Tag Archives: Hans Riemer

Changes to MoCo’s Public Financing Law

Many thanks to Common Cause Executive Director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel for letting me know about the major changes made to the public financing bill by the full County Council before its passage. You can find a description of the bill here.

The major change was the repeal of Hans Riemer’s amendment that passed in committee, which allowed donations made outside the County to be matched by public funds. Instead, recipients of public funds can receive donations from outside the County up to the $150 limit but they will not be matched.

Bevan-Dangel also explained: “The bill was amended to allow candidates to declare their intent to be publicly funded and start raising donations at the beginning of the four year election cycle, instead of waiting to the last year of the cycle. (This is critical because otherwise candidates would have had an incentive to raise funds into those old, non-public funded accounts in the ‘off’ years.)” This amendment was sponsored by Hans Riemer.

A motion to add expenditure limits to the bill died for lack of a second. Due to the potential for self-funded candidates to spend enormous amounts, this was probably a good decision by the Council. It is impossible to limit expenditures by people who opt out of the public financing system, as the Supreme Court declared them equivalent to constitutionally protected free speech in Buckley v. Valeo (1976)

Outgoing Councilmember Phil Andrews must be enormously pleased with the unanimous passage of the bill he sponsored. Common Cause Maryland should also take great satisfaction in the passage of this bill, though I notice that they have been very careful to share credit with other members of the Fair Elections Maryland Coalition, such as Progressive Maryland, that worked for the bill.

 

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Riemer Proposes Change to Public Financing Bill

In the public financing of elections, as in much legislation, the devil is in the details. And the legislation proposed by outgoing Councilmember Phil Andrews has a lot of details, so it can be hard to keep up.

During the Government Operations Committee’s review of the proposal, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer sponsored an amendment that altered the public financing bill  in a crucial way.

The original bill allowed only donations made within Montgomery  to be matched by public funds. Hans’s amendment eliminated that limitation so that donations made anywhere in the U.S. would be matched by County funds as outlined in the law.

Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Nancy Navarro voted for the amendment, and Councilmember Cherri Branson voted no. Of course, the full Council can reconsider the issue when it takes up the bill.

The argument against the change is that it makes it easier for individuals who don’t live in Montgomery County to influence the outcome of our elections. The amendment also aids the many MoCo residents who have good DC networks but fewer County ties. It further augments the power of interests within the County who have the ability to gather checks from people elsewhere.

For the other side of the argument, I asked Hans to explain why he sponsored the amendment:

I’m a strong supporter of publicly-funded elections and I am confident that this system will help revolutionize Montgomery County politics.  As I supported the bill at committee last week, I proposed several amendments to strengthen it and make it more attractive to potential candidates.

[One] amendment removes the requirement that donors be county residents, because I support a limited amount of fundraising from outside of the county. I believe the most important goal of this bill is to give candidates a viable alternative to raising large donations from corporations and special interest PACs.

In Montgomery County, we are part of a large metropolitan area where many people grew up somewhere else, and many residents work outside of the County. As any first time political candidate can attest, a lot of initial fundraising comes from family, friends, colleagues–the people that know you best and support you because they believe you will be a great public servant.  Removing this base of support from the matching system risks making public financing a nonviable option for some candidates, and they will either opt-out or not be able to run a competitive campaign.

At the same time, my proposal retains the provision that only in-county donations count towards the qualifying thresholds. This will ensure that no candidate can base their campaign on out-of-county supporters.  In order to qualify, a candidate will have to have a huge base of support in the county, because the thresholds are appropriately high.

As is no secret, Hans is originally from California and has benefited from financial contributions from outside the County so cynics might say he knows of what he speaks. However, he makes good points here. Moreover, Councilmember Riemer is now announcing a proposed new change to the legislation that would limit the impact of the committee amendment:

I also plan to propose limiting the amount of money that can be matched for out-of-county donors, to 10% of the total — the current law in the Connecticut public finance system, a model that advocates have pointed to as an example on many points.

I think these measures make the system more attractive to potential candidates, and thus strengthen the system.  The goal is to give candidates a good alternative to raising large checks from wealthy individuals, corporations, and PACs.

As I alluded in my original post on the bill, a balance is important to strike. On the one hand, goals include preventing any one interest or individual, particularly from outside the area, from gaining too much influence. But in order for the bill to work, the incentives to opt into the system need to be strong enough to dissuade candidates from just raising money on their own under the current arrangements.

As John outlined the other day, making hard for people to raise money can serve as a strong disincentive to opt in–not to mention result in the unintended consequence of increasing call time. No one wants candidates to spend even more time raising money rather than meeting with voters.

On the smart decision front, the County has already indexed the limits to inflation. This choice will help avoid the problem with the original Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, which set fixed limits that inflated away before the were raised in 2002.

One major remaining flaw with the bill is that it fails to address the problem of self-funding candidates who can afford to drop hundreds of thousands of their own money on the race and avoid the system. There are solutions, such as substantially raising the match, so that candidates in the system find it easier to participate. The Council should address this problem when it takes up the bill.

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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.

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AFL-CIO Disses MoCo Council Incumbents

MD AFLIn the Democratic primary, the AFL-CIO endorsed incumbent Marc Elrich as well as challengers Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy for the at-large seats. Only Elrich won the nomination. The AFL-CIO did not endorse incumbents Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, or Hans Riemer. They have now decided not to endorse any of these three (or anyone else) for the general election.

The AFL-CIO have also made no endorsement in District 1 (Roger Berliner), District 2 (Craig Rice), or District 3 (Sidney Katz). They had endorsed unsuccessful candidates Duchy Trachtenberg (District 1) and Ryan Spiegel (District 3).

District 4 Incumbent Democrat Nancy Navarro is their only new endorsed candidate. They had already endorsed Tom Hucker in District 5–their only other Montgomery County Council winner besides Marc Elrich.

So two-thirds of the new Council will have the election without the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in either the primary or the general election–7 out of 9 if you include the primary.

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MD-08 Tea Leaves

Chris Van Hollen probably ain’t going nowhere. He has a lot to lose and very little to gain by running for US Senate. In the House, he’s got a solid shot at the Speakership (if Team Blue ever regains control of the chamber). Even if he falls short, he’ll likely advance into some lower tier of leadership–and being Majority Leader or Caucus Chairman ain’t bad. Perhaps he ends up in some lofty post in a theoretically Biden Administration (the Vice President is very close to CVH). But hey, many a down county pol dreams of the day this seat will open up . . . so let’s speculate.

Here are some politicians, who without having asked them, I’d wager would seriously consider it:

State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20): Jamie represents about 20% of MD-08 and would carry with him a rabid base of progressive activists. I believe he would be able to tap into a substantial network of national “net roots” small donors as MD-04 Congresswoman Donna Edwards was able to in 2006 and 2008. He’d also be able to raise money from national progressive donors. I think he could raise betwixt $1,000,000 and $1,600,000 for this bid.

State Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18): Rich would likely attract substantial backing from a large community of national LGBT donors. He also represents 1/5th of MD-08 currently and presents a more practical blend of progressivism than Senator Raskin. I believe he could raise between $700,000 and and a million dollars.

Delegate Bill Frick (D-16): I discussed Delegate Frick’s congressional fortunes in my post on MD-06. He represents a much larger portion of MD-08 than MD-06 so he might have a stronger showing here.

County Council Member At Large Hans Riemer: Hans has the distinct advantage that he represents the vast majority of Democratic Primary voters in this district. He’d also be a nice Obama spin off Congressional Candidate. Perhaps by the time MD-08 is open the President will be ready to stump for the alumni of his historic campaigns. I think Hans could put together $500,000-$650,000. He also has the opportunity to a great deal of constituency building due to his county wide position.

District 5 County Council Member Tom Hucker: It is my opinion that Tom Hucker espouses a slightly different brand of progressive rhetoric than Jamie Raskin. Jamie is the liberal law professor while Hucker is a fiery labor organizer. I believe Hucker would be labor’s choice and could come up with between $350,000 and $600,000.

Former Delegate Heather Mizeur (District 20): This is the seat Heather was born to run for. Unfortunately, I think Raskin would cut her electoral base out from under her. This is very different than her donor base and I believe she could rake in between two and three million dollars for her bid. Weirdly, I hear her mentioned more frequently for MD-01 (where she owns a vacation home, in Kent County).

My Analysis
In a field likely to be chock full of dynamic progressive elected officials (think Raskin, Hucker and Mizeur) vying to be the farthest of the far left a slightly more pragmatic liberal (think Madaleno, Frick or Riemer) could break through. It even opens the door for a real moderate (!) self funding businessman to flood the race with money and cruise to victory.

Outlook: Toss Up

Did I miss someone? Am I off base? Shoot me an email at johnga.ems@gmail.com.

 

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MCEA Final MoCo Endorsements

From the Washington Post:

The union representing Montgomery County’s 12,000 teachers rounded out its list of County Council endorsements Wednesday for the June 24 Democratic primary, retaining its 2010 recommendations of Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Hans Riemer (D-At-Large) but dropping George Leventhal (D-At-Large).

The endorsement by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) is one of the most coveted because it comes with a spot on the Apple Ballot, which is mailed to Democratic voters and distributed at the polls.

The announcement follows earlier endorsements of candidates for open council seats: Ryan Spiegel in District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg) and Board of Education member Christopher Barclay in District 5 (Silver Spring-East County). The union has also endorsed County Executive Isiah Leggett for a third term.

Ryan Spiegel and Marc Elrich seem to be sweeping up the labor endorsements. This is a nice one for Roger Berliner as the government employee unions are lining up behind Duchy Trachtenberg. Hans Riemer must also be pleased after losing support from other county unions.

Nancy Floreen has never been the labor candidate so probably isn’t too perturbed or worried about it. But being dropped from the Apple is new for George Leventhal who has also been frozen out by MCGEO, FOP, and the AFL-CIO.

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Verdict on the At-Large Debate

ALdebate

Moderator Charles Duffy with Vivian Malloy, Beth Daly, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Hans Riemer, Robert Dyer, and Tim Willard

Last night’s debate at the 4H was unusually well attended–I guesstimated roughly 100 people–with many actual voters who came to hear the candidates. I live tweeted the debate @theseventhstate. The tweets give much of the blow-by-blow and there are some interesting tweets back.

Some Issues and Moments

Ben Ross. His book criticisms of owners of “single-family homes” trying to preserve their place in the pecking order along with “snob zoning and nimbyism” did not go down well. Probably wise in a county where most people live in single-family homes, as Nancy Floreen pointed out in her response.

BRT System. Beth Daly and Marc Elrich were clearly enthusiastic about the BRT system proposed by Marc. Hans Riemer and Nancy Floreen were more skeptical wanting to see how the Corridor Cities Transitway goes–and thus pushing the idea off into the distant future. George Leventhal agreed and questioned whether people would ride buses even in dedicated lanes. Nancy Floreen also expressed concern about the cost, though Marc Elrich pointed out that is far cheaper per mile to build than the Purple Line.

Ride-On Buses. Vivian Malloy said that people had lost confidence in the service and wanted greater frequency and dependability especially in bad weather. Marc Elrich said people don’t want to use the buses because they’re stuck in traffic. Hans Riemer disagreed with this “myopic” view and touted his getting five additional buses for the system into the budget.

Chevy Chase Lake. Marc Elrich called the failure to listen to civic associations a “travesty,” a position supported by Beth Daly. Hans Riemer pointed out that the Council had reduced the height of a tall building and called the result a good compromise, though the Planning Board had already increased density over the proposal advocated by Staff led by Rollin Stanley.

Taxes. All agreed that that the property and income tax should not go up. Marc Elrich and Beth Daly proposed studying taxation of commercial property (but not residential) owners who would benefit from nearby transit to pay for it on the model of what already is in place in Northern Virginia. Hans Riemer pointed out at that county taxes are the lowest in real terms in a decade.

Purple Line Trail and the Wisconsin Ave. Tunnel. All agreed that the county should pay for it. George Leventhal was clearest in directly stating “we have to spend what it takes.” Robert Dyer argued that we’re required to rebuild it under Maryland law. Marc Elrich said “it’s the least we have to do.” Hans Riemer said it would have to occur with the redevelopment of the APEX building but Marc Elrich expressed concern that the building’s owners are “holding us up” for  more money on top of the greatly increased density that they’ve already received.

Sparks. George Leventhal provided most of the moments with heat and light. At one point, he interrupted Marc Elrich to try unsuccessfully to interrogate him on his Purple Line position. He upbraided moderator Charles Duffy for asking questions on how to solve problems with incompatible bases in fact. Reading a letter praising him from a constituent for solving a problem engendered a noisy, negative reaction from the crowd.

The Importance of Demeanor

The debate reminded me that it is just as important how a candidate says something as what they say. In the 2000 presidential election, the first presidential debate between Gore and Bush became a textbook case. Gore clearly was stronger on the facts but sounded patronizing, sighed a lot when Bush spoke, and often answered the last question instead of the one posed.

Bush, while clearly not the most knowledgeable, was the one people who weren’t hard core Democrats liked. For many, he was the one who gave a sense of a solid character who you would have enjoyed getting to know. Gore did so badly that his advisers made him watch the popular SNL parody in the hope that he’d learn something.

Candidate Reviews

Tim Willard raised important issues regarding climate change but was the Debbie Downer of the debate due to his consistently pessimistic demeanor and failure to offer concrete proposals about how to address these problems locally. Still, great to be offered alternatives in one-party Montgomery.

Robert Dyer utterly surprised me because this Republican is probably more left wing than many of the Democrats. Running as a dark horse candidate also freed him to make many out of the box statements, such as calling for a bridge over the Potomac, castigating the Council for paying for transit projects we don’t need but failing to fund the ones we do, and saying that the Council should make developers pay and stop overdeveloping Bethesda.

Vivian Malloy had a personality that just made you want to vote for her as she is a nice, warm person who clearly cares about the county and its problems. More specifics on how to address important issues she raised, such as affordable housing, would have enhanced her good presentation.

Beth Daly projected both confidence, an unusual knowledge of the issues for a challenger, and had a can-do positive attitude that contrasted with fellow challenger Tim Willard’s negativity. She projected well her past involvement in issues like Ten Mile Creek and an eagerness to get to work. Clearly allied with Marc Elrich, she was a candidate that people liked.

Nancy Floreen came across as calm, thoughtful and knowledgeable who understood the complexities of the issues faced by the Council. Put another way, she came across as an experienced, trustworthy set of hands. More detailed responses would have been welcome despite the complicated nature of many issues, though she clearly has a mastery of many facts.

George Leventhal. One person said to me after the debate: “If you wrote down what George said and read it, it would come across as a perfectly reasonable argument but George always sounds angry.” A disastrous performance.

Hans Riemer. Hard not to like a guy who tweets back at you even as he engages in the debate. Still optimistic but perhaps a bit more careworn after four years on the Council, Hans did a good job of touting specific concrete legislative achievements.

Marc Elrich just excels at these events, probably because as a former teacher he knows how to explain complex problems in ways that people can understand. Probably the winner of the debate with the audience and I’m not just saying that because I support him. His commitment to poor and working people combined with his community focus seemed a winning formula.

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AFL-CIO and Gazette Endorse in MoCo At-Large Council Race

In the at-large race for Montgomery County Council, the Gazette has endorsed newcomer Beth Daly along with incumbents Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, and George Leventhal, leaving incumbent Hans Riemer and challenger Vivian Malloy out in the cold.

The Maryland AFL-CIO has endorsed both challengers, Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy. Marc Elrich was the only endorsed incumbent and the AFL-CIO did not endorse for the fourth seat. They AFL declined to endorse in the contested Sheriff’s race.

Bad day for Hans Riemer who received neither endorsement. Great day for Beth Daly and Marc Elrich won gained both of them.

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At-Large MoCo Council Race, Pt. III

hansHans Riemer

Along with George Leventhal, Hans Riemer is viewed by many as among the more vulnerable at-large incumbents this season. This conclusion may puzzle as newcomer Hans catapulted over three incumbents to win second place in 2010. Moreover, incumbents are usually seen as safer bets.

Hans’s problems come in several varietals. First, he has disappointed some more ardent progressives who expected him to champion their issues. Most notably, he was more hesitant to hike the minimum wage as high or as fast as they wanted.

At the same time, developers don’t seem him as their best buddy either. His support for protecting Ten Mile Creek over their strong opposition didn’t give them the warm fuzzies. In short, he’s too progressive for business and too conservative for the lefties.

Finally, some argue that he just doesn’t fit the profile of a councilmember because he is too young and doesn’t have the typical background in business or politics. However, this “problem” strikes me as a strength rather than a weakeness. Not fitting a stereotype is a welcome breath of fresh air for many voters.

So the bloom is off the rose for Hans. And like the other incumbents, the government employee unions just aren’t showing the love. He also lost support from the Sierra Club and Progressive Maryland. Still, Hans is not friendless with endorsements from SEIU, CASA, and the volunteer firefighters. Also, he’s an affable, pleasant guy who many people just seem to like–not a bad quality in politics.

So, like George Leventhal, but for very different reasons, Hans has some tricky waters to navigate this primary season.

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At-Large MoCo Council Race, Pt. 1

MarcElrichMarc Elrich Argues for a Higher Minimum Wage

All four Montgomery County Council incumbents elected at-large are running for reelection: Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer. Two challengers are also in the race: Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy. Both are credible candidates.

Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal joined the Council in 2002 as part of County Executive Doug Duncan’s “End Gridlock” slate. Elrich lost that year but joined the Council when tides turned in 2006. Hans Riemer lost the primary for the District 5 seat to Valerie Ervin in 2006 but unseated one-term incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg with Valerie’s support in 2010.

Gauging the shape of these primaries is difficult. In a county of roughly 1 million people, the county government–equivalent to the city council of a city of the same size–remains much less known than it deserves. Indeed, for the challengers, one of the main problems is getting sufficiently well-known to pose a serious challenge.

None can afford to advertise on television in this very expensive media market. Communication through the mail, in person, and now through social media are the central means of voter contact. All also race around the county following a brutal schedule that makes me tired just thinking about it.

Oddly enough, the Council’s most conservative and liberal members seem safe. In his first reelection bid in 2010, liberal Marc Elrich came in first by a mile despite being underfunded as usual. He is best known for his relentless advocacy of a countywide bus-rapid transit system–an indication of a willingness to work with development interests that he is better known for opposing.

Marc’s BRT plan still strikes me as the most innovative and future-oriented vision for the County. It has the potential not just to aid the County’s transportation needs but also to promote economic and job growth in a sustainable way over the long term.

Nancy has been a leading voice on the other side, successfully promoting revision of zoning laws in a developer friendly manner. While part of the County’s liberal consensus on social questions, she also has staked out conservative positions on other issues, such as her opposition to the county bag tax.

Even as she argues tenaciously for her positions, Nancy also does a good job of keeping in touch with all sides. Despite being seen in many ways as the Chamber’s closest ally on the Council, she is also occasionally willing to deviate from this pattern, particularly when pressed hard by well-organized large civic groups.

Both Marc and Nancy are smart, opinionated lawmakers who utterly disagree on many big issues before the Council.

nancy_and_alexandraNancy Floreen Seeking Golden Shovel Nominees

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