Tag Archives: Ben Kramer

Planning Trust and Transparency Act of 2023

Sen. Ben Kramer has decided to take action regarding the Planning Board. Beyond filing a bill to study removing its functions back to the county, he has proposed the Montgomery County Planning Trust and Transparency Act of 2023. It would take major steps towards ethics compliance and allow the county executive to appoint the Board Chair.

This Act’s summary description:

FOR the purpose of altering the appointment process, salary authorization process, and terms for commissioners appointed to the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission from Montgomery County; requiring the County Executive of Montgomery County to appoint one member of the Commission who shall serve as the chair or vice chair of the Commission and chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board; requiring certain public hearings and acceptance of public testimony on each appointment to the Commission from Montgomery County; prohibiting the chair of the Board from engaging in certain employment; authorizing and establishing procedures for the Montgomery County Executive or Montgomery County Council to discipline a commissioner from Montgomery County under certain circumstances; prohibiting a commissioner from Montgomery County from engaging in certain political activities while the commissioner serves on the Commission; prohibiting a former commissioner from Montgomery County from working for certain compensation for a certain period of time after the commissioner leaves office; requiring a commissioner from Montgomery County to complete certain training at certain times; requiring the Board to publish agendas of open meetings along with certain other materials on its website at certain times; requiring the Board to approve meeting minutes in a certain manner under certain circumstances; and generally relating to requirements for the members of the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission from Montgomery County and meetings of the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Here is the bill:


MCEA Endorses Kagan, Kramer and Waldstreicher

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) has endorsed three MoCo Senate candidates: Cheryl Kagan (D-17), Ben Kramer (D-19) and Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18).  Kagan is an incumbent who is running unopposed.  Kramer is a Delegate running for the Senate seat being vacated by Roger Manno, who is running for Congress.  So far, Kramer’s sole opponent is a Green Party member.

Waldstreicher is a Delegate who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Rich Madaleno, who is running for Governor.   Waldstreicher now has the support of MCEA, MCGEO, the Sierra Club, SEIU Local 32BJ, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Fire Fighters Local 1664 and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35.  Dana Beyer, his principal opponent, has been endorsed by SEIU Local 500.


Campaign Finance Reports: Districts 18 and 19, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 18

Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher has posted a strong financial performance in his run to succeed Senator Rich Madaleno.  He has raised more money over the cycle and has more cash on hand than any other state legislator in the county.  But Dana Beyer has spent nearly a half million dollars of her own money in her three prior races and could spend a whole lot more.  Beyer told Bethesda Magazine “she does not plan to self-finance this year’s Senate bid” but still gave her campaign $109,100.  While Waldstreicher’s cash on hand advantage is substantial, Beyer could erase it with one check.

The recent endorsement by SEIU Local 500 of Beyer may have a big impact on this race.  Prior to that, Waldstreicher could make the case to other progressive endorsing organizations that as a three-term incumbent running against someone who was for 0-3 in elections (two running against him) that he would have a big edge and was the safe pick.  But SEIU is a huge player and brings credibility to Beyer’s run.  Now the endorsing groups may be more likely to evaluate the two against each other on a level playing field and see Beyer as a true alternative.  Our prediction is that this will not be the last significant endorsement that Beyer receives.

The Delegate race is just as interesting.  Incumbent Al Carr had the most raised over the cycle but also has a huge burn rate (81%).  He trails Mila Johns and Jared Solomon in cash on hand.  Johns leads in cash position (boosted by her $100,000 loan to her campaign) while Solomon led the non-incumbents in fundraising from others ($42,011).  Emily Shetty has been a prominent local player since her fourth place finish last time, joining the county’s Democratic Central Committee and doing work with Action Committee for Transit and her former civic association.  But she doesn’t want to trail in money behind Carr, Johns and Solomon to the extent she is now.  Town of Chevy Chase Council Member Joel Rubin’s cash balance is deceptively low since he began campaigning in November and raised $269,845 in his 2016 run for Congress.  Leslie Milano created her campaign account too late to file a January report but says she plans to raise $150,000.  Helga Luest was also a late starter.  Normally, the only incumbent in a race like this – in this case, it’s Carr – would be favored for reelection.  But the challengers are a pack of hungry wolves and Carr is going to have to work to keep his seat.

The Big Question: will there be competing slates in this district?  Both Beyer and Waldstreicher have money, which is much needed by all the House candidates.  Our prediction is that any move to set up a slate by either Beyer or Waldstreicher will provoke the other side to unify too.  Competing slates aligned with contested Senate races were common in District 18 decades ago and another one could really scramble this election.

The Other Big Question: will Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez stay in the Council District 1 race, where she has not qualified for public matching funds and ranks a distant fifth in cash on hand, or will she return to the District 18 House race?

District 19

With the departure of Senator Roger Manno, who is running for Congress in District 6, Delegate Ben Kramer will become the next Senator and the dominant politician in the district.  Kramer, who was first elected to the House in 2006, is known for his work on senior issues and public safety, and has been a true hero in his efforts to crack down on drunk driving.  He has an absolute lockdown on Leisure World and Kemp Mill, two vital power centers in the district.  Kramer is not universally beloved, but he is well respected and no other politicians will mess with him.  In politics, that is enough!

The two incumbent Delegates, Bonnie Cullison and Marice Morales, will sweep virtually all the progressive endorsements and be reelected.  As for the seat being vacated by Kramer, the simple view is that former Raskin campaign aide Vaughn Stewart, who totally smoked the field (including the incumbents) in fundraising, will win it.  But the race may not be that simple.  MCDCC Member and labor attorney Marlin Jenkins did reasonably well in fundraising and should get a lot of labor support.  And attorney Charlotte Crutchfield, who barely lost to Morales for the open House seat in 2014, is running again.

Crutchfield is not a strong fundraiser, having collected just $11,960 from others last time while self-financing $44,149.  But she has a long history in the district and Kramer formed a slate with her in 2014.  Manno endorsed Morales, his former legislative aide, and Morales won by 382 votes.  Crutchfield filed an affidavit as her January report but her new campaign has just started.

The Big Question: will Kramer team up with Crutchfield again?  And if he does, will Cullison and Morales also join in?


Del. Kramer Critiques BDS, Part II

I accidentally cut off the second half of Ben Kramer’s (D-19) comments on BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) when I posted them earlier today. Here is the rest of his response to those who oppose legislation that would prevent businesses that support the BDS movement against Israel from doing business with the State of Maryland. The post got cut in the middle of thought, so I’m afraid the beginning here is a bit abrupt.

[In Israel, g]ays and lesbians serve openly in the military and there are no directives such as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Resolving the challenges of the West Bank are difficult and finding a path toward Palestinian self-determination is fraught with obstacles.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza in 2005 without any assurances of peace from its occupants. Since that time, the governmental authorities in Gaza have been taking tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid and have been using it, not to build new hospitals and schools and to create a homeland, but to purchase tens of thousands of rockets from Iran to be launched against Israeli civilian targets from the decrepit medical facilities and schools that do exist in the Gaza. Millions of dollars are spent to build multiple, sophisticated tunnels into Israel, from which to launch terror raids on children in school buses.

Lesson learned…Israel does not have the luxury of making the same mistake in the West Bank.

The BDS movement is driven by Israel’s enemies who are cleverly using relentless propaganda and lies to manipulate the willing, the naive and the uninformed in a time proven strategy to create enmity toward Jews.

From the blood libel of the Middle Ages, in which Jews were accused of murdering Christian children for ceremonial purposes, to the Protocols of Zion and the government sponsored hate-mongering of Nazi Germany…the playbook of the anti-Semites has remained the same…tell the lie, and continue to repeat the lie often enough until the willing, naive, uninformed and misinformed, whether at a conscious or subliminal level, begin to accept it as fact.

How else can we explain the difference of the pro-BDS advocates total disinterest in the nations that are committing egregious human rights violations (including the beneficiaries of the BDS movement) from the impossible standard, for defending its citizens, they have set for Israel…a standard that has never been applied to any other nation, including that of our own.

Perhaps the efforts of those BDS supporting groups, who claim that they are motivated by a desire for peace, would be better off directing their efforts at convincing the Arab world to stop the formal (and informal) education process, of each generation, to hate the Jews. Maybe, if the governmental authorities of the West Bank and Gaza were willing to accept the right of the Jewish people to live in peace, in their homeland, there might actually be peace in the Middle East.

After thousands of years of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, Jews are no longer playing the role of the willing victim and this undoubtedly has caused angst for those who are more comfortable with the Jew in her/his former role.

Finally, for those who claim that boycotts are a time honored, peaceful means of protest, I completely agree with you.

Yes, the apartheid government of South Africa was rightfully boycotted.

However, the absurd effort to draw parallels between the South African government’s system of apartheid and the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is simply fantastical…but clearly a critical element of the propaganda strategy as the BDS proponents never fail to mention Nelson Mandela and the racist South African regime in their endeavor to confuse and fraudulently link the two movements, to justify BDS.

Those individuals who choose to participate in the discriminatory BDS movement are welcome to do so…that is called freedom of speech.

However, the people of Maryland do not have to see their PUBLIC dollars being used to support such discriminatory behavior, particularly when it undermines Maryland’s policy as articulated in its Declaration of Cooperation with Israel. An agreement which created a cooperative relationship which has benefited the citizens of Maryland and Israel through economic development, tens of millions of dollars in trade, the creation of jobs, as well as, significant achievements through joint scientific and medical research.

Not using public dollars to support discriminatory behavior is also freedom of speech…and as you appropriately pointed out, David…if the boycotters truly believe in the right to boycott…then we should be free to boycott the boycotters.

Like a classic garment carefully folded away in a drawer to be brought out and worn when fashionable again, anti-Semitism is once more all the rage in Europe. Nicely accessorizing it, on this year’s runway, is anti-Zionism. We should resist the urge to emulate the Europeans and reject the misguided, albeit chic, BDS movement fomented by propagandists whose end game has never been the well-being of the Palestinian people, but the destruction of the Jewish homeland and its occupants.


Kramer Calls BDS Movement Anti-Semitic

Last week, several testified at the Montgomery Legislative Priorities Hearing against legislation that would prevent businesses that support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel from doing business with the State of Maryland.

I asked Del. Ben Kramer (D-19) for this thoughts on the hearing and the BDS  movement, as he vocally opposed their agenda at the hearing. Here is his response:

The BDS movement is unequivocally a propaganda tool being utilized by Israel’s enemies to do what they haven’t been able to do militarily, defeat Israel. The goal of the BDS movement is to force a collapse of the Israeli economy, and in doing so, force Israel to withdraw from the small area of land, that Israel has not returned to its Arab neighbors, captured when the Arab nations (yet again) attacked Israel in 1967.

To their credit, Israel’s enemies have done a phenomenal job of rewriting Middle East history to cast Israel as the aggressor in its dealings with the Arab world.

Quickly being forgotten is the fact that the Arab nations have repeatedly unified (a feat in and of itself, because when they are not focused on efforts to rid the Middle East of Jews, they are often caught up in sectarian violence against one another) and launched wars against Israel for decades.

In defending itself, in 1967, Israel captured considerable Arab territory.

However, in a pursuit for peace, Israel has returned 94% of the captured lands to the Arab nations, which attacked Israel.

My question to the BDS supporters, at the hearing, was to name another occasion in the history of the world when a nation that was repeatedly attacked by its neighboring countries, returned the land captured while defending itself, in an effort to achieve peace and stop further military aggression and war.

Additionally, I discussed the egregious human rights violations that are rife throughout the Arab world. More particularly, I quoted the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, who recently offered the following: “Across the Arab world, people continue to struggle for their fundamental civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The roots of those struggles lie in social injustice, marginalization, and lack of human rights protections.”  He then added: “Unfortunately, intolerance, marginalization, impunity, sectarianism and violence remain significant challenges.”

I further discussed the violent treatment of women, gays and lesbians in the West Bank and Gaza, which is a routine topic of human rights organizations, and that such treatment is not only condoned, but encouraged by the Fatah led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Furthermore, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas arrest, jail, torture and execute (if suspected of collaborating with Israel) those who dare to openly challenge their governmental authority.

Therefore, my question of the BDS supporters was to identify which of the myriad of Arab countries, with their laundry lists of human rights violations, were they pursuing boycotts, divestment and sanctions against.

The answer was zero, none, nothing . . . not one.

Evidently, the xenophobic Palestinian governmental authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, with their extremist ideologies that call for the relentless pursuit of the destruction of Israel and the death of all Jews in the Middle East, are quite acceptable to those who support the BDS movement.

Apparently, honor killings of wives, daughters and sisters and the treatment of women as chattel, along with intolerance and violence toward the gay and lesbian citizens of Palestinian controlled lands, is of little interest to the ..progressive.. thinkers of pro-BDS.

I then questioned the BDS supporters as to which of the many nations in the world, dominated by despots and dictators, with unspeakable crimes against their own people and horrific human rights violations, were they pursuing a boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against.

Once again, the response was a resounding. . . NONE.

The only nation on this planet that they are trying to bring to financial ruin is the only democratic nation in the region and ..coincidentally.. the only nation on our planet with a majority population of, yes . . . you guessed it . . . Jewsl

And then they have the shameful nerve to be indignant that their actions are being construed, by some, as being rooted in anti-Semitism. Evidently, human rights don’t apply to the right of Jews, in the Middle East, to live in peace.

The glaring hypocrisy of the BDS movement is simply blinding. And a group with the name Jew in the title, that supports the BDS movement against Israel, does not make the movement any less hypocritical.

No one says, not even the Israeli people, that Israel is perfection. Yes, just like with all democratic nations there is room for improvement. However, amongst all of the nations in the region, Israel is the only one where all citizens, including the Arab ones, are free to express their sentiments. Either good, bad or that which is ugly, all are welcome to express their thoughts about Israeli society and the democratically elected officials who govern it.

In fact, just two years ago, the Valedictorian at the most prestigious medical school in Israel was a Muslim Arab woman. This woman would never have had the opportunity to achieve such an accomplishment in the majority of the countries surrounding Israel and who are sworn to Israel’s destruction. Israel is a nation that fully includes women, minorities, Muslims, Christians and the LGBT community at the highest levels of academia, government, industry and business.


Anti-BDS Bill Causes Controversy at Montgomery Priorities Hearing

Several members of the Freedom2Boycott coalition came to testify against legislation that would prevent businesses that support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel from doing business with the State of Maryland.

The legislation is supported by the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington. Thomas Nephew spoke for the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition:

While I personally agree with many of my friends here about boycotting Israeli-based companies, organizations, and institutions because of the Israeli occupation and illegal Israeli settlements, I want to emphasize the wider significance of efforts to officially stigmatize or penalize boycotts. . .

As we saw once with the South Africa divestment campaign, one of the points of free speech is the ability to nonviolently — and victoriously! — challenge the status quo and challenge an outdated consensus.  One of the points of free association is to be able to pick and choose whom we combine efforts with — and conversely, whom we will not support.  Boycotts, divestments, and sanctions are a time-honored, honorable, nonviolent way of doing both.  I hope you will resist all efforts to penalize companies or organizations engaged in such actions.

Indeed, I hope you will go further, and support efforts to explicitly guarantee that political boycott, divestment, or sanctions campaigns can not be penalized by the state of Maryland in any way.  Don’t just oppose using the state pension fund or the university system to chill speech — affirm that the state of Maryland, its counties, and its cities are not and may not be in the business of regulating free speech and free association in the first place.

The problem with this argument is that, if one support strongly the right to boycott, presumably the State is allowed to boycott people who boycott. Clearly, the author doesn’t oppose state boycotts, as he cites the South Africa divestment movement an example–a movement that had promoting governmental sanctions against South Africa as a core goal.

The real heat and light appeared, however, around claims that the BDS movement is justified by Israel’s human rights record. For example, Whit Athey of Peace Action Montgomery said:

If this anti-BDS legislation goes forward in the next session it will be very divisive, particularly to members of the Democratic Party, and it will unnecessarily take up time and resources from productive activities in the legislature.  There are many real priorities for the Montgomery County delegation, which will need the support and attention of the progressive organizations and legislators of the county.  Anti-BDS legislation will distract you from work that is important for the citizens of this state.

Odd for him to stake his horse on opposition to being divisive, since BDS’s efforts are extremely divisive. Athey went on to attack efforts to label the BDS movement as anti-Semitic:

Proponents of the anti-BDS legislation claim that supporters of BDS are anti-Semitic and that the state can’t be seen as supporting anti-Semitism.  This was specifically stated by the Republican governor of Illinois as he signed that state’s legislation.   “We need to stand up to anti-Semitism whenever and wherever we see it,” Gov. Rauner said. This statement is a ridiculous attempt to smear the proponents of BDS.  The people whom you will hear today speak against the anti-BDS legislation have spent most of their adult lives working for human rights and civil rights, and to characterize them as anti-Semitic is the height of specious nonsense.  Jewish people themselves are well represented among those promoting BDS.  Smear tactics are the tools of those whose ideas can’t stand on their own merits.   Furthermore, using the term “anti-Semitic” inappropriately and recklessly for political reasons, trivializes real anti-Semitism and demeans the experience of Jewish people who have suffered from it.

Del. Ben Kramer had a lot of fun with this argument, asking repeated questions about the human rights records of various countries with abysmal human rights records and whether BDS was organizing any boycotts of these regimes.


Winners and Losers: MoCo Edition

This is an off-the-cuff first glance assessment of last night’s primary election results.


1. Incumbents. Did any of them lose? Even the ones facing strong challengers seem to have made it safely to dry land. In the Council races, Hans Riemer, George Leventhal and Roger Berliner all made it home safe. While Leventhal lagged notably behind the other incumbents, he still had a relatively nice margin over Beth Daly who ran strong. Ditto for executive and legislative offices.

2. Sidney Katz. The Mayor of Gaithersburg’s campaign was consistently underrated by many as Ryan Spiegel scooped up union endorsements and Tom Moore garnered support from the Washington Post. But Katz’s longtime service and knowledge of the area just mattered more.

3. Minority Representation. The legislative delegation will have  new African-American (Will Smith), Latino (Marice Morales), and Asian (David Moon) representatives. Additionally, appointed Del. Fraser-Hidalgo fought off a tough challenge. Susan Lee just became the first non-white to win a Senate seat. And Ike Leggett will return for a third term as county executive.

4. Cheryl Kagan. Second time is a charm for the former delegate who sought election to the Senate previously in 2010. Despite Luiz Simmons’ incumbency and seemingly endless barrage of self-funded negative mail, he could not overcome her strong campaign or problems created by his own legislative record.


1. MCGEO President Gino Renne successfully positioned his union as the leader of the county public employee unions outside the school system, including the FOP and the Firefighters. His efforts backfired hugely yesterday as preferred county council candidates lost across the board with the exception of Tom Hucker, who won a tight race over newcomer Evan Glass.

2. Sam Arora and Ben Kramer. Arora was more or less forced out of the legislature after his last-minute switch against marriage equality led to national outrage. His effort to extend his influence through his endorsement of Charlotte Crutchfield also failed. Kramer also lost in betting against Maricé Morales, the choice of Sen. Roger Manno and Del. Bonnie Cullison.

3. Kevin Gillogly didn’t have much success as a campaign operative, having worked for unsuccessful legislative candidates Jonathan Shurberg and Dana Beyer.

4. Duchy Trachtenberg had lots of money but incumbent Roger Berliner just cleaned her clock. This ought to be Duchy’s last stand but that doesn’t mean that it will be.


Dueling Delegate Endorsements


Maricé Morales has the support of incumbent Senator Roger Manno and Del. Bonnie Cullison for the delegate seat in District 19 being vacated by Sam Arora after one term. However, incumbent Del. Ben Kramer just endorsed Charlotte Crutchfield, which is all the more interesting because the incumbents also support each other.

From the Crutchfield campaign press release:

MD State Delegate Ben Kramer Endorses Charlotte Crutchfield for Delegate
District 19 Team Will Continue to Represent Children, Families, and Seniors in Annapolis

June 12, 2014 (Silver Spring, MD). The incumbent Democratic District 19 Team of longtime local leaders, Senior State Delegate Ben Kramer and Montgomery County Central Committee member Charlotte Crutchfield, has done much for District 19 residents and looks forward to doing even more in the future. At a crowded meeting with their supporters, the Honorable Ben Kramer and the Honorable Charlotte Crutchfield vowed to keep fighting for the citizens of District 19 and Montgomery County to make sure that every dollar possible will be returned to local improvements in this region.

“It is my pleasure to run with Charlotte Crutchfield and I know she will be a great voice in Annapolis of our friends and neighbors in District 19. She has my full support and I look forward to working side-by-side with her in the Maryland House of Delegates,” said Kramer.

Echoing the sentiment, Crutchfield said “it is an honor and privilege to stand with Ben Kramer. He is the most respected leader in our delegation, and is trusted by the people in both District 19 and Annapolis.” Continuing to assert their long and strong relationship, they both said that integrity is the most important quality in an elected official. “Anyone can tell you what you want to hear, but real leadership means standing by your word,” said Kramer.

“It has been a great campaign and I am proud to stand with Delegate Ben Kramer,” Crutchfield said. Ben Kramer has represented District 19 for eight years and is a known and trusted neighbor and friend. Both the Kramer and Crutchfield families have deep roots in Montgomery County. Ben Kramer’s father Sid was County Executive and Rona Kramer, Ben’s sister, was a two-term State Senator from Olney. Similarly, the Crutchfields have lived in Montgomery County for more than 100 years. “No other candidate in this race have ties that strong to this community. Some just moved here recently,” Crutchfield pointed out.

With a policy agenda that reflects the need to create jobs, promote equality, strengthen education, and protect the environment, both Kramer and Crutchfield have the strongest records and broadest endorsements in this race. Their team vows to keep pushing the progressive agenda forward and will work to bring a stronger economic base to the County and the State.

Ben Kramer was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2006, and serves on the Economic Matter Committee. He has served on the Judiciary Committee and has passed more bills than any other member of the District 19 delegation. Kramer’s important legislative achievements have literally saved the lives of seniors through his “Silver Alert” and enhanced the quality of education for our state’s children, invested in the environment through off shore wind powered generators, and strengthened laws to punish drunk drivers. As the proud father of one daughter and two University of Maryland sons, Ben understands what families hope and sacrifice for our children. Learn more about Ben Kramer at www.BenKramer.org

Charlotte Crutchfield is the only District 19 non-incumbent to receive the coveted Sierra Club endorsement, and is endorsed by Montgomery County Council Member George Leventhal and our States Attorney John McCarthy. Elected to the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee in 2010, Charlotte has also served as President of the Glenallan ES PTA, and on the Board of Directors of Tivoli Home Owners Association. She is a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association, obtaining her BA from Howard University and her JD from Boston College Law School. She is most proud of her college Sophomore daughter and Kennedy High School son. For more information, visit www.CrutchfieldforDelegate.com