Tag Archives: MCDCC

Precinct Power! Renewing the Democratic Party in Communities Across MoCo

By George Neighbors.

From the Commander-in-Tweet’s public policy pronouncements in Washington to blocking dissent on Facebook in Annapolis to the NRA’s endorsements of the duo, there’s a lot of unhappiness with the current US President and Maryland’s Governor.

Angry and teary eyed emojis don’t change public policy, and they sure don’t alone change who’s in power.  We need to move beyond social media rants and listserve brawls. We need to engage our neighbors. We need to build and bridge community with our neighbors to take action.

Personally, in April of last year I decided to raise my hand and step back in to the political arena. With encouragement and a little arm twisting by friends, I signed up to be a ​Precinct ​Leader​ for the Democratic Party​.  Now I’m the face and connective tissue of the Democratic Party to my neighbors.

Most Seventh State readers will know what a ​”Precinct​”​ is and what a ​”​Precinct Leader​”​ does, but I ask that you indulge me as part of what I’m trying to do to open up the opportunities and break down the barriers within the Democratic Party.

Precincts are the most local part of the Democratic Party. Each community is made up of voters in a community with a common voting location, aka polling place. These polling place communities are “Precincts.”​ In Montgomery County alone, we have 255 Precincts​!​ Each ​Precinct has a leader (or two) who is responsible for reaching out, engaging, educating and mobilizing voters and would-be voters in her​/his​ community.

Precinct officials and volunteers gather at the party’s precinct organization meeting on March 10.

Because I’m relatively new to the inner workings of the Democratic Party, and I have an  organizational development background, and I kept asking a LOT of questions, I was asked to co-chair the Precinct Organization of the Montgomery County Democratic Party in August. You know the drill… you keep asking questions, you’re put in charge.

The Co-Chairs’ role is to empower, engage, mobilize, communicate, recruit and retain across all 255 Precincts – and ​engage with our 500+ leaders!

What I’ve learned is that we have many amazing people who have been doing the ​Precinct ​work of the Democratic Party for a long time: 20+ years! And we have a lot of new people, like me, who are keen to engage, and make a difference.

I’ve been asked, “What are we doing differently with the Party?” I tell people that we’re renewing the Precinct Organization. We’re refocusing on Precinct Power.

Renewing means prioritizing resources​​,​ training, mobilization, outreach, communication, and appreciation to recruit and retain great ​Precinct Leaders. Renewing also means we have to do things a little differently.

Renewal goal number one is to be strategic and intentional about our voter turnout strategy. We aim to increase Montgomery County Democratic midterm general election voter turnout by 15 percentage points, from the 45% in 2014 to 60% in 2018. We have a plan.

Renewal goal number two is to empower Precinct Leaders. We’re gathering the Precinct Leaders from across the County together every few months to discuss the strategy of the Party, evolve their role beyond Election Day to engage with their communities throughout the year, and build the infrastructure at the State District level so that we can inspire people across the County, coordinate across the Districts, and engage in each Precinct community.

Renewal goal number three is to mobilize the Precincts. Beginning last summer and continuing through the fall and winter, we engaged Precinct Leaders in canvassing to learn what Democrats think. ​”​Canvassing​”​ means you go door-knocking  to reach and talk with​ people. ​It’s proven to be the best way to reach voters and get ​them engaged.

These canvasses were not asking the voters to donate or vote. Rather, these were “listening canvasses” to have voters share their thoughts. During these conversations ​we listened and helped connect neighbors with their elected Democratic officials to address issues ranging from a broken street light to an erroneous utility bill to navigating healthcare.

The canvasses also provided an opportunity to train our Precinct Leaders in canvassing and outreach. It was about making a personal connection with voters. Bringing the Democratic Party to them!

​Renewal goal number four is to activate each Precinct. To help grow the Precinct Organization, ​I’ve spent the past six months ​speaking to clubs and organizations across the ​County about the ​Precinct ​Organization, and how people can get involved.

Many Precincts could use new blood to assist current Precinct Leaders, and many other Precincts are in need of new leadership either because of an absence or because someone is ready to step aside.​

We also need to engage new voters and immigrants as well. Having people who look, live and speak like they do, is the beauty of the Precinct Organization, i.e., neighbors talking to neighbors.

So now comes the pi​tch… With the June primary counting down, and the general election in November, we need to organize. We need to mobilize. We need to engage. We need voters to turn out. We need voters to vote.

We also need ​Precinct ​Leaders. We need bilingual leaders. We need new leaders. We need leaders who represent their community. We need leaders up county, down county, east county, west county and mid county. Opportunities abound to do something that matters. Together we can build stronger and engaged communities.

I’m asking all Democrats reading this to do four things.

​1. Go to the ​Precinct ​Organization map on the Montgomery County Democratic Party website and look up your ​Precinct.

​2. If you have a ​Precinct Leader, reach out to say ‘thank you.’ Then offer your help to knock on doors, call, enter data, host a meet and greet, etc.​ (Please email Precinct@MCDCC.org if s/he does not get back to you.)​

​3. ​If you looked up​ your Precinct​ and you don’t have a Precinct Leader, ​YOU can apply to be a Precinct Leader​ with this application!​ You can also email my cochair Mumin Barre and me at Precinct@MCDCC.org to set a time to talk about it and answer your questions.

​4. ​Please share this story with as many people as you can ​via email, social media, ​and ​word-of-mouth. We need engaged and empowered Precinct Leaders, who are building and bridging communities, to take back the governorship.

I’m committed to making sure that no one come June or November wonders how they can get involved and engaged… how they can build stronger and engaged communities… how they can make a difference.

As we ​renew our Precinct Power, we need everyone- new and lifelong Democrats- to help build the Democratic Party, listen to residents, and reach voters to make a difference in their lives and our community.

George Neighbors is the Democratic Party Precinct Vice Chair of Precinct 13-21​, Co-Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s Precinct Organization, and the male District 20 Candidate for the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s Central Committee in the June 26 Democratic Primary.


Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews Defends New Gender Balance Rules

I am pleased to publish this response to earlier post by Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews:

I wanted to respond thoughtfully to Ed Kimmel’s Seventh State blog about the Maryland State Democratic Central Committee’s recent decision to adopt new rules to achieve gender balance by popular election on our county and state central committees.

These rules were debated over the past year, to be ready by last week’s filing deadline for the 2018 primary election. The policy was vetted for sex discrimination and other concerns by members of each county’s Democratic Central Committee.  While it was initiated by women in the state party — including Montgomery County’s gender balance member, Jennifer Hosey—it was supported by men and women in a unanimous voice vote at the November 4, 2017 Maryland Democratic Party statewide meeting.

Women have had the vote for nearly 100 years, but we have a long way to go to achieve gender parity in our American politics. Women represent more than half our population, an even greater percentage of voters, and yet they are 20 percent of our Congress, about one-third of our Maryland Legislature, and we have yet to elect a woman President or woman governor of Maryland. At the current rate, we are centuries away from true parity.

But I’m excited about the progress this year as more women are stepping into the political arena. We just reviewed the candidate filing data on the Democratic side, and compared to 2014, we have three times as many Democratic women running for county executive, double the number of women running for state senate, and a 60 percent increase in the number of women running for House of Delegates. This is the result of women who are saying “Me Too,” especially after the 2016 Presidential election, but also the hard work of our state party and organizations like RepresentWomen and Emerge Maryland, on whose board I am honored to serve.

At a moment in our political life when the old norms are changing, it is appropriate to ensure that women have an equal ELECTORAL chance to be represented in the party’s governing bodies, and this gender balance rule helps move us in that direction.

The changes we adopted have created a uniform process for gender balance across all 24 county and city jurisdictions of the state; they align with the national Democratic Party rules; provide women and men an equal opportunity to gain experience in a grassroots elected position; most importantly, they put power back in the hands of the voters who get to decide who will represent them. This is inherently more democratic and preferable to appointment, and adds greater legitimacy to the party governing bodies who claim to truly represent its members.

For those who care to read on, it’s interesting to note that the history on this issue goes back to women’s suffrage when the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, granted women full voting rights.  Soon after, political parties began wooing women in earnest, seeking to double their constituencies. “Fifty-fifty” rules were soon adopted to attract female voters at both the national and state levels.

In the 1930s, the Democratic Party took a more active role in the fight for gender equity. Molly Dewson, the head of the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Division, argued that gender-balance requirements were the most effective way to increase women’s participation and leadership in political parties. She wisely framed the issue as providing women with opportunities, rather than limiting those of men. (In fact today, when county parties appoint members to achieve gender balance, often it is to add men to their membership.)

Fast forward to today, when the Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States (Article Nine, Section 16) requires all party governing bodies, including state central committees, to be “as equally divided as practicable according to gender” for the purpose of conducting their affairs and selecting delegates for the Party’s quadrennial National Convention. Subsequent court review has found the Democratic Party’s “Equal Division Rule: to be constitutionally sound and an effective way of enhancing the diversity of members and perspectives among Party leadership.

In Maryland, we have had a system to achieve this 50-50 gender equity but it varied widely by jurisdiction. Cecil County adopted gender balance at the ballot for its central committee back in 1920, with Allegany, Carroll, Fredrick, Harford, and Washington Counties following suit. 7 counties, including Montgomery County, passed laws requiring gender balance by appointment after voters made their selection. The remaining counties had provisions in their central committee bylaws requiring gender balance by appointment. As a result, the size of central committees would expand and contract depending on the balancing requirements.

Most concerning, in some counties, members who had been appointed for gender balance did not have full voting rights. This was particularly problematic, we felt, when central committees had the responsibility to fill vacancies in the state legislature.

Many of these concerns have been addressed in our state party’s new gender balance rules, and for Maryland Democrats they are are another step forward in a long journey. Other countries — Norway, Rwanda, for example — have achieved diversity more quickly through gender quotas, but thus far, the American electoral system has resisted this approach, looking for other ways to achieve gender equity. I am proud to be involved with other Marylanders, like Cynthia Terrell at RepresentWomen and Martha McKenna and Diane Fink at Emerge Maryland, who are working hard on structural reforms and practical solutions to bring more women’s voices into our political process. Women’s voices are vital to strengthen the democratic process, represent women’s perspectives on policy, and build collaborative solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. In the end, I firmly believe this progress towards a more diverse and inclusive Democratic Party is in everyone’s best interest.


How MCDCC Members Voted on the D20 Senate Appointment

Here is how the members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee voted on the District 20 Senate vacancy:

Will Smith (19)
Darrell Anderson
Mumin Barre
Juan Cardenas
Arthur Edmunds
Natalia Farrar
Loretta Jean Garcia
Marjorie Goldman
Johntel Greene
Julian Haffner
Mimi Hassanein
Jennifer Hosey
Marlin Jenkins
Aaron Kaufman
Linda Mahoney
Jonathan Prutow
Venattia Vann
Tim Whitehouse
Jheanelle Wilkins
Brenda Wolff

David Moon (8)
Luisa María Arévalo
Alan Banov
Wendy Cohen
Harold Diamond
Michael Gruenberg
Dave Kunes
Emily Shetty
Erin Yeagley

Abstained (1)
Chris Bradbury


MoCo Democrats, It’s Time for Change

By Adam Pagnucco.

December 13 will be an important date for the fortunes of Democrats across the State of Maryland.  It’s not because that is the date of a primary election; that won’t happen for another year and a half.  It’s not because a critical piece of legislation will be passing; the General Assembly won’t be in session.  And it won’t be because Donald Trump will decide that being President isn’t worth it (although one can dream).

December 13 is the day on which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will select its new officers.  And it comes at a critical time for county Democrats, as well as party members all over the state.

When MCDCC is acknowledged by the general public at all, it is usually because of its power under the state’s constitution to fill state legislative vacancies.  But the Central Committee does far more than that.  Its principal purposes are to build the party, support Democratic candidates and turn out its members to vote.  Every four years, the county party raises more than $200,000 for state and local elections and more than $700,000 for federal elections.  Major uses of funds include voter registration, production of the party’s sample ballot, coordinated campaigning with Democratic candidates in general elections and overhead associated with the party’s office in Kensington.

MoCo’s Democratic Party has played a fabled role in state politics for many years.  It is by far the wealthiest local party organization in the state.  It draws on hundreds of precinct officials and other activists for volunteer activities.  It has delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to statewide candidates like former Governors William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley, none of whom represented MoCo in their prior positions.  The party’s influence has been so extensive that statewide Democratic nominees could offset their losses in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore by racking up votes in MoCo, thereby leaving the Baltimore suburbs as the battle ground in which most races are decided.

But those halcyon days are coming to an end.  The MoCo Democratic Party is in trouble, and that means the state Democratic Party is also in trouble.  Consider the following.

Turnout of MoCo Democrats Has Plummeted in Gubernatorial General Elections

In recent years, federal Democratic candidates almost always win across Maryland in presidential elections outside of the GOP-packed First Congressional District.  The real purpose of the party apparatus is to win the races for Governor.  From 1990 through 2006, MoCo played an outsize role in Democratic gubernatorial victories.  Turnout rates among MoCo Democrats varied from 62% to 69% and, aside from Robert Ehrlich’s win in 2002, contributed heavily to Democratic victories.  But turnout among MoCo Democrats fell to 55% in 2010 and 45% in 2014.  Part of that was due to soaring voter registrations during the Obama years.  But the absolute number of MoCo Democrats who voted declined by nearly 20,000 between 2006 and 2014.  Simply put, the county party has lost its ability to turn out its members for gubernatorial general elections.


MoCo Democrats Contribute Fewer Votes to Statewide Races

From 1990 through 2006, roughly 10% of all votes in gubernatorial general elections came from MoCo Democrats.  This was a major factor in wins by Schaefer, Glendening and O’Malley.  But MoCo Democrats accounted for 9.6% of total votes in 2010 and 9.3% in 2014, the lowest percentages in decades.  Let’s put it another way.  Between 2006 and 2014, the total number of votes in gubernatorial elections decreased by 60,928.  The number of votes cast by MoCo Democrats declined by 19,653.  That means MoCo Democrats accounted for nearly one-third of all voter losses statewide over two cycles.


Finally, consider this.  Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in 2014 by 65,510 votes.  If the turnout rate among MoCo Democrats in 2014 was the same as it was in 2006, they would have cast an additional 77,375 votes.  The decline of the MoCo Democratic Party played a huge role in putting Larry Hogan into Government House.

Why is this happening?  Let’s recall that 2006 was a recent peak of party performance and two massive changes in campaigning have happened since: the rise of political email and the rise of political social media.  Those two things contributed mightily to the success of Barack Obama.  State and local candidates across Maryland use them aggressively.  But not MCDCC.  The party’s Facebook page is devoid of interesting content and has just over 1,000 likes in a county that has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.  Its email program is practically non-existent.  The party does almost nothing to promote the successes of Democratic elected officials and makes no case against the state’s GOP Governor, who has a 66% job approval rating in MoCo.  Even the party’s clunky sample ballot, a vestige of a time when paper was the primary means of political communication, was only mailed out this year to newly registered Democrats when it was once mailed out to all.

MCDCC desperately needs new, aggressive and modern leadership.  It needs leaders who understand how to campaign in the 21st Century.  It needs leaders who are committed to reaching out to people of color and immigrants who disproportionately do not vote in gubernatorial general elections.  It needs a new culture of innovation, a culture which values trying new things over and over until some of them actually work.

MoCo Democrats, it’s time for change.

Will we get it?


The Growing Popularity of Special Elections

By Adam Pagnucco.

With an appointment for the District 20 Senate seat approaching, the time is right to revisit the issue of whether to have special elections for General Assembly vacancies.  David Lublin and I have been writing about this for nearly a decade, but the issue will not die.

Under the state’s constitution, when vacancies occur for State Senate and Delegate seats, special elections are not held to fill them.  Instead, the county Central Committee of the same party as the seat’s former occupant must submit a name of a successor to the Governor within thirty days, after which the Governor appoints the new legislator.  If the Central Committee does not meet the thirty day timeline, the Governor has fifteen days to appoint a successor from the same party as the person formerly holding the seat.  If the legislative district covers more than one county, each county Central Committee can send a name with the Governor deciding between them if they differ.  The bottom line of the process is this: under most circumstances, the county party Central Committees, who themselves are elected in party primaries, have effective appointment power over these vacancies.  And they use that power frequently.

A growing body of evidence shows that Maryland voters prefer special elections over appointments to fill vacancies in elected office.  Consider the following:

  1. In 1998, Montgomery County voters approved a charter amendment providing for special elections for County Council vacancies with 90% of the vote. Montgomery was the second county in Maryland to have special elections for Council Members since Prince George’s already had them in its charter.
  1. In 2004, Howard County voters approved a charter amendment providing for special elections for County Council vacancies with 88% of the vote.
  1. In 2014, Maryland voters approved a statewide constitutional amendment providing for special elections for County Executive vacancies with 81% of the vote. The amendment did not require special elections, but it did allow county charters to be amended to allow them upon approval by voters.
  1. In 2016, Maryland voters approved another statewide constitutional amendment mandating special elections for Comptroller and Attorney General vacancies. Prior to the amendment, vacancies in those offices were filled by gubernatorial appointment.  Seventy-three percent of voters supported it.
  1. Also in 2016, voters in Montgomery and Wicomico Counties voted in favor of charter amendments allowing special elections for their County Executives, which were made possible by the 2014 state constitutional amendment. The charter amendments received 90% of the votes in Montgomery and 75% in Wicomico.  Wicomico voters also supported a charter amendment for County Council vacancies with 77% of the vote.

With such overwhelming support among voters for special elections, why aren’t they used for state legislator vacancies?  Some lawmakers, including Senators Rich Madaleno, Jamie Raskin and Brian Feldman and Delegates David Moon and Christian Miele (a Republican), have tried to pass constitutional amendments providing for them in various forms.  Moon’s 2015 bill had bi-partisan support from very progressive as well as very conservative legislators.  But officials from both parties always oppose these bills because they strip power from Central Committees and they teamed up to help kill Moon’s bill last year.

Most of the time, appointees serve about as well in the state legislature as those who are elected, but there are exceptions.  A glaring example is the District 24 (Prince George’s) appointment in 2013.  Incumbent Delegate Tiffany Alston was removed from office and the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee recommended Gregory A. Hall to replace her.  But Governor O’Malley refused to accept the appointment because Hall participated in a shooting incident resulting in a murder years ago.  O’Malley instead appointed former Delegate Darren Swain to the seat.  A year later, Swain was victimized in a bizarre beating and car-jacking in which his assailants accused him of using drugs with them and groping one of them.  Alston, Hall and Swain all ran against each other for Delegate in 2014 and all of them lost.

This issue might not be such a big deal if appointments were rare, but they happen all the time.  Ten of MoCo’s 32 state legislators – four Senators and six Delegates – were appointed to a seat at some point in their careers.  That number will go up to eleven or twelve depending on what happens in District 20.  Let’s be clear.  We do not intend to imply that these appointed lawmakers are bad elected officials.  In fact, some of them have turned out to be excellent.  But when voters don’t get to pick more than one third of the people who represent them, something has gone badly wrong.

Gerrymandering is often criticized because it allows politicians to pick their voters.  Legislative appointments might be even worse because they allow politicians to pick other politicians.  And the power structures of both parties endorse this even though gigantic majorities of their rank-and-file oppose it.  The survival of special elections after all these years prompts us to ask a question of all state policy-makers.

What’s more important?  The prerogatives of party officials?  Or the rights of the voters?


NAACP Political Chair Accuses MCDCC of Bias Against Herman Taylor

Odessa Shannon, the Political Action Chair for the NAACP sent the following email to MCDCC. Deeply involved in Montgomery County for many years, Shannon has in the past been elected to the Board of Education, served as a Special Assistant to the County Executive, and was Director of the Office of Human Rights.

Shannon is backing former Del. Herman Taylor for the vacancy. Taylor is one of two African-American candidates for the seat along with Pam Queen, a professor at Morgan State University. In her email, Shannon says that MCDCC’s actions towards Taylor can “easily be argued as harassment based on race and possibly sex, a federal and local civil rights issue.”

Members of the MCDCC:

This is my third communication with you on this issue.

It has come to my attention that you are requesting information from Herman Taylor which  is not being asked of the other candidates.; copy of drivers license, when it was obtained, picture , proof of certain years of home ownership and other frequent and spontaneous requests.

From the information I have received, this action can easily be argued as harassment based on race and possibly sex., a federal and local civil rights issue.

It appears the MCDCC is trying to discredit a candidate for it’s own reasons. The process of selecting a candidate should be open and honest, whoever wins!!!

Before I send a copy of this e-mail to the County Executive, the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights , the head of the Md Democratic party and the Media, I would like immediate assurance that this kind of activity, so resonant of the 1960’s  and 70’s, will cease and desist immediately.

Odessa M. Shannon


D14 Legislators Solidly Back Queen

The District 14 delegation have made it crystal clear that they prefer that the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee select Pam Queen for the vacancy in their district. In particular, they highlight that Queen would be the first African-American women from Montgomery to vote in the House.

The subtext is also that failure to appoint Queen would reduce the number of women in the General Assembly from prior to Sen. Karen Montgomery’s retirement. Currently, three of eight senators from Montgomery County are women, as are 8 of 23 delegates.

Here is the letter from Sen. Zucker, Del. Kaiser, and Del. Luedtke:

Dear Chairman Anderson and members of the Central Committee:

We would again like to thank each of you for your service to the party and for taking so seriously the important task of choosing a new Delegate in District 14. A number of Central Committee members have asked for our rationale in choosing to support Pam Queen for the open Delegate seat, and we wanted to be sure to provide it prior to your upcoming meeting.

Our recommendation was based on a number of factors. First and foremost, we are confident that Pam shares our values as Democrats. She is and has always been pro-choice, and will stand with the Democratic Party in opposing Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Annapolis. In this era where inequality is such an important topic, we know that Pam will work with us to pass our middle class agenda, including efforts to strengthen pay equity laws and address the growing student loan debt crisis. And we are confident that given her background in finance, she will be able to help us combat any attempts by the administration to undercut funding for urban jurisdictions in the state budget.

But our support is about more than issues. Those of us who serve in Annapolis face a tremendously complex task. As individuals in a legislature made up of nearly 200 people, the ability to work effectively with others and get along with others is an absolute necessity. Pam has that ability, and we believe she would be a good fit for our very tight-knit team. In addition, given the need for Democrats to unite against increased partisanship in Annapolis, we need legislators who are able to work effectively with Democrats who hail from other parts of the state. Pam has worked in Baltimore for a number of years, and has pre-existing relationships with a number of elected officials there. This includes the Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, with whom she taught for a number of years until his retirement.

Finally, and importantly as well, we hope to retain the gender balance that has been a feature of our delegation since District 14 was first drawn as a Montgomery County district in 2002. And we hope to see Pam become the first African-American woman to ever cast a vote on behalf of Montgomery County in the state legislature (while Karen Britto was the first to serve, it was for a brief time and she was not able to cast a vote during it). While all of us work hard on behalf of women and work to address issues of race and racism that have been too easily ignored by too many in politics, it is undeniably important that Montgomery County’s delegation to Annapolis become more diverse in terms of both race and gender. Each of us has repeatedly used our influence to endorse diverse candidates in elections, and we do so again in endorsing Pam for this appointment.

An appointment like this is difficult, and we know you are burdened by the responsibility of choosing an effective leader on behalf of the 122,000 residents of District 14. We share that sense of responsibility every single day we represent our constituents in Annapolis. And we are certain that Pam Queen would be the best choice to stand beside us.


Senator Craig Zucker
Delegate Anne Kaiser
Delegate Eric Luedtke


Good Solution on Early Voting

The Montgomery County Board of Elections (BOE) has agreed to reinstate the original nine early voting (EV) centers, instead of closing ones in Burtonsville and Chevy Chase to relocate them to more Republican Potomac and Brookville.

In return, the all-Democratic state legislative delegation has agreed to support legislation to open a tenth EV center in Montgomery. My guess is that this one would be in Potomac, since that location was preferred by the BOE over Brookville when they agreed to reopen the Burtonsville EV center.

Here is the communication from MCDCC:

The Montgomery County Board of Elections (BOE) voted to reinstate 8 of the original early voting centers from the 2014 election and the Wheaton Firehouse to replace the Wheaton Community Center, which is undergoing rennovation. This includes the Praisner and Lawton centers advocated by the MCDCC, County Council, and State Legislators, as well as numerous community members and non-partisan community groups. The decision means that they will submit the 9 centers to the State BOE for approval at their special meeting on Friday October 23.

A critical part of this decision is that the MCDCC and State Delegation made a commitment to submit legislation at the beginning of the Legislative Session in January to add a 10th early voting center in Montgomery County for the 2016 election. The County Council also made a commitment to establish a 10th early voting center.

Although the decision by the Board today will not be final until it is approved by the State BOE, voters in Montgomery County should be pleased with the outcome.

We will be in touch after the State BOE meeting on Friday to report on the final decision.

Darrell Anderson


MCDCC Metrics

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) has undergone major change since the 2010 Democratic primary in the wake of discontent by government employee unions–SEIU, FOP and the Firefighters–coordinated with the Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD), as detailed in a series of earlier posts.

How can we measure the success of MCDCC in the future?

1. Fundraising

New MCDCC Chair Kevin Walling has promised a “comprehensive finance plan.” Of course, the proof is not in the planning but in the dollars raised. I look forward to comparing the financial success of MCDCC next year compared to past years.

2. Precinct Organization

Similarly, promises have been made to revamp the precinct organization and make it more inclusive. Next year, MCDCC should compare both the number of vacancies then and now as well as the diversity of the precinct organization.

3. Field Organization

MCDCC Chair Kevin Walling also campaigned for the position with the ambitious promise of developing a “strong field plan” beyond the precinct organization. He has three months before this year’s general election to organize–not a lot of time but this will be a great test of how nimble the new MCDCC is. MCDCC should measure how many field hours it organizes beyond those contributed by precinct officials this year and 2016.

4. Policymaking

One of the trickiest areas that MCDCC faces is taking positions on issues. Many new members have expressed interest in MCDCC going beyond the already controversial ballot measures endorsement process to take positions on other issues as a means of motivating greater participation and out of a belief that the party organization should lead.

Questions: On what issues will MDCCC take positions? Will it develop a formal process or just do it on the fly? How will it deal with the conflict between elected officials and outside supporters? Last time, the precinct officials solidly supported the position of the officials on the sample ballot. Will the Central Committee overrule the views of the broader organization?



MCDCC Part III: Renovation or Takeover?

Kunes AlbornozDave Kunes and Gabe Albornoz

Check out Part I and Part II of this four part series on the contretemps at MCDCC.

In the wake of the boycott of the Spring Ball, the Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) and labor unions started applying pressure for major changes on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) to include more labor representation and more young people.

The prime movers in this effort appear to be Dave Kunes, Chair of MCYD at age 24, and Gino Renne, MCGEO President. Renne is the most senior of the leaders of the three unions–the others are the FOP and the Firefighters–involved in government operations in Montgomery County.

Labor talked up running an alternative slate for MCDCC. Kunes, who then worked for Del. Tom Hucker and now works for MSEA as well as chairing MCYD, organized a PAC to back candidates for MCDCC. MCGEO donated to the PAC. At this point, perspectives on the story diverge.

No one disagrees on the basic facts, essentially a meeting occurred between MCDCC Chair Gabe Albornoz and others, including Kunes, where they agreed to put together a unity slate that would incorporate significant new members.

It’s the interpretation that varies. Some see Gabe as taking advantage of the situation to renovate a MCDCC in need of new ideas and new blood. Others see it as Gabe suing for peace in order to avoid competing slates and more acrimony within the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Either way, the result turned out the same. MCDCC set up committees of five people who were not running for MCDCC to interview people for slots on the unity slate. So far, so good.

Except that laudable step was undercut completely by the closed, secret nature of the process. Only certain people, essentially current MCDCC members and selected Young Democrats, were invited to apply. If the goal is truly renovation rather than major change to benefit specifically MCYD and labor, why keep it secret and limit applications?

The people involved may call on Captain Hindsight to lament this approach. Sorry but not buying. They organized it specifically to accomplish their goals. They own it.

Regardless, this lack of transparency and the limited nature of the invitations had the desired effect. Roughly eight members of the unity slate, or one-third of candidates, are young Democrats. As a result, the committee is set to take in a major influx of people who helped place the pressure on MCDCC to change.

Additionally, some changes were further negotiated between the major players behind the scenes after the interviews. In particular, the unity slate dropped Young Democrat Brígida Krzysztofik in favor of Kevin Walling, who had raised money for his delegate race in District 16. Both are LGBT. Krzysztofik was quietly promised that she would get a slot next time.

Some of the unity slate choices make more sense than others. I was surprised to learn that the slate didn’t include Jay Wilson, a very talented, smart Young Democrat and Vice President of the African-American Democratic Club. (I know Jay through his work for a nonprofit that we both support.) Despite passing on Jay, African Americans comprise roughly one-third of the slate.

Most of the retiring members have done so by choice but a few were defenestrated from the slate against their will. The primary example is Harold Diamond, who won a seat in District 19 challenging the slate in 2010, but was not selected for the unity slate.

Diamond chaired both the Ballot Questions Advisory Committee as well as the precinct officials meeting to vote on them. He had the nice sounding but dreadful in practice idea of populating the committee with essentially anyone who volunteered. Not the best means to recruit a group of volunteers who are particularly sensible, representative, or sensitive to the variety of interests and trends within the party.

The meeting of the precinct officials also left several key issues until very late in the evening and Diamond repeatedly tried to steer matters in the direction he favored. No surprise he was left off the slate. Nonetheless, he will be seeking reelection from District 19.

Despite labor’s grievances avowedly being a prime motive for unhappiness with MCDCC, only one of the new members has a direct link to the three governmental unions who were upset with MCDCC–Erin Yeagley works for MCGEO. However, Dave Kunes also works for MSEA and the Young Dems as a group are perceived as labor proxies.

The oddness doesn’t end there. The dispute began because labor was frustrated with the County Council. But MCDCC’s major power is to fill vacancies in the legislature. Vacancies on the County Council are filled by appointment. On the other hand, Gino Renne will likely view it as mission accomplished if he can prevent MCDCC from sending out another sample ballot endorsing a question opposed by organized labor even if unanimously supported by an all-Democratic County Council.

Some view all of this as simply an power play by Dave Kunes supported by the unions. Certainly, the idea that crisis is another word for opportunity has more than a dollop of truth. Nevertheless, harnessing ambition for public goals can be a powerful force for change. Kunes revitalized the Young Democrats and made them a force in the County. Regardless of how it came about, the changes at MCDCC provide a real chance to regenerate the party.

Politics is perhaps the only profession in which people are supposed to loudly protest their lack of ambition or desire for advancement as they move their way up the ladder. So what if ambition played a role in his organization of this renovation/partial takeover? All our officials should be so skilled and talented.

The final part in this series will explore the upcoming election for MCDCC as well as its future.