Tag Archives: Marc Elrich

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?

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.)

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.)

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.

Valerie Ervin Will Be in for the Eighth

valerieervinglogo

UPDATE/Corrections: See bottom of post.

A reliable source tells me that former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin will run for Congress from the Eighth District that is being vacated by Chris Van Hollen who is running for Senate. She will be a top-tier candidate.

Valerie won election to the School Board in 2004 prior to winning the District 5 Council seat in 2006–the seat now held by Tom Hucker.A past President and Vice-President of the County Council, she stepped down in the year before her term ended to take a job with the non-profit Center for Working Families.

Policy

Along with Councilmembers Elrich and Navarro, Ervin worked to raise the minimum wage in Montgomery County just before leaving the Council. Active in the PTA before winning election, she has long been especially interested in education issues, such as universal pre-K and closing the achievement gap.

Many Advantages

While in office, Councilmember Ervin had the knack for being well-liked by both labor and business. Her recent working for the Center for Working Families has only burnished her progressive credentials. In short, she has the potential to appeal to a wide range of voters.

The composition of the electorate works in her favor. The Eighth District is 12% African American but black voters will compose a significantly higher share of primary voters. Democratic primary voters are also disproportionately female, and Ervin is so far the only woman in the race.

School Board members run at large, so she may be the only candidate to have ever been on the ballot throughout the Montgomery County portion of the district. Of course, that would not be the case if Councilmember George Leventhal, her former boss and then colleague, also jumped in the race.

Fundraising

Critical to any effort, however, will be raising money for a successful campaign. The kitty in her Maryland campaign account is essentially empty and I could not find a federal committee listed yet. She has not had to raise the kind of dollars needed for a congressional run in past campaigns.

Nonetheless, I think a disciplined person like Valerie could do it. Backing from EMILY’s list would surely help. The national connections she has made through her activism since leaving the Council may also help her financially. Labor could help provide money as volunteers but there is no way to know which way they’ll jump or if they’ll jump together.

Overlap with Other Candidates

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) now represents many of the same people as Valerie once did on the Council. Assuming he runs, they could compete for many of the same voters geographically in that part of the County, which is rich with Democratic voters. It would probably also aid her campaign if she is the only prominent woman and African-American candidate in the race.

UPDATE/Corrections

I have already received some push back on some of my characterizations in this post. The points made by person who responded are well taken, so I thought it important to add them here or balance or correction even as I leave up the original post. First and foremost, someone reminded me (correctly) that Valerie was not beloved by local labor by the time she left the Council.

MCGEO and the Police union especially hated her. Gino Renne at MCGEO even targeted her with an attack website, though he goes off on a lot of people. The police union showed up once to boo her at a hearing and Valerie said that the union chief started making “threats.” Finally, she also had strong conflicts with the School Board and MCEA was not sorry to see her go.

On the other hand, she still has very cordial relations with SEIU–nationally the second-largest union in America. And, as we have seen, sides can change quickly in these races, so past opposition does not always predict future behavior–or the views of national unions.

AFL-CIO Disses MoCo Council Incumbents

MD AFLIn the Democratic primary, the AFL-CIO endorsed incumbent Marc Elrich as well as challengers Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy for the at-large seats. Only Elrich won the nomination. The AFL-CIO did not endorse incumbents Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, or Hans Riemer. They have now decided not to endorse any of these three (or anyone else) for the general election.

The AFL-CIO have also made no endorsement in District 1 (Roger Berliner), District 2 (Craig Rice), or District 3 (Sidney Katz). They had endorsed unsuccessful candidates Duchy Trachtenberg (District 1) and Ryan Spiegel (District 3).

District 4 Incumbent Democrat Nancy Navarro is their only new endorsed candidate. They had already endorsed Tom Hucker in District 5–their only other Montgomery County Council winner besides Marc Elrich.

So two-thirds of the new Council will have the election without the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in either the primary or the general election–7 out of 9 if you include the primary.

Rapid Transit at the MoCo Fair

Councilmember Roger Berliner: “There is nothing more fundamental to the future of Montgomery County than making this happen. And making it happen during the next four years.”

Councilmember Marc Elrich: “This is the best answer we have to both the need for capacity and the limited dollars available.”

Councilmember Cherri Branson: “I cannot tell you how important a bus-rapid transit system would be for Route 29 not only to alleviate some of the current congestion but even more importantly to help us develop the east part of the county.”  –

County Executive Ike Leggett: “It will happen in Montgomery County. This is the right thing for our future.”

MCEA Final MoCo Endorsements

From the Washington Post:

The union representing Montgomery County’s 12,000 teachers rounded out its list of County Council endorsements Wednesday for the June 24 Democratic primary, retaining its 2010 recommendations of Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Hans Riemer (D-At-Large) but dropping George Leventhal (D-At-Large).

The endorsement by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) is one of the most coveted because it comes with a spot on the Apple Ballot, which is mailed to Democratic voters and distributed at the polls.

The announcement follows earlier endorsements of candidates for open council seats: Ryan Spiegel in District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg) and Board of Education member Christopher Barclay in District 5 (Silver Spring-East County). The union has also endorsed County Executive Isiah Leggett for a third term.

Ryan Spiegel and Marc Elrich seem to be sweeping up the labor endorsements. This is a nice one for Roger Berliner as the government employee unions are lining up behind Duchy Trachtenberg. Hans Riemer must also be pleased after losing support from other county unions.

Nancy Floreen has never been the labor candidate so probably isn’t too perturbed or worried about it. But being dropped from the Apple is new for George Leventhal who has also been frozen out by MCGEO, FOP, and the AFL-CIO.

Verdict on the At-Large Debate

ALdebate

Moderator Charles Duffy with Vivian Malloy, Beth Daly, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Hans Riemer, Robert Dyer, and Tim Willard

Last night’s debate at the 4H was unusually well attended–I guesstimated roughly 100 people–with many actual voters who came to hear the candidates. I live tweeted the debate @theseventhstate. The tweets give much of the blow-by-blow and there are some interesting tweets back.

Some Issues and Moments

Ben Ross. His book criticisms of owners of “single-family homes” trying to preserve their place in the pecking order along with “snob zoning and nimbyism” did not go down well. Probably wise in a county where most people live in single-family homes, as Nancy Floreen pointed out in her response.

BRT System. Beth Daly and Marc Elrich were clearly enthusiastic about the BRT system proposed by Marc. Hans Riemer and Nancy Floreen were more skeptical wanting to see how the Corridor Cities Transitway goes–and thus pushing the idea off into the distant future. George Leventhal agreed and questioned whether people would ride buses even in dedicated lanes. Nancy Floreen also expressed concern about the cost, though Marc Elrich pointed out that is far cheaper per mile to build than the Purple Line.

Ride-On Buses. Vivian Malloy said that people had lost confidence in the service and wanted greater frequency and dependability especially in bad weather. Marc Elrich said people don’t want to use the buses because they’re stuck in traffic. Hans Riemer disagreed with this “myopic” view and touted his getting five additional buses for the system into the budget.

Chevy Chase Lake. Marc Elrich called the failure to listen to civic associations a “travesty,” a position supported by Beth Daly. Hans Riemer pointed out that the Council had reduced the height of a tall building and called the result a good compromise, though the Planning Board had already increased density over the proposal advocated by Staff led by Rollin Stanley.

Taxes. All agreed that that the property and income tax should not go up. Marc Elrich and Beth Daly proposed studying taxation of commercial property (but not residential) owners who would benefit from nearby transit to pay for it on the model of what already is in place in Northern Virginia. Hans Riemer pointed out at that county taxes are the lowest in real terms in a decade.

Purple Line Trail and the Wisconsin Ave. Tunnel. All agreed that the county should pay for it. George Leventhal was clearest in directly stating “we have to spend what it takes.” Robert Dyer argued that we’re required to rebuild it under Maryland law. Marc Elrich said “it’s the least we have to do.” Hans Riemer said it would have to occur with the redevelopment of the APEX building but Marc Elrich expressed concern that the building’s owners are “holding us up” for  more money on top of the greatly increased density that they’ve already received.

Sparks. George Leventhal provided most of the moments with heat and light. At one point, he interrupted Marc Elrich to try unsuccessfully to interrogate him on his Purple Line position. He upbraided moderator Charles Duffy for asking questions on how to solve problems with incompatible bases in fact. Reading a letter praising him from a constituent for solving a problem engendered a noisy, negative reaction from the crowd.

The Importance of Demeanor

The debate reminded me that it is just as important how a candidate says something as what they say. In the 2000 presidential election, the first presidential debate between Gore and Bush became a textbook case. Gore clearly was stronger on the facts but sounded patronizing, sighed a lot when Bush spoke, and often answered the last question instead of the one posed.

Bush, while clearly not the most knowledgeable, was the one people who weren’t hard core Democrats liked. For many, he was the one who gave a sense of a solid character who you would have enjoyed getting to know. Gore did so badly that his advisers made him watch the popular SNL parody in the hope that he’d learn something.

Candidate Reviews

Tim Willard raised important issues regarding climate change but was the Debbie Downer of the debate due to his consistently pessimistic demeanor and failure to offer concrete proposals about how to address these problems locally. Still, great to be offered alternatives in one-party Montgomery.

Robert Dyer utterly surprised me because this Republican is probably more left wing than many of the Democrats. Running as a dark horse candidate also freed him to make many out of the box statements, such as calling for a bridge over the Potomac, castigating the Council for paying for transit projects we don’t need but failing to fund the ones we do, and saying that the Council should make developers pay and stop overdeveloping Bethesda.

Vivian Malloy had a personality that just made you want to vote for her as she is a nice, warm person who clearly cares about the county and its problems. More specifics on how to address important issues she raised, such as affordable housing, would have enhanced her good presentation.

Beth Daly projected both confidence, an unusual knowledge of the issues for a challenger, and had a can-do positive attitude that contrasted with fellow challenger Tim Willard’s negativity. She projected well her past involvement in issues like Ten Mile Creek and an eagerness to get to work. Clearly allied with Marc Elrich, she was a candidate that people liked.

Nancy Floreen came across as calm, thoughtful and knowledgeable who understood the complexities of the issues faced by the Council. Put another way, she came across as an experienced, trustworthy set of hands. More detailed responses would have been welcome despite the complicated nature of many issues, though she clearly has a mastery of many facts.

George Leventhal. One person said to me after the debate: “If you wrote down what George said and read it, it would come across as a perfectly reasonable argument but George always sounds angry.” A disastrous performance.

Hans Riemer. Hard not to like a guy who tweets back at you even as he engages in the debate. Still optimistic but perhaps a bit more careworn after four years on the Council, Hans did a good job of touting specific concrete legislative achievements.

Marc Elrich just excels at these events, probably because as a former teacher he knows how to explain complex problems in ways that people can understand. Probably the winner of the debate with the audience and I’m not just saying that because I support him. His commitment to poor and working people combined with his community focus seemed a winning formula.