Tag Archives: Kirill Reznik

Gino Threatens Reznik

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a statement on the Facebook page of political blogger Ryan Miner, MCGEO President Gino Renne has vowed to defeat Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) in next year’s election.  In response to a post about Reznik’s decision not to run for Congress, Renne wrote to Reznik:

Thanks for your unproductive representation. I’m one of your constituents who believes you bring no value to our district’s representation in Annapolis. You were appointed to the seat which gave you the advantage of incumbency. This time around there are several quality candidates running for delegate in our district. I and many others intend to do whatever is necessary to unseat you. District 39 can do better and deserves better than you.

You now have the benefit of more unsolicited intel.

MCGEO once supported Reznik, giving him five contributions totaling $4,100 between 2007 and 2011.  What is their problem with him now?  Renne is not shy so we will probably find out!  Perhaps his casus belli includes Reznik’s support for Delegate Bill Frick’s End the Monopoly bill, a piece of legislation so objectionable to Renne that he famously promised to investigate the lifestyles of its supporters.

Few interest group leaders make such open threats against incumbents.  That’s because defeating incumbents is difficult and MCGEO is no better at it than anyone else.  In recent years, the incumbents MCGEO has tried to defeat include Council Member Phil Andrews (D-3) in 2006, Delegate Al Carr (D-18) in 2010, Senator Nancy King (D-39) in 2010, Board of Education member Mike Durso in 2010, Council Member Roger Berliner (D-1) in 2014 and Senator Rich Madaleno (D18) in 2014.  All of these candidates won by double digits except Carr and King.  Berliner won by 57 points even though his opponent’s campaign was managed by MCGEO’s former Executive Director.  MCGEO has supported two recent successful challengers to incumbents: Delegate Roger Manno (D-19) over Senator Mike Lenett and Hans Riemer over Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg (At-Large), both in 2010.  Lenett lost in part because he blew himself up with horrible mailers such as this one about the Holocaust.  Trachtenberg lost in part because she inexplicably hoarded $146,000 which could have been spent on campaign activity.

Here’s the problem with making threats of this kind: you have to follow through and win or you look weak.  Reznik has none of the weaknesses that sometimes result in incumbent losses in Montgomery County: he’s not a Republican, he’s not lazy and he doesn’t have legions of enemies at home.  It’s also not clear that there are enough strong open seat candidates in District 39 to seriously threaten him.  In fact, the smart move for the challengers is to court him and the other incumbents in hope of inclusion on their slate.  All of this is good for Kirill Reznik and not so good for Gino Renne.

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Could Anyone Stop David Trone in CD6?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The future plans of Congressman John Delaney remain unclear, but that has not stopped some potential candidates from expressing interest in his seat.  Two have filed paperwork to start raising money – Delegates Bill Frick (D-16) and Aruna Miller (D-15).  It’s time to examine what a potential open seat race in Congressional District 6 might look like.

Let’s begin by asking the obvious question: could anyone stop David Trone?

Trone, a co-owner of Total Wine and second-place finisher in the 2016 CD8 Democratic primary, is known to be looking at races for both Montgomery County Executive and CD6.  Trone shares certain characteristics with Delaney: both are successful, center-left businessmen who live in Potomac and have been active political contributors at the national level before running for office.  Delaney’s 25-point victory in 2012 over establishment favorite Senator Rob Garagiola (D-15) is no doubt encouraging to Trone because it provides a model for his own potential candidacy.  So far, five Montgomery County state legislators – Frick, Miller, Delegates Kirill Reznik (D-19) and Andrew Platt (D-17) and Senator Roger Manno (D-19) – have told the Sun that they would consider running in CD6.  There may be others as well as several Republicans.  But let’s start with the MoCo Five.  How do they compare to Trone?

Money

This is the elephant in the room.  Trone set a record for a self-funding candidate for Congress last year.  Here is how his potential MoCo rivals stack up to him in lifetime campaign receipts.

Money doesn’t make Trone invincible.  Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20) raised $2 million in the CD8 primary, was outspent by Trone by more than 6-1 and still defeated him by 7 points.  But money is a big advantage for Trone and none of these MoCo legislators has proven that they can raise anywhere near as much money as Raskin.

Geography

Unlike Trone, the five MoCo legislators represent legislative districts and presumably have relationships with their constituents.  Here is the number of Democratic voters in the portions of their districts that overlapped with CD6 during the last mid-term primary, which occurred in 2014.

None of these legislators represents a dominant share of CD6’s Democratic electorate.  Two of them – Miller (20%) and Reznik (16%) – represent a larger share of CD6 than Raskin did of CD8 (14%).  But Raskin’s in-district supporters were intensely invested in him and he was able to reach into other districts through many surrogates.  These legislators would have to do something similar in order to acquire an advantage over the others.

Now, what of the 43% of CD6 Democratic voters who do not live in any of these districts?  Aside from the handful who reside in four precincts in Legislative District 14, they live in the district’s four Western Maryland counties.  In the CD8 primary, Trone won absolute majorities of the vote in both Carroll and Frederick Counties.  Trone also won pluralities in Damascus, Gaithersburg, Glenmont/Norbeck, Potomac and Rockville.  The implication is clear: if each of these legislators gets in and holds most of their home territory, Trone could still win by running up big margins in Western Maryland and picking up pockets of votes in UpCounty MoCo.  Let’s remember that MANY of these residents were exposed to Trone’s millions of dollars in broadcast TV commercials last year.

Electoral Experience

Most of Trone’s potential rivals have not won an intense, hard-fought election like last year’s race in CD8.  Frick and Reznik were originally appointed to their seats.  Miller was inducted onto the District 15 incumbents’ slate in 2010 prior to winning an open Delegate seat.  The exception is Manno, who withstood some of the most depraved political attacks in recent MoCo history when he took out incumbent Senator Mike Lenett (D-19).  But CD6 is much larger than D19 and the potential reach of Manno’s prodigious door knocking – his favorite campaign tactic – is in question.

And then there is Trone himself.  After three months of all-out campaigning, Trone eclipsed a field of initially better-known candidates to finish on the brink of victory.  Our interview with Trone last year is instructive.  As a self-made man, Trone has a swagger that is off-putting to some who meet him.  But he has also endured significant tragedy and failure in his life that was key to his later triumphs.  Trone has an almost preternatural ability to reflect, learn and adapt.  His cover picture on Twitter even advises visitors to “Try Things… Get Comfortable with Failure.”

The thought of a wiser, more experienced and more strategic Trone should inspire dread in potential opponents.

And yet, Trone can be beaten.  Let’s look at the man who did it.  Jamie Raskin started out as one of MoCo’s best-ever challengers when he defeated twenty-year incumbent District 20 Senator Ida Ruben.  He spent the next ten years building progressive networks at both the national and local levels.  The former helped him raise millions of dollars; the latter gave him a grass-roots army that has been seldom seen in this county.  No prospective CD6 candidate checks all those boxes.

It will take two things to stop Trone if he runs for an open seat in CD6.  First, most of the MoCo legislators mentioned in the Sun would have to not run, thereby giving the remaining candidates room for electoral growth.  And second, one of Trone’s rivals would have to run the race of his or her life, far exceeding previous performances.

Raskin proved that it can be done.  But can it be done again?

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The Liquor Monopoly’s Preposterous Claims of Improvement

Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

On February 4, representatives of Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) headed to Annapolis to brief the county’s state legislators on their operations. The stakes were high. DLC’s Executive Director had abruptly left his position six days before and legislation was pending on whether to allow voters to decide on opening up the monopoly to private sector competition. As of this writing, 2000 people have signed a petition in support of that legislation.

DLC’s message to the legislators is that improvements were underway, but they would take two months to take effect. As Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) noted, that coincides with the end of the General Assembly’s session. Barkley said, “If we’re going to do anything, we have to do it before we get out of here—and of course, after a two-month period, it’s too late.”

DLC also claimed to have a 98.5% delivery accuracy rate. Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) replied, “If all of what the DLC does is comparable to or better than private industry . . . why does every restaurant manager I talk with beg me to get rid of this system?”

DLC has had problems and has been promising to make improvements for a long, LONG time. Consider the following.

  1. In 2005, then-DLC Executive Director George Griffin (who just recently left) outlined his improvement efforts to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association:

In a department-wide project called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), the DLC is upgrading its systems in all areas, with an emphasis on integration. “POS (point of sale), inventory control, accounting, the warehouse, licensee ordering, buyers: they’ll all be tied together,” said Griffin, “from the retail stores, which will have running inventories, to our drivers, who will be equipped with handhelds.”

Ten years later, the county’s Inspector General found that DLC’s warehouse was being run with sticky notes. The Inspector General found that the warehouse was missing as many as 154 cases a day without anyone investigating why.

  1. A 2007 article in the Washington City Paper noted extensive problems with DLC’s special order system. The article contains this quote:

When Griffin took over the DLC, he inherited a department with low morale and little motivation. “The department had not been operating well and was sort of seen as an outcast from the rest of the county government in a way,” the director says. “I used to joke around and say, ‘This department was like, in a family, the crazy aunt who lives upstairs. None of us talk about her. You’re kind of embarrassed to admit that she exists, but everyone wants her money.”

The same problems persist a decade later. Many licensees would not refer to the DLC as “a crazy aunt” because that characterization is far too kind.

  1. A year ago, DLC launched a new inventory system to catalog, order and deliver its products. Griffin said, “It was a little rough getting started, but it’s gradually getting better.” But NBC4 found that the new system made ordering and delivery worse. American Tap Room owner Mike Jones said, “It’s getting increasingly worse. . . . This has been one of the most frustrating processes I’ve ever been involved in, where you’re almost pleading and begging with officials to get something done.”
  1. In late November, the County Executive said that complaints about DLC were “overblown.” One month later, DLC suffered a historic delivery meltdown in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
  1. Last June, DLC developed an “Improvement Action Plan” to improve its operations. The Restaurant Association of Maryland surveyed its members about how DLC was doing eight months after this plan was adopted. Here are a few survey responses from restaurant owners and managers on a number of issues.

On Special Orders

What frustrates me the most is the lack of care/regard for special order items. After waiting 15 days for certain cases of wine, I get a camera shot from my vendor who is at the warehouse staring at all the missing cases just sitting in my designated space. Infuriating!

Not been able to speak to someone who knows what is going on with my order 2) If you run out of product, good luck getting it back in stock at a reasonable time with a once a week delivery and order system is impossible to keep availability. 3) For weeks I was out of several wines and after waiting and talking to the sales rep. I was informed that the wines were delivered to the county. Called them and talked to several people without a clear answer so I decided to go to DLC and find out what they had there for me. They were surprised that the wines were there because they could not find them on the computer as being delivered and in my cubicle waiting for weeks to be delivered.

On Regular Stock

The DLC constantly runs out of inventory, delivers late and never apologizes. Also, anytime you go to the DLC to pick stuff up, all you see are guys standing around by the ‘no smoking’ sign, and smoking. They are lazy and many of them do nothing.

Products that should be widely available are out of stock – Blue Moon six pack bottles, Corona 24 oz. cans, Sierra Nevada six pack bottles.

On Billing

I was charged for 6 cases of stock wine that NEVER CAME! I spent hours on the phone trying to resolve the issue. They sent the 6 cases . . . of the WRONG wine 2 weeks after the fact. Never refunded the money and wouldn’t take the order back.

It is impossible to know track on the DLC website how much will be pulled out of your bank account and when. The amounts directly debited from our bank account never match the invoices.

On Delivery

The DLC doesn’t care for or understand the products they are delivering. It’s why we receive wrong boxes, out of date items, improperly handled merchandise and a general sense lacking of any genuine appreciation for their jobs.

Over all there is no sense of urgency or organization with the DLC. Paying 20%+ for product over what we pay in DC is just insane. Recently we did not get product in for a wine dinner we were having and we placed the order 3 weeks prior and they even showed it as an in stock!

The above history makes it obvious that DLC’s promises to improve cannot be believed. Delegate Barkley is right; they are trying to run out the clock and prevent anything positive from getting done. And what should get done?

Thousands of people know the answer: End the Monopoly.

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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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Mizeur is Ready For. . .

Former Del. Heather Mizeur lined up to support Hillary Clinton at a recent Ready for Hillary event with many major Maryland heavy hitters:

MizeurRfH

Initially, the most notable part of the invitation was Mizeur joining with erstwhile opponent Gansler to support Clinton and not Gov. Martin O’Malley, who put his muscle behind Brown. But then Heather attacked the budget compromise on her Facebook page and called for progressives to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

MizeurWarren

Outgoing Appropriation Chair Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic icon in this state, was working the phones to urge support for the budget compromise. As became clear to all this year, Heather is a campaign expert and perhaps tying herself to Warren makes it easier to position herself as a progressive alternative to Mikulski in 2016.

However, looking lower on Heather’s Facebook page reveals that Heather has not jumped from the Clinton to the Warren bus but was never committed to either campaign. In fact, she’s also supports Bernie Sanders:

MizeurClinton

The many who read the Washington Post and see the Ready for Hillary invitations but do not read her the fine print on her Facebook page might not realize that Heather is more Ready to Consider Hillary rather than Ready for Hillary.

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MD-06 Tea Leaves

If John Delaney left office for unforeseen reasons, it would kick off something Maryland hasn’t seen since 2006: a Democratic primary for an open seat in the US House. In 2012, the battle for the Democratic nomination was a clear fight between State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola and multimillionaire banker John Delaney. The nuances of the next race are likely to be more subtle. In my estimation, there are three people I am sure would run:

  • State House Majority Leader Kumar Barve (District 17)
  • State Senator Roger Manno (District 19)
  • State Delegate Bill Frick (District 16)

Del. Barve would start out as the clear favorite and would be able to tap into significant sources of funding that might not be available to other candidates: Annapolis economic donors, K Street Economic donors and National Indian American donors. He also represents a larger portion of the District than Sen. Manno or Del. Frick. I believe Del. Barve could raise upwards of $1,500,000-$2,500,000 for this campaign.

Sen. Manno might be able to consolidate the progressive community in general and the labor movement specifically around his candidacy. He has the potential  to raise $400,000-$800,000 for this campaign.

Del. Frick is a highly talented politician and would make a dynamic, attractive (in both senses) congressional candidate. His challenge in his aborted AG Campaign was fundraising. The word on the streets of Annapolis and DC has always been that he lacks the intestinal fortitude for call time.

However, Del. Frick also has an amazing network spanning from B-CC High School to Northwestern University to Harvard Law to a decade at Akin Gump. He could raise substantial sums by tapping into hat network and carve out a constituency by going on Broadcast TV. Del. Frick could raise up to $1,500,000–if he puts in the work.

I’ve also heard rumors that current District 39 Del. Kirill Reznik and former (2006-2010) District 39 Del. Saqib Ali might be interest in throwing their hats in the ring. I think Mr. Ali (who has raised up to a quarter million dollars for his bids for state and local office) would be capable of raising money nationally from the Muslim community. Mr Reznik has an appealing immigrant story that could play well in a Democratic Primary.

I also have heard rumors that Attorney General Doug Gansler could view this as a comeback bid. Doug raised over $6 million dollars in his gubernatorial bid (almost entirely from his personal rolodex). I believe he would be enormously formidable in a congressional bid. Outlook with Gansler in the Race: Lean Gansler. Outlook without Gansler in the race: Lean Barve

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