Tag Archives: Brandy Brooks

The Wilhelm Ballot

By Adam Pagnucco.

Here is something we haven’t seen before: a mid-term year Apple Ballot with one candidate occupying one side of it and a list of others on the other side.  This Apple, still in wrapping, is customized in favor of Council At-Large candidate Chris Wilhelm.

Here is another one spotlighting District 16 House candidate Samir Paul.

The Apple we were given at the Wheaton early voting site was not like these.  It had county candidates on one side and state candidates on the other, a typical format used in the past.

Wilhelm and Paul are MCPS teachers.  We totally get why MCEA would like to elect its own members to office, although that has not always been their top priority.  For example, the union endorsed County Council District 5 incumbent Derick Berlage over MCPS teacher Marc Elrich in 1998.  In Elrich’s 2002 and 2006 races, he did appear on the Apple but we don’t recall him getting an entire side of it to himself.

The races involving Paul and Wilhelm are very different.  In District 16, the two incumbent Delegates – Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman – are endorsed by MCEA and a lock for reelection.  Paul is in a tight contest with fellow new candidate Sara Love for the open seat being vacated by Delegate Bill Frick.  He needs every edge he can get.

The Council At-Large race, on the other hand, is extremely competitive and unpredictable.  MCEA has endorsed incumbent Hans Riemer, Brandy Brooks and Will Jawando in addition to Wilhelm.  Riemer seems likely to be reelected but that’s about all that can be safely predicted in this race.  What will Riemer, Brooks and Jawando think of the Wilhelm Ballot?

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Brooks and Wilhelm Take on Amazon

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidates Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm, who are running as a team, have sent out the mailer below raising concerns about the impact of Amazon possibly establishing a second headquarters in Montgomery County.  Put aside whatever feelings you have about the underlying issue; we find this to be a smart political tactic.  There are so many candidates in the at-large race this year that the victory threshold could be as low as 30,000 votes – or less.  If that number of voters, which corresponds to roughly thirty percent of the likely Democratic primary electorate, is concerned about Amazon, and if Brooks and Wilhelm are the only candidates in the race with that message, they could get a leg up.  We reprint their mailer – a 15″ by 12″ monster – below.

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Brandy Brooks Pushes Back on ACT Scorecard

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Brandy Brooks has issued a statement pushing back on Action Committee for Transit’s (ACT) scorecard.  Your author received this scorecard in the mail today.  The scorecard rates candidates with a plus, minus or no rating on five issues: the Purple Line, MARC trains, opposing M-83, streets safe for walking and housing near transit.  ACT gave Brooks no rating on the above issues except for housing near transit, on which they gave Brooks a minus.

Brooks is disputing how her positions were characterized.  We reprint her statement below.

*****

Michelle C. Whittaker

Brandy Brooks for County Council At-Large

michelle@brandy4moco.com

ACT Scorecard Falsely Represents Brandy Brooks’ Positions on Transit

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (June 8, 2018) — Misinformation regarding Brandy Brooks’ publicly available positions on transit are being shared in the Action Committee for Transit (ACT) scorecard. Brooks is setting the record straight to make sure voters across the county have truthful and accurate information to make their decisions. Brandy Brooks is an at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council.

The ACT scorecard claims to be based on several criteria including public statements, answers to questionnaires, and the candidate’s website. However, the rating does not reflect publicly available information regarding Brandy Brooks’ views on transit and housing. The Brooks campaign has attempted to work with ACT representatives to clarify the misinformation.

“The Action Committee for Transit is a dedicated group of volunteers who have been doing tremendous work on Montgomery County transit issues for many years,” said Brandy Brooks. “We share a deep commitment to a transit vision for our county that adequately serves our communities and reduces our reliance on personal vehicle travel. So it’s frustrating to find my positions misrepresented by ACT when we should be working together to build the community power we need to ensure strong transit investments.”

Representatives from ACT informed the Brooks campaign that her negative score was based on tweets where she emphasized the need for more focus on affordable housing development. They claim that Brooks’ concern about “trickle-down affordability” — the County’s over-reliance on luxury housing developments with a small fraction of affordable units to meet its severe affordable housing deficit — means that she does not support housing development near transit. This is demonstrably false.

Ms. Brooks has repeatedly stated her commitment to preserving and developing affordable housing near transit nodes, such as the Takoma-Langley Transportation Center that will ultimately become a Purple Line station. Additionally, Brooks has expressed her strong commitment to creating transit solutions for areas of the county that have been overdeveloped without supporting transportation infrastructure, such as Clarksburg and Damascus.

The campaign launched the “Correct the Record: ACT Scorecard” information page to provide voters and the media with accurate details on Brandy Brooks’ positions.

The Democratic Primary is June 26.

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Campaign Finance Reports: Council At-Large, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Today, we look at the Council At-Large candidates.  As with yesterday, we start with a note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Below is our fundraising summary for the Council At-Large candidates.

First, a few random notes.  As of this writing, five at-large candidates – Craig Carozza-Caviness, Ron Colbert, Paul Geller, Richard Gottfried and Darwin Romero – have not filed May reports.  Lorna Phillips Forde did file a May report and requested matching funds, but her report contains many duplicated entries and is a big mess.  We are not printing her numbers until they get straightened out.  Michele Riley has given herself a combined $21,000 in two loans and one contribution, which exceeds the $12,000 self-funding maximum allowed in public financing.  That needs to be corrected or otherwise remedied.

Now to the numbers.  In the pre-public financing days, winning at-large candidates generally raised $250,000 or more with the notable exception of Marc Elrich.  Four candidates are in that territory: Hans Riemer (the only incumbent), Evan Glass, Bill Conway and Will Jawando.  Gabe Albornoz and Hoan Dang are not far off.  Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) has not raised quite that much, but he started with a big war chest built over years of little competition in his district.  The cash on hand leaders are Glass, Riemer and Barkley, who are virtually tied, followed by Conway and then Jawando.

In evaluating differences in cash position, we don’t find variances of $20,000-30,000 very significant.  That’s because candidates schedule their expenditures differently.  Some have spent a bit more before the deadline and some held back to show a bigger balance.  What we do find significant is the difference between candidates who have close to $200,000 available for the final push – Riemer, Glass, Barkley and Conway – and those who have half that amount or less, such as Albornoz, Dang, Marilyn Balcombe, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Mohammad Siddique, Ashwani Jain, Danielle Meitiv, Seth Grimes and Brandy Brooks.  (Forget about those who have $25,000 or less.)  The latter group of candidates now faces very tough decisions on resource usage.  A mailer to super-Dems can cost $35,000-$45,000 depending on how the universe is defined.  So a candidate with $100,000 on hand might be able to squeeze out two or three mailers and that’s about it.  Is that enough to stand out given all the other races going on?

Institutional endorsements also play a role.  Several of the lesser funded candidates, especially Brooks and Meitiv, have some good endorsements that could help them.  We think the biggest beneficiary will be MCPS teacher Chris Wilhelm, who has more cash on hand than Albornoz, Dang and Balcombe and also has the Apple Ballot.  If the teachers mail for Wilhelm, that could effectively close the gap a bit between him and the top-funded candidates.

For what it’s worth, the conventional wisdom is that Riemer will be reelected, Glass and Jawando will join him and the last seat will come down to Conway or Albornoz.  We’re not ready to buy that for a couple reasons.  First, among the seven County Councils that have been elected since the current structure was established in 1990, only one – the 1998-2002 council – had zero at-large female members.  Combine that with the fact that 60% of the primary electorate is female and it’s premature to write off all the women running.  Second, this is an unprecedented year.  We have never had public financing before and we have never had so many people running at-large.  What seems like conventional wisdom now could seem very unwise in the blink of an eye!  So we expect surprises in this historic election.

Next: the council district races.

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Brooks and Wilhelm Campaign as Team Progressive

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidates Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm, both of whom have been endorsed by numerous progressive organizations, have produced a joint lit piece in which they call themselves #TeamProgressive.  Candidates in public financing, like Brooks and Wilhelm, cannot be members of slate committees.  But nothing in the public financing law prohibits them from producing joint lit with multiple authority lines, as this piece is.  This is the first joint lit piece we have seen in the council at-large race.

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Female Candidates Accuse Leggett of Sexism

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive Ike Leggett’s decision to endorse four men in the Council At-Large race – incumbent Hans Riemer, Gabe Albornoz, Hoan Dang and Will Jawando – has provoked public accusations of sexism from two women who are running for office.

Council At-Large candidate Danielle Meitiv kicked things off on Facebook minutes after Leggett’s endorsement of Jawando was announced, writing, “Nice how our County Exec doesn’t think we need any women on the Council at large.”

District 18 Delegate candidate Mila Johns followed up, directly accusing Leggett of “sexism, pure and simple,” and eventually shared Meitiv’s post on her own page.

Council Member Nancy Floreen also weighed in on this, although somewhat indirectly.

The sentiment expressed by Meitiv and Johns is shared by other women running for office.  Several of them blasted Leggett to your author in scathing terms but would not go on the record.  That makes sense – most politicians want to avoid public disputes with a sitting County Executive at election time.  One candidate who was willing to comment on the record was Brandy Brooks, who is running for Council At-Large and co-wrote an essay about gender parity in politics with Meitiv.  Brooks told us:

For many, 2018 could be the year for women, people of color, and working people, but not if we aren’t actively changing our political system both internally and externally. Maryland has one of the worst records in the country on gender parity: we rank 38th on the gender parity index with a score of 12.1 (down from 21.2 in 2014) with few women in federal, state, or local office. To be clear, the four men who have been endorsed by the county executive are qualified candidates — that is not the question. However, not endorsing a single woman running at-large sends the wrong message about how our political and elected leaders view gender parity. Some will argue that more of the women running should have sought the endorsement. Unfortunately, this view continues to fault women instead of asking why our leaders aren’t being intentional to seek women to endorse as well. It continues a pattern that leaves many on the margins. Thankfully, there are many strong women candidates running for office in 2018 to change this status quo, and I’m excited to be one of them.

If Leggett’s choices win, it’s possible that the council might have just one female member in its next term: District 4 incumbent Nancy Navarro.  Since its current structure was established in 1990, the nine-member council has never had fewer than two female members and has sometimes had three or more.  Additionally, the issue of how women are treated in politics has erupted in Annapolis as the General Assembly grappled about how to deal with harassment in its most recent session.  One at-large candidate (Delegate Charles Barkley) has even been accused of inappropriate behavior with women.

Riemer, Albornoz, Dang and Jawando are not unusual choices for Leggett.  The Executive has had a cordial relationship with Riemer during their time in office together.  Albornoz is widely regarded as one of his best department directors.  Dang and Jawando are solid candidates and both would bring assets to the council if elected.  But surely Leggett and his team should have expected pushback on this in the wake of his criticism of the District 39 state legislators for accepting Lesley Lopez on their slate, a dispute in which gender was raised as an issue.

In Leggett’s defense, he has filled his administration with strong and competent women, including but not limited to Department of Permitting Services Director Diane Schwartz-Jones, Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes, Health and Human Services Director Uma Ahluwalia, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Lily Qi, former libraries director Parker Hamilton and Special Assistant Joy Nurmi.  (Some of these ladies have left multiple boot prints on your author’s rear end!)  Leggett’s wife, Catherine, is an admired player in county politics who chairs the Executive’s Ball and raises money for the arts.  We are sure that Leggett’s MANY female supporters will step up in his defense should they deem this criticism worthy of response.

So who’s right?  That’s for you, the readers, to decide.

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Progressive Maryland Endorses for County Council

By Adam Pagnucco.

Progressive Maryland, an umbrella organization containing several influential progressive groups, has announced it is endorsing the following candidates for County Council.

At-Large: Brandy Brooks, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm

District 1: Ana Sol Gutierrez

District 3: Ben Shnider

District 4: Nancy Navarro

District 5: Tom Hucker

Progressive Maryland has previously endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Ben Jealous for Governor.  Brooks is an employee of the organization.  Hucker founded the group’s predecessor, Progressive Montgomery.

Two things strike us as interesting here.  First, this is the first major institutional endorsement not received by at-large incumbent Hans Riemer.  (SEIU Local 500 has endorsed three non-incumbents in the at-large race but left a spot open for Riemer contingent on further events in Rockville.)  Second, Progressive Maryland’s affiliates include MCGEO, UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers), the SEIU Maryland/D.C. council, NOW and ATU Local 689 (WMATA), all of whom play in MoCo elections.  Does Progressive Maryland’s decision provide insight on which candidates may be endorsed by these other groups?

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Democratic Socialists Endorse Elrich, Brooks, Meitiv and Wilhelm

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Metro DC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Brandy Brooks, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm for Council At-Large.  DSA is the successor to socialist organizations once led by Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.  It has grown to become the largest socialist group in America in the age of Trump.

DSA’s endorsement announcement on Twitter.

The Metro DC chapter has posted its questionnaire responses from Elrich, Brooks, Meitiv and Wilhelm on its website.  Pertinent information includes the following facts.

All four are members of DSA.  Brooks said she was not a member on her questionnaire but her campaign manager, Michelle Whittaker, informs us that she is.  Elrich joined decades ago.  Wilhelm joined in November 2017.  Meitiv said, “I am a DSA member. It would be personally disappointing for me if I did not get the organization’s endorsement.”

Elrich and Wilhelm oppose “privatization” of the liquor monopoly.  Wilhelm wrote, “I do not support privatizing the Department of Liquor Control because it provides good jobs for hundreds of county workers and it also generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the county. We cannot afford to eliminate this source of funding.”  Meitiv opposes most privatization, but supports it for the liquor monopoly, writing, “With regard to the County Liquor Department, I am of a different mind. I think that the liquor business is not an essential government service and is an artifact of temperance movements and pay for play corruption. I would favor allowing for locally owned and operated private liquor stores.”  Brooks’s position is unclear.

Elrich, Meitiv and Wilhelm favor decriminalization of sex work.  Brooks does not commit to decriminalization, citing the problems caused by human trafficking.

All four support having Montgomery County act as a sanctuary county for immigrants.  Currently, county officials do not consider the county to be a sanctuary jurisdiction.

All four believe undocumented immigrants should have the right to vote in elections.

All four support rent stabilization laws.

All four support tuition-free community college, though Elrich says, “However, we do not currently have resources at the county level (and probably not at the state level, either) to fund it. We should work towards lowering the cost of college, but our ability to do that is constrained by what resources we have.”

The Metro DC chapter of DSA’s logo.

DSA asked, “Do you identify as a democratic socialist?”

Elrich responded, “Democratic socialism doesn’t have a hard and fast definition; I see it as a philosophy that envisions a more democratic society. I believe in democracy in both the political and economic spheres. What does socialism mean now? We are living in the 21st century, and simply reducing political analysis to a debate between 18th century capitalism and 19th century Marxism doesn’t help us find solutions. There are ideas that have worked and have moved society forward that have evolved from both perspectives, as well as things that haven’t turned out so well from both. So a lot of the ideals of democratic socialism contribute to my thinking, but they don’t entirely define my thinking.”

Brooks responded, “I believe strongly in the ability of everyday people being able to ‘freely and democratically’ set the vision for their government and community. That is the essence of the participatory governing strategy I will bring to elected office. On core issues of economic, social, and racial justice, we must also recognize how capitalism and corporate influence on our policies and politics negatively impacts our people, our planet, and our communities. We must remove the influence of corporate money in our politics and policy to create systemic reform.”

Meitiv responded, “I joined DSA because I found a community of activists who share my values and policy goals. As for identifying as a democratic socialist, I am still exploring what that label means, to DSA members and to the public generally, as well as my own understanding. For example, I’m reading about distinctions being drawn by theorists regarding Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism. There should be no question about whether I share the ideals and concerns of the group, or whether I am concerned about publicly acknowledging DSA membership. I am a little hesitant to put myself in a box with a neat label, but I am absolutely comfortable with identifying as a member of DSA for those reasons.”

Wilhelm responded, “Yes.”

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At-Large Candidate’s Proposal Breaks Campaign Finance Laws

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Brandy Brooks, who is participating in MoCo’s public financing system, would like to help natural disaster victims.  That’s a laudable goal.  But she is proposing to spend campaign contributions to do so.  The problem is that’s illegal under state and county campaign finance laws.

On her website and on Facebook, Brooks promotes an initiative that she calls “Power 100,” in which she invites 100 contributors to donate a combined $2,500 to her campaign, half of which would be paid out to a number of charities helping natural disaster victims.  The charities include organizations helping victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, a mudslide in Sierra Leone and floods in South Asia.

Brooks supporter Ed Fischman went a step further in a posting on the Our Revolution in Montgomery County Facebook page, asserting that public matching funds would be used for disaster relief.  To be fair, it’s unclear whether Fischman speaks for Brooks and Brooks has not yet qualified for public matching funds.

State and county campaign finance laws prohibit these kinds of expenditures.  According to the State Board of Elections’ Summary Guide, there must be a nexus between campaign account expenditures and the promotion of a candidate’s campaign for those expenditures to be legal.  The guide specifically addresses charitable contributions, stating:

Generally, campaign funds may not be used solely for charitable purposes. Maryland law requires campaign funds to be used for the purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate, question, or political committee. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that contributors give to campaign committees for one important reason – they want to support the committee’s candidate, question, or political party. When campaign funds are spent for a non-campaign related purpose, it frustrates the intent of the contributor.

However, there are instances when a charitable donation is permissible because it is for a campaign purpose. For example, a candidate may permissibly use campaign funds to attend a charitable event since attending the event increases the candidate’s visibility and allows the candidate to network with potential voters and donors.

ง 13-247 of state election law does allow certain kinds of charitable contributions to be made by accounts that are closing and liquidating their assets, a case that clearly does not apply to Brooks.

Additionally, Montgomery County’s public campaign financing law states, “A participating candidate may only use the eligible contributions and the matching public contribution for a primary or general election for expenses incurred for the election.”  This statement is repeated in the county’s summary of the law.  No one could construe helping disaster relief victims as a primary or general election expense.  It’s noteworthy that the county’s language applies not just to public funds but also to individual contributions made under the public financing program.

Your author really hated to write this blog post but it had to be done.  Generally speaking, when we have examined campaign finance issues in the past, we have sometimes seen behavior that may not be ethical but is legal.  This case is the opposite: what Brooks is doing comes from the best of intentions but does not comply with the law.  Brooks is free to discuss the plight of disaster victims all she wants.  She could also organize a private fundraiser for victims separate from her campaign account.  But if she goes ahead and uses her campaign funds for disaster relief contributions, she will risk sanctions from the state, the county or both.

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