Tag Archives: Democrats

Precinct Power! Renewing the Democratic Party in Communities Across MoCo

By George Neighbors.

From the Commander-in-Tweet’s public policy pronouncements in Washington to blocking dissent on Facebook in Annapolis to the NRA’s endorsements of the duo, there’s a lot of unhappiness with the current US President and Maryland’s Governor.

Angry and teary eyed emojis don’t change public policy, and they sure don’t alone change who’s in power.  We need to move beyond social media rants and listserve brawls. We need to engage our neighbors. We need to build and bridge community with our neighbors to take action.

Personally, in April of last year I decided to raise my hand and step back in to the political arena. With encouragement and a little arm twisting by friends, I signed up to be a ​Precinct ​Leader​ for the Democratic Party​.  Now I’m the face and connective tissue of the Democratic Party to my neighbors.

Most Seventh State readers will know what a ​”Precinct​”​ is and what a ​”​Precinct Leader​”​ does, but I ask that you indulge me as part of what I’m trying to do to open up the opportunities and break down the barriers within the Democratic Party.

Precincts are the most local part of the Democratic Party. Each community is made up of voters in a community with a common voting location, aka polling place. These polling place communities are “Precincts.”​ In Montgomery County alone, we have 255 Precincts​!​ Each ​Precinct has a leader (or two) who is responsible for reaching out, engaging, educating and mobilizing voters and would-be voters in her​/his​ community.

Precinct officials and volunteers gather at the party’s precinct organization meeting on March 10.

Because I’m relatively new to the inner workings of the Democratic Party, and I have an  organizational development background, and I kept asking a LOT of questions, I was asked to co-chair the Precinct Organization of the Montgomery County Democratic Party in August. You know the drill… you keep asking questions, you’re put in charge.

The Co-Chairs’ role is to empower, engage, mobilize, communicate, recruit and retain across all 255 Precincts – and ​engage with our 500+ leaders!

What I’ve learned is that we have many amazing people who have been doing the ​Precinct ​work of the Democratic Party for a long time: 20+ years! And we have a lot of new people, like me, who are keen to engage, and make a difference.

I’ve been asked, “What are we doing differently with the Party?” I tell people that we’re renewing the Precinct Organization. We’re refocusing on Precinct Power.

Renewing means prioritizing resources​​,​ training, mobilization, outreach, communication, and appreciation to recruit and retain great ​Precinct Leaders. Renewing also means we have to do things a little differently.

Renewal goal number one is to be strategic and intentional about our voter turnout strategy. We aim to increase Montgomery County Democratic midterm general election voter turnout by 15 percentage points, from the 45% in 2014 to 60% in 2018. We have a plan.

Renewal goal number two is to empower Precinct Leaders. We’re gathering the Precinct Leaders from across the County together every few months to discuss the strategy of the Party, evolve their role beyond Election Day to engage with their communities throughout the year, and build the infrastructure at the State District level so that we can inspire people across the County, coordinate across the Districts, and engage in each Precinct community.

Renewal goal number three is to mobilize the Precincts. Beginning last summer and continuing through the fall and winter, we engaged Precinct Leaders in canvassing to learn what Democrats think. ​”​Canvassing​”​ means you go door-knocking  to reach and talk with​ people. ​It’s proven to be the best way to reach voters and get ​them engaged.

These canvasses were not asking the voters to donate or vote. Rather, these were “listening canvasses” to have voters share their thoughts. During these conversations ​we listened and helped connect neighbors with their elected Democratic officials to address issues ranging from a broken street light to an erroneous utility bill to navigating healthcare.

The canvasses also provided an opportunity to train our Precinct Leaders in canvassing and outreach. It was about making a personal connection with voters. Bringing the Democratic Party to them!

​Renewal goal number four is to activate each Precinct. To help grow the Precinct Organization, ​I’ve spent the past six months ​speaking to clubs and organizations across the ​County about the ​Precinct ​Organization, and how people can get involved.

Many Precincts could use new blood to assist current Precinct Leaders, and many other Precincts are in need of new leadership either because of an absence or because someone is ready to step aside.​

We also need to engage new voters and immigrants as well. Having people who look, live and speak like they do, is the beauty of the Precinct Organization, i.e., neighbors talking to neighbors.

So now comes the pi​tch… With the June primary counting down, and the general election in November, we need to organize. We need to mobilize. We need to engage. We need voters to turn out. We need voters to vote.

We also need ​Precinct ​Leaders. We need bilingual leaders. We need new leaders. We need leaders who represent their community. We need leaders up county, down county, east county, west county and mid county. Opportunities abound to do something that matters. Together we can build stronger and engaged communities.

I’m asking all Democrats reading this to do four things.

​1. Go to the ​Precinct ​Organization map on the Montgomery County Democratic Party website and look up your ​Precinct.

​2. If you have a ​Precinct Leader, reach out to say ‘thank you.’ Then offer your help to knock on doors, call, enter data, host a meet and greet, etc.​ (Please email Precinct@MCDCC.org if s/he does not get back to you.)​

​3. ​If you looked up​ your Precinct​ and you don’t have a Precinct Leader, ​YOU can apply to be a Precinct Leader​ with this application!​ You can also email my cochair Mumin Barre and me at Precinct@MCDCC.org to set a time to talk about it and answer your questions.

​4. ​Please share this story with as many people as you can ​via email, social media, ​and ​word-of-mouth. We need engaged and empowered Precinct Leaders, who are building and bridging communities, to take back the governorship.

I’m committed to making sure that no one come June or November wonders how they can get involved and engaged… how they can build stronger and engaged communities… how they can make a difference.

As we ​renew our Precinct Power, we need everyone- new and lifelong Democrats- to help build the Democratic Party, listen to residents, and reach voters to make a difference in their lives and our community.

George Neighbors is the Democratic Party Precinct Vice Chair of Precinct 13-21​, Co-Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s Precinct Organization, and the male District 20 Candidate for the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s Central Committee in the June 26 Democratic Primary.

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Where Are the Voters?

By Adam Pagnucco.

With six Democratic candidates for County Executive and over thirty Democrats running for Council At-Large, the hunt is on for MoCo primary voters.  Luckily for the candidates, we are here to point the way!

Let’s start by looking at population.  Residents are not distributed evenly across the county.  The neighborhoods closest to the D.C. border and close to urban centers are more dense than Upcounty areas.  Below we show population estimates by local area for the years 2012-2016 from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Local areas are grouped by zip codes.  For example, data for Rockville does not refer to the municipality itself, but to the four zip codes that comprise Rockville (20850, 20851, 20852 and 20853).  Because Silver Spring is such a large part of the county, we broke it into four pieces: Downtown (zip codes 20901 and 20910), Wheaton (20902), Glenmont/Norbeck (20906) and Silver Spring East County (20903, 20904 and 20905).

And so the population concentrations are where one might expect: Downcounty and near urban centers like Rockville and Gaithersburg.  But that’s not the end of the story.  Our elections are decided by closed Democratic primaries.  For state legislative and county offices, the general elections have not been relevant since 2006, when the last two Republican elected officials (County Council Member Howie Denis and Delegate Jean Cryor) were defeated.  And Democrats are distributed differently around the county than all residents.

Right after the last cycle ended, we obtained a January 2015 version of the voter file from the county’s Board of Elections and spliced it with Census data to model local elections.  The number of registered Democrats in MoCo has risen by 5% in the last three years so, for the purpose of looking at geographic patterns, our existing voter model is not exact but is not too far off.  Below is a comparison of population by local area from 2012-2016 and the number of registered Democrats from January 2015.

There are large differences in Democratic density (the percentage of residents who are registered Democrats) between MoCo’s local areas.  In five local areas – Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Bethesda and Silver Spring Downtown – more than 40% of residents are registered Democrats.  And in seven local areas – Dickerson, Poolesville, Damascus, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Boyds and Clarksburg – less than 30% of residents are registered Democrats.

Now let’s fine-tune this even further.  The chart below compares population by local area from 2012-2016 to the number of Super Democrats, whom we define as having voted in all three of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 primaries, in January 2015.  This Super Dem number has probably fallen slightly as a few folks who voted in those primaries have left the county or passed away, but the broad pattern will still hold.

Again, there are large differences in Super Democrat density (the percentage of residents who are Super Dems) between local areas.  In six areas – Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Bethesda, Silver Spring Downtown and Takoma Park – at least 5% of residents are Super Dems.  In seven areas – Poolesville, Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Damascus, Germantown, Boyds and Clarksburg – less than 3% of residents are Super Dems.

Here’s the bottom line – countywide elections are decided in large part by voters in a Democratic Crescent stretching from Takoma Park in the east through Downtown Silver Spring, Kensington and Chevy Chase to Bethesda and Cabin John in the west.  These areas roughly trace the neighborhoods around the Beltway and between the Beltway and D.C.  They are the parts of the county that sent Jamie Raskin to Congress.  Together, the six areas in the Democratic Crescent have 23% of the county’s population, 29% of the registered Democrats and 37% of the Super Dems.  Every countywide candidate is going to want to play there.

Does that mean that a candidate whose chief appeal is outside the Democratic Crescent is doomed to fail?  Not necessarily.  Crescent voters have MANY suitors as most of the Executive and Council At-Large candidates come from those areas and will be aggressively pursuing votes there.  Council Member Nancy Floreen, who is a former Mayor and current resident of Garrett Park, won four straight at-large elections by combining women, moderates and Upcounty voters and her 2014 second-place finish was her best ever.  This model is no doubt being studied by County Executive candidate and former Mayor of Rockville Rose Krasnow and Council At-Large candidate and Germantown resident Marilyn Balcombe, both of whom Floreen has endorsed.

One more thing.  Some Upcounty activists have long complained of the influence of Downcounty on county government decision making.  Your author did not witness geographic parochialism on the part of any At-Large Council Members, all of whom come from Downcounty, during the time I was employed at the council.  But to the extent that Downcounty does exercise disproportionate influence, it’s because those residents turn out in Democratic primaries to a much greater extent than people who live Upcounty.  As long as primaries remain closed to party members, that will continue to be the case in any countywide elections regardless of structural changes in county government.  If you are an Upcounty resident and you don’t like that, the best remedy is to get your neighbors to vote in the primary.

Downcounty’s influence is only likely to grow because of one new factor in county politics: the implementation of public financing.  As we shall see, a large percentage of contributions to publicly financed candidates is coming from localities in the Democratic Crescent we described above.  That information will be published in the near future.  Stay tuned to Seventh State!

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MoCo Democrats, It’s Time for Change

By Adam Pagnucco.

December 13 will be an important date for the fortunes of Democrats across the State of Maryland.  It’s not because that is the date of a primary election; that won’t happen for another year and a half.  It’s not because a critical piece of legislation will be passing; the General Assembly won’t be in session.  And it won’t be because Donald Trump will decide that being President isn’t worth it (although one can dream).

December 13 is the day on which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will select its new officers.  And it comes at a critical time for county Democrats, as well as party members all over the state.

When MCDCC is acknowledged by the general public at all, it is usually because of its power under the state’s constitution to fill state legislative vacancies.  But the Central Committee does far more than that.  Its principal purposes are to build the party, support Democratic candidates and turn out its members to vote.  Every four years, the county party raises more than $200,000 for state and local elections and more than $700,000 for federal elections.  Major uses of funds include voter registration, production of the party’s sample ballot, coordinated campaigning with Democratic candidates in general elections and overhead associated with the party’s office in Kensington.

MoCo’s Democratic Party has played a fabled role in state politics for many years.  It is by far the wealthiest local party organization in the state.  It draws on hundreds of precinct officials and other activists for volunteer activities.  It has delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to statewide candidates like former Governors William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley, none of whom represented MoCo in their prior positions.  The party’s influence has been so extensive that statewide Democratic nominees could offset their losses in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore by racking up votes in MoCo, thereby leaving the Baltimore suburbs as the battle ground in which most races are decided.

But those halcyon days are coming to an end.  The MoCo Democratic Party is in trouble, and that means the state Democratic Party is also in trouble.  Consider the following.

Turnout of MoCo Democrats Has Plummeted in Gubernatorial General Elections

In recent years, federal Democratic candidates almost always win across Maryland in presidential elections outside of the GOP-packed First Congressional District.  The real purpose of the party apparatus is to win the races for Governor.  From 1990 through 2006, MoCo played an outsize role in Democratic gubernatorial victories.  Turnout rates among MoCo Democrats varied from 62% to 69% and, aside from Robert Ehrlich’s win in 2002, contributed heavily to Democratic victories.  But turnout among MoCo Democrats fell to 55% in 2010 and 45% in 2014.  Part of that was due to soaring voter registrations during the Obama years.  But the absolute number of MoCo Democrats who voted declined by nearly 20,000 between 2006 and 2014.  Simply put, the county party has lost its ability to turn out its members for gubernatorial general elections.

moco-turnout-gub-generals

MoCo Democrats Contribute Fewer Votes to Statewide Races

From 1990 through 2006, roughly 10% of all votes in gubernatorial general elections came from MoCo Democrats.  This was a major factor in wins by Schaefer, Glendening and O’Malley.  But MoCo Democrats accounted for 9.6% of total votes in 2010 and 9.3% in 2014, the lowest percentages in decades.  Let’s put it another way.  Between 2006 and 2014, the total number of votes in gubernatorial elections decreased by 60,928.  The number of votes cast by MoCo Democrats declined by 19,653.  That means MoCo Democrats accounted for nearly one-third of all voter losses statewide over two cycles.

moco-democrats-share-of-gub

Finally, consider this.  Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in 2014 by 65,510 votes.  If the turnout rate among MoCo Democrats in 2014 was the same as it was in 2006, they would have cast an additional 77,375 votes.  The decline of the MoCo Democratic Party played a huge role in putting Larry Hogan into Government House.

Why is this happening?  Let’s recall that 2006 was a recent peak of party performance and two massive changes in campaigning have happened since: the rise of political email and the rise of political social media.  Those two things contributed mightily to the success of Barack Obama.  State and local candidates across Maryland use them aggressively.  But not MCDCC.  The party’s Facebook page is devoid of interesting content and has just over 1,000 likes in a county that has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.  Its email program is practically non-existent.  The party does almost nothing to promote the successes of Democratic elected officials and makes no case against the state’s GOP Governor, who has a 66% job approval rating in MoCo.  Even the party’s clunky sample ballot, a vestige of a time when paper was the primary means of political communication, was only mailed out this year to newly registered Democrats when it was once mailed out to all.

MCDCC desperately needs new, aggressive and modern leadership.  It needs leaders who understand how to campaign in the 21st Century.  It needs leaders who are committed to reaching out to people of color and immigrants who disproportionately do not vote in gubernatorial general elections.  It needs a new culture of innovation, a culture which values trying new things over and over until some of them actually work.

MoCo Democrats, it’s time for change.

Will we get it?

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Analysis: Democrats Must Address Baltimore or Drown Politically in the Undertow

Much debate swirls around police brutality in Baltimore and the peaceful protests then riots following Freddie Gray’s death but little discussion has taken place about the political impact of these events. Today’s post focuses on that question.

Put bluntly, it puts the squeeze on Democrats.

In the struggle over public opinion regarding police actions, many voters tend to give the police the benefit of the doubt as they value law and order and respect that it’s a tough and often dangerous job. That bias can be overcome, as in New York, if protests stay peaceful and the police overplay their hand.

In Maryland, however, the Baltimore riots are likely to hurt the Democrats among the swingy white voters who elected Gov. Larry Hogan and helped the Republicans to take the Senate nationally. Remember that the events in Ferguson were in the spotlight just before the 2014 elections.

And the effect may not be limited to whites. There is no guarantee that Maryland’s Latino and Asian voters will not be more concerned about public safety than police brutality. People of color are not a political or social monolith.

Messages that Won’t Work

Unsurprisingly, people have strong views on the police, race, and many related issues. However, some of these viewpoints have the potential to harm Democrats greatly. Critically, I emphasize that the point here is not whether the views are right or wrong but that seem likely to me to have a sharp negative political impact.

Arguments that these problems all stem from racism will only exacerbate Democratic political problems. Nobody likes being accused of being a racist–an excellent way to alienate voters appalled by the riots. Moreover, they know some of the police involved in Freddie Gray’s death are African American, as is the police chief and mayor.

Similarly, efforts to label the riots an “uprising” will strike the same voters as hopelessly out of touch (read: insane). Quotes from Democrats that appear to justify violence, like Del. Maricé Morales’ Facebook post, will be used against Democrats.

The sharp spike in the murder rate in the wake of the riots will only increase the demand for law and order. Many of the victims are African American. Charnice Milton, a promising young journalist with a moving personal story, was shot to death just a few days ago in Washington, DC when she got caught in gang crossfire responsible for many recent killings in Baltimore.

Blaming chronic neglect of the poorest parts of Baltimore won’t work either. After sixteen years of William Donald Schaefer and Martin O’Malley as Governor, it’s a hard sell that the State has not sent sufficient cash Baltimore’s way.

It doesn’t matter whether these points are correct so much as this is how many swing voters will perceive it. It’s their views that shape their votes–not how you think they should see events.

Crafting a Democratic Message

Getting a grip on this tough issue politically is going to require a clear message that doesn’t sound hedging yet addresses the very legitimate concerns of the party’s oft-divided constituencies. Borrowing a version of Tony Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan from the 1990s might fit the bill.

Criminal behavior is unacceptable. Full stop. The recent riots stole jobs from working people and burned down housing being built by local leaders for the elderly. Violence eats at the fabric of already struggling communities.

For exactly these reasons, we need stronger policing policies that protect the rights and dignity of citizens as well as the police. We need to do it not only because it’s right but because our communities will be safer for it. Mutual lack of trust and hostility between the police and the community is a direct threat to public safety.

Crises provide opportunities for leaders. These are tough problems but addressing them can advance the party’s strong commitment to justice and to public safety. Articulating a strong message supporting both is critical to preserving public trust.

It’s more complicated that straightforward condemnations of either criminal behavior or police brutality. Fortunately, there are signs of some Democrats leading the way. See the Facebook comments by Del. Brooke Lierman (and the other legislators from D46) as well as Del. David Moon’s call to end the damaging drug war.

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Donna Edwards for Senate?

Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC

Addressing the Democratic National Convention

As Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement, people aspiring to win the seat are already eying not just it but each other. Here is a first look at one potential candidate who could be a top contender: Donna Edwards

Progressive Backing

The Fourth District representative brings a lot to her candidacy. With firm backing from national and local progressives (read: left-wing Democrats), she unseated Rep. Al Wynn in 2008. Del. David Moon sent out an email yesterday from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee calling for her to run. (Clarification: David was forwarding the email so people could see it and has not endorsed any candidate.)

Her potential to attract both progressive and African-American voters–very large groups in any statewide Democratic primary–makes her a formidable candidate. Thanks to redistricting, she has represented much of Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.

These are very big advantages. Unlike Anthony Brown, she has real potential to fire up the left-wing Democratic party base. People who would like to see a woman take Barbara Mikulski’s seat may well also be inspired to support Edwards. In short, there is a real market for a candidate with Edwards’ political profile.

Money

Edwards is not popular with the Democratic establishment but I don’t really see that as a barrier. A much bigger problem is whether she can raise the money needed for a Senate bid. She currently has just $30,000 in her congressional campaign account.

This is not an insurmountable barrier for a Member of Congress who will gain backing from various progressive groups, . But Edwards will have to put in serious phone time as she will face better fundraisers and is starting well behind many other potential candidates.

Problems with Jewish and Pro-Israel Voters?

She may also sail into choppy waters with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Unhappiness with her record on Israel was one factor that helped propel forward a near challenge by Glenn Ivey in 2012. J Street has strongly supported Edwards but even they criticized her fundraiser with the pro-Palestinian New Policy PAC.

The fundraiser touted that she was one of only 25 representatives to vote against a House resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself” in the Gaza conflict. Actions like these will give pause to voters who have no affection for Benjamin Netanyahu and think Barack Obama is fine on Israel but also do not want someone they perceive as unsympathetic to Israel representing them.

Maryland has one of the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the nation. Jewish Americans tend to vote a high rates and will, like African Americans, figure disproportionately in any statewide Democratic primary. Democrats may also fear that this record could harm her in the general election.

Edwards has received support in the past from some prominent local Jewish leaders. But will it be enough for her to brush these problems aside?

Record

Rep. Edwards has served in Congress for six years, and Democrats have been in the minority but all for the first two years of her service. As a result, an Edwards campaign will have to focus more on her positions than her accomplishments, as do her congressional campaign and official congressional websites.

Overlap with Other Candidates

Maryland does not hold runoffs so whoever wins the primary wins the nomination. The supply of candidates will influence the outcome as candidates who have more competitors who can eat into their vote will suffer. This is not a problem peculiar to Donna Edwards–all candidates will worry about this issue. But who would eat into her likely potential voters?

African-American candidates, especially from the Baltimore area like Rep. Elijah Cummings or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, could make it hard for her to rack up votes there. Edwards and former Del. Heather Mizeur would compete for the same hard-left progressives, though I tend to believe Edwards would crowd Mizeur out. More seriously, Rep. Chris Van Hollen presents challenges for Edwards in Montgomery–a natural potential base for her support.

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Thoughts on the Gansler-Ivey Poll

The Gansler-Ivey poll results are catnip for people like me who follow campaigns but also a good example of why outlets that try to estimate the current shape of election campaigns (e.g. 538, pollster.com) do not include them in their analyses.

The press release includes some interesting numbers. I was less interested in the top lines than in the report of Doug Gansler’s favorability ratings. If opinions of the AG have indeed improved since the spate of very bad press earlier this year, that would certainly be good news for the Gansler-Ivey campaign.

However, the press release was more telling for what it did not include than what it did. There is no information about the questions that were asked. One poster on Seventh State’s Facebook page claims that the questions were primed to elicit negative responses about Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

(Update: The Gansler campaign informs me this was not the case and that the questions about candidate ratings and horse race numbers were asked prior to the questions regarding the exchanges in any case.)

While the poll reported Gansler’s favorability ratings, it did not do the same for either Brown or Mizeur. Additionally, there are no demographic breakdowns. I’d be especially interested to know the gender, racial, and religious composition of the survey, as well as the results for these demographic groups.

This information would make it possible to answer several questions. For example, does the share of women estimated in the electorate correspond to past gubernatorial elections? Women routinely makeup a disproportionate share of Democratic primary voters in Maryland but do they in the polling sample? How strong does the poll state support is for candidates among groups whose support they might hope to consolidate?

So, while fun to read, I’ll be looking forward to the next poll reported by an outlet not associated with one of the campaigns.

Note: I’m supporting Gansler but I try to call it like I see it as is evident here.

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