Tag Archives: Marilyn Balcombe

Six Candidates of Good Temperament

It’s not easy to be a public official. It involves dealing with not only a lot of tough issues and often unappealing choices. It also entails listening to unhappy constituents who often express their feelings vehemently and with anger, especially in our current age when there is so much of the latter going around. And, of course, you have to deal with people like me.

As a result, I thought it would be good to highlight some candidates for office here in Montgomery County who I think have the right temperament for public office. This is wholly different from whether I agree with them on issues and as a result I don’t plan to vote for all of them (and I don’t live in all of their constituencies).

It does mean that they strike me as even-keeled people who will address issues thoughtfully and have a good capacity to listen to people and take on board the views of people with whom they disagree. In an election with a plethora of candidates, it seems worth identifying some who deserve a look-in to see if they are what you are seeking in a candidate.

One caution: Writing this blog gives me the opportunity to meet a good many candidates. In truth, however, it’s only a fraction of the many running for office and space is limited even on the Internet. So please don’t take omission from here as even the most oblique indictment. There are a lot of good people running for office. Here are just a few of them.

Aruna Miller is running to represent the Sixth Congressional District. The people who work closely with Aruna in the House of Delegates admire and respect her as a serious, hard-working legislator, and she has received the bulk of their endorsements. I only know Aruna so well but what I see only verifies these impressions. Del. Miller brought an unusual level of calm maturity and experience when she entered politics. Unafraid to stand up for principle, she can also reach out and work well with others.

Evan Glass is running for Council At-Large. I got to know Evan because we served on the Board of Equality Maryland together. He’s a great listener and excellent communicator, perhaps not a surprise given his extensive work in journalism. Evan also has the uncanny ability of knowing when and how an intervention in a political debate can have the greatest impact. He was one of the most quietly effective and useful members of the Board.

Marilyn Balcombe is running for Council At-Large. Marilyn is best known for her work in the Upcounty and on the President/CEO of the Gaithersburg/Germantown Chamber of Commerce. I’ve found Marilyn to be an effective and strong yet pleasant advocate. She has done a lot over the years to make Germantown a more vibrant place. Marilyn is someone who already knows a lot but also is smart enough to know that there is always more to learn and listens well.

Gabe Albornoz is running for Council At-Large. Gabe has headed the County Parks and Recreation Department and had the unpleasant task of dealing with major budget cuts due to the economic crisis. He lives in my legislative district and I got to know him through our mutual activity in local Democratic politics. Gabe is a natural leader yet also very easygoing and unusually good at dealing with criticism and bringing people together. A class act.

Hans Riemer is running for reelection to a third (and final) term for Council At-Large. I’m purposefully not focusing on incumbents on this list, as they’re already well known. However, I’ve always appreciated Hans’s ability to disagree without being disagreeable, even right after I’ve criticized a decision that he made. This well-liked councilmember has also consistently been willing to meet with people on the other side of an issue and work to figure out what he can do for them.

Marlin Jenkins is seeking election to the House of Delegates in District 19. He comes from a small town in Louisiana not far from where Ike Leggett grew up and is an impressive man who  worked very hard to create and to take advantage of  opportunities. Marlin joined the army at a young age, distinguished himself leading a unit in Iraq, and is now a major and still moving up. Along the way, he first earned a college and then law degree. He and his wife, also a lawyer who Marlin met in law school, have made their home here. An affable man and good listener, Marlin cares a lot about helping make it possible for others to move up the ladder too.

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Nancy Floreen’s Recommendations for the June Primary

By Council Member Nancy Floreen.

As someone in the unique position of watching the campaign season after 15 and a half years of being on the inside, I have pretty strong feelings about who are the right folks for electoral office.

My criteria:

Is that candidate well informed about the office he or she seeks?

Is that person an honest broker – ie – with the experience and grounding in reality that leads to genuine capacity for problem solving?

Is that person candid, or does that person have a different story for every audience?

Is that person humble or does that person take credit for shared initiatives or make promises that cannot be kept?

Does that person have the demonstrated temperament to treat people he or she disagrees with respectfully?

Is that person an independent thinker, or likely to be more influenced by endorsers?

Does that person have a track record of credible community engagement ?

Does that person have the backbone to stand up to political pressure?

Does that person have a genuine passion for the office, or is it just another job?

Does that person stand a chance in the General Election?

There are a lot of candidates out there, but not that many who satisfy my standards..

Here’s who I believe warrants your vote.

Noteworthy are my current council colleagues running for re- election – Hans Riemer, Craig Rice, Sid Katz, Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker. We don’t all agree on everything all of the time, but they are hard working, committed and all have long histories of community engagement.

As for the open seats – these are my picks :

Governor – Rushern Baker. You try wrestling with an entrenched school system and come out alive! Tough, rational and caring.

County Executive – Rose Krasnow – an experienced, yet independent voice. The former Mayor of Rockville, she has wide ranging financial, government and nonprofit management expertise, and is deeply grounded in the county and community issues.

County Council At Large –

Gabe Albornoz – long experience with the reality of our community and the ways of government through the Recreation Department

Marilyn Balcombe – a long term fighter for the largely ignored upcounty

Evan Glass – a staunch community organizer, known for his work with the Gandhi Brigade

Council District 1 – Reggie Oldak – the only candidate who actually knows the county and how the Council works (as a former staff member) and a long time community advocate.

This is a very important election for our collective futures! Be thoughtful in your choices!

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Balcombe’s Pitch to Upcounty

By Adam Pagnucco.

Whether they are right or wrong, MANY residents of Upcounty who communicate with your author feel that they are not treated as well by county government as their neighbors to the south.  Council At-Large candidate Marilyn Balcombe, who lives in Germantown and is the CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is tapping into that sentiment with this mailer sent to Upcounty residents.  We think this is a smart move.  With so many at-large candidates concentrating heavily on Downcounty’s Democratic Crescent and splitting the votes there, if Balcombe has Upcounty mostly to herself, she just might be able to fly under the radar to victory.

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Campaign Finance Reports: Council At-Large, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Today, we look at the Council At-Large candidates.  As with yesterday, we start with a note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Below is our fundraising summary for the Council At-Large candidates.

First, a few random notes.  As of this writing, five at-large candidates – Craig Carozza-Caviness, Ron Colbert, Paul Geller, Richard Gottfried and Darwin Romero – have not filed May reports.  Lorna Phillips Forde did file a May report and requested matching funds, but her report contains many duplicated entries and is a big mess.  We are not printing her numbers until they get straightened out.  Michele Riley has given herself a combined $21,000 in two loans and one contribution, which exceeds the $12,000 self-funding maximum allowed in public financing.  That needs to be corrected or otherwise remedied.

Now to the numbers.  In the pre-public financing days, winning at-large candidates generally raised $250,000 or more with the notable exception of Marc Elrich.  Four candidates are in that territory: Hans Riemer (the only incumbent), Evan Glass, Bill Conway and Will Jawando.  Gabe Albornoz and Hoan Dang are not far off.  Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) has not raised quite that much, but he started with a big war chest built over years of little competition in his district.  The cash on hand leaders are Glass, Riemer and Barkley, who are virtually tied, followed by Conway and then Jawando.

In evaluating differences in cash position, we don’t find variances of $20,000-30,000 very significant.  That’s because candidates schedule their expenditures differently.  Some have spent a bit more before the deadline and some held back to show a bigger balance.  What we do find significant is the difference between candidates who have close to $200,000 available for the final push – Riemer, Glass, Barkley and Conway – and those who have half that amount or less, such as Albornoz, Dang, Marilyn Balcombe, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Mohammad Siddique, Ashwani Jain, Danielle Meitiv, Seth Grimes and Brandy Brooks.  (Forget about those who have $25,000 or less.)  The latter group of candidates now faces very tough decisions on resource usage.  A mailer to super-Dems can cost $35,000-$45,000 depending on how the universe is defined.  So a candidate with $100,000 on hand might be able to squeeze out two or three mailers and that’s about it.  Is that enough to stand out given all the other races going on?

Institutional endorsements also play a role.  Several of the lesser funded candidates, especially Brooks and Meitiv, have some good endorsements that could help them.  We think the biggest beneficiary will be MCPS teacher Chris Wilhelm, who has more cash on hand than Albornoz, Dang and Balcombe and also has the Apple Ballot.  If the teachers mail for Wilhelm, that could effectively close the gap a bit between him and the top-funded candidates.

For what it’s worth, the conventional wisdom is that Riemer will be reelected, Glass and Jawando will join him and the last seat will come down to Conway or Albornoz.  We’re not ready to buy that for a couple reasons.  First, among the seven County Councils that have been elected since the current structure was established in 1990, only one – the 1998-2002 council – had zero at-large female members.  Combine that with the fact that 60% of the primary electorate is female and it’s premature to write off all the women running.  Second, this is an unprecedented year.  We have never had public financing before and we have never had so many people running at-large.  What seems like conventional wisdom now could seem very unwise in the blink of an eye!  So we expect surprises in this historic election.

Next: the council district races.

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Washington Post Endorses for MoCo Council, School Board

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post has endorsed the following candidates for County Council and Board of Education.

Council At-Large: Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe, Evan Glass, Hans Riemer

Council District 1: Andrew Friedson

Council District 2: Craig Rice

Council District 3: Sidney Katz

Council District 4: Nancy Navarro

Council District 5: Tom Hucker

Board of Education At-Large: Julie Reiley

Board of Education District 3: Pat O’Neill

Read their endorsements here.

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Gaithersburg Electeds Endorse Balcombe

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Marilyn Balcombe has announced endorsements from three elected officials in Gaithersburg: Mayor Jud Ashman and City Council Members Mike Sesma and Neil Harris.  Balcombe is the long-time President and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce and lives in Germantown.  Gaithersburg, including both the incorporated and unincorporated areas, has more than 40,000 registered Democrats of whom roughly 3,500 have voted in each of the last three mid-term Democratic primaries.

Left to right: Sesma, Harris and Balcombe, Ashman.  Credit: Balcombe for Council Facebook page.

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Council Places M-83 in the Freezer

By a 7-2 vote with Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) and Craig Rice (D-2) opposed, the Montgomery County Council approved a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large) telling the Planning Board to ignore that the controversial M-83 road in making future plans.

The controversy pits Upcounty residents against smart growth and environmental opponents of new roads. Many Upcounty residents in communities like Clarksburg would love to see the long promised alternative route to their communities built in order to alleviate excruciating traffic. Environmentalists and smart growthers think that new roads promote the use of cars and sprawl.

Compromise or Just Spin?

The resolution is being presented by Riemer as a compromise because it keeps M-83 in the Master Plan but tells the Planning Board to act as if it will never be built. Nancy Floreen outlined the politics of spin surrounding this resolution in explaining her “no” vote:

There is nothing in here that says we are going to build M-83. So that is a win for the environmentalist, I guess. And, there is nothing in here that says we are going to build M-83, which is a win for the UpCounty.  I suppose, I should be happy about this because we leave M-83 on the master plan for the future, which is a good thing. But, because we are doing something that is designed to fuel public perception one way or the other, I think it is just plain irresponsible. It is a gratuitous slap in the face to the people who relied on the master plan. And for the people who are opposed to it, it continues the argument ad infinitum.

Indeed, the resolution in amenable to being messaged in a variety of ways to different audiences. Environmentalists and smart growthers can be told it all but kills the road for the time being. M-83 supporters will be told that it’s still in the Master Plan and that the anti-road people aren’t happy for this reason.

Road Opponents Carried the Day But this Street Fight Continues

Riemer, an M-83 opponent, is deeply misguided to the extent he believes that the sop of maintaining M-83 in the Master Plan will appease road supporters. They’re not fooled. The “it’s a compromise” argument only annoys because it comes across as disingenuous to people who wanted this road built yesterday.

Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is campaigning for at at-large seat on the County Council and making this an issue:

[T]o invoke the Paris Climate Agreement for any project that someone may disagree with is a very slippery slope. . . . Does this proposed resolution mean that we are never building any more roads in the County?

Not a bad substantive policy question in this election year.

Politically, the impact of this issue remains unclear. It’s a great way to rally Upcounty residents who want the road. But how many vote in the key Democratic primary?

Environmentalists are indeed are unhappy that the county didn’t just kill the road outright. Another county council can take the road out of the freezer and thaw it out. They have a lot of support Downcounty but it’s more diffuse pro-environmentalism rather than opposition to this particular project. Can they rally people beyond the small set of usual suspects to oppose the road?

A more likely strategy is that environmental and smart growth groups endorse against pro-M-83 candidates but mention other more compelling issues or general concerns about climate change in their messaging to voters.

Time to Get Off the Pot

While Riemer presents the resolution as a compromise that leaves all unhappy, another way to see this decision is that they decided not to decide. Often, waiting is a good decision. In the case, however, it has the strong whiff of kicking the can down the road to no purpose as the major fact we can expect to change is that traffic will get worse.

The “solution” that our elected officials voted for is really no solution at all. If councilmembers are against the road for whatever reason–the environment, smart growth, the lack of funds–they should just tell the people by killing it. Similarly, supporters should demand a resolution that actively prepares for it and be ready to explain how they will fund it.

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First Impressions, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

The combination of County Executive Ike Leggett’s retirement, public campaign financing and term limits is producing an unprecedented flood of candidates running for the County Council’s four at-large seats.  By the time of the filing deadline next February, thirty or more people could be in the race.  Your author has previously written about those who may be running who have prior electoral experience.  Starting today, we will be sharing first impressions of seven new at-large candidates, all of whom have been subjected to withering, multi-hour interrogations by your author.  We are pleased to report that all seven survived these encounters and any damage is hopefully temporary.

The at-large council race is a fascinating and historic affair.  Since the current council configuration was established in 1990, there have never been three at-large vacancies.  Normally, your author considers the past in evaluating what the future will be.  But in some respects, the past may not be as useful a guide as usual because of the sheer unprecedented nature of what is now happening.

The best analogy for this current at-large race is a giant, open air bazaar.  Voters enter it and encounter dozens of kiosks, each with a candidate selling his or her candidacy.  Each candidate promises the best deal – just for you! – as the voters stroll by.  Which ones can cut through the noise?  Which ones can attract the most people?  The four kiosks that sell their wares to the most voters will win the competition.  And it could very well be that those wares will be very different from each other as different segments of the market drive their favored candidates to victory.

Overall, the at-large field is shaping up to be deep and talented.  The only shame here is that there are many more good candidates than available seats, meaning that some highly qualified people are going to lose.  On to our first impressions of the new candidates, given in no particular order.

Marilyn Balcombe, Germantown

Some liberals stereotype business leaders as anti-union, anti-government (except when collecting corporate welfare), anti-tax and primarily – perhaps solely – concerned with accumulating profits.  Your author once worked on union organizing campaigns in the South and met a few corporate owners who fit that bill!  But if that’s what you think of business leaders in general, Marilyn Balcombe is going to surprise you.

The long-time President/CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, Balcombe is representative of MoCo’s chamber leaders who tend to be very different from their counterparts elsewhere.  All of the full-time, paid local chamber presidents are women.  Some of them are moms who have been active in their PTAs.  Most are Democrats who tend to be liberal on social issues.  All favor funding for public education.  All are pragmatic rather than ideological.  And absolutely none of them are tea partiers.

Balcombe, who holds a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology, is analytical by nature.  She does not prejudge issues on the basis of ideology and continually seeks out evidence in making her decisions.  She agrees with the county’s emphasis on education but wants to augment it with robust economic development.  She’s a good listener who prefers policy to politics.  (She will admit to not being crazy about the political parts of running for office!)  Above all, she is a grown-up.  If you’re looking for a serious, hard-working, center-left candidate who will focus on making the county more competitive with its neighbors, Marilyn Balcombe should get your vote.

More to come in Part Two.

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