility so a Bar Mitzvah could move ahead even though his child was sick. Gave out his cell number.

Share

How Marijuana Decriminalization Passed the House

As the session drew to a close, the prospects for marijuana decriminalization looked grim despite its passage by an overwhelming majority in the Senate. Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Vallario had once again put the kibosh on the bill.

At Vallario’s behest, the Committee amended the bill to replace it with one that would create a task force to study the issue. As we say in Montgomery County, paralysis by analysis. So how did a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana end up passing the House on Saturday?

First, Vallario made a critical mistake by passing any bill out of Committee at all. Though probably necessary to mollify committee members, it also provided decriminalization supporters a key opportunity to amend the bill back to its original intent.

Various advocates, including Dan Furmansky who has been lobbying on this issue, began to press legislators to put up a fight on the floor. Del. Eric Luedtke agreed to sponsor an amendment to overturn the Committee’s decision and restore the original intent of the bill.

Luedtke was a good choice. Del. Heather Mizeur has been active on this issue but her name on the amendment would have immediately doomed it due to gubernatorial politics in this election year. Ditto for Del. Jolene Ivey. Their willingness to step back and allow others to take the lead aided the effort greatly.

Bill advocates quickly began talking with Del. Keiffer Mitchell and Del. Nat Oaks who reached out to the Black Caucus. As this was going on, time passed and decriminalization proponents made the call not to offer their amendment on second reading, as it would have received only a couple dozen votes and died.

Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis gave the effort a major boost when he advocated fighting for decriminalization on the floor to the Black Caucus and made a statement to that end in the media. Support from a respected member of leadership helped propel the amendment forward.

Key legislative advocates, such as Dels. Luedtke, Oaks, Mizeur, Ivey, David Fraser-Hidalgo, and Alonzo Washington, organized a whip operation supported by various advocacy groups like the ACLU. Republican Del. Mike Smigiel agreed to work on libertarian members of his party.

By the time they had close to 40 supporters, Vallario dug in his heals and made clear that he expected members of his committee to stick with him. But the House leadership forced him to ask the House to special order the bill, which it did, so he could negotiate with decriminalization advocates.

Del. Kieffer Mitchell agreed to sponsor the amendment, which was another good move to move matters forward, as attaching this junior but prominent African-American legislator’s name helped to emphasize the racial disparities associated with current enforcement of criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

By the end of the day on Friday, it became clear that Speaker Busch had released senior leadership to vote how they wished (i.e. to vote against Vallario), as Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Sheila Hixson along with Dereck Davis expressed their support. Like Davis, McIntosh proved especially helpful in gaining new supporters. The whipping operation was also highly visible on the floor.

Some Judiciary Committee members, like Dels. Curt Anderson and Luiz Simmons, began to rebel against sticking with Vallario. However, he still had support from others, such as Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais who has genuine reservations and Del. Jeff Waldstreicher who did not want to harm his excellent relationship with his committee chairman.

In the midst of all this, Vallario finally sued for peace. Good timing, as amendment supporters had received 66 firm commitments of support and he was about to get rolled publicly. Vallario and Dumais met with Bobby Zirkin, the Senate sponsor who had also been very active, to draft a new amendment. Mitchell and Luedtke were brought in later that night to help organize the plan for the floor.

Judiciary met on Saturday morning to ax the task force plan and recommend favorably the original bill as modified in small ways. Mitchell withdrew his amendment and matters proceeded according to regular order. As the bill was now a committee bill, it became critical for it to pass for the House leadership, particularly after all the contretemps surrounding it. And it did.

A few quick thoughts on the outcome. First, it showed that junior backbench members both can and will exercise influence on critical issues when committee chairs flout the will of the bulk of the Democratic Caucus. This was already a moderate, compromise bill. Remember it accomplished mild decriminalization–not full-scale legalization. Vallario’s repeated noes were not acceptable.

Second, Speaker Michael Busch did not have Vallario’s back. The Judiciary Committee Chair has simply opposed his Caucus too often on priority issues. Leaders don’t last long in power if they don’t listen to their members–something Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller understand far better than many realize.

Share

Marijuana Saturday

The General Assembly is meeting today as the session rushes to its Monday night close. Many days the General Assembly does not attract much attention, even if its decisions have a large day-to-day impact on Marylanders.

This is not one of those days. The heat and light will revolve around the fierce debate in the House over marijuana decriminalization. Washington Post Reporter John Wagner and Frederick Kunkle have a fine article summarizing the state of play.

The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin to decriminalize marijuana on March 14 by a vote of 36-8 with 7 Republicans joining 29 Democrats in voting green. The 8 red votes were split evenly between the two parties.

Led by Chairman Joe Vallario, the Judiciary Committee proceeded to gut the bill by replacing it with text that created a task force to study the question. They then voted 14-5 to report on the bill favorably to the full House.

The decision to report favorably on any bill at all was an interesting one. Last year, the Committee let a similar bill die last year without a vote. This year, they did the same to another decriminalization bill and also killed off a legalization bill.

The favorable report on the bill appears to have provided a vehicle for decriminalization proponents to attempt to roll the Judiciary Committee in the full house. (Perhaps a sign of a crack in Chairman Vallario’s control?) Del. Kieffer Mitchell has offered an amendment to strike all of the House changes.

At the request of Del. Vallario, the House special ordered the bill for today when the House will take it up again. Wagner and Kunkle report that the vote in the House is expected to be close with negotiations occurring to tighten the bill in order to attract enough supporters to pass:

Closed-door discussions late in the day Friday focused on ways to tighten several provisions in the Senate bill, according to several delegates. For example, the Senate bill would require young people caught with marijuana to appear before a judge, who could order treatment and counseling. Delegates were considering making the age that triggers that provision under 21, rather than under 18.

Interestingly, at least some committee members, such as AG Candidate Aisha Braveboy, appear inclined to break with tradition by voting against their committee’s decision. Several other delegates face a similar choice, such as Del. Jeff Waldstreicher who has good relations with his chair. No doubt his constituents–and his primary opponents–will look with interest which way he jumps.

You can listen to the House proceedings online if you’re so inclined.

Thinking for the long term beyond this particular bill is the issue of Joe Vallario’s future as chair of the Judiciary Committee. Speaker Busch keeps a delegate who not only votes against his caucus but works repeatedly to thwart its goals at his peril.

Similar situations in Congress in which conservative Democrats used their seniority to control committees inspired a revolt that led to rules reform in the 1970s. All Democratic committee chairs must now be approved by the full Caucus.

Vallario has chaired this committee for over two decades. But this long tenure generates frustration as well as respect from younger delegates restless to advance. Seems like an opportunity for the Speaker to satisfy some pent up ambition. Might solve two problems at once.

 

Share

Brown Comes to Gansler’s Backyard

This Wednesday night from 6-7pm, District 18 Delegate Candidate Natali Fani-González is hosting a meet-and-greet (not a fundraiser) for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, one of Brown’s competitors, went to elementary school in the district. Much of it should be considered his home turf, as he is well-known and has deep roots in the area, though he now lives in adjoining District 16.

Sen. Rich Madaleno, Del. Al Carr, and Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez have endorsed Gansler. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher originally planned to support Gansler but shifted his support to Brown–a step that received more attention than usual as Gansler included him on a list of supporters because he thought he still had his support.

While Fani-González has not announced an endorsement from Brown, it would not be at odds with talk of competing slates allied with either Brown or Gansler in other districts. This could be a tad awkward for Waldstreicher as he is on a team with the other incumbents who have endorsed Gansler.

For Brown, it could be a promising way to build alliances and support in District 18 and also with Fani-González, who is active and works in politics and a variety of Democratic causes. She has the potential to continue to rise regardless of the outcome of this race.

On the other hand, if Brown expects to become Governor, he wants to maintain good relations with legislators who might not appreciate his support for a challenger. Of course, they will also need to repair relationships if he wins, so it’s a complicated relationship that works both ways, especially since Maryland’s governor is very powerful.

There is also some risk attached for Fani-González because her link with Brown might not thrill Gansler supporters. Nevertheless, she has far more to gain from an endorsement from a statewide figure of Brown’s stature even if two incumbents have been endorsed by Gansler who should do well in D18.

On a similar note, Candidate Liz Matory has received support from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Both are major figures with Wilder holding a particular place of honor as the first African-American governor in modern times. I am not sure how much weight either carry in District 18, though they could help her gain African-American support if communicated to voters.

And the value and the communication of endorsements are really the keys. They just don’t matter if the voters don’t know about them. And, of course, the voter has to value the endorser’s opinion in order for it work as a signal or cue to voters.

No doubt more to come as the session comes to end and primaries continue to heat up.

Share

Gutiérrez Entices Competition in District 18

D18Montgomery County District 18

This is the first of a two part post on the delegate race in District 18. This morning, I profile the incumbents in the race. In the afternoon, I’ll take a look at the challengers and make an overall assessment.

District 18, centered on Chevy Chase, Kensington, Wheaton and part of Silver Spring, is economically and racially diverse. Redistricting moved it a bit west, dropping a couple of Silver Spring precincts and picking up Garrett Park and areas around White Flint. D18 includes many of Montgomery’s mini municipalities.

The Senate race is not a top primary to watch, so I’ll focus on the more interesting delegate race. All three incumbents, Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, and Jeff Waldstriecher are seeking reelection. Ana’s repeated public musings about retirement enticed other good candidates into the race and made it more competitive.

The fundamental question about this race is whether any challenger can pick off one of the incumbents if they run as a united slate. The challengers will likely pick off some votes from each of them. But will enough come from any single incumbent or go to any single challenger to cause an incumbent to fail to win reelection?

I review the incumbents first before turning to the challengers. They are discussed in descending order of funds raised.

INCUMBENTS

Jeff Waldstreicher has $114K in his campaign account. In the last fundraising report, Jeff reported $14K in PAC donations, including big donations from MCGEO ($2K), the Firefighters ($2.5K) and the Trial Lawyers ($5K).

Jeff also received $33K in contributions in the past year. The largest is from Big Boyz Bail Bonds in Baltimore for $1K. However, most are from individuals, many of whom are local residents and activists whose names I recognize. He also received a donation from Joe Vallario, his committee chair.

Jeff is seeking his third term in the legislature and sits on the Judiciary Committee. His strength is that he is a disciplined and focused campaigner. Jeff is just relentless about knocking on doors and has substantial funds to aid his efforts at voter contact.

Al Carr has $42K in his campaign account. Al raised $20K over the past year. (Note: I am listed as one of the donors.) His donors generally gave smaller amounts than Jeff’s. Many are local names that I recognize with a particular accent on environmental activists.

Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman was Al’s most generous donor, giving over $1K. Before serving in the House, Al was a Kensington Town Councilman. Al also loaned his campaign $29K. Only $200 came from a single PAC donation.

Al’s great strength is that he has a core base of strong supporters among environmentalists and municipalities in the district. He is very attentive to neighborhood concerns, which gives him a very nice base of volunteers and local advocates.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez has $28K in her campaign account. She raised close to $5K in individual contributions. She has more donors with Latino surnames and fewer from Kensington or Chevy Chase than Jeff or Al. I also noticed $50 from at-large County Councilmember George Leventhal.

Ana received $1600 in in-state PAC donations–$1K from AFSCME and $600 from the United Food and Commercial Workers. And another $4K from out-of-state PACs–$3K from the Laborers International Union and $1K from SEIU NY/NJ. Ana had to pay a $500 fine for accidentally continuing to solicit contributions on her web site during the session when fundraising is banned.

Ana’s great strength is simply that she has appeared on the ballot in every state election in this area since 1990, first for School Board and then for the House of Delegates. The senior Latino elected official in Maryland, she has a strong Latino base.

The real question for the incumbents is whether they will slate together. They dissolved the District 18 Democratic Team campaign account at Ana’s insistence. It seems clear that Jeff and Al will join incumbent Sen. Rich Madaleno on a common ticket. Despite reluctance, I suspect Ana will also slate with the other incumbents, as the advantages, particularly for a candidate with little money facing a strong challenge, are just too great to ignore.

This afternoon, I look at the challengers.

Share