Tag Archives: Marc Elrich

Updated: Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

This morning, we posted preliminary fundraising totals for candidates in public financing.  But one of those reports was wrong because of a problem with the State Board of Elections’ processing software.  This post contains updated information.

Shortly after our original post, we received the following communication from Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang’s campaign.

Hi Adam, this is Jonathon Rowland, campaign manager for Hoan Dang.  Thank you for the article this morning.  I just want to correct the amount stated.  When we filed with the Board of Elections, our report was duplicated because of a glitch in the system giving us double the amount of donations.  We have been in contact with the Board of Elections since Monday to resolve this issue.  The actual amount of donations is 316.

When your author called Rowland for more details, he said that the Dang campaign found the error first and asked the board to correct it.  Board staff acknowledged the mistake and said that they were working with their IT developer to fix it going forward.  No public funds were ever distributed before the Dang campaign caught the mistake.

Including information provided by Dang’s campaign today, here is the updated comparison of the five campaigns who have applied for public financing.

Dang is not the leader in public financing.  George Leventhal, who is running for Executive, is the overall leader in qualifying contributors and receipts.  (Executive candidates get higher match rates than council candidates.)  Among the council candidates, incumbent Hans Riemer leads in qualifying contributors and Bill Conway leads in matching funds.  This should not discount a strong performance by Dang, whose financial numbers are not terribly different from Riemer’s.

Going forward, we hope the state prevents the kinds of mistakes that affected Dang’s campaign.  In the initial glitchy filing, Dang supposedly requested $148,328 in public matching funds.  (Again, the IT glitch was not Dang’s fault.)  In the updated filing, Dang requested $74,144 in public matching funds.  That’s a $74,184 difference.  If Dang had not caught the mistake, could that difference have conceivably been paid out?  There’s no evidence available on that point.  But for the good of public confidence in the county’s public financing system, we hope such a mistake never happens.

On a different issue, we asked what happened to Council Member Marc Elrich’s filing for public matching funds in our original post.  Elrich said he had enough contributors to qualify back in June but has not filed yet.  When asked about it on Leventhal surrogate Saqib Ali’s Facebook page, Elrich said his delay in filing was related to a payment his campaign had made to the county party, which was subsequently ruled to not be in compliance with public financing requirements.  We reprint Elrich’s statement below.

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Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

Correction: The numbers for Hoan Dang in this post are inaccurate.  For updated numbers on Dang and a response by Marc Elrich, please visit our updated post.

One of the virtues of public campaign financing is the rapid release of financial reports for participating candidates.  That’s right, folks – for this group of candidates, there is no need to wait until January to see fundraising numbers.  That’s because when they qualify for public matching funds and request them from the state, their financial reports are released almost immediately.  This is terrific for all data junkies like your author as well as inquiring minds among the readers!

Below is a summary for the five candidates who have applied to receive matching funds from the state.  Bear in mind the following characteristics of the data.  First, the number of qualifying contributors means the number of contributors who live in Montgomery County.  Non-residents can contribute up to $150 each but the state will not authorize matching funds for them.  Second, the individual contribution amounts are the basis on which the state determines how much in public matching funds will be released.  Third, the date of cash balance is important because it varies depending on when the applications were sent in.  That is unlike the regular reporting dates on which financial positions are summarized at the same time for all candidates.  And fourth, for those candidates who have only filed once (which includes everyone except George Leventhal), the cash balances do not include public funds from the state.  To estimate the cash positions of those candidates, the cash balance should be added to the public matching funds they requested.

What do we make of this?

1.  Let’s start with the obvious: there are a lot of small checks out there!  While many contributors are probably donating to more than one of these five campaigns, it’s not a stretch to say that close to a thousand people will have contributed by some point in the near future.  It’s hard to make comparisons with the past without exquisitely detailed research to back it up (anyone want to pay us for that?) but our hunch is that this is a larger early donor pool than in prior cycles.

2.  The big story here is Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang.  At-Large Council Members George Leventhal (who is running for Executive) and Hans Riemer (the only incumbent running for reelection) have a combined 22 years of representing the whole county.  But Dang had more in-county contributors than either one of them!  How does that happen?  Dang ran for Delegate in District 19 in 2010.  He was financially competitive, raising $103,418, but he finished fifth out of six candidates.  There was no reason going into this race to believe that Dang would receive more grassroots financial support than Leventhal or Riemer.  But so far, he has.

3.  Dang is not the only story.  Look at first-time candidate Bill Conway, who collected more private funds than Riemer primarily by having a larger average contribution.  In most elections, challengers struggle to be financially competitive with incumbents.  But the early performances of Conway and Dang relative to Riemer suggest that, at least among publicly-financed candidates, some or all of that gap may be closed.  Our hunch is that a group of at-large candidates will all hit the public matching funds cap of $250,000 and therefore have similar budgets heading into mail season.  The big question will then become how those totals compare to what candidates in the traditional system, like Marilyn Balcombe, Charlie Barkley, Ashwani Jain and Cherri Branson, will raise.

4.  Where is Marc Elrich?  The three-term at-large Council Member and Executive candidate announced that he had qualified for matching funds back in June at roughly the same time that Leventhal and Riemer said the same.  Riemer followed up by filing for matching funds and Leventhal did it twice.  Why hasn’t Elrich filed more than two months after his announcement?  One suspects that the bewildering paperwork requirements of public financing are responsible for the delay, but political types are starting to chatter about it.

That’s all for now.  Candidates, keep those reports coming in so your favorite blog has more material for the readers!

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Evaluating the Candidates for County Executive: Marc Elrich

The field is incomplete but we already have three major Democratic candidates for county executive in Councilmembers Roger Berliner (D 1), Marc Elrich (D At-Large), and George Leventhal (D-At Large). All three have eyed this office for some time. Now, thanks to term limits, they have to move up or out. Today, I begin a series taking a look at each of their candidacies, starting with Marc Elrich.

Introducing Marc Elrich

Former Takoma Park Councilmember Marc Elrich had to run repeatedly before he won a seat on the County Council. Once he did, he flourished with the voters but less so with his colleagues. In his last two elections, despite relatively small campaign kitties, Marc emerged clearly on top of the primary for the four at-large seats.

But he finds himself on the end of 8-1 Council votes more often than others, and George Leventhal defenestrated him from the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee when he became council chair. He has never been elected Council chair, though that could work to his advantage, as it aids his efforts to position himself as an outsider running against the status quo during a time when even people in Montgomery County seem dissatisfied with the establishment.

The Progressive Champion

Marc’s lane in the race is as the solid progressive candidate. Put another way, if you liked Bernie’s strong stand in favor of taking meaningful action to do something about economic inequality and aid people who are struggling, you should love Marc. He has been the most consistent and staunch progressive on the Council, most recently championing increasing the minimum wage to $15. He is popular with County employee unions with MCGEO’s Gino Renne hugging him especially tight in an embrace that could get uncomfortable. Marc doesn’t take large contributions from developers, though he’s hardly popular among them in any case.

Personal Strengths

His strengths, however, go beyond his natural appeal to the Democratic progressive base centered in Takoma Park and Silver Spring. Marc is extremely well-liked among civic activists around the County because he listens and takes their concerns more seriously than any other councilmember.

Though some find him brusque, more appreciate his individualized attention to neighborhoods all around the County, and his general willingness to have a respectful conversation even if you disagree. A former teacher, Marc possesses the rare ability to explain complex issues in ways that people can understand and without resorting to insider argot.

His Big Idea: Bus-Rapid Transit

Marc can also claim to have brought the major (only?) out-of-the-box idea to the Council in the last twelve years in his plan for a bus-rapid transit network around the County. I’ve long found the idea appealing because it provides a means to give Montgomery County a real public transit system at a far more reasonable price than either light or heavy rail. It also has the potential to reduce tension between civic and business organizations, as it would genuinely address transportation concerns and simultaneously allow for more development.

Marc, however, has found it more difficult to promote his vision among his colleagues despite strong voter support. Indeed, his fellow at-large councilmembers—Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer—have taken a jaundiced approach to BRT even though they have remained nominally supportive. (The at-large councilmembers have a natural habit of looking jealously at each other since they compete at election time.) After twelve years, we are only now getting ready to take action to construct a pilot BRT line, and Roger Berliner would argue that it took his leadership to obtain unanimous Council support to move forward.

Challenges for Marc’s Candidacy

While having many strengths, Marc also faces challenges in his bid for county executive. Business is terrified of the idea of him, perceiving as madness his advocacy for left-wing ideas from rent control to a higher minimum wage to making commercial developers pay more for improvements that benefit them to his support for retaining the County’s antiquated liquor monopoly.

His advocacy against a system that he perceives as screwing over most people to benefit the wealthy fits within his political brand and has real appeal to much of the Democratic base. Still, Montgomery remains an affluent place with many card-carrying members of the establishment. Neighborhoods at all income levels espouse conventional middle-class values and are filled with people who want to move up rather than tear the system down.

Marc will need to operate within their comfort zone if he wants to win and his occasional burst of hardcore left-wing sentiments on non-economic questions may be off putting to more skittish supporters and provide ammunition to his opponents. His recent sharing of a video attacking Winston Churchill on Facebook provides a good example. While Marc sees it as balancing the hagiography of Churchill’s wartime leadership to create a more historically honest picture, it looks bizarre and distracts from his fundamental economic message and political brand. It weakens the valuable bonds that Marc has built with many communities through long-term cultivation and hard work.

Conclusion

Regardless of who runs, Marc will be a top-tier candidate. He will run as the progressive champion and should harvest the lion’s share of their votes. Other candidates will find it hard to challenge him on this terrain and among this constituency.

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Two Tiers in the At-Large Council Race, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

The race for Montgomery County Executive is starting to draw some attention from the press, but relatively little has been written about the upcoming election for the County Council’s four at-large seats.  That’s too bad considering the historic nature of the race.  The council has never had three open at-large seats since its current structure was created in 1990, but it does now thanks to term limits.  Combined with the open District 1 seat, the council will have four openings in 2018.  Whoever wins those seats, along with the next County Executive, will be running the county for as long as the next twelve years.

We are fourteen months out from the election and the race is just now beginning to form, but we are reasonably sure of one thing: candidates who have run before, even if they lost (respectably), will have an advantage over those who have not.  That’s because of two reasons.  First, they have electoral experience and don’t have the often-steep learning curve of brand-new candidates.  Second, they will have leftover support, relationships and name recognition from their prior races.  Why do we emphasize this?  MoCo electoral history is full of candidates who lost and later came back to win.  Consider just a few examples.

Steve Silverman

Silver Spring attorney Steve Silverman took on all three incumbent District 20 Delegates in 1994 and lost by more than 2,000 votes.  But he captured a council at-large seat four years later and finished first for reelection in 2002.  Silverman, as shrewd and canny as they come, is still a player in county politics as a co-founder of the advocacy group Empower Montgomery and as a successful lobbyist.

A 1994 Silverman mailer about school construction.  Some things never change.

Phil Andrews

Former Common Cause of Maryland Executive Director Phil Andrews ran for an at-large council seat in 1994 emphasizing his work on curbing lobbyists and big campaign donors.  He finished sixth, but came back four years later to knock out District 3 incumbent Bill Hanna.  Andrews would go on to serve four terms on the council.

A 1994 Andrews mailer.  Reading his comments on his time at Common Cause, it is no surprise that he would create the county’s public campaign financing system twenty years later.

Roger Berliner

Energy sector lawyer Roger Berliner ran in the 2000 District 1 special election primary and lost to Pat Baptiste, who subsequently was defeated by Republican Howie Denis for the seat.  Berliner came back six years later to beat Denis and has represented the district ever since.

A Berliner mailer from 2000.  He has much better glasses now!

Hans Riemer

Former Rock the Vote political director Hans Riemer lost a 2006 open seat race in District 5 to school board member Valerie Ervin.  Four years later, Riemer finished second in the at-large race and is the only incumbent eligible to run again.

Riemer vows to build the Purple Line in 2006 or die trying.  For the sake of his wife and two kids, we hope the project is allowed to proceed!

Marc Elrich

Former MCPS teacher and Takoma Park City Council Member Marc Elrich is the patron saint of persistent candidates.  Elrich ran four straight times for County Council before being elected at-large in 2006 and has finished first in the last two elections.  Elrich’s longevity, tenacity and consistency of message will make him a formidable candidate for Executive.

An Elrich mailer from 1994.  What did we say about things never changing?

We love history like many Seventh State readers.  But what does this have to do with 2018?  We’ll explore that in Part Two.

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Gino Stands by His Man

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Member Marc Elrich held his kickoff event for the County Executive race in Bethesda this past Sunday.  One of his guests was Gino Renne, President of the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO), the largest of MoCo’s non-education county employee unions.  The picture below says it all.

Photo by Kevin Gillogly.  More pictures available on Kevin’s Flickr account.

Elrich is a beloved figure by many in the local labor movement.  He has had support from almost all of the area’s major labor organizations in his recent runs for office.  His lead sponsorship of two minimum wage bills has strengthened those relationships.  Of specific importance to MCGEO, Elrich was the only Council Member to vote against cutting the union’s negotiated 8 percent raise in the last budget, which also included a 9 percent property tax hike.  Additionally, Elrich is a strong defender of the county liquor monopoly, famously accusing anti-monopoly restaurant owners of stealing and whining and then getting banned by one of them.  Protecting the monopoly is one of MCGEO’s highest priorities.

Gino’s thumbs-up is not an official endorsement.  The union has to go through its process, including candidate interviews and questionnaires.  But the symbolism of the picture above is hard to miss.  Elrich could very well be labor’s pick for Executive.

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Leventhal and Trone Duke It Out: Both Lose

George Leventhal and David Trone, two prospective candidates for county executive in 2018, made comments seemingly designed to make news–and they did in Bethesda Beat–as they debated the issue of pay-to-play politics. Leventhal charged that Trone’s contributions amount to pay-for-pay politics while Trone called Leventhal “a fool, F-O-O-L, and a bully.”

Trone’s Contradictory Statements

Leventhal’s attack centered on Trone’s political contributions:

“[T]he Trone brothers made enormous political contributions in order to get access to the Wisconsin market for their product,” Leventhal said. “They’re indicative of just one trend in the industry of paying off politicians to get what they want. The Trones have done that over a long period of time.”

Indeed, during his congressional campaign, Trone admitted bluntly “I sign my checks to buy access.” Now, he’s trying to walk it back:

Trone said he and his brother make donations to elected officials whom they believe have an interest in furthering “the common good” and who support economic initiatives that benefit the consumer.

Not Leventhal’s Best Issue Either

Leventhal attacks Trone for making supposedly corrupting donations to buy access. However, Leventhal has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from business:

Leventhal says that he has never allowed any contributor to “buy access” but is well known for his support of development interests. While he contends otherwise, Leventhal’s situation is no different from that of any other person who accepted money from the Trone brothers.

Now, George Leventhal sidesteps this past showering in funds from business and touts his participation in the public campaign finance system as evidence of new purity:

“That’s precisely why I’m so delighted to participate in the public finance system,” Leventhal said. “That option wasn’t available to me previously, but I believe it will take the influence of big money out of politics.”

Except that not all of his colleagues took as much “big money” in the past as Leventhal. Marc Elrich, another rival for county executive, received very little from business. The 32% share of Elrich’s contributions from individual donations under $150 was also twice as high as the 16% of Leventhal’s contributions.

Leventhal’s Lurch Left

Following the debate on raising the minimum wage, this is now the second issue in a very short period on which George Leventhal has hugged Marc Elrich tightly. Abandoning his past business ties, Leventhal touts a $15/hour minimum wage with the fervor of a convert, and regularly plugs his embrace of public financing.

The strategy of imprinting himself in the media as the true progressive tribune is not a bad one. In recent weeks, his combination of abrasive outspokenness has gained him more media attention than his rivals. As Trump showed in the Republican primary, that can work wonders.

On the other hand, Leventhal has a long record. Will his new embrace of a much higher minimum wage and attacks on major campaign contributions gain him progressive support? Or will it just leave primary voters wondering why they should vote for mini-Marc when Marc is also on the ballot?

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Leventhal Lurches Left on the Minimum Wage

As he prepares to run for County Executive, Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large) is taking a no-one-to-my-left approach on the minimum wage. He has heartily embraced the legislation by fellow Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15/hour.

The legislation, recently vetoed by County Executive Ike Leggett after passing the Council by 5-4, would have indexed the minimum wage. Consistent with his position, Leventhal came out strongly on Facebook against a proposal by Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s) to limit the abilities of local jurisdictions to legislate on the minimum wage, and pointed out that the County’s current minimum wage law is not indexed for inflation:

His campaign consultant, Karen Murphy, then posted the first comment applauding Leventhal and attacking both Davis and Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1), who voted against the legislation to increase the wage:

Berliner is a likely rival to Leventhal for the open county executive post in 2018.

At this point, my fellow blogger Adam Pagnucco, who formerly worked for the Council, pointed out that Leventhal had voted for an amendment sponsored by Berliner to strip indexing from the county’s minimum wage in 2013:

(Here is the link to the meeting in the screenshot of Adam’s post.)

George agreed that Adam is correct but then noted that Adam has done work for Berliner as a campaign consultant. Irrelevant but fair enough. On the other hand, it was only at this point that it was revealed that Karen Murphy, who earlier posted the SHAME on Berliner comment, works for Leventhal.

Can we look forward to Karen Murphy revealing her employer and pay in future political posts? (Note: Adam says he was paid less but the debate over the amount is not important here.)

George later explained his evolution on the issue:

The proposed new minimum wage of $15.00 is a 30 percent increase over $11.50. Councilmembers who voted no expressed concerns that a minimum wage set above a certain point could crimp the county’s economy. Councilmember Leventhal argued this point passionately during the 2013 debate. So this new lack of caution is a real shift.

The politics of this debate are interesting. The county’s Democratic Party continues to shift left, so taking a vocal, hardline pro-minimum wage stance may be politically advantageous. This should benefit Elrich, yet another candidate for county executive, and Leventhal would hope he too would reap the benefits, or at least mend relations with unions who didn’t endorse him 2014.

In theory, this leaves business oriented Democrats open for Berliner, or another potential candidate like David Trone. However, Leventhal has had strong developer and business support in the past and would likely try to win their support again, if only as clearly preferable to Elrich from their point of view.

(Note: I am not a consultant to any campaign or a supporter of anyone for county executive at this time. I have actively supported both Elrich and Berliner in some of their past Council races.)

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BREAKING: Brookeville to Open Montgomery’s First Casino

brookeville-acadBrookeville Academy

Comptroller Peter Franchot’s discovery that the Town of Brookeville owes $7.2 million to the State of Maryland due to his office’s miscalculation of municipal tax receipts for many years placed the Town in quite a bind, as the municipality of just 134 souls had no idea how it could repay the debt.

Today, Brookeville Commission President Katherine Farquhar announced that, after working on the issue with the County and the State, Brookeville will open a casino in historic Brookeville Academy (pictured above), which is owned by the Town, to raise monies to pay off the debt to the State.

Franchot praised the decision, stating that he “appreciates the Town’s gratitude to my office for finding the errors” and plans to award the Town the Comptroller’s Medal for its “creative solution” to the Town’s financial difficulties.

Members of the County Council had initially expressed concerns regarding the project. But Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) has now announced that the casino will be the first recipient of the microloan program he has advertised on Facebook in anticipation of his 2018 County Executive bid.

In a press release, Berliner said “I’m so pleased that the microloan program will make the casino possible. It will help jump start Federal Realty’s development of the outbuildings for future expansion, showing the importance of partnerships like these.”

After initial opposition, Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-5) came on board once the Town agreed to hire MCGEO workers transferred from county liquor stores. “They know as much about gaming as beer, wine and liquor, so this is a great opportunity,” said MCGEO President Gino Renne.

Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gigi Godwin agreed with the union president, as she commended the County for brushing aside development concerns with the adoption of a special Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) over the objection of the Civic Federation. “We need the County to take a more proactive approach on business.”

Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-AL) also applauded the project, saying that he was happy to learn that Brookeville “is open to serving craft beers” that an official taskforce determined were crucial to revitalizing nightlife in the County.

The sole casino opponent, Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-AL), pointed out that Georgia Ave. is already a parking lot and that the development violated County traffic tests. His statement was interrupted by George Leventhal, who brusquely asked Elrich “Why do you care about people coming from Howard County? Haven’t you figured out we ignore you yet?”

In contrast, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-AL) expressed optimism regarding transportation: “SafeTrack has been such a success. We should use the projected savings on Metro to initiate a study on extending the Purple Line to Brookeville.”

The casino will have a War of 1812 theme, reflecting Brookeville’s role as the “U.S. Capital for a Day” in 1814 during the British occupation of Washington. The building’s exterior will be preserved as the interior is redesigned in a “modern Madisionian” style.

(P.S. I think most have figured out by now, but yes, this is satire. Happy New Year.)

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Pesticides Won’t Kill This Debate

George Leventhal Debates the Issue on WMAL

Council President George Leventhal and Councilmember Marc Elrich have taken the lead on a measure that would create new county regulations regarding the use of pesticides. Specifically, their bill would:

  • “require posting of notice for certain lawn applications of pesticide;”
  • “prohibit the use of certain pesticides on lawns;”
  • “prohibit the use of certain pesticides on County-owned property;”
  • “require the County to adopt an integrated pest management program for certain County-owned property.”

The bill would not impact the application of pesticides on farm land in the County’s Agricultural Reserve but it would affect public County ball fields as well as private property. Montgomery County is usually strongly in favor of environmental regulations but these have already generated controversy that is likely to heat up.

Whatever you think of the bill, it was a gutsy piece of legislation to introduce precisely because of the heated debate. While gaining further support from the environmental community, Leventhal and Elrich risk facing a real backlash from opposed voters.

My understanding is that members of the Council tried to draft a compromise bill that would garner support, or at least acquiescence, from potential major opponents. However, that initiative having failed, Council President Leventhal decided that he might as well take the heat for introducing a firmer measure since he could not gain backing for a more moderate bill.

While funding for core services has been the hot debate in past years due to large budget cutbacks, this promises to attract the interest of many on both sides.

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