Dave Kunes and Gabe Albornoz
Check out Part I and Part II of this four part series on the contretemps at MCDCC.
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.