The following is a press release from Gabe Albornoz’s campaign for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Gabe Albornoz Reaches Matching Funds Threshold for At-Large County Council Race
Kensington, MD – Gabe Albornoz, a Democratic candidate for an At-Large seat on the Montgomery County Council, announced that he had received over $20,000 and 250 contributions from Montgomery County residents. Albornoz’s campaign will be qualified to receive matching funds from the Montgomery County Public Campaign Financing Program upon certification by the Maryland State Board of Elections.
“I’m humbled and honored to receive this support. The Campaign Finance Program is working and has ensured that Montgomery County residents set the tone of our politics. I’m pleased that our campaign is playing a role in democratizing our county’s politics to give more power to people,” Albornoz said.
“I am very pleased to hear that Gabe has achieved this important milestone in his campaign. He has earned a reputation for strong leadership, collaboration and commitment to public service, which is why I’m happy to endorse his campaign,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro.
At-Large candidates for County Council must receive at least 250 qualifying contributions, totaling at least $20,000, in order to qualify for a public financing, according to a law previously passed by the Council. Only contributions of up to $150 per election cycle from Montgomery County residents qualify for matching funds. Candidates in the program cannot accept any contributions from special interest groups, businesses, political action committees, unions, or political parties. Participating candidates are eligible to receive up to $250,000 in matching funds during the primary and general election campaigns.
“We are grateful to Gabe’s many supporters and their confidence in him to represent them as a member of the County Council. Gabe’s message of optimism for Montgomery County has been enthusiastically received,” said Campaign Chairman Chuck Short.
Albornoz is a lifelong Montgomery County resident and a past Chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. He is the current Director of the Montgomery County Recreation Department. He was appointed to that role by County Executive Ike Leggett in January 2007.
By Adam Pagnucco.
Bill Conway, Potomac
Many readers have encountered Diana Conway, one of MoCo’s most tenacious and effective environmental activists. As she is someone who has long been involved in local elections, your author had long assumed that a Conway might someday appear on the ballot. Well, we were half-right – the Conway who is running is her husband, Bill.
Bill Conway is a recently retired energy lawyer who is a nationally recognized expert on the electric power industry. He once worked as a U.S. Senate staffer and played a key role in designing wholesale electricity deregulation in the early 1990s. He’s a heavy hitter and with a profile like that, one might assume that Conway would come across as a know-it-all. But then you meet him.
Conway’s intelligence is as obvious as his immense likability. But his greatest asset is his curiosity. Your author has interviewed dozens of candidates over the years. Most of them are reluctant to admit ignorance on anything for fear of coming across as unready for elected service. Not Conway. While he certainly has plenty of knowledge and opinions – he is just as animated in discussing social justice as he is about the need to grow the economy – he is comfortable enough in his own skin to ask questions. LOTS of questions. Your author has never met a candidate who took such deep dives on policy issues right off the bat – for HOURS – as Conway.
Intellectual curiosity may be the single most underrated trait in great elected officials. Their job is to deal with a tremendous variety of issues that demand attention and expertise, often many in the same day. The best of them learn quickly and love to learn. Bill Conway has a lot going for him but he has that trait in spades. It will serve him and his constituents well if he gets elected.
PS – Right now, no at-large candidate is working harder than Conway on the campaign trail. Here’s the proof.
Gabe Albornoz, Kensington
Imagine working your way up the ladder quickly and landing a dream job. Everything is great, yeah? And then less than two years later, the cuts begin. By the time it’s all over, your budget is down 23% and your employees’ work years are down 22%. Is it still a dream job?
Gabe Albornoz would say yes even though that actually happened to him. As the county’s Director of Recreation, his department took those cuts between Fiscal Years 2008 and 2012, some of the biggest cuts to any part of the government. Albornoz had to look people in the eye and let them go, something almost all managers hate to do. But he got through it by concentrating reductions in force at the middle management level and empowering front-line employees to make more decisions. No recreation centers were closed and Albornoz recruited non-profits and community groups to help fill the gap. That’s one reason why Albornoz is considered one of the best managers in county government.
But that’s not all he is. Albornoz is also the former Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and steered the party through some difficult conflicts with labor. Many new candidates have to spend time building relationships with players across the county – and it’s a BIG county. Albornoz already has those relationships – with elected officials, civic associations, community groups, faith groups and everyone else he has worked with in county government over the last decade. Unusually, he seems to be almost devoid of enemies. (Explain how you do that to this blog author, Gabe!) It’s a large network that could pay big dividends.
The knock on many people in legislative positions is that they know nothing about running a government, or a large organization of any kind. No one could say that about Gabe Albornoz. He is among the best prepared people to ever run for Montgomery County Council.
More to come in Part Three.
In the wake of the boycott of the Spring Ball, the Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) and labor unions started applying pressure for major changes on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) to include more labor representation and more young people.
The prime movers in this effort appear to be Dave Kunes, Chair of MCYD at age 24, and Gino Renne, MCGEO President. Renne is the most senior of the leaders of the three unions–the others are the FOP and the Firefighters–involved in government operations in Montgomery County.
Labor talked up running an alternative slate for MCDCC. Kunes, who then worked for Del. Tom Hucker and now works for MSEA as well as chairing MCYD, organized a PAC to back candidates for MCDCC. MCGEO donated to the PAC. At this point, perspectives on the story diverge.
No one disagrees on the basic facts, essentially a meeting occurred between MCDCC Chair Gabe Albornoz and others, including Kunes, where they agreed to put together a unity slate that would incorporate significant new members.
It’s the interpretation that varies. Some see Gabe as taking advantage of the situation to renovate a MCDCC in need of new ideas and new blood. Others see it as Gabe suing for peace in order to avoid competing slates and more acrimony within the Montgomery County Democratic Party.
Either way, the result turned out the same. MCDCC set up committees of five people who were not running for MCDCC to interview people for slots on the unity slate. So far, so good.
Except that laudable step was undercut completely by the closed, secret nature of the process. Only certain people, essentially current MCDCC members and selected Young Democrats, were invited to apply. If the goal is truly renovation rather than major change to benefit specifically MCYD and labor, why keep it secret and limit applications?
The people involved may call on Captain Hindsight to lament this approach. Sorry but not buying. They organized it specifically to accomplish their goals. They own it.
Regardless, this lack of transparency and the limited nature of the invitations had the desired effect. Roughly eight members of the unity slate, or one-third of candidates, are young Democrats. As a result, the committee is set to take in a major influx of people who helped place the pressure on MCDCC to change.
Additionally, some changes were further negotiated between the major players behind the scenes after the interviews. In particular, the unity slate dropped Young Democrat Brígida Krzysztofik in favor of Kevin Walling, who had raised money for his delegate race in District 16. Both are LGBT. Krzysztofik was quietly promised that she would get a slot next time.
Some of the unity slate choices make more sense than others. I was surprised to learn that the slate didn’t include Jay Wilson, a very talented, smart Young Democrat and Vice President of the African-American Democratic Club. (I know Jay through his work for a nonprofit that we both support.) Despite passing on Jay, African Americans comprise roughly one-third of the slate.
Most of the retiring members have done so by choice but a few were defenestrated from the slate against their will. The primary example is Harold Diamond, who won a seat in District 19 challenging the slate in 2010, but was not selected for the unity slate.
Diamond chaired both the Ballot Questions Advisory Committee as well as the precinct officials meeting to vote on them. He had the nice sounding but dreadful in practice idea of populating the committee with essentially anyone who volunteered. Not the best means to recruit a group of volunteers who are particularly sensible, representative, or sensitive to the variety of interests and trends within the party.
The meeting of the precinct officials also left several key issues until very late in the evening and Diamond repeatedly tried to steer matters in the direction he favored. No surprise he was left off the slate. Nonetheless, he will be seeking reelection from District 19.
Despite labor’s grievances avowedly being a prime motive for unhappiness with MCDCC, only one of the new members has a direct link to the three governmental unions who were upset with MCDCC–Erin Yeagley works for MCGEO. However, Dave Kunes also works for MSEA and the Young Dems as a group are perceived as labor proxies.
The oddness doesn’t end there. The dispute began because labor was frustrated with the County Council. But MCDCC’s major power is to fill vacancies in the legislature. Vacancies on the County Council are filled by appointment. On the other hand, Gino Renne will likely view it as mission accomplished if he can prevent MCDCC from sending out another sample ballot endorsing a question opposed by organized labor even if unanimously supported by an all-Democratic County Council.
Some view all of this as simply an power play by Dave Kunes supported by the unions. Certainly, the idea that crisis is another word for opportunity has more than a dollop of truth. Nevertheless, harnessing ambition for public goals can be a powerful force for change. Kunes revitalized the Young Democrats and made them a force in the County. Regardless of how it came about, the changes at MCDCC provide a real chance to regenerate the party.
Politics is perhaps the only profession in which people are supposed to loudly protest their lack of ambition or desire for advancement as they move their way up the ladder. So what if ambition played a role in his organization of this renovation/partial takeover? All our officials should be so skilled and talented.
The final part in this series will explore the upcoming election for MCDCC as well as its future.
You just gotta love that we have party central committees in the State of Maryland. Both Republicans and Democrats have them in every county of the State. It all feels so retro-Soviet. Why not Politburos? Or at least Praesidiums?
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is currently not the peaceful backwater that one might expect of a relatively obscure organization of party officials. Instead, it is now the center of what some might call renovation and others a hostile takeover despite the recent announcement of a “unity” slate.
The fracas started with the passage of a bill unanimously by the all-Democratic County Council to eliminate “effects bargaining” with the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) designed to give the Police Chief more flexibility and control in the management of police officers. “Effects bargaining” required the Chief to clear all management decisions with the FOP.
The FOP vehemently opposed the changes and petitioned them to referendum in what became known as Question B. While intensely disliking the changes, it was only the latest in what the three non-school related public employee unions (FOP, the Firefighters, and MCGEO) perceived as bad treatment by the County on issues such as disability payments, furloughs and benefits.
MCDCC became involved through its control over the Democratic sample ballot. All precinct officials in the Democratic Party could vote on whether the sample ballot should endorse or oppose the proposal or take no position. At the urging of county councilmembers, the precinct officials voted heavily to endorse the proposal passed unanimously by the County Council.
The Central Committee has the power to change an endorsement of support or opposition by precinct officials to no position by majority vote.
Urged on by Chair Gabe Albornoz, (Correction: Gabe was not Chair yet) MCDCC voted to uphold the decision of the County Council and the precinct officials.
The Democratic sample ballot thus endorsed the question. Whether or not it mattered, the voters agreed, voting by 58% in 2012 to keep the law passed by the Council despite vigorous efforts by the FOP and other government employee unions to overturn it.
Needless to say, the unions were NOT happy. More in Part II.