Tag Archives: Adam Pagnucco

LIUNA’s Endorsement of Hogan is a Big Deal

By Adam Pagnucco.

In politics, it’s an iron law that unions always endorse Democrats, yeah?  Labor is known for supplying money and manpower to the Democratic Party in an alliance dating back decades.  But the truth is more complicated owing to the complexities within the labor movement little appreciated by outsiders.  And that truth just erupted in the Governor’s race in a big way.

Recently, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), one of the largest unions in the country, endorsed Republican Governor Larry Hogan.  As the Washington Post noted, LIUNA had supported Hogan’s 2014 opponent, then-Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and gave him a last-minute $500,000 loan.  Why is this such a big deal?

First, LIUNA is in part a building trades union.  A big chunk of its half a million members work in the construction industry alongside unions representing carpenters, electricians, operating engineers, iron workers, bricklayers and more.  Accordingly, it has an interest in landing construction projects for its members.  The Post reported, “A spokesman for the union said it is backing Hogan because of his emphasis on building roads and bridges – particularly his $9 billion proposal to add toll plans to Maryland’s most congested highways.”  LIUNA Mid-Atlantic Vice President Dennis Martire added, “Transportation infrastructure continues to take a back seat for many elected officials… It’s refreshing to see Governor Hogan’s proposed plans for Maryland’s roads and highways.”  Local organizations affiliated with two other building trades unions – the Roofers and the Plumbers and Pipefitters – have also endorsed Hogan.  Don’t be surprised if more trades climb on board.

Second, LIUNA is one of the most diverse unions in the country.  It represents large numbers of African Americans and Latinos who are not as socially conservative as the other trades and public safety unions that are supporting Hogan.  Many LIUNA members are government employees, and in Montgomery County, the union represents trash haulers who are employed by county contractors.  The union’s legislative agenda goes beyond traditional building trades issues.  In endorsing Rich Madaleno in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, the union cited his work on earned sick leave and the $15 minimum wage.  LIUNA also endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive.  That’s right, folks – here is an organization that supported Madaleno, Elrich, Brown AND Hogan.

Third, LIUNA spends massive amounts on Maryland political campaigns.  From 2005 through June 2018, the union contributed $2.2 million to Maryland candidates, PACs and independent expenditure committees.  Its biggest expenditures were $678,065 to the Clean Slate Baltimore PAC opposing 2016 Mayor candidate (and former Mayor) Sheila Dixon; $528,500 to Anthony Brown’s 2014 campaign for Governor; $150,000 to the One State One Future Super PAC for Brown; $78,250 to the state Democratic Party; and $35,000 to the Progressive Maryland PAC that ran negative TV ads against County Executive candidate David Blair.  There is no indication that the union will spend any money promoting Hogan, who – Lord knows! – doesn’t need more money.  But LIUNA’s resources are now off the table for Democratic nominee Ben Jealous, who could have used them.

Speaking of Progressive Maryland, LIUNA is one of their dues-paying affiliates.  That didn’t stop Progressive Maryland from criticizing LIUNA’s endorsement of Hogan on Facebook, an almost unheard-of act by an umbrella group against a member.  That’s how much LIUNA’s choice stings the left.

Finally, consider this.  One of the most remarkable findings in the recent Gonzales poll showing a sixteen-point lead for Hogan over Jealous was its estimates for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.  Those are two jurisdictions Jealous needs to win by big margins, but the poll shows him leading Hogan by six points in the City and thirteen points in Prince George’s.  We are skeptical that those margins will hold.  But to the extent that middle-class African Americans are a key to the election, it’s hard to think of many labor unions that represent more middle-class African Americans than LIUNA.

There’s a long way to go to Election Day and Jealous still has some large and powerful groups behind him.  But none of this is good for the Democrats.  Hogan must be smiling all the way to the hiring hall and beyond.

Disclosure: The author worked for LIUNA in 1994 and 1995 and spent sixteen years working for building trades unions.

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MoCo Gubernatorial Primary: Precinct Results

By Adam Pagnucco.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous won every county in Maryland in the Democratic primary except Prince George’s and Calvert, where Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker outpolled him.  In MoCo, Jealous received 35.6% of the vote and Baker received 32.5%, a difference of 3.1 points.  The precinct results we show below only include election day votes, which accounted for 68% of the votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in MoCo.  Still, they show the patterns of voting for Jealous and Baker as well as for Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18), who finished third in the county, and former Michelle Obama aide Krish Vignarajah, who finished fourth.

Overall, MoCo saw a two-man race between Jealous and Baker.  Madaleno was a distant third; he finished first in Kensington but no higher than third anywhere else, including in District 18.  Vignarajah was fourth overall but finished third in Council District 2, State Legislative District 39 and several areas mostly located in Upcounty.  Generally speaking, Baker did well in white, wealthy areas in the southwest while Jealous won almost everywhere else.

Jealous’s Five Best Local Areas

  • Brookeville: 48% (first)
  • Takoma Park and Damascus: 46% (first)
  • Montgomery Village: 43% (first)
  • Silver Spring East County: 43% (first)

Jealous’s Five Worst Local Areas

  • Bethesda: 31% (second)
  • Leisure World: 31% (second)
  • Potomac: 28% (second)
  • Kensington: 28% (third)
  • Chevy Chase: 25% (second)

Baker’s Five Best Local Areas

  • Cabin John: 41% (first)
  • Bethesda: 39% (first)
  • Leisure World: 39% (first)
  • Potomac: 39% (first)
  • Chevy Chase: 38% (first)

Baker’s Five Worst Local Areas

  • Glenmont/Norbeck: 25% (second)
  • Clarksburg: 24% (second)
  • Poolesville: 24% (second)
  • Brookeville: 24% (second)
  • Damascus: 21% (second)

The racial differences in voting between Jealous and Baker can be easily seen in the demographic splits.  Baker won majority white precincts and the size of his advantage grew as the white percentage rose.  Jealous won “majority minority” precincts by 14 points.

One more factor to consider is the Washington Post, which endorsed Baker and attacked Jealous.  In a forthcoming blog post, we will compare the performance of Council At-Large candidates endorsed by the Post to those who were endorsed by MCEA.  The Post candidates’ performance was strongest compared to those supported by MCEA in Chevy Chase, Cabin John, Bethesda and Potomac – many of the same places where Baker performed best and Jealous performed worst.

We show the full splits below.

  

While Jealous won MoCo, he lost in the wealthy areas that tend to have disproportionate numbers of campaign contributors.  That’s an important fact to note since Jealous is trailing Governor Larry Hogan badly in fundraising from MoCo.  Jealous should tap into any MoCo surrogates he has, especially in Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac and Kensington, to help him fortify those areas and raise money from them.  If they don’t come around to the Democratic nominee, Jealous’s path to Government House will be that much harder.

Next, we will begin looking at the County Executive candidates.

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MoCo Democratic Turnout: Precinct Results

By Adam Pagnucco.

Data Christmas has arrived as precinct results from the primary are now available from the State Board of Elections! We have been busy crunching them and will now begin rolling them out for our beloved readers.  Let’s start today with turnout among MoCo Democrats.

Overall, MoCo Democratic turnout was 35% in the 2018 primary, higher than the state average of 29%.  MoCo ranked second to Talbot County among the state’s 24 jurisdictions on this measure.  MoCo’s rate of 35% was higher than it was in 2010 and 2014 (26% each time) but lower than 2006 (40%) and 2002 (45%).  Still, being second in the state after being in the middle of the pack in the last two gubernatorial cycles is a good thing for MoCo.

Looking inside the county, there were vast differences in Democratic turnout between local areas.  Here are the five highest rates and the five lowest.

Highest Democratic Turnout Rates

Leisure World: 52%

Chevy Chase: 49%

Cabin John: 47%

Kensington: 45%

Takoma Park and Bethesda: 44%

Lowest Democratic Turnout Rates

Burtonsville and Damascus: 28%

Montgomery Village: 27%

Clarksburg: 27%

Germantown: 26%

Glenmont/Norbeck: 24%

These differences were reflected in state legislative and council districts.  Council District 1 led with 45% while Council District 2 was last with 28%.  State Legislative District 16 led with 44% while District 39 was last with 26%.  In the Democratic Crescent – the areas inside and near the Beltway that sent Jamie Raskin to Congress – turnout was 44%.  That compares to turnout rates of 29% in Upcounty and 34% in the rest of the county.

In precincts where support for term limits in 2016 was less than 65%, turnout was 42%.  In precincts where support for term limits was more than 80%, turnout was 31%.  This suggests confirmation of a post we wrote before the primary: Democrats who voted for term limits were less likely to vote in the primary.

Another factor that stands out is the differences among precincts based on their racial composition.  We have been matching precincts to racial data from Census tracts since the 2006 cycle.  (We have redone this numerous times since then to accommodate the 2010 Census and shifting precinct borders.)  Among majority white precincts, Democratic turnout was 41% and turnout rose as white percentage increased.  Among “majority minority” precincts, Democratic turnout was 29% and that rate fell as the white percentage declined.  Precincts that were more than 33% Latino had a combined turnout rate of 26%.

We show the full splits below.

These patterns of higher turnout in white areas, wealthy areas and the Democratic Crescent and lower turnout in Upcounty, areas with lots of people of color and lower income areas had a powerful impact on the races for Governor, County Executive and County Council At-Large.  We will begin looking at those races soon.

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Who is Paying for RGA’s Campaign?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As we have previously written, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has launched a TV and mail campaign promoting Governor Larry Hogan and attacking Democratic nominee Ben Jealous.  RGA is a 527, not a PAC or a federal political committee regulated by the FEC, and since the Citizens United decision it is free to advocate for and against candidates.  However, in Maryland, it is registered as an Independent Expenditure (IE) Committee and must disclose its contributions and expenditures.

Below are the 21 entities (17 organizations and 4 individuals) who have contributed to RGA’s Maryland IE account.  They have combined to contribute $1,037,500 to the campaign.  All but one (Gary Mangum of Bell Nursery) are from out of state.

The four healthcare and pharmaceutical companies contributed $300,000, which is interesting considering that Jealous is known for advocating single payer healthcare.  Indeed, one of RGA’s TV ads slams Jealous’s healthcare proposal over its alleged cost.  The $100,000 contribution by student testing firm Data Recognition Corporation is also noteworthy.  Is it seeking contracts in Maryland?

One more item from the IE filings stands out: the vendors collecting its money are all based out of state.  Are there no consultants based in Maryland who are capable of doing political work?  So far, the IE has spent $1,648,663 on TV, online ads, mail and consulting fees.  Compare that to the $2.9 million raised by Jealous’s campaign for the entire cycle.

RGA’s last IE report was dated July 11.  If the campaign continues, there will be more reports.  Who knows how much they will spend by the time they are done?

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Hogan is Blowing Out Jealous in MoCo Fundraising

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County is sometimes referred to as “the ATM of Maryland.”  That’s because it’s the largest single source of tax revenue for the state and generates much of the state aid that is sent to other jurisdictions.  But in politics, MoCo is also the ATM of statewide Democratic politicians.  U.S. Senators, Governors, Attorneys General, Comptrollers and candidates for those offices are heavily dependent on the county for political money.  Sure, they raise money from Downtown Baltimore, Roland Park, Towson, Pikesville, Owings Mills and Annapolis too, but from a fundraising perspective, nothing compares to the mansions of Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac.

Now there’s a new person claiming MoCo as his political ATM.  He’s not a Democrat.  He is Republican Governor Larry Hogan, and he is blowing out the Democratic nominee, Ben Jealous.

Hogan’s fundraising edge is well known.  But what has not been previously reported is how much money he is raising from Montgomery County.  The table below shows that he has raised $13.5 million over the cycle with $1.5 million coming from MoCo.  That’s about five times the $303,376 amount that MoCo donors have given to Jealous.

Hogan’s edge in business fundraising is huge; Jealous only received three contributions from MoCo business entities totaling $1,750.  But Hogan has a 5-to-1 edge in MoCo individual contributions too and it is not solely due to big checks.  Hogan’s average contribution from MoCo individuals is $239; for Jealous, that figure is $196.  Do the rough math and it’s obvious that waaaaaaaay more people in MoCo have given money to Hogan than Jealous.

How does this compare to previous races?  Below we compare fundraising by the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial tickets over the last four cycles.  Running mate accounts are included.  MoCo results are shown at top and grand totals are shown at bottom.  All data is through June 10, the cutoff for the most recent 2018 report, to make the data comparable across cycles.

Of the prior three cycles, 2006 is the most comparable to the present day since it had a GOP Governor and a Democratic challenger.  One difference was that Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley was running against MoCo Executive Doug Duncan, who had a natural advantage in MoCo fundraising.  Even so, O’Malley did not trail Governor Bob Ehrlich by much in MoCo and had a modest advantage in total fundraising.  In the next two cycles, the Democrats blew out the GOP nominees in both MoCo and in total raised.  Interestingly, Hogan’s MoCo fundraising this cycle is similar to the amounts raised from MoCo by O’Malley in 2010 and the Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman team in 2014.  Meanwhile, Jealous’s MoCo fundraising is in the same ballpark as what Ehrlich collected from the county in 2010.

That means the Hogan-Jealous gap, both in MoCo and overall, is extremely unusual by historical standards.  It’s not surprising that an incumbent Governor would lead in fundraising.  It IS surprising that he would blow out a challenger in the number one financial stronghold for the opposing party by five to one.  And Hogan is doing that with former Maryland Democratic Party Chair and long-time MoCo player Susan Turnbull on Jealous’s ticket.

Jealous became the Democratic nominee shortly after this reporting period closed.  With his primary rivals out of the way, he should begin raising more money from MoCo and other Democratic money sources soon.  But the financial gap he has against Hogan is probably too big to be closed.  And a big reason for that is Hogan’s support from MoCo donors.

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Did the MVA Voter Issue Change Any Maryland Primary Results?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The failure of the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to transfer data on some voters who changed their registration information to the State Board of Elections (SBE) has attracted lots of attention from the press and members of the General Assembly.  Here is a key question: did it actually change the outcomes of any elections?  New data allows us to examine this issue.

Recently, SBE sent the General Assembly the number of voters affected by the MVA registration change issue by party, precinct, state legislative district and Congressional district.  We show the total number of voters affected by state legislative district below.  (Note:  The data does not include all potentially impacted voters because SBE cannot map all addresses on file with MVA to addresses in the voter registration list.)

Now what happened to these voters?  These are folks who tried to change their voter registration address or party affiliation at MVA and, unfortunately, the changes were not passed on to SBE.  One of five events would have happened to these voters.

Possibility 1: 5,163 affected voters voted normally because they changed addresses within the same area.  We don’t have their distribution by legislative district.

Possibility 2: They could have voted through a provisional ballot which was subsequently accepted.

Possibility 3: They could have voted through a provisional ballot which was subsequently rejected.

Possibility 4: They could have been told at the polling place that they must cast a provisional ballot and then left without voting.

Possibility 5: They may not have tried to vote at all.

Right now, we don’t know the distribution in each one of the above five event categories.  We do know that the number of affected voters who voted provisionally was 3,538 but we don’t know how many of those ballots were rejected.  Possibility 4 – leaving the polling location without voting – is the most unknowable of all and also the most disturbing.  It’s also a very real possibility as illustrated by Maryland Matters’ report of this exchange at a General Assembly hearing between SBE Administrator Linda Lamone and two state legislators.

Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) seemed concerned that while the estimated overall turnout statewide was about 25 percent, among the affected voters – roughly 8,700 affected voters who used either provisional or regular ballots – the turnout was less than 10 percent.

“Is it reasonable to say that this may have had a deterrent effect on voters, or are you concerned that it could have had a deterrent effect on voters?” Luedtke asked.

“Yes,” Lamone replied.

“That’s a key issue for us,” Luedtke said.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), vice chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, asked Lamone if she knew of any studies that showed the use of a provisional ballot was “dissuasive.”

“I have seen some discussion of that, senator,” she said. “I haven’t seen the numbers, but I have seen some discussion that people believe that it’s less than a vote – it’s not a real ballot.”

Under further questioning by Pinsky, Lamone agreed that voters could have been put off by the prospect of using a provisional ballot.

“There could be some number of voters out there who didn’t vote because of this error?” Pinsky asked.

“That’s correct,” Lamone replied.

Did any primary election results change because of this mistake?  We will never be able to answer that question, but we can identify some elections that were close enough so that an impact was possible.  Below are eight races across the state in which the number of voters affected by the MVA issue was at least five times the winning margin held by the victor.

This does not include the Baltimore County Executive race (a seventeen-vote margin after recount) or the Howard County Council District 1 race (a six-vote margin after recount) because their boundaries do not match state legislative district data, but obviously, they could have been affected.  Other than those two races, the ones in which the MVA mistake had the greatest probability of affecting the election were the contests for Montgomery County Executive and House District 16.  In the MoCo Executive race, Marc Elrich led by 492 votes in early and election day voting and David Blair led by 73 votes in provisional voting.  That compares to a total of 5,381 MoCo Democrats affected by the MVA issue.

Going forward, there are two areas of concern.  First, there must not be a recurrence of this issue in the general election.  And second, now that the state has passed automatic voter registration, a law that mandates the passing of voter information between numerous state agencies and SBE, the potential for the kinds of problems seen at MVA is now greatly magnified.  Imagine the chaos that would result from MANY thousands of voters showing up to the polls thinking they had registered but then finding out that SBE did not have their information.  It would make the MVA issue look tiny and would have the potential to affect a whole lot more elections.

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Could Ficker Win a Three-Way Race for Executive?

By Adam Pagnucco.

There is much condemnation of Council Member Nancy Floreen among Democratic activists for leaving the party and launching an independent run for Executive.  Some of the outrage is related to party loyalty.  Some of it is related to support for the apparent Democratic primary winner, Marc Elrich.  And some of it is related to Floreen’s record in office and historic support by the business community.  Those are all value judgments best left to the readers.  But one concern can actually be evaluated with data – the notion that a Floreen candidacy could enable GOP candidate Robin Ficker to come up the middle and squeak out a victory.  Could that actually happen?

Ficker, who has a long and infamous history in the county, has been running for office since the 1970s.  He was actually elected to a District 15 House of Delegates seat in 1978, a decision reversed by the voters four years later.  Since then, he has run for offices of all kinds and placed numerous charter amendments on the ballot.  Two of his charter amendments – a property tax limitation measure in 2008 and a term limits measure in 2016 – were passed by county voters.

Robin Ficker’s official House of Delegates picture from 1978.  Forty years later, could he be headed to elected office again?

First, let’s look at Ficker’s electoral history since the 1990s.  He has run ten times and lost on every occasion.  In every race, he has been a Republican except for 2006, when he ran as an independent for County Executive.  (Twelve years later, that’s what Nancy Floreen is doing.)

Besides all the losing, the thing that stands out here is Ficker’s unpopularity in the Republican Party.  He has entered six contested GOP primaries since 1994 and lost five of them.  The only time he had opposition and won was when he ran in the 2009 County Council District 4 special election and defeated two no-name Republicans who barely campaigned.  The lesson here is that when Republicans have an alternative to Ficker who is not a Democrat, they tend to vote for someone else.

Even Republicans are reluctant to buy what Ficker is selling.  Photo credit: Getty Images, John W. McDonough.

Cathedral wedding Veil

When he did make it to general elections, Ficker earned vote percentages ranging from 34% to 41%.  But most of those elections occurred in Upcounty districts where Republicans are a much larger percentage of the electorate than the county as a whole.

Now let’s look at the performances of GOP candidates for County Executive over the last five general elections.

One of the untold stories in MoCo elections is the recent decline in electoral performance by Democratic nominees in MoCo Executive general elections.  From 1998 through 2006, the Republican nominee did not crack 30%.  In the last two elections, the Republican got 34% of the vote.  For the most part, these were protest votes as the Republican candidates had no money, did not campaign and were not expected by anyone to win.  Another thing to note is that the only one of these elections that had an independent candidate was 2006, when Ficker ran against Ike Leggett and GOP nominee Chuck Floyd.  Ficker got just 9% of the vote, another sign of his unpopularity with both Republicans and independents.

Finally, let’s consider turnout by party in MoCo mid-term general elections.

Over the years, Democratic turnout percentage has edged up gradually, independent turnout has increased and Republican turnout has collapsed.  At some point, it’s reasonable to expect that independent turnout might exceed the GOP.

For Ficker to win, he would need to hold onto all the GOP votes, win more than 70% of independents and have Floreen and Elrich split everyone else exactly down the middle.  That would result in Ficker getting 34% of the vote and Floreen and Elrich each getting 33%.  That’s extremely unlikely for two reasons.  First, as detailed above, Ficker is weak among GOP voters and Republicans and independents would have a viable alternative in Floreen.  Second, for this scenario to work, almost half of all Democrats would have to vote against their own party’s nominee to keep Elrich at 33%.  It’s easier to see a path to victory for Floreen, who could win by getting half the Republicans, all the independents and roughly 28% of the Democrats.

Just to be clear, we are skeptical that anyone can defeat a Democratic nominee in a MoCo countywide election.  But whatever the ramifications of a possible Floreen independent run, we’re pretty sure that one of them will not be a victory by Robin Ficker.

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Is Ficker Using Public Financing to Promote His Law Practice?

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive candidate Robin Ficker is enrolled in the county’s public financing program and has announced that he has qualified for $231,185 in public matching funds.  Those funds are supposed to be used to finance his campaign for office.  But his Facebook ads raise the question of whether he is also using them to promote his law practice.

Ficker has run at least three political Facebook ads from his Robin Ficker Law Offices page.

The content of the ads is unquestionably political.  But the Facebook page is a mixed bag.  It advertises his services as a criminal defense lawyer and has his business phone number.  It also offers a combination of political content and promotion of Ficker’s legal work.

prom dress online

To be fair, Ficker’s ads do not advertise the legal posts.   But whenever a voter sees one of his political ads, they see “Robin Ficker Law Offices” at the top.

Maryland COMAR 33.13.10.03 prohibits the use of campaign funds for “the personal use or the personal benefit of a candidate.”  Montgomery County COMCOR 16.21.01.05 prohibits the use of public financing funds for “personal use.”  Whether Ficker is running afoul of these regulations is a matter for the authorities.  But if he wants to avoid this issue entirely, Ficker should establish a political Facebook page that is separate from his business.  That’s what other candidates do and Ficker should do the same.

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MoCo Democrats Reveal Preferred Directions for the County

By Adam Pagnucco.

Lots of attention has been paid to who will win the MoCo Democratic Primary for Executive.  At this point, it appears to be Council Member Marc Elrich.  But much less attention has been paid to something equally important: the voice of the voters.  In this primary, MoCo Democrats spoke out loud and clear about their preferred directions for the future of the county.

The Executive race is like no other in MoCo.  The office may not be as powerful as the County Council on paper, but its holder is THE leader and spokesman for the county and sets the tone and direction of the county going forward.  Voters understand that.  And they scrutinize the message and vision of the Executive candidates to a much greater extent than others running for local office.

In this primary, there were six candidates for Executive.  Each had enough resources to be heard.  And as a group, they sent three kinds of messages to the voters.  By choosing between these three messages, the voters indicated their preferred directions for the county’s future.

Status Quo (23% of the vote)

Council Members Roger Berliner and George Leventhal ran on their records in office and argued that they merited a promotion to Executive.  Berliner and Leventhal were arguably the two most effective legislators on the County Council.  Both showed substantial skill at passing a large variety of bills, including difficult ones like Berliner’s bill to protect street trees and Leventhal’s bill to prevent unilateral sales of county property by the Executive.  The two served a combined twenty-four years as committee chairs and each was elected Council President twice.  Their records were not just their own, but were also essentially those of the council itself.  Boiled down to its basic nature, their message was, “I’m an experienced leader and you can count on me to continue the county’s success.”

Berliner and Leventhal ran on their records as Council Members in their mail.

In many years, this kind of strategy would have worked.  MoCo Democrats tend to respect effective elected service.  But this was not one of those years as Berliner and Leventhal combined to get 23% of the vote.  More than three-quarters of Democrats opted for change of one kind or another.

Progressive Plus Anti-Developer Direction (29% of the vote)

Despite being in elected office continuously for 31 years, Council Member Marc Elrich ran as a change candidate.  He argued that the county needed a more progressive social justice direction that would help renters, vulnerable people and those living in and close to poverty.  He was especially focused on closing the achievement gap in public schools and instituting the most progressive environmental standards in the nation.  At the same time, he lambasted developers as “the special interest with too much influence over the government” and vowed to “hold developers accountable for providing the resources necessary to maintain our quality of life.”

Elrich’s comments about developers on his website and in email are in line with the message he has used for decades.

This wasn’t just Elrich’s campaign; almost the entire progressive movement in MoCo lined up behind him and did everything they could to get him elected.  The result was 29% of the vote.

Competitive Direction (48% of the vote)

The three non-Council Members – businessman David Blair, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow and Delegate Bill Frick – had very different biographies but they had similar campaign messages, especially on the economy.  All three agreed that the county’s economic competitiveness is slipping and must be restored to fund the kinds of progressive priorities favored by all the candidates, and most of the voters.

Blair, Krasnow and Frick made economic competitiveness the focus of their campaigns in their mail and websites.

Blair, Krasnow and Frick combined to receive 48% of the vote with essentially the same message on the economy.  The Executive election revealed that the group of voters wanting economic competitiveness and tax restraint is the largest faction in the county’s Democratic Party.  The competitive direction candidates did not win because there were too many of them and they split up each other’s support, allowing Elrich to squeak in by 80 votes.

Combine the competitive direction Democrats with the roughly 40% of registered voters who are unaffiliated or Republicans and you get 70% of the general electorate – the exact percentage who voted for term limits.  These numbers are not a coincidence.

The Executive election is not quite finished yet.  Council Member Nancy Floreen is trying to get on the ballot as an independent, which we believe is an uphill battle, and a general election awaits.  But through their votes on candidate messages, MoCo Democrats have spoken about where they would like the county to go.  Elected officials would be wise to heed them.

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Floreen Faces an Uphill Climb to Get on the Ballot

By Adam Pagnucco.

As has been previously written both here and in Bethesda Magazine, Council Member Nancy Floreen faces two hurdles in getting on the ballot as an independent candidate for Executive.  First, there is the question of whether she can change her registration from Democratic to unaffiliated in time to access the ballot as a non-Democrat.  That issue is playing out now.  Second, she faces a petition signature requirement.  That’s going to be tough.

State law requires that an independent candidate seeking to get on the ballot for a general election must gather a number of voter signatures equal to the lesser of 10,000 or 1% of registered voters by the first Monday in August (which is August 6th this year).  In Floreen’s case, the relevant number is around 6,500.  That might seem doable EXCEPT that state law is very exacting on how petition signatures are evaluated by boards of election.  Among the requirements are the following.

Petition circulators do not have to be registered voters or even residents of Maryland, but they must be at least age 18.

Circulators may be paid but petition signers may not be paid.

Circulators must sign an affidavit on each petition signature page attesting to the following:

All identifying information given by the circulator is true and correct;

Signatures were placed on the petition in the circulator’s presence; and

Based on the circulator’s best knowledge and belief, each signature on the page is genuine and each signer is a registered voter in Maryland.

The circulator must sign and date the affidavit.  Any signature on the page that is dated after the circulator’s affidavit is invalid.

Smudged and/or illegible signatures are rejected so signing in pencil is discouraged.

A voter may not sign a petition more than once.

Voters may not sign on behalf of their spouses.

Signers must provide the full month, day and year of signing.  The circulator should not fill in that information unless the signer asks for help.  Ditto marks are prohibited.

The signer’s current permanent residence address must be provided.  Business addresses are not permitted.  Post office boxes are permitted only if there is no street and house number designation for the voter’s residence and only if the post office box address is on record with the election office.

There are very specific requirements on how the signer’s name should appear.  According to the state’s FAQ document:

The name either has to match the registration list or include all parts of the name required in the statute. Section 6-203 of the Election Law Article states “To sign a petition, an individual shall: (1) sign the individual’s name as it appears on the statewide voter registration list or the individual’s surname of registration and at least one full given name and the initials of any other names.”

For example, if a voter is registered as Margaret Hall Smith, it is permissible for her to sign as Margaret H. Smith or M. Hall Smith. But M.H. Smith or Margaret Smith is not permissible and will be invalidated. Additionally, the use of her nickname, Peggy Smith or her married name Mrs. John Smith will be invalidated. If a voters’ registered name has a suffix (i.e. Jr., Sr., III, etc.) the signature will not be invalidated if the signer fails to include it on the petition.

The State Board of Elections’ procedures manual for petitions provides further discussion of this.

If this seems daunting, well, it is.  Consider the recent experience of MoCo’s greatest petition circulator of all time, Robin Ficker, who has gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures over the last four-plus decades.  It took Ficker more than a year to gather over 18,000 signatures for his 2016 term limits petition, of which 12,573 were ultimately verified by the county’s Board of Elections.  Yes, others besides Ficker gathered some of the signatures, but Ficker supervised the effort.  If the greatest of all time has an error rate of approximately one third, what would the error rate be for any new or paid circulators retained by Floreen?  She is going to need a LOT more than 6,500 signatures to survive scrutiny by the board of elections and, possibly, the courts to make it on the ballot.  Plus the fact that the petition is due on August 6 – less than a month away – puts immense pressure on the whole process.

Nancy Floreen needs a great election lawyer.  Now.  She needs a significant number of circulators who are trained in the State of Maryland’s petition requirements.  Now.  They need to be on the streets gathering signatures.  Now.  And she needs many thousands of dollars to pay for all this.  Now.

Or else she won’t be on the ballot.

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