Tag Archives: Chris Wilhelm

Public Financing Geography, Part Five

By Adam Pagnucco.

We conclude with the remaining five Council At-Large candidates who have qualified for matching funds in public financing.

Chris Wilhelm

Wilhelm, an MCPS teacher, is becoming a progressive darling of the Council At-Large race with endorsements from MCEA, the Laborers, Progressive Maryland and the Democratic Socialists.  His contributions are heavily tilted towards the very liberal areas of Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park.  The question for Wilhelm is whether he can hang with the other strong competitors going for those same votes, especially Hans Riemer, Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Seth Grimes and find a way to break into the top four.  Wilhelm is a smart and passionate campaigner so don’t count him out.

Will Jawando

Jawando is the leading fundraiser in Silver Spring East County, which we define as zip codes 20903, 20904 and 20905.  This area overlaps with the section of District 20 in which he performed best in his 2014 race for Delegate.  Jawando has put together a long list of institutional endorsements that exceeds even the race’s sole incumbent, Hans Riemer, and includes the Apple Ballot.  (He was also endorsed by the Laborers Union shortly after we published the latest list.)  Now Jawando has to raise enough money to get the word out and finish the job.  If he does, he will become just the second Council Member of color to win an At-Large seat after Ike Leggett left in 2002.

Danielle Meitiv

Meitiv, the famous Free Range Mom, is so far the only female at-large candidate who has qualified for public matching funds.  (Shruti Bhatnagar came close but has been ruled ineligible by the State Board of Elections.  Brandy Brooks says she has enough contributions to qualify but has not yet filed with the state.)  Meitiv’s contribution geography resembles the all-candidate average and is largely based in the Democratic Crescent that is so critical to winning countywide elections.  If she continues to raise money, her status as one of the few competitive at-large women will help her in a primary electorate that is nearly 60% female.

Mohammad Siddique

The good news is that Siddique is the second-leading fundraiser in Gaithersburg ($5,515) after George Leventhal ($6,808).  The bad news is that he has a minimal presence in Democratic Crescent areas like Chevy Chase, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park that are critical to countywide performance.

Seth Grimes

Grimes, a former Takoma Park City Council Member, has collected a majority of his contributions from the city with relatively little money coming from elsewhere in the county.  Takoma Park is not a big enough base from which to win a countywide election by itself.  Grimes needs to pick it up elsewhere to have a chance for victory.

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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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Laborers Union Announces MoCo Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Mid-Atlantic region of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has announced its endorsements in MoCo county-level races.  The union is supporting Marc Elrich (County Executive), Andrew Friedson (Council D1), Ben Shnider (Council D3), Nancy Navarro (Council D4), Tom Hucker (Council D5) and Hans Riemer and Chris Wilhelm (Council At-Large).

LIUNA’s announcement on Twitter.

Elrich and Shnider are starting to roll up progressive endorsements; both are supported by SEIU Local 32BJ and Casa, while Shnider has the Sierra Club and Elrich has the AFL-CIO.  Friedson looks like he is building the kind of business-labor coalition that once supported politicians like Doug Duncan.  Navarro and Hucker have no opponents – so far.

LIUNA, SEIU and UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers) are probably the most active unions in the Washington region that include at least some private sector members.  LIUNA does not represent any MoCo county employees, but it does represent workers employed by the county’s private trash removal contractors.  LIUNA’s main objective is getting the county to use project labor agreements on its construction projects which would mandate union representation of the workers on those jobs.  While the union has not been a huge player in MoCo politics in the past, it did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get Cathy Pugh elected as Mayor of Baltimore in 2016.

[Disclosure: your author worked as a strategic researcher for LIUNA’s international office in 1994 and 1995.]

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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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Public Financing Update: January 2, 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Happy New Year, folks!  After a relatively quiet period in the fall, December saw a number of applications for public matching funds from county candidates participating in public financing.  One of the many positive things about public financing is that when candidates apply for matching funds, they have to file full reports with the State Board of Elections.  That gives data junkies like your author – and Seventh State readers!  – lots of updated data without waiting for the relatively few regular campaign finance reports in the state’s schedule.  The next time all campaign finance reports are due, both from public and traditional accounts, is on January 17.

The candidates below have met the thresholds for matching funds and have applied for those funds from the state.

A few notes.  The column titled “Non-Qualifying Contributions and Loans” refers to loans from candidates and their spouses (up to $12,000 is allowed) and out-of-county contributions, which are allowed but not matched.  The column titled “Adjusted Cash Balance” includes the cash balance in the last report plus the most recent matching funds distribution requested but not yet received.  It is the closest we can approximate the financial position of each campaign at the time they filed their last report.  The column titled “Burn Rate” is the percentage of funds raised that has already been spent.  Generally speaking, candidates should strive to keep their burn rates low early on to save money for mail season.  Mohammad Siddique’s totals are preliminary as there are a few issues in his report that will have to be resolved with the Board of Elections.  And District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro applied for $35,275 in matching funds but cannot receive them unless she gets an opponent.

Below is the number of days each candidate took to qualify for matching funds.  Let’s remember that the thresholds are different: 500 in-county contributors with $40,000 for Executive candidates, 250 in-county contributors with $20,000 for at-large council candidates and 125 in-county contributors with $10,000 for district council candidates.

So what does it all mean?  Here are a few thoughts.

County Executive Race

Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, who are using public financing and running for Executive, have been active in county politics for a long time.  Elrich first joined the Takoma Park City Council in 1987 and has been on the county ballot in every election since.  He has been an elected official for thirty years.  Leventhal worked for U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and was the Chair of the county Democrats in the 1990s.  He played a key role in defeating a group of Republican Delegates in District 39 in the 1998 election.  Both of these fellows have built up large networks of supporters over many years and they have done well in public financing, raising similar amounts of money from similar numbers of people.

The difference between them is burn rate.  Leventhal is spending much more money than Elrich early, with some of it going to a three-person staff.  He had better hope this early spending is worth it because if this trend keeps up, Elrich could have almost twice as much money as Leventhal available for mailers in May and June.

At-Large Council Race

One of Council Member Hans Riemer’s advantages as the only incumbent in this race is the ability to raise money, and he has put it to good use in public financing.  Riemer leads in number of contributors and total raised.  He has also maintained a low burn rate.  This is Riemer’s fourth straight county campaign and he knows what he’s doing at election time.  His biggest problem is that his name will be buried near the end of a VERY long ballot.

The five non-incumbents who have qualified for matching funds have raised similar amounts of money so far.  As a group, they are not far behind Riemer.  The one who stands out here is Bill Conway.  Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Chris Wilhelm and Mohammad Siddique all filed in December while Conway last filed in September.  Our bet is that when Conway files next month, he will show four months of additional fundraising that will put him close to Riemer’s total.

That said, the five non-incumbent qualifiers have so far separated themselves from the rest of the field.  Gabe Albornoz and Danielle Meitiv have said they have qualified but have not filed for matching funds with the state.  No other candidates have claimed to qualify.  Raising money in public financing takes a long time and raising a competitive amount (at least $250,000) takes a REALLY long time.  Those at-large candidates who do not qualify soon risk appearing non-viable.

Public Matching Funds Will Be Nowhere Close to $11 Million

The county has so far set aside $11 million to cover the cost of public matching funds.  That appears to be waaaaaay too much with only $1.4 million so far disbursed.  Our guess is that the ultimate total will be less than half what was allocated and will be even lower in the next election cycle with fewer seats open.

Incumbents Have Nothing to Fear From Public Financing

Five council incumbents are using public financing.  All five have qualified for matching funds and have done so fairly easily.  We will see how the challengers stack up, particularly in the at-large race, but so far the only at-large incumbent (Hans Riemer) is leading.  As we predicted last April, public financing is good for incumbents because it allows them to leverage their networks into lots of small individual contributions.  State legislators and other County Councils should take heed.

That’s it for now, folks.  Come back in a couple weeks when all reports, including those from traditional accounts, are due and we’ll put it all together for you!

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Random Bits, October 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

Chris Wilhelm is Winning the Sign Wars

MCPS teacher and progressive at-large council candidate Chris Wilhelm has covered parts of Georgia Avenue and University Boulevard with his campaign signs.  (It helps to speak Spanish!)  Yes, we know signs don’t vote.  But it shows that Wilhelm is working and that’s good for perceptions of his campaign.

Who Has Momentum in Council District 1?

Council District 1, which covers Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Poolesville and a large part of Kensington, has more regularly voting Democrats and more political contributors than any other council district by far.  It’s a prime seat.  Right now, there are nine candidates in the race and there might be more on the way.  Many good candidates in this district, like Bill Conway, Gabe Albornoz, Emily Shetty, Samir Paul and Sara Love, are instead running for council at-large or the General Assembly.  There are lots of openings to choose from these days!

So who has the momentum right now?  You could say Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, who is the only sitting elected official who is running.  Or Reggie Oldak, who has qualified for matching funds in public financing.  Former Planning Board Member Meredith Wellington should appeal to land use voters oriented towards Marc Elrich.  Former Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman was just endorsed by former Governor Martin O’Malley.

But we’re going with Andrew Friedson, who just had his kickoff boasting endorsements from his former employer, Comptroller Peter Franchot, along with Senators Brian Feldman (D-15) and Craig Zucker (D-14) and former long-time DNC member Susan Turnbull.  Feldman is an old hand in the Potomac portion of the district and has not been seriously challenged in 15 years.  Turnbull doesn’t usually play in local races but she has a national network in both the Democratic Party and the Jewish community.  If she is all in for Friedson, that’s a big deal.  Friedson, who is killing the field in social media, is feeling pumped up right now with good reason.

Where’s Duchy?

It’s unusual to see a large field of MoCo candidates without Duchy Trachtenberg among them.  She has a long electoral history, losing a District 1 County Council race in 2002 by a hair, winning an at-large council seat in 2006, losing reelection in 2010, briefly running for Congressional District 6 in 2012 and getting annihilated in a challenge to District 1 council incumbent Roger Berliner in 2014.  Now she has a full table of races to pick from, including council at-large, council District 1 and the District 16 General Assembly seats.  Say what you will about Duchy – and we’ve said plenty – but she can raise money, she has a network and she has campaign experience.  Is she done or is she just waiting to file at the last minute, as she has done before?

Can Greenberger’s Strategy Work?

Former County Council spokesman Neil Greenberger is torching his old bosses, saying they treat voters like ATMs and guaranteeing that if he is elected, there will be no property tax hikes.  This is a new strategy for a Democratic council candidate made possible by the 2008 passage of the Ficker amendment, which requires votes from all nine Council Members to go over the property tax charter limit.  Furthermore, it’s an unusual strategy from a historical perspective.  Most council candidates over the last few decades have emphasized schools, transportation, development (pro or con) and a handful of other left-leaning issues but have not been explicitly anti-tax.  That sentiment has mostly come from Republicans.

But two things have changed in Greenberger’s favor.  First, the passage of term limits was rooted partly in opposition to last year’s 9% property tax hike.  But it wasn’t just the increase alone that annoyed residents.  Unlike the 2010 energy tax hike, last year’s property tax increase was not driven by the catastrophic effects of a recession, but was a policy choice by the council that could easily have been much lower.  Voters didn’t see the tax hike as truly necessary, which increased their frustration with it.

Second, the number of votes needed to win an at-large seat could be much lower in this cycle than in the past.  Over the last four cycles, at-large candidates have needed around 40,000 votes to have a shot at victory.  (Incumbent Blair Ewing far exceeded that total in 2002 and still lost.)

That number may no longer hold.  No one knows what the turnout will be next year; informed observers disagree about that.  But the candidate field will be two to three times larger than in any other recent cycle and only one incumbent is running.  That could mean a very fractured electorate yielding a low win threshold and tight margins.  That favors candidates with medium-sized but intense bases, whether geographic, demographic or ideological.  In Greenberger’s case, if 100,000 Democrats vote, and 30,000 of them are sick of tax hikes, and Greenberger can actually communicate with them, he could win.  And so could anyone else who can put together 30,000 votes.

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First Impressions, Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

Danielle Meitiv, Silver Spring

Danielle Meitiv is from Queens.  You can hear it in her voice.  But she is also quintessentially MoCo.  Our county is full of people who moved here from somewhere else and are principally concerned with national or international issues.  Some keep up with local issues and vote regularly, but many others have little idea who their state or county elected officials are.  Meitiv was once in the former group.  But then she had a Great Awakening.

We are of course referring to Meitiv’s international fame as the Free Range Mom, during which she battled – and defeated – MoCo’s Child Protective Services (CPS).  Nearly everyone in the county has heard the story of how CPS detained Meitiv’s children for walking alone in public and how her family fought back.  For Meitiv, the incident drove home the importance of local government and the unequal resources possessed by residents who have to deal with its bad side.  It left a permanent mark on a person who was once little different from so many other MoCo voters.

In many ways, Meitiv is a conventional county liberal.  The issues she brings up – BRT, walkable neighborhoods, the Purple Line, civil rights, climate change – are mostly the same as the other at-large candidates.  But Meitiv adds something else: her calls for greater transparency and responsiveness by county government based on her own searing experience with CPS.  Few voters have gone through what she did, but virtually everyone has a story to tell of unresponsive bureaucracy and/or unresponsive elected officials.  That plus Meitiv’s appealing combination of passion and intelligence make her relatable and brings potential to her run for office.

Chris Wilhelm, Chevy Chase

MoCo has a reputation as the most progressive county in Maryland.  But Chris Wilhelm doesn’t think we are progressive enough.  He writes on his website, “Yes, the biggest threat to our progressive priorities is coming from the current occupant of the White House and Republicans in Congress.  But too many leaders in our County and Party act in ways that go against the progressive agenda that residents are demanding.”

Wilhelm sees many local issues as reflections of national issues.  Senator Bernie Sanders, whom Wilhelm admires, made free college a key element of his platform.  Wilhelm thinks the state and the county should do everything they can to make Montgomery College free for county residents.  After all, if deep-red Garrett County is doing it, why can’t we?  He supports Roger Berliner’s fossil fuel divestment bill because he sees it as a way for MoCo to contribute to a nationwide movement towards clean energy.  He deplores corporate welfare for big companies and favors local support for small businesses both across the country and here at home.  And his demand that all county candidates enroll in public financing is rooted in a belief that corporate campaign money is a problem both nationally and locally.

Wilhelm has two advantages over his competitors.  First, he is an ESOL teacher in MCPS.  He can speak in very detailed, compelling terms about the school system – always a huge issue in local races – and the things it can do to improve.  Second, he has more campaign experience than most of his rivals, having worked in the field for Barack Obama (2008) and David Moon (2014).  The principles of how to run an effective campaign are not new to him.

Chris Wilhelm is clearly positioning himself in the most liberal part of the field.  If you want a serious, thoughtful progressive who will help move the council to the left, you should give him a close look.

We will conclude in Part Four.

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