The Sad State of the MoCo GOP

For a Democrat, I seem to spend a lot of time lately lamenting the one-party nature of Montgomery County politics (see here and here):

It is difficult to hold officials accountable when there is essentially no viable “out” party. It increases factionalism on the Council and makes it easier for councilmembers to shift positions without consequence.

Much of the root of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The sharp rightward shift of the national GOP has tarnished its brand severely in a County that was long quite willing to elect candidates who were center right on economics but liberal on social questions.

The Maryland Republican Party has undergone its own unhelpful internal gyrations. More moderate Republicans have been purged in primaries in parts of the State in a reflection of the national trend. Former U.S. Sen. Mac Mathias would not have a prayer of winning a Republican primary in Maryland today. Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich is probably now a member of the left wing of the Maryland GOP.

The deterioration in the value of the Montgomery GOP is reflected in the candidates it attracts and the campaigns they run. They just can’t get good people to run and are not living up to the legacy of respected and well-liked Montgomery Republicans like Connie Morella, Betty Ann Krahnke, Howard Denis, and Jean Roesser.

Montgomery Republicans want to “end one party rule” but they need to offer a platform and candidates that appeal. Their interest and ability to do so seems decidedly limited. A pity not just for the Montgomery Republicans but for Montgomery voters.

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Competition and Responsiveness in Redistricting

In previous posts, I’ve contended that Maryland’s extremely non-compact districts are nonetheless less skewed to the Democrats than many think. Moreover, compactness and non-partisan maps don’t necessarily result in fair outcomes.

Today, I look at the role of redistricting in promoting competition and responsiveness. The argument in favor rests on the idea that competition is the lifeblood of democracy. It helps voters keep politicians accountable. When voters swing away from one party and to another, the results should reflect the change.

It may seem odd to take into account whether a plan creates competitive districts. However, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission operates under a mandate to prioritize them. It would also potentially result in greater shifts in House seats with changes in the vote for the U.S. House.

Not all agree that competition and responsiveness are a good thing. Tom Brunell has provocatively argued that mapmakers should create as many ultra-safe districts as possible. He points out that fewer voters cast ballots for the losing candidate–and therefore are happier with the outcome–in safe districts.

Let’s work with the other side of the argument, as I suspect more prefer responsiveness to changes in voting behavior rather than static outcomes no matter the election results. How well does Maryland’s current plan promote competition (i.e. close elections) or responsiveness (i.e. changes in seats won with changes in voting behavior)?

Not well. In 2012. the closest race was in the Sixth where challenge John Delaney ousted incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett by 21 points. The next closest race was in the Eighth where Rep. Chris Van Hollen won reelection from his redrawn district by over 30 points.

If Republicans have a problem with the map, it should not be that it is inherently unfair. After all, if Maryland Republican candidates could win one-half of the votes, they likely carry one-half of the seats. Nevertheless, the plan doesn’t look likely to respond to less major changes in the electorate.

Below is a rough draft of a plan that reflects the Democratic edge but is likely to be more responsive to changes in electoral outcomes:

LublinPlan1More Competitive Congressional Redistricting Plan

President Obama won a majority in 2008 in seven of the eight districts. However, his victory level was not nearly as high in several of the districts as under the current plan:

MDCompIn this plan, the Republicans would need a shift of only 1.9% to gain the Third District and 3.0% to gain the Sixth District. One can imagine regular heated competition for both districts with them changing hands depending on the vicissitudes of the electorate.

This plan would also be far more compact and violate fewer county boundaries than the current plan. The 1st would contain the entire Eastern Shore along with Harford and a bit of northern Baltimore County. It does not cross the Bay Bridge. The Seventh, a 54% black voting-age population district, would include all of Baltimore City along with a chunk of neighboring Baltimore County.

The new 2nd would take in the remainder of Baltimore County along with a bit of neighboring Carroll. The 8th is entirely in Montgomery County. The 6th includes all of western Maryland along with almost all of the rest of Montgomery. The 4th, a 61% black VAP district, is almost entirely in northern Prince George’s.

Finally, the 5th is composed of southern Maryland, the rest of Prince George’s and southern Anne Arundel. The 3rd becomes a central Maryland district with all of Howard, northern Anne Arundel and most of Carrol Counties.

The major problem with this plan is that is most likely too favorable to the Republicans. A gain of 7.8% of the vote would allow the GOP to win one-half of the districts even though they would fall far short of the vote share required for an even statewide split.

They might even win all four with an even smaller percentage as the new versions of the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th contain above average shares of white voters. This matters because whites are more likely to shift way from the Democrats when a pro-Republican wind blows than black voters, who are highly concentrated in the 4th and 7th.

So greater competition and responsiveness not always conducive to partisan fairness. However, one might be able to construct a plan that better meets both requirements, though that could result in less compact districts.

 

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Navarro Lambastes Former Council Aide

It’s not every day you see a former Montgomery County Council President take a former Council aide to task in the pages of the Washington Post. But that’s just what Nancy Navarro did to Dan Reed, a blogger and former aide to Councilmember George Leventhal.

Along with Amanda Kolson Hurley, Reed wrote an opinion piece for the WaPo arguing for the preservation and historic designation of the Wheaton Community Recreation Center, a step recommended by the County’s Planning Board:

If the rec center is demolished, it will be a blow to Montgomery County. The building is an underappreciated and irreplaceable asset. Losing it would diminish our heritage and undermine Wheaton’s ability to attract businesses and residents.

Navarro’s riposte said that their piece:

. . . showed how some seem to view this debate as an academic exercise. Wheaton residents, including unprecedented participation by the Latino community, overwhelmingly testified against historic designation throughout the process. Only historians and career preservationists testified in favor of retaining this dilapidated, leaky and moldy facility. The authors’ assertion that losing this eyesore would “undermine Wheaton’s ability to attract business and residents” is absurd.

Leventhal, Reed’s former boss, sided with Navarro on his Facebook page:

The proposal to preserve the old building fails to address adequately the cost of renovation, who should pay, and who would occupy it. Our operating budget is already strained and building maintenance has been deferred throughout the county. Park & Planning’s recommendation to preserve the dilapidated building follows years of neglect by Park & Planning. Further, preserving the old building will limit green space available for activities associated with the new combined Library & Rec Center. Wheaton deserves better!

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No More LGBT Questions from the Catholic Conference

The Maryland Catholic Conference Questionnaire for General Assembly candidates no longer includes questions about marriage equality or other LGBT issues. Perhaps this reflects the very welcome tolerant attitude of Pope Francis, who inspires and gives hope to many of all faiths. I suspect that the definitive vote of the people in 2012 also played a role.

They still ask about other issues, such as abortion rights and physician-assisted suicide. with the “correct” answer being the more conservative. The Catholic Conference is also still hoping for a tax break for nonprofits that donate to private, including Catholic, schools. The Teachers Union and other public education advocates have opposed this in the past.

We’re lucky to have an excellent public school system in Montgomery but I know the Catholic school system has provided a vital alternative for many in D.C. However, I suspect that these schools would not be the major beneficiary of the proposed tax break that would take money out of the budget that could be used to fund public education.

The Catholic Conference is hoping for liberal answers on assistance for the poor and immigration. I wonder how many legislators from either party score a perfect 5 out of 5? Here is a copy of the survey:

Please mark whether you “agree” or “disagree” with each statement.

These responses will be included in the Catholic diocesan newspapers and materials distributed to the parishes. Comments following each statement are limited to 50 words or less.

These comments, along with the responses, will be included online on the newspaper websites and the Conference website, and will not be edited for grammar or spelling.

1. ASSISTANCE FOR THE POOR. Funding in Maryland’s budget to provide necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare to low-income residents of the state should be maintained at current levels, or increased where possible to accommodate increasing demand for basic services.

2. LATE-TERM ABORTION. Current Maryland law allows abortions to be performed after fetal viability in the case of fetal abnormalities, or to protect the life or health of the mother, including mental health. Maryland law should be changed to allow late-term abortions only to protect a woman from death or serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.

3. IMMIGRATION. Maryland should not pass laws restricting the ability of undocumented immigrants to access basic necessities, such as food, shelter, driving privileges, healthcare, and education.

4. TAX CREDITS FOR EDUCATION. Maryland should enact a state income tax credit for businesses that donate to nonprofit organizations that provide financial assistance to public and nonpublic school students for educational expenses.

5. PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE. Maryland should maintain its current law prohibiting physician-assisted suicide.

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Estate Tax Cut Passes

The change in the amount of an estate exempt from state tax has passed the Maryland Senate today. As it already passed the House, it will become law with Gov. O’Malley’s signature. The law will increase the estate tax exemption to $4 million by 2018 and equal to the federal exemption in 2019. I wrote a post arguing for a more working and middle-class oriented tax cut a week ago.

All who voted no are Democrats. The vote in the Senate was 36-10. The following senators voted NAY:

Frosh, Jones-Rodwell, Kelley, Madaleno, Manno, Montgomery, Pinsky, Ramirez, Raskin, Rosapepe.

Sen. Nancy King did not vote.

The vote in the House was 119-14. The following delegates voted NAY:

Barkley, Bobo, Carr, Carter, Fraser-Hidalgo, Gutierrez, Howard, Hucker, Luedtke, Mizeur, S. Robinson, Waldstreicher, A. Washington, M. Washington.

The following eight delegates did not vote:

Barnes, Frank, Healey, Hixson, McDonough, Myers, Simmons, Sophocleus

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Purple Line ROD Signed

From Purple Line Now:

The MTA just announced that the Record of Decision for the Purple Line has been signed. Formal announcement to follow next week.

As the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) website explains, the Record of Decision is:

The final approval of an Environmental Impact Statement which will be issued by Federal Transit Administration. It is a public document that explains the reasons for a project decision and summarizes any mitigation measures that will be incorporated in the project. Obtaining the ROD is the last step in the NEPA process. After a ROD is received, permits and right-of-way can be acquired.

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Green Endorsements

The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club have endorsed a slew of General Assembly candidates. Here is a combined list of the two with non-incumbents in boldface. (L) indicates endorsed just by the League and (S) indicates endorsed just by the Sierra Club.

All of the endorsed non-incumbents for the Senate are currently delegates, though Veronica Turner is the only challenger endorsed over an incumbent for the Senate.

A total of non-incumbents have been endorsed for delegate by either organization–all for open seats. The League endorsed Rick Kessler, as well as the three incumbents in District 18. The LCV also endorsed four including two challengers–David Moon and Darien Unger in District 20..

By far the most endorsements were made in Montgomery County, an indication of the importance of environmental issues to many voters in the County. Prince George’s came up second.

District 3 (Frederick and Washington)
Senate: Ron Young (L)

District 6 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Johnny Olszewski, Jr. (L)

District 10 (Baltimore County)

Senate: Delores Kelly (L)
House: Adrienne Jones (L)

District 11 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Bobby Zirkin (L)
House: Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein

District 13 (Howard)
Senate: Guy Guzzone (L)
House: Shane Pendergrass, Frank Turner

District 14 (Montgomery)
Senate: Karen Montgomery
House: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, Craig Zucker

District 15 (Montgomery)
Senate: Brian Feldman
House: Aruna Miller, Kathleen Dumais

District 16 (Montgomery)
Senate: Susan Lee
House: Ariana Kelly, Hrant Jamgochian (S), Marc Korman (S)

District 17 (Montgomery)
House: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist, Andrew Platt (S)

District 18 (Montgomery)
Senate: Rich Madaleno
House: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Rick Kessler (L)

District 19 (Montgomery)
Senate: Roger Manno
House: Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer, Charlotte Crutchfield (S)

District 20 (Montgomery)
Senate: Jamie Raskin
House: Sheila Hixson, Will Smith, David Moon (L), Darien Unger

District 21 (Anne Arundel and Prince George’s)
Senate: Jim Rosapepe
House: Ben Barnes, Barbara Frush, Joseline Peña-Melnyk

District 22 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Paul Pinsky
House: Anne Healey (L), Tawanna Gaines (L)

District 23 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Doug Peters (L)
House A: Jim Hubbard (S)
House B: Marvin Holmes (L)

District 24 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Joanne Benson (L)
House: Carolyn Howard (L)

District 25 (Prince George’s)
House: Dereck Davis (L)

District 26 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Veronica Turner (L)
House: Kris Valderrama, Jay Walker (L)

District 27 (Calvert and Prince George’s)
House A: James Proctor, Jr. (L)
House C: Sue Kullen

District 28 (Charles)
House: Peter Murphy (L), C.T. Wilson (L)

District 30 (Anne Arundel)
House: Michael Busch

District 32 (Anne Arundel)
House: Pam Beidle

District 39 (Montgomery)
Senate: Nancy King
House: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznick, Shane Robinson

District 40 (Baltimore City)
House: Barbara Robinson (L), Shawn Tarrant (L)

District 41 (Baltimore City)
House: Jill Carter (L), Sandy Rosenberg (L)

District 42 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Jim Brochin
House A: Stephen Lafferty

District 43 (Baltimore City)
House: Curt Anderson (L), Maggie McIntosh, Mary Washington

District 44 (Baltimore City and County)
House A: Kieffer Mitchell (L)

District 45 (Baltimore City)
House; Talmadge Branch (L), Cheryl Glenn (L)

District 46 (Baltimore City)
Senate: Bill Ferguson
House: Luke Clippinger (L), Peter Hammen (L), Brooke Lierman (L)

District 47 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Victor Ramirez (L)
House A: Michael Summers

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