Category Archives: MCDCC

Latest on MCDCC Race

This morning’s post mentioned that MCDCC Chair Candidate Kevin Walling is part of a slate with:

Arthur Edmunds, Vice Chair
Wendy Cohen, Secretary
Johntel Greene, Assistant Secretary
Tim Whitehouse, Treasurer
Erin Yeagley, Assistant Treasurer

However, I received an interesting call from one of these people who explained that several of these people are supporting Alan Banov or remaining neutral in advance of tonight’s expected contest for the top spot. While Kevin is asking people to vote for these candidates as well as himself, they did not know about it in advance or necessarily agree to back him.

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MCDCC Chair Election Face-Off Tonight

Tonight, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will elect a new chair. Incumbent Chair Gabe Albornoz did not run for reelection, so the office is vacant. One very promising candidate, Almina Khorikawala, narrowly lost reelection, so the contest is shaping up a bit differently than expected.

Two candidates are currently actively seeking to become chair. Kevin Walling was planning to run for the top spot even before Almina did not win reelection (or he had won election to MCDCC). Originally, Kevin launched a campaign for delegate in District 16 but switched to the central committee race. The organizers of the Unity slate dumped another candidate for one of the at-large seats to make room for him.

Kevin will be serving his first term on the MCDCC. In the primary, he came in seventh with 28,695 votes compared to 42,619 for leader Marjorie Goldman and 25,585 for Dave Kunes who came in ninth and missed the last seat.

Kevin is positioned as the candidate of the younger and newer members who were added to the Unity slate after MCGEO and Montgomery County Young Democrats threatened to run and to finance a challenging slate. MCGEO had little success in the election but the restructured MCDCC remains a bright spot.

Kevin is a candidate on an organized slate which also consists of:

Arthur Edmunds, Vice Chair
Wendy Cohen, Secretary
Johntel Greene, Assistant Secretary
Tim Whitehouse, Treasurer
Erin Yeagley, Assistant Treasurer

New members have expressed interest in taking more positions on policy issues, as well as re-energizing the party more generally. However, it was MCDCC’s stand on ballot issues that caused labor unhappiness, so it will be interesting to see how that works out and elected officials feel about it.

Alan Banov, an incumbent fourth-term MCDCC member from District 18, also plans to seek election as Chair. Alan currently serves as chair of MCDCC’s Issues Committee. Alan will inevitably be cast as the voice of experience who knows more about the operations of MCDCC.

Alan first ran for election to MCDCC in 2002 and won one of the at-large seats. He won reelection in 2006 and 2010. In 2014, the organizers of the Unity slate slotted him for one of District 18’s two seats and he won without opposition.

Other candidates could well emerge in this election that resembles the process for filling vacancies in the General Assembly, though it is unclear to me whether candidates need a plurality or a majority to win election. Vacancies require a majority with the bottom candidate eliminated until someone receives a majority.

If only a plurality is required, Banov or Walling could win with a plurality if other candidates emerge or some members abstain from the vote. Members will also need to act strategically if more than two candidates emerge–as could well happen in this very much behind-the-scenes contest.

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Stunners in MCDCC Races

Former Young Dem President Dave Kunes helped organize the official MCDCC Unity slate after leading labor-backed challenges to MCDCC. But he did not win one of the at-large slots for MCDCC. Among with the 11 candidates, Kunes came in ninth with the top eight gaining a seat. Natalia Farrar, a non-slate candidate, came in fifth and will join the new MCDCC.

In District 16, Almina Khorikawala currently lags 200 votes behind Loretta Jean Garcia. Almina had been tipped to be the new chair of MCDCC. Her defeat would be a real loss for the Central Committee which needs her combination of smarts and experience.

The other non-slate winner was incumbent Harold Diamond in District 19 who beat incumbent Hoan Dang.

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The Election and the Future–MCDCC Part IV

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

The Election

In the June Democratic Primary, voters will choose the new members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC). There are no challengers to the self-named unity slate formed after the serious challenge from labor and the Young Democrats in Districts 17 and 18. But other candidates are running in the remaining districts and for the at-large seats.

Perhaps most interestingly, Brian Anleu is trying to unseat incumbent Arthur Edmonds in District 14. Edmonds has fallen out with the D14 state legislators who consequently support Anleu. Should be one of the more interesting of these invariably little heralded contests for seats on MCDCC.

Two non-slate candidates, Anis Ahmed and Kris Verma, are seeking seats in District 15. Ahmed received no votes when he sought the appointment to the delegate vacancy created by Brian Feldman’s move to the Senate. The City Paper recently ran a long piece with the subtitle “Why did D.C. let a disbarred lawyer serve as a workers’ comp judge?” about Verma.

In District 19, Harold Diamond won as an insurgent candidate in 2010 and is seeking reelection despite his failure to win a slot on the slate. As I explained in Part III, Diamond’s performance on the ballot questions advisory committee left many unhappy:

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.

In District 20, Ed Kimmel, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law and frequent political photographer, did not interview for the slate but has filed for MCDCC. Similarly, Loretta Jean Garcia, a Bethesda attorney, has filed for a District 16 seat.

Three non-slate candidates are seeking at-large seats. Steve Boliek has more money than most MCDCC candidates to support his bid. Natalia Farrar went through the Emerge program that promotes leadership by women. Pavel Sukhobok is the final candidate not on the ticket who has filed for an MCDCC at-large seat.

The Future

So labor spearheaded by MCGEO and the Young Democrats have engineered at least a partial takeover of MCDCC. Now that they have the keys to the car, where will they drive it?

The key problem is that there is a desire to regenerate MCDCC but no clear plan to do so or what it means. There will undoubtedly be degrees of suspicion between old and new members. Almina Khoraiwala is tipped to be the new MCDCC chair and will have her work cut out to establish her authority and a new direction for MCDCC. Fortunately, she’s talented and is as likely as anyone to have the intelligence and focus to achieve these goals.

The new MCDCC’s first steps should be to put one together. It needs to focus less on policy but the less sexy hard work of politics–the precinct organization and GOTV–that is the staple of party organizations. Of course, policy motives are often powerful ways to achieve these goals.

The danger is that many of the new members have expressed interest in policy rather than party building. Will they be ready to roll up their sleeves and not just develop renovation plans but carry them out so that MCDCC becomes a more vital organization? Will they also prove to be the reformers as advertised? Or will they simply serve as the arm of the labor unions?

Change to the membership of MCDCC is coming. Whether it will lead to real change at MCDCC remains to be seen. In other words, I look forward to seeing if they can walk the walk.

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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.

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MCDCC Part II: Rockville Spring

picketball

As outlined in Part I, voters seemingly had settled the battle between the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the County over effects bargaining in favor of the County. In the 2012 referendum known as Question B, 58% of voters supported  the County’s decision to allow the Police Chief to take more actions without the need to consult  FOP management.

The referendum turned out to be the beginning rather than the end. The public employee unions (FOP, the Firefighters, and MCGEO) struck back by calling for a boycott of the annual Democratic Spring Ball. For those of you who are not regular attendees at this soiree, it is essentially a giant coffee klatch for local politicos and their fans complete with dancing. It’s held, like virtually all of these events, at the Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center.

Having felt abandoned by the local Democratic Party, the unions–long party stalwarts–decided to withhold their money and to make their displeasure public. Ingeniously, they styled the boycott as a picket line, knowing that labor-loving Democrats hate to cross them (or at least be seen crossing them). As none of the workers at the Center were on strike, it wasn’t really a picket line in the traditional sense but it made for great optics and amped up the pressure.

Republicans, as usual, were mad that they hadn’t thought of the idea first. Montgomery Republicans would get far better attendance at their events if people thought that they would have the privilege of strike breaking in the process.

The Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD), led by President Dave Kunes, jumped on the boycott bandwagon. Kunes, formerly an aide to Del. Tom Hucker (D 20) and now Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) Field Director, had some experience with seizing opportunities to challenge organization leadership, as he led the successful insurgent slate that took control of MCYD in 2012.

The problem for MCDCC was less monetary–donors stepped up and helped the party cover losses–than morale and the apparent division. It also put the Democratic elected and party leadership on the defensive politically and ideologically.

None of this had any chance of  helping the Republicans. Remember, Montgomery is a one-party county and this battle was about jockeying for power and influence over the one political vehicle worth driving–not a clunker.

Part III looks at the major upcoming changes on MCDCC.

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MCDCC Part I: Question B

AgainstQuestionB

You just gotta love that we have party central committees in the State of Maryland. Both Republicans and Democrats have them in every county of the State. It all feels so retro-Soviet. Why not Politburos? Or at least Praesidiums?

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is currently not the peaceful backwater that one might expect of a relatively obscure organization of party officials. Instead, it is now the center of what some might call renovation and others a hostile takeover despite the recent announcement of a “unity” slate.

The fracas started with the passage of a bill unanimously by the all-Democratic County Council to eliminate “effects bargaining” with the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) designed to give the Police Chief more flexibility and control in the management of police officers. “Effects bargaining” required the Chief to clear all management decisions with the FOP.

The FOP vehemently opposed the changes and petitioned them to referendum in what became known as Question B. While intensely disliking the changes, it was only the latest in what the three non-school related public employee unions (FOP, the Firefighters, and MCGEO) perceived as bad treatment by the County on issues such as disability payments, furloughs and benefits.

MCDCC became involved through its control over the Democratic sample ballot. All precinct officials in the Democratic Party could vote on whether the sample ballot should endorse or oppose the proposal or take no position. At the urging of county councilmembers, the precinct officials voted heavily to endorse the proposal passed unanimously by the County Council.

The Central Committee has the power to change an endorsement of support or opposition by precinct officials to no position by majority vote. Urged on by Chair Gabe Albornoz, (Correction: Gabe was not Chair yet) MCDCC voted to uphold the decision of the County Council and the precinct officials.

The Democratic sample ballot thus endorsed the question. Whether or not it mattered, the voters agreed, voting by 58% in 2012 to keep the law passed by the Council despite vigorous efforts by the FOP and other government employee unions to overturn it.

Needless to say, the unions were NOT happy. More in Part II.

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