Tag Archives: Lynne Harris

How Many More Votes Will be Counted?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As of right now, here is the status of key election results in MoCo.

School Board At-Large: Lynne Harris 53%, Sunil Dasgupta 46%

School Board District 2: Rebecca Smondrowski 60%, Michael Fryar 39%

School Board District 4: Shebra Evans 66%, Steve Solomon 33%

Circuit Court Judge: Bibi Berry 23%, David Boynton 21%, Michael McAuliffe 21%, Christopher Fogleman 20%, Marylin Pierre 14%

Question A (Authored by Council Member Andrew Friedson, freezes property tax rate with unanimous council vote required to exceed): For 62%, Against 38%

Question B (Authored by Robin Ficker, would limit property tax receipt growth to rate of inflation and remove council’s ability to exceed): For 42%, Against 58%

Question C (Authored by Council Member Evan Glass, changes county council structure to 4 at-large seats and 7 district seats): For 61%, Against 39%

Question D (Authored by Nine Districts for MoCo, changes county council structure to 9 district seats): For 42%, Against 58%

You can see the latest results here for school board and judicial races and here for ballot questions.

But all of this is subject to a HUGE caveat: not all the votes have been counted. How many more remain?

Three batches have yet to be counted. First are the remaining election day votes. As of right now, only 3 of 40 election day vote centers in the county have reported 80% or more of their results. At this moment, 6,474 election day votes have been cast for president. That suggests tens of thousands of votes more could come in.

Second are the remaining mail votes. According to the State Board of Elections, MoCo voters requested 378,327 mail ballots. At this moment, 177,628 mail votes have been cast for president. This suggests that roughly 200,000 mail votes are out there. Not all of them will ultimately result in tabulated votes but it’s still a lot.

Third are provisional ballots. How many are out there is not known right now. However, this will be by far the smallest of these three categories and they will make a difference only in tight races.

So let’s put it all together. At this moment, 312,452 total votes for president have been tabulated. (I don’t have an official turnout number, but since the presidential race has the least undervoting, this figure is probably reasonably close to turnout so far.) This suggests – VERY roughly – that 55-60% of the votes have been counted, with the vast majority of outstanding votes coming from mail ballots.

What does that mean for the results above? To determine that, we need to examine how different the election day votes and the mail votes were from the total votes tabulated so far since those two categories are where most of the remaining votes are coming from. And of those two categories, mail votes will be far larger than election day votes.

President

MoCo’s votes for president (as well as Congress) are not in doubt but the differential results by voting mode are suggestive of a pattern affecting other races. Former Vice-President Joe Biden has received 79% of total votes as of this moment. However, he has received 51% of election day votes, 65% of early votes and 90% of mail votes. That illustrates a strong partisan pattern associated with voting, with election day votes most friendly to Republicans and mail votes most friendly to Democrats. Keep that in mind as you proceed to the races below.

Circuit Court Judges

Challenger Marylin Pierre has so far received 14% of early votes, 14% of election day votes, 15% of mail votes and 14% of total votes. Each of the incumbent judges cleared 20% on all of these voting modes. This is a non-partisan race so the partisan pattern noted above has minimal effect here. With little reason to believe that the next batch of mail votes will be different than the mail votes already tabulated, it’s hard to see Pierre pulling ahead.

School Board

The district races are blowouts. Let’s look at the at-large race between Lynne Harris and Sunil Dasgupta. Harris has so far received 53% of early votes, 60% of election day votes, 53% of mail votes and 53% of total votes. These are not big leads but they are fairly consistent. For Dasgupta to pull ahead, he would need to pull at least 55% of the outstanding votes yet to be counted, more than flipping the outcome of the existing votes. Unless the next batch of votes – especially mail – is somehow fundamentally different from what has already been cast, it’s hard to see that happening.

Ballot Questions

There are two things to note here. First, none of these results are close at this moment. Second, while these are technically non-partisan, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party endorsed in opposite directions and both sides worked hard to make their views known. The partisan split seen in the presidential election had an impact on the ballot question results.

First, let’s look at election day voting. Judging by the presidential race, this was the most favorable voting mode for the GOP. Here is how election day voting (so far!) compares to total voting (again, so far).

Question A For Votes: Election day 51%, total 62%
Question B For Votes: Election day 60%, total 42%
Question C For Votes: Election day 52%, total 61%
Question D For Votes: Election day 60%, total 42%

This looks like good news for supporters of Question B (Robin Ficker’s anti-tax question) and Question D (nine districts). After all, there are probably tens of thousands of election day votes yet to be counted.

However, the big majority of outstanding votes are mail ballots. Joe Biden received 90% of mail ballot votes tabulated so far, a sign that Democrats dominated this voting mode. Here is what the mail votes (so far) look like.

Question A For Votes: Mail 68%, total 62%
Question B For Votes: Mail 34%, total 42%
Question C For Votes: Mail 65%, total 61%
Question D For Votes: Mail 33%, total 42%

The mail votes uphold the winning margins of Questions A and C and depress the results for Questions B and D. That’s not a surprise if 1. Democrats voted disproportionately by mail and 2. Democrats stuck with their party’s position on the ballot questions. Indeed, we know here at Seventh State that this post on the Democrats’ statement on the ballot questions got huge site traffic.

As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to say that once the ballot questions turned partisan, it may have been the beginning of the end.

Plenty of votes remain to be counted so let’s respect that. We may know a lot more by the weekend.

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Early Results on MoCo Races

By Adam Pagnucco.

The first batch of votes on MoCo races has been reported. This is VERY early and VERY incomplete. So far, the reports include only early votes and less than half the mail ballots requested by MoCo voters with no election day votes tabulated. All of that means these races are FAR from decided, folks!

All of that said, here are the earliest results. Bear in mind that the final percentages are going to be different, but how different they will be cannot yet be said.

School Board At-Large: Lynne Harris 53%, Sunil Dasgupta 46%

School Board District 2: Rebecca Smondrowski 60%, Michael Fryar 39%

School Board District 4: Shebra Evans 67%, Steve Solomon 33%

Question A (Authored by Council Member Andrew Friedson, freezes property tax rate with unanimous council vote required to exceed): For 63%, Against 37%

Question B (Authored by Robin Ficker, would limit property tax receipt growth to rate of inflation and remove council’s ability to exceed): For 41%, Against 59%

Question C (Authored by Council Member Evan Glass, changes county council structure to 4 at-large seats and 7 district seats): For 62%, Against 38%

Question D (Authored by Nine Districts for MoCo, changes county council structure to 9 district seats): For 41%, Against 59%

It is probably not a coincidence that these results mirror the recommendations of the county’s Democratic Party, but the results are far from final.

At some point tonight, the election day votes should be added in. You can refresh them here for school board races and here for ballot questions.

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Who Has the Edge in the At-Large School Board Race?

By Adam Pagnucco.

This year saw one of the most contentious school board primaries in recent county history. With incumbent at-large school board member Jeanette Dixon announcing her retirement, a 13-member field filled social media and press accounts in their quest to succeed her. Perhaps the foremost issue was MCPS’s boundary study, which was both supported and opposed by numerous candidates. The primary’s survivors are former PTA president and MCPS teacher Lynne Harris and Universities at Shady Grove professor Sunil Dasgupta, both boundary study supporters. Now they are facing off in a general election that will reach its conclusion next week.

Who is going to win, Harris or Dasgupta?

Here is what we know. Harris has been endorsed by the Washington Post and is supported by a large number of PTA activists, including her campaign manager, Laura Stewart. Dasgupta has been endorsed by MCEA, wielder of the mighty Apple Ballot, as well as SEIU Local 500, Casa in Action and Progressive Maryland. His campaign manager is MCPS teacher Chris Wilhelm, who ran a strong campaign for county council at-large two years ago. (Wilhelm and Stewart, besides being the campaign managers, are both well-qualified to be school board candidates themselves!) Dasgupta has outraised Harris but neither has the money to effectively reach a general electorate which will probably have a half million voters. The campaign seems devoid of the rancor that characterized the primary although some teachers were upset with Harris’s remarks criticizing MCEA over the issue of school reopening.

Both candidates have written guest blogs on Seventh State. Dasgupta wrote Distance Learning May be Plan C, but it is the Best Option Right Now on July 17 and Changing the Reopening Timeline: a Recipe for Confusion and Anxiety on September 28. Harris wrote Reopening Plans – MCPS is Behind on October 25. All three posts attracted significant numbers of readers.

At first glance, both Harris and Dasgupta seem to have plausible chances to win. But this is Seventh State, so let’s not stop there. On to the spreadsheet!

Let’s look back at the last twenty years of school board races. The table below examines the frequency with which candidates who finish first in a primary go on to win the general election. (Races in which there are two or fewer candidates don’t have primaries but rather advance directly to a general election.) Incumbents appear in bold, with appointed incumbents also appearing in italics.

In the last 18 school board races with both primaries and generals, the top finisher in the primary went on to win the general 15 times. That’s good news for Harris, who finished first in the primary this year. But let’s not declare the race over yet. The three cases in which the top primary finisher did not win have four things in common.

The election had an open seat.
That’s the case this year as Harris and Dasgupta are vying to replace a retiring incumbent.

The top finisher in the primary received a low percentage of the total vote.
In the 2000 at-large race, Charles Haughey finished first in the primary with 26% of the vote. In the 2012 district 2 race, Fred Evans finished first in the primary with 25% of the vote. In the 2018 at-large race, Julie Reiley finished first in the primary with 32% of the vote. All three would go on to lose the general. Harris’s percentage in the primary, 29%, is in the same ballpark as these other candidates.

The second finisher in the primary had either the Post or the Apple Ballot.
In the 2000 at-large race, Sharon Cox was endorsed by the Post. In the 2012 district 2 race, Rebecca Smondrowski was endorsed by the Post. In the 2018 at-large race, Karla Silvestre had the Apple Ballot. All three came back from second-place finishes in the primary to win the general. As noted above, Dasgupta has the Apple.

The difference between the top and second finishers in the primary was five points or less.
In 2000, Cox trailed Haughey by 1.8 points in the primary. In 2012, Smondrowski trailed Evans by 2.6 points. In 2018, Silvestre trailed Reiley by 4.1 points. All three came back to win the general. Harris led Dasgupta in this year’s primary by 8.6 points. That’s a bigger margin than the other three races discussed here.

And so, Dasgupta meets three of the four conditions under which second place primary finishers won school board general elections over the last 20 years. Only the margin by which Harris finished first in the primary augurs against him.

So what do you think, readers? Does Harris have the edge because she won the primary by almost 9 points? Or can Dasgupta come back to win?

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Reopening Plans – MCPS is Behind

Guest column by Lynne Harris, Candidate for Montgomery County Board of Education At-Large.

Reopening schools – safely – is critical. As an MCPS teacher, parent, a nurse and a public health expert, I have been closely following public health guidance, evolving science around COVID, and the work of school systems all around the world that have opened during the pandemic. I’m disappointed that MCPS lags so far behind almost every school district in Maryland. Twenty of our state’s 24 school districts have begun bringing some students back. To prevent irreversible learning and opportunity loss, we need a public health compliant, student-focused plan to start providing some level of in-person instruction to students.

It’s critically important to have a CDC-compliant plan now to bring small groups of students into our schools, periodically. Those most in need of in-person instruction include students vulnerable to learning loss, struggling students, young learners, students with special needs, and students in hands-on CTE programs like mine. That plan needs to ensure that MCPS and the County Health Department are in continuous collaboration, and have a well-thought out and well-communicated plan to move back and forth between fully virtual and hybrid instruction as Montgomery County’s COVID numbers change. Some say that’s hard, but school systems all over are doing that now.

SCHOOLS ARE ALREADY OPEN!

Planning to reopen doesn’t’ require re-inventing the wheel. We can look at how school systems around the nation and the world are educating the next generation face-to-face during a global pandemic. Six of the nation’s ten largest school systems – some with hundreds of thousands more students than MCPS – have reopened. It’s not that MCPS can’t devise a safe plan, it’s that MCPS hasn’t yet created one.

To see how this can work safely, look no further than our own schools. They’re already in use. MCPS for-profit learning pods and low-cost equity hubs are currently operating in more than 60 schools. Private schools in Montgomery County are open too – here’s an interesting piece from Education Week written by a MoCo middle school teacher teaching at one of them.

REOPENING SAFELY

Almost every school system that has reopened devised a hybrid plan, with a mix of in-person and virtual learning. Planning starts by sharing information with communities and providing a firm date for staff and families to opt in or out of in-person instruction. That data is essential for planning – once a school system knows which staff and students will participate only virtually, then it can make school-specific plans for hybrid instruction.

Most school systems have started by bringing in the most vulnerable learners and early learners (mentioned above) first. They are at highest risk for irreversible learning loss. And pragmatically, it’s easier to devise a plan for pre-K and elementary schools, where most students are together in a single classroom – than for middle and high schools where students typically change classes four to eight times daily.

In school districts where partial reopening is working:

Masks are mandatory.

Students and staff can opt for virtual only instruction.

Health screenings are routine, with firm guidelines. Some are completed online daily before students and staff enter the building. Anyone with a COVID-19 exposure must notify the school and self-quarantine. Contact-tracing is handled quickly with health officials. Anyone who feels unwell stays home.

Common spaces are marked for social distancing and equipped with supplies for hand hygiene.

Arrival and dismissal procedures minimize crowding, utilizing as many entrance/exits as feasible so students and staff enter and leave from the exit nearest their classroom.

Groups of students remain together (cohort) throughout the school day – eating lunch together, taking handwashing breaks together, going outside together.

Enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols include restrictions on multiple use items in classrooms, socially distanced classroom arrangements, and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

One day per week, usually Wednesday, is virtual for everyone, allowing for deeper cleaning of spaces mid-week.

Staff, students and families know the plan for pivoting back and forth between hybrid and virtual instruction as community COVID numbers change, and understand how they will receive information about community COVID status and school operations.

MCPS’s work with our County Health Department should yield guidelines for safe operations and allow each of our 208 schools to create its own plan for space utilization. Every one of our schools is unique – in enrollment size, building size and layout, and the presence (or not) of special programs. All of those things matter in figuring out how to safely bring some students and staff back into classrooms, and how to safely and efficiently use school space and maintain social distancing.

FACTS VS. FEAR

I hear some people talk about MCPS reopening from a place of fear. That’s understandable – we’re living through a global pandemic. We need to temper fear and rhetoric with reality, knowledge and fact. Zero risk is impossible. Wherever people gather there is always the possibility for illness to spread. Think about it: have you traveled since March? Gone to a gathering of people that you don’t live with? Gone to the grocery store? Gone to a Farmers Market? If so, were conditions tightly controlled and health protocols rigidly observed? There’s always risk.

We have to look at creating a reopening plan through the lens of our purpose as a public school system. Our purpose is to educate students and support students and families. That means we have to look at what’s best for students, and the data is clear – virtual learning is NOT best for the majority of students. Some will suffer irreversible lifetime consequences if we can’t resume some level of in-person instruction.

MCPS is behind schools and learning hubs in our district, most of the systems in our state, and many across our nation and the world. Planning for reopening requires robust collaboration – and it needs to begin now. If none of us are seeing, hearing or learning about that planning, then MCPS is falling even further behind.

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Top Seventh State Stories, September 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in September ranked by page views.

1. Free-For-All
2. Why Montgomery County Ballot Questions B and D Are Truly Bad Ideas You Should Vote Against
3. Harris Blasts MCEA Over School Reopening
4. Harris Apologizes for Comments on School Reopening
5. Progressive-Backed Judge Candidate Courted, Donated to Republicans
6. Changing the Reopening Timeline: A Recipe for Confusion and Anxiety
7. Ballot Question Committee Scorecard
8. Post Editorial: Vote Against All Charter Amendments
9. Judge Candidate on Floyd Cops: “Lock Em Up”
10. Why Progressives Should Support the Friedson Amendment

Free-For-All, which called into question the county’s strategy for dealing with the police department, was the runaway leader this month. That suggests that there is considerable unease about the county’s approach to MCPD which goes far beyond the groups the county hears from regularly. School board candidate Lynne Harris’s criticism of MCEA, for which she later apologized, produced a flood of site traffic. The two posts about circuit court judge candidate Marylin Pierre were circulated by her opponents on the sitting judge slate. The rest of the posts were mostly about MoCo’s charter amendments, on which voting has already begun.

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Teachers Repond to Lynne Harris

Guest blog by Grace Lovelace, David Stein and Kerrin Torres-Meriwether.

Classroom educators in MCPS, such as ourselves, were disappointed by Board of Education candidate Lynne Harris’s comments to the Blair High School newspaper, Silver Chips. A potential Board of Education member should refrain from comments that add to a nation-wide, slanderous campaign against teachers’ unions. While we found her comments to be false and accusatory of her fellow educators and our Association being obstructionist, we appreciate Ms. Harris’s apology.

As we reflect on Ms. Harris’s comments and apology, it is important to clarify the following:

Montgomery County Board of Education members oversee a school system with over 160,000 students and a budget of more than two billion dollars. Board members must choose their public words carefully; they do not have the luxury of speaking off the cuff, even when they are tired.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) and our colleagues across the country have been the most vital voice for guaranteeing safety for staff members and students before returning to schools and worksites.

MCEA and its educators are not to blame for schools being closed, given that we do not make the decision to reopen. In fact, over the last several months, MCEA staff and members have been hard at work advocating and collaborating on the robust virtual program staff members, students, and parents deserve in addition to safe and structured reopening proposals. We have presented MCPS with innovative proposals, including requests for personal protective equipment and adequate sanitation supplies; training for staff members, students, and parents on proper COVID-19 protocols and precautions; and a district matching program for donated resources with equitable distribution to highly impacted schools. MCEA has played a constructive role in ensuring educator seats at the table, as we advocate for educators, students, and their families.

We are proud of the work we and our colleagues do, not only in schools and other worksites but in the additional hours we volunteer with our Association. While they may sometimes disagree with our positions, Board of Education members customarily demonstrate respect for our union’s work. They must inspire confidence among educators and help establish transparent communication between the school district and families. They should promote the profession of educators and amplify their voices; Ms. Harris, in both her original comments and in her apology, failed in this fundamental obligation.

Grace Lovelace is a second-grade teacher at Brown Station Elementary School.
David Stein is a math teacher at Montgomery Blair High School.
Kerrin Torres-Meriwether is a staff development teacher at Watkins Mill High School.

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Harris Apologizes for Comments on School Reopening

By Adam Pagnucco.

School board at-large candidate Lynne Harris, who blasted the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) for allegedly obstructing school reopening, has apologized. Harris issued the statement below on her website.

STATEMENT REGARDING COMMENTS IN SEPT. 27 SILVER CHIPS PRESS RELEASE

I deeply apologize for comments I made to the reporters from Silver Chips, the student newspaper for Montgomery Blair High School. I recognize that the comments hurt and offended fellow teachers and do not reflect my deep respect and gratitude for their dedicated work to support our students.

As a teacher myself, I know how hard MCPS staff members are working during this time of crisis. Many of us are balancing the work with supporting the distance learning of our own kids — that can be a gargantuan task, particularly if you have young learners, or students with special needs. As rewarding as the work is, many of us are feeling fatigue and frustration working 7 days a week to get the job done.

It’s a bad idea to speak to the media when you’re tired and frustrated. My words do not reflect how much I value the hard work of MCPS educators. I am sorry to anyone who feels unappreciated by my poorly-worded comments. Offending hard-working fellow teachers is the last thing I ever intended to do.

I’m grateful to the many teachers and staff who volunteered for the important work on design teams last summer. I also worked on a curriculum review/writing team, which included writing a plan to bring small groups of students safely back into our buildings for specialized training. While teachers were working on these projects, MCEA (the teachers’ union) and MCPS were simultaneously engaged in difficult contract negotiations, impacting a more collaborative approach to create a plan for distance learning.

I hope you’ll read my blog below for a more thorough perspective. Teachers, MCPS, families – we all want to keep students and staff safe. I welcome a meeting with MCEA anytime to clear up any misunderstandings.

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Harris Blasts MCEA Over School Reopening

By Adam Pagnucco.

Silver Chips, the online newspaper for Blair High School, had quite a scoop yesterday. The newspaper asked school board at-large candidates Lynne Harris and Sunil Dasgupta for their opinions on the statement issued by MCPS and its three employee unions about potential reopening for in-person instruction. According to Silver Chips, Harris said the following in an email on Saturday:

Personally I’m completely frustrated that the associations, especially MCEA, would NOT get in the boat and row since Spring to help create meaningful Covid plans for teaching and learning, especially limited in-person instruction––they were obstructionist, inflammatory, and just said ‘no’ to everything. We need plans in place NOW to bring small groups of students into schools safely––for special education instruction, for specialized arts and other programs that require access to MCPS facilities and resources to be equitably delivered, for CTE programs that can’t be delivered virtually etc.

Harris had more to say about this topic on her website.

Silver Chips also carried a reply from Dasgupta that conforms with his guest blog on Seventh State today.

Dasgupta has been endorsed by MCEA (the teachers) and SEIU Local 500 (support staff) among others. Harris has been endorsed by the Washington Post editorial board, which at various times over the years has been critical of MCEA.

During the primary, there weren’t a lot of apparent differences between Harris and Dasgupta as both were defending MCPS’s boundary study from criticism by fellow at-large candidate Stephen Austin, who finished third, and his supporters. Silver Chips has done the public an immense service by revealing a meaningful difference between these candidates.

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Harris, Dasgupta Hold on to Leads

By Adam Pagnucco.

Moments ago, the State Board of Elections updated its vote count of MoCo’s at-large school board race. Lynne Harris and Sunil Dasgupta have been in first and second place since the first counts were released and that has not changed.

At this point, 113,429 votes have been recorded in this race and 123,568 votes have been cast for president. Bethesda Beat reported last week that the county board of elections had received “more than 271,450 ballots” as of Thursday. That number has no doubt gone up since then. That probably means at most half the ballots in MoCo have been counted as of a week after the primary election.

In the District 4 race, incumbent Shebra Evans and Steve Solomon look like they will advance to the general election.

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In-Person Vote Helps Dasgupta Over Austin

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last night’s first results in MoCo’s at-large school board race had a partial count of vote-by-mail ballots. In that count, Lynne Harris had 28.3% of the vote, followed by Sunil Dasgupta (18.4%) and Stephen Austin (16.2%). Dasgupta led Austin by 1,154 votes.

This morning, in-person votes have been posted along with the early vote-by-mail votes. Jay Guan did really well on in-person votes but not enough to break into the top three overall. Meanwhile, Dasgupta added another 186 votes to his lead over Austin. The top two candidates advance to the general election.

Tens of thousands of votes remain to be counted. Final results won’t be available for a while, so keep watching!

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