Surprisingly Dull in D39

District 39

None of the four incumbent Democrats that represent District 39 in the General Assembly face opposition–a surprising change from four years ago and not what many expected.

Sen. Nancy King faced fierce competition from Del. Saqib Ali in 2010. Not too long after the 2006 election, Sen. P.J. Hogan stepped down and the MCDCC chose then Del. King, who had won two terms and also served on the Board of Education, for the seat over newly elected Del. Ali.

Ali dogged King relentlessly for the rest of the term, continually attacking her as insufficiently progressive. The 2010 primary was rough with Sleepy Saqib pictures that Ali had posted on his Facebook page appearing in King’s mailers. (Kids, there is a life lesson here.) Ali ran a very strong campaign but The Rumble in Germantown ended with King taking the nomination by 248 votes.

The new redistricting plan just happened to draw Ali’s home into District 15. Unlike for congressional elections, Article III, Section 3 of the Maryland Constitution requires that legislative candidates live in their district. In the words of the Church Lady (late 1980s SNL youngsters), “how convenient.”

But not so surprising. Senate President Mike Miller has zero desire to see Saqib in the Senate. And Ali’s aggressive style in the General Assembly did not win him friends among his colleagues, though it was nearly enough to propel him into the Senate.

Ali could have established residency in the new D39 but committed to D15 when he sought the delegate vacancy last year caused by Del. Brian Feldman’s appointment to the Senate. Ali entered the delegate election in D15 but pulled out in December.

King and Del. Charles Barkley have especially robust campaign accounts–Barkley has 92K compared to 91K for King. Del. Kirill Reznik has a healthy 43K with 26K in Del. Shane Robinson’s account. I guess Reznik needs to serve more expensive hamburgers at his annual Grill with Kirill event. Or maybe Del. Barkley can take him to school.

An enjoyable election season for the incumbents in District 39–but not for those watching elections.

Pro-Gun Challenger in D14 Going Nowhere

District 14

In District 14, Sen. Karen Montgomery is currently unopposed for a second term. Sen. Montgomery served two terms in the House of Delegates before knocking out incumbent Sen. Rona Kramer in one of 2010’s top-tier Democratic primaries.

On the House side, Dels. Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker are also seeking second terms, while senior delegation member Del. Anne Kaiser is running for a fourth term. The four incumbents in the General Assembly are hanging together and have formed a slate that will campaign and do coordinated mailings.

The House incumbents face one challenger, John Paul Evans of Gaithersburg, a 24 year old graduate of Damascus High School . He explained why he was running in a Gazette profile:

The issues that most concern him are civil rights and government transparency.

“I don’t think we have enough transparency in the slightest,” he said.

Evans said he is reluctant to single out one civil right to focus on.

“We’ve had the gun issue, with assault weapons, and we’ve had issues with the [National Security Agency],” he said.

Evans said gun laws should be based on guns’ functionality, not whether they look like assault weapons.

Those topics have been “a driving force” behind his decision to announce his candidacy, he said.

Evans’ oblique campaign announcement further refers to pro-gun and anti-NSA surveillance stance:

I think our government is not treating our civil rights with the respect they deserve. It’s time someone “stands his ground” to solemnly defend our civil rights. I want to do my part to protect our inalienable rights. I want to be there on the ground floor to say, “No, we cannot violate the people like that”, before a bill ever becomes a law. I want to be the first line of defense and give our community a strong and active voice.

“Stands his ground” sounds more like George Zimmerman than John Lewis. In the Sentinel, Evans made more explicit his opposition to Maryland’s new gun laws on Second Amendment grounds. A member of the Snowden generation, it will be interesting to hear more about how Evans plans to rein in the NSA from Annapolis.

The delegates are comparatively well positioned financially if not incredibly flush based on their last pre-session bank balances with Del. Kaiser at $36K, Del. Luedtke at $26K, Del. Zucker at $42K. Sen. Montgomery has $43K (error corrected from previous version).

Free Citizens for John Evans filed an affidavit attesting the he “does not intend to receive contributions or make expenditures in the cumulative  amount of $1000 or more.” (Information gathered from the most recent 2014 reports in the Maryland Campaign Finance Database.)

All four incumbents are solid liberals and I’d be shocked if they did not collect the usual round of endorsements from unions and progressive groups. Evans seems most likely to gain support from Free State DINOs, a group encouraging Republicans to register to vote in Democratic primaries to unseat incumbents like Montgomery, Kaiser, Luedtke, and Zucker for supporting the gun laws adopted by Maryland in the wake of Newtown shootings.

John Paul Evans is a frequent flyer in the Maryland Judicial Database due to traffic offenses but none contributed to an accident. He drove on a suspended license in 2009 at the age of 19. The prosecutors declined to prosecute and did the same when Evans repeated the offense in 2011. In 2012, he plead guilty to driving without proper vehicle plates. Just last year, Evans plead guilty to failure to display his license when demanded by a police officer and still lacking the proper plates. The latter appeared related to continued problems with a suspended license.

These problems strike me as not life disqualifying from public service but it would be nice if  they were further in the rear view mirror. Regardless, the easy choice for Democrats is to go with the incumbents. They should win easily in any case but face a more vigorous challenge in the general election. Though District 14 has more Republicans than most Montgomery districts, effective campaigns should assure victory in that race too.

Opening Office Parties on Sunday

Gansler-Ivey is opening its Montgomery field office this Sunday from 1-2pm and is inviting MoCo Dems “for refreshments and a meet-and-greet with the candidates.” Address: 326 N Stonestreet Ave. Ste. A2; Rockville, MD 20850

Brown-Ulman is opening campaign offices in Prince George’s and Howard this Sunday. The Prince George’s opening is at 1:45 and the Howard opening is at 3:15, so I guess you can make it a progressive party (oh, what a terrible pun). Addresses: 10236 Lake Arbor Way,
Mitchellville, MD 20721 and 8865 Stanford Blvd. #117,
Columbia, MD 21045.

The Mini Munis of Chevy Chase

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Chevy Chase, Maryland Zip Code

Even people who live in Chevy Chase get confused about all of the mini municipalities in the area. I’ve had people think I represent them, though they don’t live in my town. Here is a short guide for the perplexed.

The Chevy Chase, Maryland zip code includes all of the area in the above map. Many portions of the zip code are not part of any incorporated municipality. Much like Bethesda, these areas are a postal address and unincorporated parts of Montgomery County. Some of the western parts of Chevy Chase bleed into Bethesda and the northern parts into Kensington. When I moved back to Maryland and went to get a driver’s license, MVA refused to accept a document with “Bethesda” as the city because my other proofs of residence said “Chevy Chase.”

The Town of Chevy Chase

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The Town of Chevy Chase started out as Section 4 but became the Town after it annexed Section 8 in 1976. The Town is the more or less the area between Wisconsin and Connecticut Aves. and between East-West Hwy. and Bradley La. with the commercial area on Wisconsin excluded. The largest incorporated municipality bearing the name of Chevy Chase, it has slightly more than 1000 homes and 2,800 residents and is mostly within walking distance of Bethesda. Many of the homes, particularly those located closest to Bethesda, have been redeveloped, leading the Town to adopt its building code around six years ago. (I have served on the Town Council since 2008, including two years as the Town’s mayor.)

Chevy Chase Elementary School, the Jane E. Lawton Community Center,  and the National 4-H Conference Center are also located in the Town. The Town Council operated out of the 4-H prior to the construction of the Town Hall. The Town’s annual Fourth of July picnic is its most popular event.

Town services include back door twice-a-week garbage collection as well as recycling. Over 20 percent of Town residents participate in the Town’s recently established organic recycling program operated by Compost Crew. This week, the most popular town service is that we shovel the sidewalks when more than three inches of snow falls in addition to clearing the streets.

Chevy Chase Village

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Chevy Chase Village is larger in area but smaller in population than the Town with just under 2000 people because its homes are mostly on bigger lots. The wealthiest municipality in Maryland, the Village has its own police department located in the Town Hall. It also has a post office located in the Village Hall. The southwestern portion of the Village is very close to Friendship Heights.

Straddling Connecticut Ave., the Village is perhaps best known these days for its speed cameras. The Village loves the cameras because they slow down traffic and generate revenue. Others are perhaps less keen. I once heard traffic along this stretch of Connecticut described as “the funeral procession.” I like to tease Village Board of Managers Chair Pat Baptiste that I try not to walk too quickly in the Village to avoid getting (another) ticket. Pat is extremely experienced in Village and County politics, having served as Chair in the past as well as on the County Planning Board.

President Obama paid a visit to George Will’s home in the Village before his inauguration in 2008 but it appears that the friendship didn’t blossom based on his columns. As the Village not only votes heavily Democratic, like most of Chevy Chase, but supported him strongly in the 2008 Maryland presidential primary, President Obama nonetheless probably feels welcome.

Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase

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Incorporated in 1982, the Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase Section 3 is home to 760 people who live on 280 lots north of Bradley La. and between Connecticut Ave. and Brookeville Rd. Andy Harney is not just a neighbor but the longtime Town Manager. Smart, direct, and tough, she’s great at standing up for her town’s interests, as anyone who has ever seen her in action knows.

Village of Chevy Chase Section 5

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Located just north of slightly larger Section 3, the Village of Chevy Chase Section 5 is the more southern of the two “sections” and home to 650 people. It has 223 homes and one restaurant, La Ferme. Like its southern neighbor, it incorporated in 1982.

Martin’s Additions

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The Village of Martin’s Additions incorporated a little later than the two sections, its western neighbors, in 1985 and has 933 residents according to the 2010 Census. Like the two sections, its narrow streets make it tricky to navigate but also are why it’s so cute.

Friendship Heights

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A triangle located between Willard and Wisconsin Ave., the Village of Friendship Heights is really a special tax district rather than a municipality. The 2010 Census reported that 4,700 people live in Friendship Heights. Unlike the municipalities described here, Friendship Heights is characterized by apartment and office buildings rather than single-family homes. The Shuttle Bus service to the Metro and the Giant is very popular.

Somerset

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Halfway between Friendship Heights and Bethesda between Wisconsin Ave. and Little Falls Pkwy., the Town of Somerset has 1,200 residents. Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, who been mayor since 2008 and served on the Council previously, governs from the most attractive town hall in Chevy Chase. The Town Hall is located next to the popular Town Pool, which Somerset worked hard to renovate.

Village of Drummond

How small is Drummond? It’s too small for the Census Bureau to reveal its population. Another special tax district, Drummond is just two-thirds of one street with 43 homes. Nevertheless, the tax district is older than many of the municipalities, having been established in 1916. You’ll see Drummond just north of Somerset if you’re walking down Wisconsin Ave.

North Chevy Chase

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Home to 519 people living in around 200 homes, North Chevy Chase is just south of the Beltway in the northeast quadrant of the intersection of Jones Bridge Rd. and Connecticut Ave.

Chevy Chase View

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Perhaps a tad more conservative than most of liberal Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase View is just south of Kensington and is part of the greater Kensington metro area. Although the area has a long history, Chevy Chase View incorporated only in 1993. It has 920 residents.

Kensington and Garrett Park

The most excellent Towns of Kensington and Garrett Park are also  considered by many to be part of Chevy Chase, though outside the zip code and with their own postal addresses. Unlike the other towns, Kensington has a commercial district. Mayor Pete Fosselman has served since 2006 and overseen the adoption of a new plan for the town. Del. Al Carr was on the Kensington Town Council before being entering the legislature. County Councilmember Nancy Floreen served as Garrett Park’s mayor before moving on to Rockville.

I’m just too tired to write more but go check out Antique Row in Kensington and Black’s Market in Garrett Park.

Chevy Chase Town Council Meeting

In addition to writing this blog, I am one of the five members of the Town of Chevy Chase’s Town Council and the current Town Treasurer. The following is an unofficial summary of our meeting last Wednesday.

Executive Session

The Town Council met in closed session from 5:30-7pm to discuss (1) potential litigation as it relates to the Purple Line, (2) an Open Meetings Act complaint, and (3) a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request.

Purple Line

Mayor Pat Burda made remarks on the Town’s actions regarding the Purple Line. Here is part of her statement:

I was quoted in the Washington Post as saying “the Town is not lobbying Congress.” The statement, which I attempted to clarify before it reached the printed Sunday Post, referred specifically to an inquiry about lobbying the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  I also said that it would be foolish to try to lobby Congress to defund the project given Senator Mikulski’s position as Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To fully set the record straight, the Town is speaking to Members of Congress to raise the same concerns we raised with the Maryland Transportation Administration about the proposed Purple Line project.  It is our hope that through this effort of educating decision makers about the currently proposed Purple Line, that the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) will carefully consider all of the facts before them.

The Council was not ready to take action at this meeting, but plans on holding a special meeting next week at which it may take action. This meeting will be announced in advance and open to the public. All members of the Council thanked the Mayor for the incredible amount of time she has spent and hard work she has done on this issue.

Undergrounding Utilities—PEPCO Preliminary Cost Estimate

The Town received a letter from PEPCO dated February 6 which gave their preliminary estimate to bury the power lines in the town as:

 $50 million, not including undergrounding telecommunication lines, any upgrade work required by the customer, or installation of new street lights. Costs incurred by each customer would range from $5000 to $15,000 for meter box upgrades, burying services wires and internal electrical upgrades, if needed.

PEPCO has promised to provide a more detailed cost per mile estimate to the Town within two weeks that:

will consider actual Town street mileage of 9.94 miles (versus 10 miles) as well as physical conditions in the field, including Town street width, as it impacts excavation around other utilities and traffic control, and the number and location of existing public and private trees and landscaping.

PEPCO will also provide a price quote on the cost to the Town for PEPCO:

to perform a one line schematic and conduit schematic and conduit schematic in order to further refine the ‘costs per mile’ estimate.

The letter also reaffirmed that PEPCO will not help to pay for undergrounding the Town’s power lines:

As PEPCO officials indicated at the Town’s public meeting on December 5, 2013, the Town would be responsible for all costs associated with undergrounding electrical lines in the Town.

New Power Reliability Task Force

As we continue to explore the cost and benefits of undergrounding power lines, the Town needs to consider other options designed to address the very real concerns and frustrations of Town residents with the reliability of power service in the Town.

During the course of meetings on this topic, a number of residents with real knowledge and expertise on this topic offered innovative or alternative ideas. For example, some suggested that we should explore getting PEPCO to improve the robustness of the network by making it possible to shift electricity from one feeder to another when the power goes out. Another has suggested that the Town create a town-wide micro grid using large-scale fuel cells.

As a result, I proposed that the Mayor appoint a Task Force of residents to explore alternative reliability strategies. The Task Force could work with PEPCO and also make a proposal to the Town Council for outside expertise that would enable them to conduct their work more effectively. I was pleased that the Town Council approved the proposal unanimously.

I encourage anyone interested in participating in the Task Force to email the Mayor at townoffice@townofchevychase.org along with information about the expertise that you would bring to the Task Force.

Town Election Procedures

The Town Council voted 4-1 (with Councilmember Bickerman voting against) to adopt the Staff Proposal for the conduct of runoff Town elections in the event of tie. The runoff elections would occur in a similar manner to regular elections. Residents would be notified of the runoff via postcard and other Town communication methods. Over a 20-day period, residents could go vote in the Town Office or request a ballot via email which would be delivered to their home.

The Town Council decided 4-1 (with Councilmember Strom voting against) to not notify residents in the Forecast which incumbents will file to seek reelection.

Despite the division on the votes, most members of the Council did not feel especially strongly about either issue and were happy to reach a reasonable conclusion on both matters.

Meadow Lane Preliminary Landscaping Plan

The Council reviewed the preliminary plan for the public right-of-way along the former Li property on Meadow Lane. The Council agreed 4-0 (with Councilmember Bickerman abstaining) to move forward with the proposal. Councilmember Al Lang expressed that he felt it important to proceed with taking care of this matter and enhancing the pedestrian walkway and the right of way, as a plan along these lines was part of the promise by the Town to residents when the property was subdivided. The Council also expressed to the neighboring resident who attended the meeting that we would be happy to work with her on the nature of the plantings adjoining her property. The proposal is not designed or intended to facilitate public use of the private properties adjacent to the public right-of-way. If anything, the plan should have the opposite effect.

Early Adjournment

After quickly approving the minutes and the financial report, the Council adjourned at 8:30 as snow had already begun to fall.

Eagles Fly. Gansler and Brown Attack.

First gay eagle

I had a Town Council meeting last night so this post will be short.

Before getting to the negative, I thought a bit of positive news was in order.  I was thrilled to see that the Nation’s first openly gay eagle scout lives around the corner in Kensington. Many congratulations to Pascal Tessier. Let’s also thank his older brother Lucien Tessier (and the clearly terrific Tessier parents) for showing him the way even though even though Lucien was not allowed to be out when he became an eagle scout. What a wonderful achievement and family.

But on to the gubernatorial race. . .

Doug Gansler’s campaign has rolled out a surprisingly chirpy looking attack on Anthony Brown (see below). The question is whether Democrats will simply conflate any criticism of the functioning of the health exchange as an attack on Obamacare. On the other hand, the figures are pretty embarrassing for Brown, who has been left scrambling due to problems with the State exchange.

Meanwhile, Brown has launched a snark twitter attack on Gansler (see way below), suggesting that the MoCo candidate is demeaning Prince George’s following on a letter from Brown supporters condemning Gansler essentially for lamenting that the level of retail and restaurants in Prince George’s does not match the economic success of the County.

Gansler on Health

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No Comment

Just a quick reminder that I’m not allowing comments on Seventh State for now. I just don’t have the time to moderate them. I’m afraid that, for now at least, you’re entitled to my opinion.

Sorry to those who sent one in before I figured out to turn them off on the new platform. If you’re unhappy with this decision, please write the County Council. They’ll get right on it.

And, of course, you can still send complaints, compliments, and offers to shovel my driveway @theseventhstate on Twitter unless some other form of social media has overtaken it by this morning.

Outbidding

Political scientists in their studies of American politics often focus on the median voter–the voter who just perfectly positioned so that one-half of the electorate is more liberal and the other half is more conservative. In theory, both major parties jostle to move close to this mythological voter to win the election.

Despite the seeming incentives for the parties to act like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, they also face pressures to distinguish themselves. Parties that become too centrist get pressed by third parties. In New York, the Conservative Party can threaten to refuse to cross-endorse Republican candidates who are too moderate. Democrats can similarly face challenges from the Green Party.

From a branding perspective, a little distinctiveness also helps. No one would go to Five Guys if their advertisements said “We’re just like McDonald’s!” Distinct issue positions are also a much cheaper way for parties to attract votes than political patronage–now severely limited by civil service laws.

But the real pressure to move away from the center comes from party primaries. In Democratic bastions like Baltimore City, and Montgomery and Prince George’s County, the Democratic primary is the election for all intents and purposes. Of course, the same applies for Republican primaries in Republican jurisdictions.

Pols running in these places naturally orient their campaigns to the primary rather than the general electorate. Voters have become increasingly well sorted into the parties based on ideology so composition of each party’s adherents is increasingly starkly different. Primaries accent this effect as they tend to attract the more diehard voters.

The result is parties that radically rather than mildly disagree, especially since so many politicians run in safe seats. Republicans take extreme positions utterly out of the mainstream on any number of issues from immigration to LGBT equality to the minimum wage because their primary electorates demand it. This is why we got to watch the long spectacle of Mitt Romney turning himself inside out as an ideological pretzel during the 2012 primary season.

Democrats have not moved as nearly as far to the left as Republicans have moved to the right (see Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein’s argument and the statistics on voteview.com). Democrats, however, are hardly immune to same effect. Conservative Democrats are basically gone and moderate Democrats are fewer in number.

Maryland, surprisingly, despite its liberalism retains somewhat greater diversity among elected Democratic legislators. This is most certainly not from a failure to elect liberals from liberal districts but from Democratic Party savvy at running  and then supporting more moderate candidates in places where needed–historically a real party strength. Combined with Republican electoral ineptitude, this strategy has helped balloon Democratic numbers in both houses of the General Assembly.

Nonetheless, Maryland is increasingly going to see efforts by candidates in liberal areas to play leapfrog and out-progressive other candidates. After all, that’s where the voters are in Democratic primaries. Witness Del. Heather Mizeur’s efforts to distinguish herself as the left-wing Democrat in the gubernatorial race. The result can be a war of outbidding–try to prove one is more truly left-wing, progressive, liberal (pick your poison) than the other other candidates.

Of course, there are smarter and dumber versions of this strategy. Heather takes the smarter one by emphasizing progressive issues that attract a broad spectrum of Democrats even as she smartly proves her relative liberalism. She had a nice coup when Lt. Gov. Brown said “me-too” in shifting towards her position on medical marijuana (h/t Maryland Juice).

While the candidates will stress these differences, they are small in the broad scheme of things. Recall the Clinton-Obama magical mystery tour of debates, which one can pretend came down to profound issue differences but really divided people based on who you thought ought to be president. (Perhaps we’ll get both in the end?)

Outbidding can be deleterious in a number of ways. First, it encourages candidates to adhere to the shibboleths of each party rather than deal with practical issues. It makes politics feel more like praying at an especially fervent denomination rather than a way to solve problems. I can already envision some candidates accusing others of heresy because they happen to disagree in a minor way how to move forward on this or that issue.

Unlike when shopping for water, this should not be a purity test. Yep, we want someone who agrees with us on the issues. But we also want someone who we think is up to scratch in running the State and has the vision to move us forward in a positive direction.

In sum, Democrats can be liberal and not stupid (I think Barney Frank said it or something similar originally) by not following the Republicans into our own version of teahadism without giving up our core values.

Progressive Neighbors Debates Maryland’s Foreign Policy

Lots of issues came up at the Progressive Neighbors Forum in Takoma Park yesterday but the issue that generated the most heat was American Studies Association boycott (ASA) of Israeli scholarly institutions.

Two bills have been cross-filed in the Maryland General Assembly directed at undermining the ASA boycott. Montgomery Del. Ben Kramer has filed HB 998 with a number of cosponsors: Delegates Barkley, Barve, Bates, Boteler, Cardin, Cluster, Costa, Cullison, Eckardt, Frank, Fraser, Hidalgo, Frick, Gaines, Gilchrist, Glenn, Haddaway, Riccio, Hogan, Hucker, Impallaria, Jacobs, Kach, Kaiser, A. Kelly, Kipke, Lafferty, Luedtke, McComas, McConkey, W. Miller, Morhaim, Myers, Olszewski, Otto, Pendergrass, Ready, Reznik, B. Robinson, S. Robinson, Rosenberg, Serafini, Simmons, Stein, Stocksdale, Szeliga, Valderrama, Vaughn, Waldstreicher, M. Washington, Weir, Wood, and Zucker.  Due to timing, Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway did not have time to seek cosponsors for the parallel bill in the Senate, SB 647.

Peace Action Montgomery distributed flyers at the forum (see page 1 above with 2 and 3 below) arguing strongly against the bill as unconstitutional and just plain wrong. Although many in the audience opposed the bill–no one in the audience expressed support–the bill is not on Progressive Neighbors’ very lengthy priority list.

Sen. Roger Manno was in the line of fire at the meeting. He attacked the boycott and defended the bill’s central goal in the Washington Jewish Week:

In an interview after the hearing Manno explained, “My responsibility as a lawmaker and as a member of the Senate budget and taxation committee, which writes that check, is to ensure that the dollars are spent wisely and that it reflects the values of our community. … And we don’t support [the boycott that the ASA is supporting].”

The same article notes that UMBC has issued a statement condemning the ASA boycott, as have many academic institutions.

There is a certain irony to Peace Action Montgomery’s opposition to the bill. The boycott’s proponents handed out flyers lauding the long history of boycotts to promote social justice from India to South Africa . . . in order to condemn the proposal that the State of Maryland boycott ASA as a statement in support of its view of a more just world.

Thought experiment: What would Peace Action Montgomery’s response be to a proposed ASA boycott of HBCUs?

The arguments that the bill violates academic freedom are specious. The proposed legislation would not ban any professor from supporting ASA’s boycott, attending ASA conferences, or membership in ASA. It just wouldn’t permit Maryland institutions to pay for it. Universities regularly decide which scholarly activities they deem worthy of support. We may not agree with them but the State has a right to decide how to spend its money and which endeavors to support.

In political science, we are experiencing this up close. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Coburn successfully amended the bill that funds the National Science Foundation so that grants may only go to proposals that aid national security. As you might suspect, this has not gone down well with most political scientists. But no one questions its constitutionality or claims it violates the First Amendment.

This issue has a profound potential to alienate Jewish Democrats and other supporters of Israel. I believe heavy majorities of Jewish Democrats strongly support, even yearn for, a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Secretary of State John Kerry is working doggedly to address the real barriers to a workable and lasting peace despite extreme difficulties. Nonetheless, ASA’s efforts to isolate Israel offend deeply and undercut them. Jews may not be unanimous on this issue (we seem incapable of it; just watch either the Knesset or Life of Brian) but the vast majority strongly oppose efforts to boycott Israel.

Not to mention that Israeli universities are often the center of efforts to build peace within Israel, which makes one suspect that the academic body of scholars focused on studying America perhaps doesn’t know too much about it. Regardless, I imagine that I am not the only one amazed at the idea that the world awaits with bated breath the opinion of academic organizations on various issues of the day, particularly those completely outside that organization’s area of expertise. (OK: irony of blog-writing academic condemning pronouncements on issues of the day by academics is duly noted.)

Jews are passionate for peace and for Israel. Trying to make them choose is a losing strategy. I don’t think legislators or candidates are going to find it easy to straddle this issue.

Duchy Trachtenberg For?

In this pre-filing period, some are still making up their mind whether to jump in the political pool and in which race to take the plunge. Former one-term at-large County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg is not just the object of speculation but clearly thinking about it.

Duchy has a long history of running for office in Montgomery County. In 2002, Duchy lost the general election for Council District 1 to Republican Howie Denis by 1.8% of the vote–Howie was the last Republican to serve on the County Council and had significant Democratic support. (Sidenote: GOPers would call Denis a RINO as they stand perplexed wondering at why they cannot win in MoCo.) Running at-large in 2006, Duchy came in third and secured one of the four Democratic nominations, easily won the general, and joined the County Council.

But in 2010, Duchy fell to fifth place in the Democratic primary and lost the nomination and her seat. Not only did newcomer Hans Riemer leap over her to take second place, Becky Wagner in sixth came much closer to beating Duchy than Duchy did to slipping past incumbent George Leventhal in fourth. Duchy launched a campaign for the Sixth Congressional District that lasted only a few months when she ended her “underdog” campaign on January 4, 2012 due to a recurrence of breast cancer.

Duchy is thinking again about running for something in 2014. She wrote top-drawer campaign consultant Joe Trippi a check for $9250 in December 2013 out of her state political account. I’m assuming it was not a Chanukah or Christmas gift. Duchy’s last congressional report from April 2013 similarly showed a $12,000 payment to Trippi.

Her past interest in Congress suggests she–along with the rest of MoCo pols–may be waiting to see if Rep. John Delaney decides to enter the gubernatorial race. On the other hand, her last federal campaign finance report showed just $644 cash left while her state campaign account has a more impressive $122,575 so perhaps another county council race is in Duchy’s future.

As John Gallagher reminded me after my last post, she cannot transfer more than $1000 from the state to the federal account. And the state report indicates no loans that would allow her to repay herself and then donate the money to her congressional account. If she ran for Congress, Duchy would need to tap into her own resources and her network, though her past problems with Maryland NOW may impede her efforts despite her long connection.
 

Duchy may have ambitions but she’d have to make many changes to her campaign and personal approach to win. As Adam Pagnucco outlined in his must-read dissection of her previous loss, she has a lot of fences to mend:

First, she alienated most of her supporters in 2006 – and not just in the unions – through her conduct as a Council Member. Second, she was unable to build a new base because of her ineffective staffing, failure to build relationships and non-existent constituent service. And third, she made very bad resource decisions during the campaign.

Adam’s post is the number two Google hit for “Duchy Trachtenberg” on Google–another problem that Duchy will need to address if she runs.

UPDATE: Adam Pagnucco’s post on why Duchy lost her reelection bid is now the #1 Google hit for “Duchy Trachtenberg” — beating out the Maryland Manual.

Maryland Politics Watch

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