Tag Archives: Helga Luest

When They Go Low

District 18 Delegate Candidate Helga Luest’s statement that Del. Jeff Waldstreicher tried to lure her into the Senate race in order to aid his own move from the House of Delegates to the Senate has become quite the contretemps in District 18.

Jeff Waldstreicher’s Denial

After evading questions from me and refusing to comment on the record, Jeff finally issued this statement to Andrew Metcalf over at Bethesda Beat:

These claims are false, defamatory, and born of actual malice,” Waldstreicher, who has served as a delegate since 2007, said in the statement. “When they go low, I go high—standing up for our community’s progressive values, leading the fight for $15 minimum wage, investing in our schools and resisting the Trump administration at every turn.

Jeff ought to be a near lock for this seat. He’s a three-term delegate and has consistently garnered more votes than his opponent, regular state legislative candidate Dana Beyer, as Adam Pagnucco has pointed out. He hasn’t strongly alienated any constituencies, which should make it hard for her to gain traction.

But he seems to be doing his level best to turn this into a competitive race. Even leaving aside Helga’s claims, his public statement sounds like what Melania would say if she was a red-headed attorney.

Rather than issuing a standard denial or explaining the situation, it looks like Jeff is thinking like an attorney who has managed to turn Michelle Obama’s inspiring words into political pablum. Moreover, when an attorney uses legalistic words like “defamatory” and “actual malice,” it look like he’s hinting at a lawsuit in an effort to get Helga to stop talking.

That’s not going to happen.

It never looks good when the optics are of a politician trying to silence someone. In the current climate, a male candidate trying to get a female candidate to stop talking looks even worse. Of course, if he did file a lawsuit that would really torch his political ambition.

Jeff’s evasiveness and efforts to kill the story also haven’t helped. Jeff’s silence and avoidance of comment on any remotely controversial issue at last Sunday’s debate–he literally did not speak for the first 75 minutes–also reinforce the perception of an overly political approach.


Dana Bayer felt “it was demeaning” that Jeff suggested she run on a slate with him for delegate instead of competing for the Senate seat. That, however, seems like normal politics and a good offer.

On the other hand, an effort by Jeff to get Helga to run for the Senate to help him out, would appear much more manipulative and skeezy. Voters might well judge it less kindly, though I’m not sure if they will know or care.

Dana Beyer tried to push the narrative, which is also how Helga sees it, of criticizing Jeff’s alleged behavior in light of #metoo:

I trust her and believe the story.

I find it disturbing that Jeff would so crassly ask anyone to sacrifice themselves for his sake, let alone a woman. As if her commitment to public service was inconsequential, and beneath his concern.

She made a similar statement to Bethesda Beat:

“I have every reason to believe Helga’s story,” Beyer said. “The underlying principle is, I trust women.”

Except this is not sexual harassment but political manipulation. Dana would also gain more if she stayed in the background rather than appearing all too eager to garner political advantage. The idea that one always trusts women over men is also problematic.

I have never seen nor heard any stories of Jeff behaving remotely sexually inappropriately. Frankly, it would surprise me greatly. I should also emphasize that this is not what Helga says happened, though she sees his actions through the broader lens of misogyny faced by women.

Notwithstanding the bad optics of Jeff declaring Helga’s post as “defamatory” and “born of actual malice,” I see this situation more as maladroit machinations. Helga’s allegations could be completely true but not so much about gender as the political maneuvering referenced in the Bethesda Beat headline.

To the extent that Jeff is willing to engage in these too-clever-by-half political games, I think he’d just as easily ask a man if he thought that was the good play. If he’s guilty of anything here, it’s political malpractice and a self-inflicted wound, as all of this seems rather unnecessary for him to win.

At the same time, Jeff’s “totally false” statement had at least one glaring weakness and Helga has not hesitated to point it out. Specifically, they clearly did meet, as Helga has highlighted in her reply to Jeff’s public statement.

Final Notes

Helga mentions accurately that she told me about the story before she published her Facebook. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it. She did not mention that I contacted her when I decided not to publish the story.

I’m glad Bethesda Beat’s Andrew Metcalf covered this story instead of me. Frankly, I’m not a professional reporter and he did a better job than me of getting straight up on the record accounts.


Telling Them Apart

Last night, your scribe attended and live tweeted the District 18 state legislative debate sponsored by the District 18 Democratic Caucus. Though policy differences continue to be somewhat hard to find, voters could still glean much from what was said–and not said–as well as about the style and experience of the candidates.

State Senate Candidates

Dana Beyer possesses limitless self-confidence often associated with doctors. At one point, she tried to tell Moderator Charles Duffy how to conduct the debate. Highly intelligent, her most thoughtful response was about how the General Assembly’s first priority ought to be to undergird the healthcare system against federal attacks.

Towards the end of the debate, Dana declared that there is almost no policy diversity among the candidates, so voters need to elect someone who can bring the delegation together and lead. Unfortunately, she has a well-earned reputation of not working well with others.

While Dana gave voters a real opportunity to learn her views on a range of issues, Jeff Waldstreicher was reticent to the point of not speaking for the first 75 minutes. Loathe to say anything divisive, Jeff passed on opportunities to outline his views on issues such as liquor decontrol or single-payer healthcare.

Jeff finally spoke up to tout past and expected gun control legislation. A classic example of what political scientists call “credit claiming,” he steered clear of the more divisive issue of armed guards in schools. Complimenting Del. Al Carr’s work effusively, Jeff wooed his support. Jeff’s strategy is seemingly to avoid alienating any voters and run a focused “positive campaign” that ignores his challengers.

This was my first view of Michelle Carhart, the owner of a local chain of children’s gyms who jumped into the race at the last moment. Much less the pol than her two opponents, she came to the debate with the perspective of a local business owner who sees a need for both less bureaucracy and progressive change.

She complained about property taxes, and favors training over handouts as more useful and less demeaning. She argued that everyone should have to pay something for healthcare, so they’d have some skin in the game. Michelle has a lot to learn about public policy but could appeal to people looking for an ordinary citizen rather than a more practiced politician.

House of Delegates Candidates

Incumbent Del. Al Carr (who I support) demonstrated his comfortable policy knowledge on a number of issues and self-deprecatingly to laughter from the audience asked voters to send him as a “grizzled veteran” back to Annapolis after complimenting the strengths of the other candidates. He continues to emphasize the environment and climate change as a critical issue.

Since her respectable loss four-years ago in the primary, Emily Shetty has worked hard to position herself for this race by chairing the D18 Caucus and serving on the central committee. Among the most eloquent candidates, she advocated firmly for single-payer health care and is able to discuss the subject more fluently than many experienced legislators.

One of my favorite moments was when Ron Franks argued against the prevailing wisdom on police officers in schools. Making the case for people with diverse experiences by applying his own, he made a good argument that police officers serve as valuable role models and revealed a willingness to dissent thoughtfully.

Mila Johns stood out as someone unafraid to say what she thinks. In particular, when other candidates held back initially, she stated that the county should gradually get out of the liquor business because it’s killing off restaurants. She also advocated for making it easier for seniors to age in their own homes and death with dignity.

Joel Rubin highlighted his experience as an elected local official and seasoned policy advocate who has the communication skills and knowledge to fight for progressive ideals. Living with his mother-in-law (lovely woman, I’ve met her), he argued for incentives for multi-generational housing as one component to addressing senior living.

Helga Luest did not reprise her accusations against Jeff Waldstreicher at the debate. Speaking as the survivor of a murder attempt, she argued passionately for a trauma-centered approach and greater community connectivity to help address issues from kids prone to gun violence to isolated seniors. She believes a delegate should engage on leadership at the community level as well as outside the general assembly.

Jared Solomon’s answers gave the impression of someone who has studied the issues hard and would listen well but advocate forcefully. Labor should appreciate his advocacy of labor agreements as part of business incentive packages. He said education was his #1 priority. I hope higher pay for college professors is included!

Among the more knowledgeable candidates, Leslie Milano stood out as someone who would consistently advocate for economic growth. She referred to Amazon and Marriott tax incentives as normal business practices, which struck me less as politics as usual than someone who was being honest about the way the world works.

Issue Differences!

General similarities notwithstanding—everyone is anti-gun, pro-choice and wants to fight climate change—there was daylight between the candidates on a number of questions. While Leslie Milano expressed support for incentives to attract Amazon, Al Carr advocated investing in education and infrastructure that benefit all businesses. Emily Shetty wanted transparent negotiations, which was very popular, albeit wholly unrealistic. Dana Beyer said attracting Amazon is more important than keeping Marriott. Jeff Waldstreicher expressed no opinion.

Mila Johns, Ron Franks, Dana Beyer and Leslie Milano expressed support for getting the county out of the liquor business. I’d also like to know the opinion of other candidates.

In the most depressing part of the debate, Joel Rubin said he was okay with armed security guards if schools need them. Helga Luest highlighted the need for risk and threat assessment. Mila Johns and Leslie Milano opposed them with Leslie mentioning their impact on the culture of schools and suggesting bulletproof pods as an alternative.

Winner of the Debate

Adam Pagnucco. Hands down.

Candidates and the moderator referred to his posts here on Seventh State repeatedly with admiration.


Campaign Finance Reports: Districts 18 and 19, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 18

Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher has posted a strong financial performance in his run to succeed Senator Rich Madaleno.  He has raised more money over the cycle and has more cash on hand than any other state legislator in the county.  But Dana Beyer has spent nearly a half million dollars of her own money in her three prior races and could spend a whole lot more.  Beyer told Bethesda Magazine “she does not plan to self-finance this year’s Senate bid” but still gave her campaign $109,100.  While Waldstreicher’s cash on hand advantage is substantial, Beyer could erase it with one check.

The recent endorsement by SEIU Local 500 of Beyer may have a big impact on this race.  Prior to that, Waldstreicher could make the case to other progressive endorsing organizations that as a three-term incumbent running against someone who was for 0-3 in elections (two running against him) that he would have a big edge and was the safe pick.  But SEIU is a huge player and brings credibility to Beyer’s run.  Now the endorsing groups may be more likely to evaluate the two against each other on a level playing field and see Beyer as a true alternative.  Our prediction is that this will not be the last significant endorsement that Beyer receives.

The Delegate race is just as interesting.  Incumbent Al Carr had the most raised over the cycle but also has a huge burn rate (81%).  He trails Mila Johns and Jared Solomon in cash on hand.  Johns leads in cash position (boosted by her $100,000 loan to her campaign) while Solomon led the non-incumbents in fundraising from others ($42,011).  Emily Shetty has been a prominent local player since her fourth place finish last time, joining the county’s Democratic Central Committee and doing work with Action Committee for Transit and her former civic association.  But she doesn’t want to trail in money behind Carr, Johns and Solomon to the extent she is now.  Town of Chevy Chase Council Member Joel Rubin’s cash balance is deceptively low since he began campaigning in November and raised $269,845 in his 2016 run for Congress.  Leslie Milano created her campaign account too late to file a January report but says she plans to raise $150,000.  Helga Luest was also a late starter.  Normally, the only incumbent in a race like this – in this case, it’s Carr – would be favored for reelection.  But the challengers are a pack of hungry wolves and Carr is going to have to work to keep his seat.

The Big Question: will there be competing slates in this district?  Both Beyer and Waldstreicher have money, which is much needed by all the House candidates.  Our prediction is that any move to set up a slate by either Beyer or Waldstreicher will provoke the other side to unify too.  Competing slates aligned with contested Senate races were common in District 18 decades ago and another one could really scramble this election.

The Other Big Question: will Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez stay in the Council District 1 race, where she has not qualified for public matching funds and ranks a distant fifth in cash on hand, or will she return to the District 18 House race?

District 19

With the departure of Senator Roger Manno, who is running for Congress in District 6, Delegate Ben Kramer will become the next Senator and the dominant politician in the district.  Kramer, who was first elected to the House in 2006, is known for his work on senior issues and public safety, and has been a true hero in his efforts to crack down on drunk driving.  He has an absolute lockdown on Leisure World and Kemp Mill, two vital power centers in the district.  Kramer is not universally beloved, but he is well respected and no other politicians will mess with him.  In politics, that is enough!

The two incumbent Delegates, Bonnie Cullison and Marice Morales, will sweep virtually all the progressive endorsements and be reelected.  As for the seat being vacated by Kramer, the simple view is that former Raskin campaign aide Vaughn Stewart, who totally smoked the field (including the incumbents) in fundraising, will win it.  But the race may not be that simple.  MCDCC Member and labor attorney Marlin Jenkins did reasonably well in fundraising and should get a lot of labor support.  And attorney Charlotte Crutchfield, who barely lost to Morales for the open House seat in 2014, is running again.

Crutchfield is not a strong fundraiser, having collected just $11,960 from others last time while self-financing $44,149.  But she has a long history in the district and Kramer formed a slate with her in 2014.  Manno endorsed Morales, his former legislative aide, and Morales won by 382 votes.  Crutchfield filed an affidavit as her January report but her new campaign has just started.

The Big Question: will Kramer team up with Crutchfield again?  And if he does, will Cullison and Morales also join in?