Forehand Endorses Kagan in D17

CherylJennieCheryl Kagan and Sen. Jennie Forehand

The press release announcing the endorsement of Cheryl Kagan by current Sen. Jennie Forehand surprised me because Kagan challenged Forehand in the last election. People often do not want to support people who opposed them in the past for obvious reasons. Bad news for Del. Luiz Simmons, as this decision tells Forehand supporters where to go and signals a lack of cohesion between him and the rest of the D17 delegation.

The press release with Forehand’s statement emphasized Kagan’s progressive stances:

Cheryl and I share a deep commitment to progressive Democratic values. Whether it’s domestic violence, human trafficking, or gun control, I can trust that Cheryl will consistently speak up on the progressive side.

However, support like this will only matter if Kagan can get the word out through a strong ground operation and has the money to send out a sufficient number of mail pieces–areas where Simmons is already active and running a strong campaign.

 

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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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Election Snow in MoCo?

Is today’s snowstorm going to put a dent in County Executive Ike Leggett’s reelection prospects?

Salt Shortage, Show Removal Problems

It has been a long winter and Montgomery County ran short of salt to pre-treat the roads for the storm. In many areas, the streets were first plowed before they were salted, uncovering a sheet of ice underneath the snow that will now likely to have to wait for warmer weather–not to arrive for at least a couple of day–to remove.

Smaller municipalities were especially hard hit. At first, the the County did not even want to release any salt to smaller municipalities that rely on it to supply it through longstanding arrangements. They were not happy.

Why and How it Could Matter

These problems play into Doug Duncan’s strengths. As County Executive, he was known as an avuncular guy focused on handling basic services very well. To the extent that the storm weakens Leggett’s reputation for the same, it could help Duncan and hurt Leggett.

The impact depends on three factors: (1) the severity of the problems, (2) how well surrounding jurisdictions do, and (3) whether Duncan is positioned to take advantage of it. My quick peek at traffic cameras around the County indicate that many major streets are looking good, though some still have problems.

If DC and Prince George’s open the schools but Montgomery does not, the County Executive will likely face at least some grumbling and have to answer questions about the lack of preparation. Winters vary in the amount of snow they bring, and residents rightly expect that the County will get more salt if needed. But if the schools in all three close, it looks like we’re all in the same boat.

Normally, our County officials do not get much attention. Not because they don’t merit it but because our news media covers the entire metro area. They choose to focus their coverage heavily on the District even though Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Fairfax all have far more people.

Bad events, however, can turn their gaze in our direction to the disadvantage of incumbent officials. It will be also interesting to see if members of the County Council raise questions about the level of preparation or choose to stay mum.

What It’s Not

Some may want to exaggerate and make the inevitable recollection of the disastrous handling (really non-handling) of snow in DC by Marion Barry on one famous occasion. Bad analogy. Leggett is not Barry. He’s the anti-Barry: a steadfast calming, often quiet, problem solver. Moreover, these problems are a minor hiccup compared to that fiasco. Don’t go there.

 

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Top Ten Senate Primaries II: District 36

Hersheymailer12010 Stephen Hershey Mail Piece

Part I in this series is here.

District 36 (R): This one is a complete grudge match between Sen. Stephen Hershey and former Del. Richard Sossi. Hershey beat Sossi, a two term delegate, by just 124 votes out of 10,774 cast in the 2010 Republican delegate primary.

Unique among all districts in the state, voters in District 36 may not cast a vote for more than one delegate from each of the four counties in the district. Hershey and Sossi are both from Queen Anne’s, so their primary was a head-to-head contest between them among Republicans across the entire district.

If imitation is the best form of flattery, then Sen. Nancy King has reason to be pleased. Hershey copied her Sleepy Saqib mail pieces (see above). Despite having two terms under his belt and a large money advantage, Sossi lost thanks to what he describes as labelled “a smear campaign.”

In the meantime, Hershey has continued to move up in the world. When E.J. Pipkin decided to leave not just the Senate but the State, many, including Hershey, Sossi, and Del. Michael Smigiel, applied for the vacancy.

District 36Eastern Shore District 36

Vacancies are usually chosen by the county party central committees of the party that held the seat. Four Republican Central Committees–Cecil, Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s–were involved in the decision. However, two voted to support Smigiel while two others supported Hershey, so Gov. O’Malley got to make the final choice between the two men.

O’Malley stated he picked Hershey due to his broader support in the last election but others speculate that Smigiel never had a shot due to his implacable opposition to O’Malley’s gun legislation. Smigiel vowed to run for the seat but ended up filing for reelection.

Between leaving the House and filing for the Senate seat, Sossi  served as Congressman Andy Harris’ liaison to the same four counties that he represented as a delegate–not a bad job for someone seeking to return to office.

Hershey has the money advantage–$38K to $28K for Sossi–but Sossi can attempt to close the gap during the session. He’ll also have more time to campaign with no day job. At the same time, it’s hard to overlook that he’s damaged goods after having lost and failing to gain the endorsement of any county central committee.

One potential boost to Sossi would be if Rep. Harris endorsed his former employee. But so far, Harris has not tipped his hand in the press and has made no donation to either candidate. Sossi would also gain if his former delegate colleagues agreed to slate with him. I have no information on that front (feel free to post on Seventh State’s Facebook page).

Right now, it’s hard to see why–having turned him out of office–the voters would turn back to Sossi over a candidate who is now stronger as an incumbent. Rating: Lean Hershey.

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Top Ten Senate Primaries, Part I

Simmons mailerMail Piece for Del. Simmons is Running for Senate in District 17

The most competitive challenges to incumbent senators usually occur when a delegate runs. In most of Maryland’s 47 legislative districts, three delegates run at-large and represent the exact same constituency as the senator.

As a result, they make excellent challengers. In 2010, then-Del. Karen Montgomery unseated Sen. Rona Kramer in the Democratic primary.  Sen. Nancy King and Sen. Jennie Forehand had very close shaves that same year running against either a delegate or former delegate.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, incumbent senators often eye their delegates with the same askance eye as Queen Victoria viewed the Prince of Wales. Nevertheless, most of the 39 incumbents seeking reelection do not face stiff primaries. These are the seven challenges by delegates or former delegates to incumbents to watch:

  • 4: Sen. Brinkley v. Del. Hough (R).
  • 25: Sen. Currie v. Del. Melony Griffith (D).
  • 26: Sen. Muse v. Del. Turner (D) and two others.
  • 36: Sen. Hershey v. former Del. Sossi (R).
  • 37: Sen. Colburn v. Del. Eckardt (R).
  • 42: Sen. Brochin v. former Del. DeJuliis (D).
  • 44: Sen. Jones-Rodwell v. Del. Nathan-Pulliam (D).

The challenging delegates in Districts 4 and 44 don’t necessarily have quite the same natural advantages as usual for sitting delegates because they ended being redistricted into another district and have represented less of their new district than the senator.

One other Senate challenger attracts notice even though he does not hold a seat in the House:

  • 43: Sen. Conway v. City Councilman Henry (D).

There are also two exciting primaries among the contests for the seven open seats. Both feature delegates looking to move to the Senate:

  • 17: Del. Simmons v. former Del. Kagan (D).
  • 34: Del. James v. former Sen. Helton (D).

Today, I preview and rate three senatorial contests among the ten with interesting primaries.

District 4 (R): Incumbent David Brinkley faces Del. Michael Hough (R 3), who has been redistricted into this very Republican district in Frederick County. While Brinkley has the home turf advantage, Hough has far more money. This will be a bloody contest with Hough coming at Brinkley from the right and arguing that Republicans need a true conservative to carry the flag. Brinkley has committed the heretical sin of working with the majority Democrats on occasion. More info here and here. Rating: Toss-Up.

District 17 (D): Sen. Jennie Forehand is retiring, so this Rockville-Gaithersburg seat in Montgomery is open. Del. Luiz Simmons, who won this district as a Democrat in 2002 (he previous represented it as a Republican from 1979 to 1983) is going for the open seat. He faces tough competition from former Del. Cheryl Kagan, who represented this district from 1995 through 2003. She challenged Forehand four years ago and nearly won, taking 48% of the primary vote.

Kagan will undoubtedly present Simmons as on the wrong or conservative side of too many issues, particularly domestic violence. In the past, Simmons opposed legislation pushed by Sen. Brian Frosh to change Maryland’s standard for obtaining a protective order from a “clear and convincing” standard to the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in every other state (see also WaPo editorial).

Simmons has had an election year change of heart, as outlined in a devastating column by Josh Kurtz. Simmons is working hard to inoculate himself on this issue with mail pieces (see above) and his avid sponsorship of legislation during this session. Still, this video of his interrogation of a domestic violence victim during a public hearing on the topic may cause him problems:

Interestingly, there is no sign that either Del. Kumar Barve or Del. Jim Gilchrist are rushing to slate with Simmons–a common practice when only one runs for Senate. The question remains if either will take the big step to slate with Kagan instead.

Simmons can self-fund, so he’ll outspend Kagan but she at least can fund raise during the session since she’s not in the General Assembly. Kagan has has a base of donors from her previous campaign and possibly can attract new ones who like Forehand but not Simmons.

But most importantly, she’ll need to run a good ground game–knock on doors and coordinate volunteers to do the same–to beat Simmons. He campaigns hard and clearly takes nothing for granted since he is sending out mail this early. Rating: Toss-Up.

District 42 (D): Incumbent Sen. Jim Brochin faces tough primary and general election contests in a greatly reshaped district. Gov. Martin O’Malley is supporting his challenger, former Del. Connie DeJuliis (more info here). However, Brochin is an indefatigable campaigner and has loads more money than DeJuliis, who served in the 1990s, despite her high level support. Unless Gov. O’Malley goes all in on this one–and he has a very competitive streak–Brochin has the edge. Rating: Likely Brochin.

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Wa Times LGBT Obsession

WTpage1

The Washington Times. Who even knew they still printed this rag? It’s like the 1980s are calling and want to know why their paper wasn’t delivered to President Reagan’s Cabinet secretaries.

Yesterday, I happened to have to wait in a place with a copy and turned to the op-ed pages. One column was by a “gay conservative woman” expressing her distress at Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of the so-called “religious freedom” bill designed to allow discrimination against lesbians and gays.

Now that Mary Cheney has become pro-gay rights, someone else  has volunteered to fill the gaping flack void.

Of course, the bill would have also permitted Muslims not to serve Christians but that didn’t cross the minds of supporters until after voting for the bill. The threat to Arizona tourism and business caused an avalanche of business Republican opposition and Brewer vetoed the legislation. Capitalism in action.

The letters to the editor included one attacking Attorney General Eric Holder for his strong support of LGBT rights:

By adding his weight to this final insult, Mr. Holder is dragging the “rotten fruit of the sex revolution” across this land, infecting families and children of all creeds.

Meanwhile, the front page has an article about how DC is going to cover gender reassignment surgery for people with gender dysphoria. This article struck me as fair with quotations from both Mayor Vincent Gray and Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Still, one is struck by the placement. One suspects that it’s designed to be incendiary rather than because the Times’ editors think this is a good or necessary idea. The Washington Post covered the same topic under Post Local.

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Redistricting 2020

MD LD Plan 2012

Maryland’s Current Legislative District Plan

Is it ever too early to discuss the next cycle of redistricting?

The first elections for this decade’s plan are just being held this year since the 2010 elections occurred prior to the decennial redistricting wrangling.

But here at Seventh State, it’s never too early to look ahead, so I’ve taken a peek at the Maryland Department of Planning’s current population estimates for 2020. These estimates can only be taken as a rough basis not just because they’re estimates but because Maryland reallocates prisoners back to their home address for redistricting purposes.

Maryland has been at the forefront of addressing prison-based gerrymandering. The location of a large prison artificially boosts the population of an area even though none of its residents can vote. In Maryland, the allocation of prisoners from prisons in rural areas, such as from the three prisons in Allegany County, just happens to benefit Baltimore City.

Long the center of political power in Maryland, Baltimore City’s representation has declined rapidly in recent decades. The addition of prisoners from the City back into its population for redistricting purposes helps slow its steady loss of seats in the General Assembly.

Having mentioned these very large caveats regarding the reliability of the population estimates, here is what a look at the projected populations suggests for representation in the General Assembly in 2022:

Baltimore City will drop to five legislative districts. The City will gain people over the decade but at a slower pace than the rest of the State. Not enough to staunch the loss of political power. In other words, the new Baltimore City delegation will continue the City’s never ending game of political musical chairs, despite its mighty efforts not to cede representation.

In contrast, Frederick will gain enough population to incorporate the rest of District 4–its second district.

Montgomery will deserve more representation (roughly one-half of one delegate) but will remain close enough to eight districts that the number probably will remain unchanged. The big question is whether Rockville and Gaithersburg will be too large to stay together in one district. The law prohibits unnecessary violations of municipal boundaries, so this could necessitate redrawing the County’s whole map.

Prince George’s will lose roughly 40% of a delegate–almost exactly the share that neighboring Charles will gain.

While Calvert will see little change, St. Mary’s will come very close to no longer having to share a district with another county.

Howard should gain roughly 50% of a delegate–very close to the share than next door Baltimore County will lose.

Western Maryland (Garrett, Allegany and Washington) will retain its two districts with few changes.

Very little change for the nine counties on the Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s Talbot, Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester).

Surprisingly, the numbers also project little change for the Baltimore exurbs of Carroll and Harford.

Remember that State law constrains the drawing of districts that violate too many county and municipal boundaries, except to satisfy the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. This limit will prevent any attempt to save Baltimore City’s political weight by drawing pizza pie districts out into the County that remain dominated by the City. The State tried this tactic during the 2000 round but the map was overturned in court.

Of course, these are really just guesstimates at this point. But it’s fun to peek ahead to Maryland’s political future.

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Senate Strengthens Trans Equality Bill

MCTE-corrected-logo-300x111Logo for the Coalition of 44 Members

The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, also known as the Transgender Equality bill, passed second reader in the Senate today by a voice vote. Sen. Rich Madaleno (D 18-Montgomery) is the lead sponsor and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D 20-Montgomery) is the floor leader, as he is on the Judicial Proceedings Committee and a strong supporter of the bill.

The bill was strengthened by an amendment thanks to the hard work of a number of senators, including Sen. Catherine Pugh (D 40-Baltimore City) and Sen. Joseph Getty (R 5-Baltimore and Carroll) as well as Madaleno and Raskin. The Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Getty that adopts a broader definition of gender identity so it includes individuals beyond those who have chosen to have and can afford gender reassignment surgery.

The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality has strongly advocated for the bill. Its members include Equality Maryland, ACLU of Maryland, CASA of Maryland, SEIU, Jews United for Justice, Baltimore Black Pride, and Maryland NOW among the many groups who have allied to support the bill.

 

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Bethesda Just Wants to Have Fun

County Executive Ike Leggett’s Nighttime Economy Task Force has made a number of recommendations to attract a more active nightlife to Montgomery. Sorry I meant to say MoCo. We’re all hipsters now here at 7S.

Aaron Kraut of BethesdaNow.com summarized the key proposed changes:

The Task Force will recommend the county extend the hours of operation for venues with alcohol licenses an hour, to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays and 2 a.m. on weeknights.

That would match D.C. and Prince George’s County and prevent what Pohoryles said restaurant owners call “the mad dash,” the period when Montgomery County bar goers get in their cars and drive to D.C. for another hour of alcohol service. The rule would keep the half-hour “grace period,” in which last call would actually be half-an-hour before closing time.

Also part of the bar-friendly recommendations are changes to the county’s noise ordinance in specific urban areas.

The Task Force will recommend increasing the allowable noise levels for “qualifying arts and entertainment activities in these areas,” to 85 decibels, allowing those levels to midnight and ensuring nearby residents are informed of the law prior to moving in.

So basically more booze + noise = fun. Heck, I suspect any random group of college students could have told you that. The only problem is that downtown Bethesda’s prime demographic is not college students or recent college grads but empty nesters.

Neighborhoods near to downtown Bethesda are a combination of families and empty nesters. In six years on the Town Council of the Town of Chevy Chase, located directly east of downtown Bethesda, I have never heard anyone lament that the bars in Bethesda close too early and that they have to dash elsewhere to keep drinking.

The Task Force’s chair wants to reassure that the changes are meant to benefit everyone:

Heather Dlhopolsky, a Bethesda attorney and chair of the Task Force, made it clear the Task Force wasn’t just about catering to the 20-34 year-old crowd, citing the significant number of empty nesters moving to downtown Bethesda.

Nevertheless, the recommendations have provoked a backlash precisely from that group. Jon Weintraub provided this summary of the thoughts expressed at a meeting of over 40 condo owners from many different buildings in downtown Bethesda:

There is universal opposition to the County Executive’s Nighttime Bethesda proposal, if it means extending bar hours and changing the revenue ratio. It should not move forward! What can be done to ensure that the noise ordinance is not altered for downtown Bethesda?

Instead Weintraub wants to know:

What is the planner standard for public green space, library, and recreational facilities per 1000 units of development in the downtown?

What can the county and the planning board do to improve the quality of metro service to Bethesda given density decisions are tied to the presence of the metro?

The meeting was organized by Jon Weintraub with Jane Fairweather, a very successful local realtor who knows the Bethesda market extremely well and hardly one to object to changes if she thought they would make her market more and not less valuable.

No doubt some will deride their objections as those of anti-business older people who expect unreasonable levels of quiet and have confused the area with an assisted living facility. But my impression is that their objection is not to a vibrant nightlife but want it to fit in with the area’s existing strengths.

Bethesda is filled with restaurants and also has a large number of bars for that matter. However, the empty nesters who can afford to buy all those condos–and provide a lot of custom to these businesses–prefer it quiet before 2am.

The key to keeping Bethesda so successful is make changes that reinforce what is already attractive not just to families and empty nesters but also to many twenty and thirtysomethings. Middle of the night noise, drinking and nightclubs probably aren’t it.

The Task Force has a lot of suggestions to streamline the process of establishing a business that would probably be helpful to that end. Ironically, the one change that would please restauranteurs and bar owners the most is the one that they shied away from adopting:

Montgomery County operates as a control alcohol jurisdiction, with all alcohol purchases coming from a central DLC [Department of Liquor Control] warehouse. That has led to complaints from restaurant owners about the availability of special orders, such as craft beer, and the time it takes to fill an order.

Evan Glass, a Silver Spring activist and prospective County Council candidate, said the group should talk about how necessary the DLC is.

It’s a contentious issue, in large part because the DLC contributes $25-$30 million a year to the county’s General Fund. It also recently opened a new warehouse in Gaithersburg.

Glass suggested the DLC should at least keep a portion of that contribution to hire more employees who could help it be more responsive.

Most agreed that recommending wholesale changes, or the dissolution of the DLC, was too big a task for the Task Force. The final recommendation, when it comes out in the Task Force’s final report next week, will call for a study of the DLC’s effectiveness from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

The irony here is that the Task Force attacked directly requirements that restaurants sell as much food as liquor. Yet, they’ve stayed away from a major barrier to locating restaurants here because alcohol is more expensive in MoCo and unique beers and wines are harder to obtain. The City Paper, practically the definition of urban hip, wrote about the issue back in 2007.

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