Tag Archives: Kathleen Dumais

House of Delegates Primary Roundup Districts 1-23

The Top Line

(1) Incumbents Maricé Morales and Joe Vallario will not be returning to the House of Delegates.
(2) Will Kathleen Dumais replace Vallario as Judiciary Committee Chair?

By the District

Republican Dels. Kathy Szeliga and Rick Impallaria traded barbs during the delegate race in D7 (Baltimore & Harford). Szeliga won the first spot with 23% to 15% for Impallaria. The third nomination went to newcomer Lauren Arikan with 14%, who led Aaron Penman with 11%.

In one of the few districts with split delegations, incumbent D8 (Baltimore) incumbent Republican Joe Cluster (25%) will be joined on the ticket by Joseph Boteler (21%) and Joe Norman (19%). On the Democratic side, incumbent Eric Bromwell (31%) will run with Henry Bhandari (28%) and Carl Jackson (25%)

In District 9B (Howard), former County Councilmember and County Exec Candidate Courtney Watson is set to take on incumbent Republican Del. Bob Flanagan. Watson won the Democratic nomination with 66%,

In District 10 (Baltimore), incumbent Del. Jay Jalisi easily won renomination despite tumultuous headlines during his first term regarding a physical altercation with his daughter.

In District 15 (Montgomery), Lily Qi looks set to join Dels. Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo in this comfortable Democratic seat. Dumais led with 22%. Fraser-Hidalgo, who tragically lost his wife in the middle of the campaign and had to focus on his kids and grieving, came third with 17%. Qi won 18% to 14% for Amy Friedler and 12% for Kevin Mack.

In District 16 (Montgomery), incumbent Dels. Marc Korman and Ariana Kelly easily won renomination. Samir Paul is leading Sara Love for the third seat by 118 votes, or 0.3%, with absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted.

Incumbent Del. Kumar Barve led in D17 (Montgomery) with 26% followed by Rockville City Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr with 25%. Despite being opposed by incumbent Sen. Cheryl Kagan, Del. Jim Gilchrist easily won a third term with 20%. Kagan-endorsed Julian Haffner trailed with 13%.

In D18 (Montgomery), it looks like Adam Pagnucco called it as incumbent Al Carr led the field with 22% followed by Emily Shetty at 20% and Jared Solomon at 18%. Leslie Milano finished in fourth with 14% with Town of Chevy Chase Councilmember Joel Rubin in fifth with 11%.

In D19 (Montgomery), incumbent Maricé Morales conceded graciously as she fell into fourth place with 16% after losing the Apple Ballot. Her ticket mate, incumbent Bonnie Cullison, led the field with 21%. Making a second bid, Charlotte Crutchfield roared into second with 18% of the vote. She’ll be joined by Vaughn Stewart who came in third with 17%.

In D20 (Montgomery), the ticket of incumbents David Moon (28%) and Jhenelle Wilkins (24%) accompanied by newcomer Lorig Charkoudian (19%) easily won. The race was soured towards the end when fourth place candidate Darian Unger’s (14%) campaign manager, John Rodriguez, was caught on tape throwing out literature for the winning ticket. Unger promptly fired him.

In D21, (Prince George’s), incumbent Dels. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (30%) and Ben Barnes (25%), were renominated and it looks like they be joined by Prince George’s County Councilmember Mary Lehman (19%). Matt Dernoga (18%), who formerly worked for Lehman, trails her by 173 votes.

In D23A (Prince George’s), incumbent Del, Geraldine Valentino-Smith looks to have only narrowly beat back a challenge by Shabnam Ahmed, a former student member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education. Valentino-Smith leads by 35 votes (0.6%) with absentees and provisionals yet to be counted.

D23B was equally interesting as longtime Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario lost with 22% of the vote. He was beat by incumbent Del. Marvin Holmes (27%) and Ron Watson, a former member of the Board of Education and O’Malley political appointee. Vallario was seen as a conservative barrier to progressive initiatives in the House. Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais, an excellent legislator, should be well positioned to succeed him as Chair. However, Anne Kaiser and Kumar Barve from Montgomery already hold  powerful committee chairs, which could complicate matters for the Speaker.

 

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Campaign Finance Reports: Districts 14 and 15, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Today kicks off a series of reports on fundraising in MoCo’s state legislative districts.  Incumbents are marked in red.

District 14

This is by far the easiest MoCo state legislative race to figure out.  All four incumbents – Senator Craig Zucker and Delegates Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke and Pam Queen – are going to be reelected.  The end.

District 15

Senator Brian Feldman has achieved every politician’s dream: a complete deterrence of credible competition.  Since he first won a House seat in 2002, he has never been at risk of losing an election.  Meanwhile, four of his MoCo Senate colleagues (Cheryl Kagan, Rich Madaleno, Roger Manno and Nancy King) have endured tough races in recent years to gain or hold their seats.  Will any serious candidate ever run against him?  Of course, your author would be the first to sing Feldman’s praises as a public official and any challenger stupid enough to run would lose, but – dang it – Feldman is not doing his part to keep political bloggers busy!

Incumbent Delegates Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo will be reelected despite their somewhat anemic fundraising.  Of the candidates seeking to succeed Delegate Aruna Miller, who is running for Congress, Montgomery County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Lily Qi looks like the strongest contender.  Your author worked with Qi during his time in county government and found her to be smart, competent and forward-thinking.  She was one of the uncommon people who could deal with the day-to-day tribulations of working for the county while also possessing the capacity to assume a perspective from 30,000 feet.  Qi has done well at raising money, and with her standing in the local Chinese-American community, her admirers in the business community and the support of her boss, County Executive Ike Leggett, she has had a good start.

Kevin Mack, who is Congressman John Delaney’s constituent service lead, is well regarded by those who have interacted with him and is the principal alternative to Qi.  But it’s not helpful that he trailed political consultant Andy VanWye in fundraising.  Hamza Khan, who switched from the District 39 House race, has not yet filed his campaign finance report and is being fined by the Board of Elections.  Republicans were once competitive in this district and held a Delegate seat here as recently as 2006, but they will not win any seats in the age of Trump.

The Big Question: will the incumbents slate with Qi as they slated with Miller, then a new candidate, in 2010?  If they do, this race will probably be over.

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Political Opening in Alcohol

Politicians often have trouble finding major issues that they can use successfully in campaigns. The Montgomery County Liquor Monopoly provides a rare opportunity for politicians who wish to advance or outsiders who want to crash the incumbent party.

Why It is a Good Campaign Issue

Good campaign issues have several key attributes. First, they have to divide you from your opponent. Voters cannot  differentiate between candidates when they agree. Put another way, “I’m even more pro-choice” is usually not going to unseat an incumbent. Montgomery County’s liquor monopoly is an easy issue for candidates to differentiate themselves.

Second, the subject has to be easy to communicate. If an issue requires jargon, like Maintenance of Effort, to explain it, it is not going to work. Clear and concise are critical. Opposition to the monopoly is the rare issue that works well on a postcard.

Finally, voters have to care about the issue and favor the candidate’s position. Unlike with many issues, many voters have direct experience of the monopoly and have formed opinions about it. Put simply, they don’t like it and would like to see it go away. Recently, a poll confirmed the well-known widely shared antipathy for it.

Opportunity in Opposing the DLC Monopoly

The existing Department of Liquor Control monopoly over the distribution of all alcohol and the sale of hard liquor provides a fat, juicy target. Through personal experience, many County voters know that the DLC assures higher prices in unattractive stores.

Comptroller Peter Franchot has already raised the issue’s profile.
The natural coalition favoring reform is powerful. Consumers receive no benefit from the monopoly, as it raises prices and forces them to travel farther to find greater selections at lower prices. They just don’t get why the County needs to be in this business. In short, they’ll only benefit if perestroika arrives in MoCo.

Business also hates the monopoly because it makes it much harder for the critical restaurant sector to thrive. More broadly, it is a barrier to expanding business around the County’s nightlife. Getting rid of the monopoly is a leading priority for the Chamber of Commerce. Fighting the monopoly looks like an excellent way to open doors to an untapped source of campaign donations.

Moreover, the defenders of the monopoly make excellent foils. Its main supporter is MCGEO–the union that represents the current DLC stores. While they claim to protect union jobs, the industry is highly unionized, so their real fear is that the workers would be represented by other unions.

Moreover, MCGEO acts like a union out of Republican central casting, attempting to bully its opponents into submission. Union President Gino Renne is not just a character but a caricature of the well-paid union boss. MCGEO slings mud in a way that attracts bad publicity rather than support.

Moreover, MCGEO is incredibly ineffective. It tried to take down numerous incumbents in the last election and failed all around. Unlike the Teachers (MCEA), MCEGO just doesn’t carry much weight with voters or show an ability to accomplish much on behalf of its candidates. Councilmember Roger Berliner wiped the floor against MCGEO’s well-funded candidate in 2014.

Conclusion and Petition

This is a rare bipartisan opportunity. Opposition to the monopoly is shared among Democrats and Republicans. It’s great issue for either primary or general challengers to wield against local or state incumbents who don’t join those who have gotten out in front on this issue.

Six members of the General Assembly–Del. Kathleen Dumais, Sen. Brian Feldman, Del. Bill Frick, Sen. Nancy King, Del. Aruna Miller, and Del. Kirill Reznik–are sponsoring a bill so that Montgomery voters can decide the issue in a referendum.

You can sign the petition, launched yesterday, to support their efforts.

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Ready for His Closeup: MCGEO’s Gino Renne

GinoRenneMCGEO President Gino Renne

MCGEO President Gino Renne should be on reality television instead of leading a union. When it comes to political drama, few serve it up more regularly than him. Unfortunately, his members appear to be bit parts in the MCGEO drama. Renne’s leadership has lost them allies in the past–and now it is costing them jobs.

The 2014 Election

In the 2014 Democratic primary, Renne bet large, thinking that taking down a number of incumbents would set him up as labor’s leader in the County and put the fear of Gino into the County Council. It backfired, big time, as an array of MCGEO-backed challengers and candidates for open seats lost.

Beyond wasting the dues of his members on campaign contributions for candidates that didn’t win, his actions alienated his members from their employers. After all, MCGEO (UFCW Local 1994) is the union that represents Montgomery County government employees, so the County Council sets their salaries.

Look at Me! I’m Still Relevant!

But Gino Renne raised the bar in the hearing on the independent Transit Authority (ITA) proposed by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. Opposing it did not just tee off the County Executive but actually undermined the prospect of steady work for his members.

The ITA would allow the County Council to create a property tax that went specifically to transportation projects. As a result, it would provide a steady funding stream for work done by MCGEO members, expanding employment and allowing the union to grow.

But Renne nonetheless fought the state legislation to allow the County to create an ITA and turned the bill hearing on it into quite the event. Flanked by 50 often vocal yellow shirts, Renne argued that his union would no longer be assured of representing workers employed by the authority.

Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15) did her best to point out that this concern was directly addressed in the bill (see p. 8, lines 14-20):

(II) for collective bargaining for Transit Authority employees with arbitration or other impasse resolution procedures with authorized representatives of Transit Authority employees; and

(III) that the authorized representative of Transit Authority employees shall remain the authorized representative of those employees unless decertified by the employees under the collective bargaining law enacted under this subsection.

In other words, why was Renne there? Or more to the point, why wasn’t Renne leading the charge for the bill? Renne made himself the star of the Gino Renne show at the very real cost to his membership. Bizarre doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Republican Ed Edmundson Not from Central Casting

logo-edmdI don’t often meet Republican candidates here in Montgomery County, if only because they appear to be thin on the ground. So I was a little intrigued when I met up with Ed Edmundson, a candidate for the House of Delegates in District 15, at Starbucks.

About Ed

Ed is a first time candidate reminiscent of past generations of Montgomery County Republicans, like Jean Roesser, Connie Morella, Betty Ann Krahnke and Howie Denis, who were liberal on social questions but more moderate or conservative on economic issues–long a winning formula in this area and indeed one that still works for several Democrats on the County Council.

Unusually for a Republican, he has been endorsed by NARAL, as have all three Democratic incumbents. It’s not often you hear a Republican talk about fair trade, ending “the school to prison pipeline,” and legalizing marijuana.

Ed gets more conservative on economic questions. He wants to cut the corporation income tax to make Maryland more competitive with Virginia. He also passionately believes that the regulatory structure created by the State and the County is too cumbersome and particularly a burden on small businesses.

On education, Ed proposes radical alterations to the teaching benefits structure by doubling teach salaries and eliminating pensions in favor of 401(k) plans. In my view, Ed is very fuzzy in terms of how to pay for large tax cuts and increased education spending. He wants the federal government to pay for increased education spending by cutting defense.

While decidedly out-of-the-box and even courageous for a Republican, it also requires decisions far outside the scope of the authority of the House of Delegates. State officials needs to pay for changes within the State’s own budget. The last four years have demonstrated that waiting on Congress is not a strategy. Despite this impracticality, Ed nonetheless brings a genuine passion regarding economic questions.

Specifically, he advocates for the positive, appealing part of the Republican message that government needs to work to encourage business and develop a more holistic strategy towards that end. And he expresses deep concern about those who view business with hostility rather than a crucial part of the solution.

In short, while his ideas haven’t gelled and the numbers don’t add up, the Republicans desperately need more people like him who don’t fear the future but who want to streamline government to promote prosperity and pay for needed government services. At least Ed shows some imagination, while Larry Hogan serves up the reheated sauce of “waste, fraud, and abuse” as “vision.”

Why Ed Won’t Win

Ed faces a lot of obstacles in his uphill bid for a delegate seat. First, District 15 has become much more solid Democratic turf since the Republicans last won seats in the area. Democratic partisans are now less willing to crossover and vote even for moderate or liberal Republicans–the undoing of Howie Denis on the County Council–because the national brand has become so tainted.

Second, District 15 has an extremely solid delegation with no weak links who could provide an opening. If Speaker Busch has good sense, he’ll find a way to appoint Kathleen Dumais as Judiciary Chair and sideline (Chair Emeritus?) past-his-sell-by date Joe Vallario. Aruna Miller has consistently struck most as smart, serious, and hard working. Recently appointed Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo has already made a positive impression. These are the sort of legislators we need to keep who make it difficult for opponents to make a good case to fire.

Third, there is always the Ficker problem. Running on a ticket with the ever-polarizing Robin Ficker, whose son is now running for delegate, seems an excellent way to assure that Democrats open to voting for some Republicans don’t give Ed a hearing.

Fourth, Ed is a complete newbie to campaigning. He plans to spend around $40,000, mostly his own money, and likely an insufficient amount for a  serious delegate challenge in Montgomery County. Moreover, I don’t think he knows how to spend the money wisely as he is buying newspaper advertisements and sending no direct mail.

Still, it’s always up to the voters.

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Fraser-Hidalgo Looking Good in D15

 D15Montgomery County District 15

The Central Committee appointed then Del. Brian Feldman to the Senate when Sen. Rob Garagiola resigned the seat. There was some controversy over the appointment but it seemed inevitable to many as Brian is a well-regarded legislator who had the strong backing of his colleagues in the district.

Sen. Feldman is unopposed in the Democratic primary but faces perennial candidate Robin Ficker in the general. While he won one term as a delegate in 1978, he is better known for his antics at Bullets games back in the 1990s. Ficker will provide lots of fun spectacle but Feldman is a lock.

In the delegate races, Dels. Kathleen Dumais and Aruna Miller should also be sure shots for reelection. Both are perceived as serious legislators. Del. Dumais is currently Vice Chair of Judiciary and would be a logical choice to replace current Chairman Joe Vallario when he goes or gets pushed out.

In the meantime, she faces the unenviable job of navigating the tricky waters between her conservative chair and more liberal caucus. If she gets too close to Vallario, she risks demands that a stronger progressive will get the appointment. However, I’d be surprised if that happens because Dumais is respected, smart, and deserves the position in the eyes of many.

David Fraser-Hidalgo won the delegate appointment to replace the vacancy caused by Brian Feldman’s move to the Senate. Labor was not thrilled with this selection, compounding their frustration with MCDCC over other issues.

Consequently, newly minted Del. Fraser-Hidalgo has faced a harder fight to consolidate his hold on the seat than many appointees. However, despite the brevity of his tenure, he has already started to impress as intelligent and earnest, particularly through his hard work on the legislation decriminalizing marijjuana.

And his hold on the seat is starting to look stronger. He has won the endorsements of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and CASA. Most crucially, he has earned the support of his colleagues, who are including him now on a slate of all of the incumbents.

The other remaining Democrat in the race is Bennett Rushkoff. MCEA decided belatedly to endorse him after they completed their other legislative endorsements. Some were surprised as Fraser-Hidalgo voted with MCEA during the session. Regardless, the apple is a great endorsement to receive and should energize Rushkoff’s campaign.

Both Fraser-Hidalgo and Rushkoff will run campaigns with sufficient funds. Rushkoff likely has the jump on Fraser-Hidalgo because the latter could not raise funds during the legislative session. Rushkoff also loaned his campaign $50K before the January filing.

Nonetheless, this is the unusual case in which I don’t think MCEA has placed a good bet. Even without their endorsement, Fraser-Hidalgo is building a good reputation and his linkage with the other three incumbents will make him difficult to beat. Other factors, such as the Post endorsement or Rushkoff’s greater access to funds, could alter the equation but Fraser-Hidalgo has shown a steady ability to move the line in his direction.

On the Republican side,  Flynn Ficker is running for the House alongside his father, Robin. Indeed, they have a joint website, so I guess they have identical positions. Interestingly, they oppose construction at Ten Mile Creek, which flies in the face of their more general opposition to government regulation. Their more general platform appears to be the unhappy, classic Republican combination of don’t tax but spend.

The other Republican, Ed Edmundson will likely garner much less attention than the ever colorful Fickers. However, he is actually more politically interesting. Edmundson is the only Republican in the State to have received NARAL’s endorsement. In some ways, he seems like a Democratic stereotype. How many Republicans advertise their belief in the importance of fair trade and that they run HempSisters.com and EarthDivas.com?

Though undoubtedly more conservative than the Democrats, Edmundson appears to have a similar socially liberal, economically moderate profile to the sort of Republicans who used to regularly win elections in Montgomery County. Unfortunately for him, they just don’t anymore. Changing demographics and the toxicity of the national Republican brand render it hard for candidates like Edmundson.

Fortunately for District 15, Feldman, Dumais, Miller, and Fraser-Hidalgo compose a very strong delegation in Annapolis. No weak links in this team.

Senate Rating: Safe Feldman.

House Ratings: Safe Dumais, Safe Miller, Lean Fraser-Hidalgo in the primary. Safe Fraser-Hidalgo or Rushkoff in the general.

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How Marijuana Decriminalization Passed the House

As the session drew to a close, the prospects for marijuana decriminalization looked grim despite its passage by an overwhelming majority in the Senate. Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Vallario had once again put the kibosh on the bill.

At Vallario’s behest, the Committee amended the bill to replace it with one that would create a task force to study the issue. As we say in Montgomery County, paralysis by analysis. So how did a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana end up passing the House on Saturday?

First, Vallario made a critical mistake by passing any bill out of Committee at all. Though probably necessary to mollify committee members, it also provided decriminalization supporters a key opportunity to amend the bill back to its original intent.

Various advocates, including Dan Furmansky who has been lobbying on this issue, began to press legislators to put up a fight on the floor. Del. Eric Luedtke agreed to sponsor an amendment to overturn the Committee’s decision and restore the original intent of the bill.

Luedtke was a good choice. Del. Heather Mizeur has been active on this issue but her name on the amendment would have immediately doomed it due to gubernatorial politics in this election year. Ditto for Del. Jolene Ivey. Their willingness to step back and allow others to take the lead aided the effort greatly.

Bill advocates quickly began talking with Del. Keiffer Mitchell and Del. Nat Oaks who reached out to the Black Caucus. As this was going on, time passed and decriminalization proponents made the call not to offer their amendment on second reading, as it would have received only a couple dozen votes and died.

Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis gave the effort a major boost when he advocated fighting for decriminalization on the floor to the Black Caucus and made a statement to that end in the media. Support from a respected member of leadership helped propel the amendment forward.

Key legislative advocates, such as Dels. Luedtke, Oaks, Mizeur, Ivey, David Fraser-Hidalgo, and Alonzo Washington, organized a whip operation supported by various advocacy groups like the ACLU. Republican Del. Mike Smigiel agreed to work on libertarian members of his party.

By the time they had close to 40 supporters, Vallario dug in his heals and made clear that he expected members of his committee to stick with him. But the House leadership forced him to ask the House to special order the bill, which it did, so he could negotiate with decriminalization advocates.

Del. Kieffer Mitchell agreed to sponsor the amendment, which was another good move to move matters forward, as attaching this junior but prominent African-American legislator’s name helped to emphasize the racial disparities associated with current enforcement of criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

By the end of the day on Friday, it became clear that Speaker Busch had released senior leadership to vote how they wished (i.e. to vote against Vallario), as Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Sheila Hixson along with Dereck Davis expressed their support. Like Davis, McIntosh proved especially helpful in gaining new supporters. The whipping operation was also highly visible on the floor.

Some Judiciary Committee members, like Dels. Curt Anderson and Luiz Simmons, began to rebel against sticking with Vallario. However, he still had support from others, such as Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais who has genuine reservations and Del. Jeff Waldstreicher who did not want to harm his excellent relationship with his committee chairman.

In the midst of all this, Vallario finally sued for peace. Good timing, as amendment supporters had received 66 firm commitments of support and he was about to get rolled publicly. Vallario and Dumais met with Bobby Zirkin, the Senate sponsor who had also been very active, to draft a new amendment. Mitchell and Luedtke were brought in later that night to help organize the plan for the floor.

Judiciary met on Saturday morning to ax the task force plan and recommend favorably the original bill as modified in small ways. Mitchell withdrew his amendment and matters proceeded according to regular order. As the bill was now a committee bill, it became critical for it to pass for the House leadership, particularly after all the contretemps surrounding it. And it did.

A few quick thoughts on the outcome. First, it showed that junior backbench members both can and will exercise influence on critical issues when committee chairs flout the will of the bulk of the Democratic Caucus. This was already a moderate, compromise bill. Remember it accomplished mild decriminalization–not full-scale legalization. Vallario’s repeated noes were not acceptable.

Second, Speaker Michael Busch did not have Vallario’s back. The Judiciary Committee Chair has simply opposed his Caucus too often on priority issues. Leaders don’t last long in power if they don’t listen to their members–something Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller understand far better than many realize.

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Will Vallario Kill Marijuana Decriminalization?

Vallario

The General Assembly session is rapidly coming to a close and the House Judiciary Committee may kill efforts to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Chairman Joe Vallario is leading the effort to kill the bill:

The Senate passed the bill by a 36-8 vote earlier this year. Vallario opposed the bill last year and continues to be the major hurdle to a full vote in the House of Delegates. The ACLU, in its statement, said Vallario “has been lobbying his committee members to reject the measure in 2014.”

Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais is also deeply ambivalent about the bill:

In an interview last week, Dumais expressed doubt for the bill’s prospects, saying she “is not so sure it’s the right  message to send to young people.”

“I’m just not ready to make that leap,” Dumais said. “My committee has never been real comfortable with it and to be honest I’m not that comfortable with it. Maybe there’s something we can do with it. We haven’t had a full discussion because it hasn’t come up for a vote yet.

“I don’t think it’s going to move this year but I could be wrong,” Dumais said.

The ACLU released results from a poll showing strong support for the Senate bill in their two districts as well as Del. Frank Conaway as part of an effort to build pressure for the bill’s passage. You can see the full results in .pdf form here:

MD-ACLU Marijuana Decriminalization Poll

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