Tag Archives: Nancy Navarro

Targeting Navarro


By Adam Pagnucco.

It was the spring of 2008.  Five-term County Council Member Marilyn Praisner, who had represented District 4 since 1990, had passed away and eight candidates were running for her seat.  One of them was a woman.  One of them was a person of color born in another country.

Her name was Nancy Navarro.

At that time, District 4 included most of US-29 north of Downtown Silver Spring to the Howard County border and the areas south of Olney, east of Rockville and north of Wheaton.  It had little in the way of restaurants or shopping.  There was the aging, emptying business district in Burtonsville.  There was the decrepit, asphalt-covered shopping center in Glenmont.  Here and there, small and mid-size retail strips clung to the sides of New Hampshire Avenue and other major roads.  A tiny colony of fast food and lowbrow restaurants had just sprung up on US-29 at Tech Road.  Walkable urban shopping was nowhere to be found.  If residents wanted that, they would have to drive to Downtown Silver Spring to get it.

None of this was an accident.  For years and years, the civic leaders and activists who dominated the district’s politics had worked hard to keep development out.  Mrs. Praisner was their champion.  They regarded development as a bad thing, attracting both traffic and “undesirables.”  But newer residents, including people of color, wanted the restaurants, jobs and shopping that most other people around the county had.  Colesville resident Nancy Navarro was one of them, and soon she became their champion.

Navarro stood out during the 2008 special election, and not just because of her gender and heritage.  The other seven candidates running for Mrs. Praisner’s seat, including her husband Don, adhered to her vision of little or no growth.  (Don Praisner’s campaign slogan was literally “Fulfilling the Vision.”)  Navarro instead talked about the benefits of economic development, such as creating jobs for residents and giving them amenities that they had not previously had.  Navarro was also supported by many in the business and real estate communities and the public employee unions.  None of this sat well with the old guard, who regarded developers as evil and unions as tax-happy.  Navarro quickly became a target.

The March debate at the Aspen Hill library typified the direction of the campaign: nearly every other candidate concentrated their fire on Navarro.  Their attacks centered on the allegation that she was allegedly a “tool” of developers and unions.  (It didn’t help that MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast invited union leaders to his house to get them to endorse Navarro.)  But there was more to it than that.  To Navarro’s supporters, the implication of this “tool” argument was that women and people of color were supposedly not intelligent or strong enough to make up their own minds, and that when they made common cause with others, they would inevitably fall under their “control.”  Furthermore, while Don Praisner’s supporters criticized Navarro for taking contributions from developers and businesses, Mrs. Praisner had done the exact same thing for years.  Later, it was revealed that Don Praisner himself accepted money from a property owner in the district seeking redevelopment.

Much of this is par for the course in the rocky world of political campaigns.  After all, opposition to change frequently arises in politics and outrage can be selective.  But with Navarro on the ballot, it mutated into something far darker: a toxic stew of racism and xenophobia.  Don Praisner defeated Navarro in the 2008 Democratic primary and would serve on the council for less than a year before he passed away.  When Navarro returned to run again in the 2009 special election, the forces of extremism were prepared.

First came the illegal anonymous robocalls, a repeat of a tactic used against Navarro in 2008.  Then came rumors circulated both on-line and off linking Navarro (who was born in Venezuela) to the Hugo Chavez regime.  Help Save Maryland, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “nativist extremist group,” began targeting Navarro for her alleged support of “illegal aliens.”  Their challenge to Navarro was posted on a racist website equating President Obama to Satan.

Most bizarre of all was an email sent to Navarro’s campaign asking about her immigration status.  The author wrote, “I am informally involved with a group of Independents and we are trying to identify a candidate that we feel comfortable endorsing. It would be great if you could put the rumors to rest and provide information as to when (what year) and where, which state, Ms. Navarro received her naturalization or citizenship. Thank you.”  In fact, the author – who used a fake name – was a GOP activist who wrote for the party and had testified against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Robin Ficker was involved too.  The 2008 GOP nominee, Mark Fennel, was a Ficker protégé, had spread the Hugo Chavez rumors and threatened to unleash “the Dogs of War” on Navarro.  In 2009, Ficker “moved” to District 4 to run for the seat and promptly began sending out illegal flyers.  During a televised campaign debate, Ficker waved a set of decade-old tax liens against Navarro and her husband in his opponent’s face.  Ficker did not use Help Save Maryland’s race-baiting tactics directly, but he did not repudiate them either.

Given this history, it’s no surprise that Help Save Maryland’s participation in Ficker’s term limits initiative was spurred in part by a desire to knock off Navarro.  The group has never made its peace with Navarro’s election and has sent out numerous emails slamming her over the years.  Supporters of term limits have many motivations, but Help Save Maryland is quite clear about theirs: they want to slam the county’s gates shut to “illegal aliens.”

Will any of this make a difference in the current debate over term limits?  Probably not.  Few voters have heard of Help Save Maryland and understand what the group believes.  Even Ficker is less infamous now that his NBA heckling days are mostly over.  In any event, voters are more likely to see term limits through the prism of their own perceived self-interest rather than how they impact specific elected officials.

But make no mistake: the treatment of Nancy Navarro during the 2009 special election is a shameful blot on the county’s political history.  It must not be forgotten.  It must not be repeated.  And hopefully, her successors will be treated with the honor and respect that all upstanding candidates deserve.

Navarro Endorses Taylor

From Councilmember Nancy Navarro’s letter to the MCDCC:

I write in support of Mr. Herman Taylor, former District 14 Delegate, for the appointment to that office.

Mr. Taylor has an extensive record of service to the residents of District 14 and the County. He has fought to address the economic, social, and educational disparities affecting many County residents, and most recently he did an outstanding job chairing the “Montgomery County, Female, Disabled Procurement Task Force.”

………….

I understand that you have a difficult choice to make due to the outstanding candidates seeking this appointment. Nonetheless, Mr. Taylor clearly is the one candidate who will be ready to serve on day one, given his experience and qualifications as a former District 14 Delegate.

Response to Nancy Navarro

I recently published a post on on Center Maryland decrying failure of the Montgomery County Council to articulate a clear vision for our rapidly changing community. Councilmember Nancy Navarro responded here. I appreciated her taking the time to respond and wanted to address some of the points that she raised.

Education

First, Councilmember Navarro rightfully acknowledges the immense challenges that the sea change in the demographics of Montgomery County Public Schools.

But Councilmember Navarro discussion focuses on her work in the context of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics but says nothing about what the County Council has done. Moreover, sitting next to Shakira on a vanity federal commission does nothing for the children of Long Branch, Langley Park, Bel Pre and Briggs Chaney.

We really have two communities here in Montgomery County–the wealthy west side and the hardscrabble east side. While the inequities between the East and West sides require a multi-pronged approach here’s one place to start: the school choice system we’ve implemented here is a bad joke: what’s the point of a lottery between five high poverty, high crime High Schools? Add B-CC,  Whitman, WJ and Churchill to the Down County Consortium and watch how fast things change.

Business

Next Navarro points to the fact that the Council has passed many master and sector plans, though much of the heavy lifting on these is done by the Planning Board, not the Council, as evidence of major progress on economic development. The idea of trumpeting these  routine zoning measures is frankly a little sad. As we sit on the verge of losing Marriott, it’s dangerous.

Navarro calls my assertion that the council’s efforts on economic development are insufficient “laughable.” In my conversations with business owners, they emphasize that the County government acts merely as a regulatory authority to ensure rules are followed–and seems uninterested in helping businesses succeed and create jobs.

The District of Colombia and Northern Virginia have explosive growth in the early stage tech company sector. Montgomery County has completely missed the boat here, which is sad because given the presence of NIST, the 270 Biotech Corridor and NIH we should have been well positioned.

More importantly, instead of dealing with Northrop Grumman, Marriott and other major corporate headquarters relocation drama as they occur, why haven’t we developed a comprehensive plan for the attraction and retention of these Blue Chip Corporate Citizens? Why aren’t we actively trying to poach Fortune 500 Companies from Northern Virginia?

Finally, Navarro points out that the Council has to look out for the many affluent residents of the county. I paid a forty percent tax rate this year. I understand that high taxes are necessary to provide for top flight government services. But, right now, I feel that I’m not getting my money’s worth.

Conclusion

We are one community. If we can restore equity to our forty percent poverty school system and jump start our stagnant economy this benefits Bethesda just as much as Briggs Chaney. It is in the interest of everyone for the entire county to succeed–not just wealthy pockets on the West Side.

Our community needs real leadership. Our community needs an economic development plan for the 21st Century–a key part of that is how we increase our human capital. In short, Montgomery County needs real vision for the future. If we handle these challenges wisely, we can emerge stronger than ever. If we continue to ignore them, we risk frittering away the advantages we now hold.

 

 

 

Valerie Ervin Will Be in for the Eighth

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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.

Riemer Proposes Change to Public Financing Bill

In the public financing of elections, as in much legislation, the devil is in the details. And the legislation proposed by outgoing Councilmember Phil Andrews has a lot of details, so it can be hard to keep up.

During the Government Operations Committee’s review of the proposal, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer sponsored an amendment that altered the public financing bill  in a crucial way.

The original bill allowed only donations made within Montgomery  to be matched by public funds. Hans’s amendment eliminated that limitation so that donations made anywhere in the U.S. would be matched by County funds as outlined in the law.

Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Nancy Navarro voted for the amendment, and Councilmember Cherri Branson voted no. Of course, the full Council can reconsider the issue when it takes up the bill.

The argument against the change is that it makes it easier for individuals who don’t live in Montgomery County to influence the outcome of our elections. The amendment also aids the many MoCo residents who have good DC networks but fewer County ties. It further augments the power of interests within the County who have the ability to gather checks from people elsewhere.

For the other side of the argument, I asked Hans to explain why he sponsored the amendment:

I’m a strong supporter of publicly-funded elections and I am confident that this system will help revolutionize Montgomery County politics.  As I supported the bill at committee last week, I proposed several amendments to strengthen it and make it more attractive to potential candidates.

[One] amendment removes the requirement that donors be county residents, because I support a limited amount of fundraising from outside of the county. I believe the most important goal of this bill is to give candidates a viable alternative to raising large donations from corporations and special interest PACs.

In Montgomery County, we are part of a large metropolitan area where many people grew up somewhere else, and many residents work outside of the County. As any first time political candidate can attest, a lot of initial fundraising comes from family, friends, colleagues–the people that know you best and support you because they believe you will be a great public servant.  Removing this base of support from the matching system risks making public financing a nonviable option for some candidates, and they will either opt-out or not be able to run a competitive campaign.

At the same time, my proposal retains the provision that only in-county donations count towards the qualifying thresholds. This will ensure that no candidate can base their campaign on out-of-county supporters.  In order to qualify, a candidate will have to have a huge base of support in the county, because the thresholds are appropriately high.

As is no secret, Hans is originally from California and has benefited from financial contributions from outside the County so cynics might say he knows of what he speaks. However, he makes good points here. Moreover, Councilmember Riemer is now announcing a proposed new change to the legislation that would limit the impact of the committee amendment:

I also plan to propose limiting the amount of money that can be matched for out-of-county donors, to 10% of the total — the current law in the Connecticut public finance system, a model that advocates have pointed to as an example on many points.

I think these measures make the system more attractive to potential candidates, and thus strengthen the system.  The goal is to give candidates a good alternative to raising large checks from wealthy individuals, corporations, and PACs.

As I alluded in my original post on the bill, a balance is important to strike. On the one hand, goals include preventing any one interest or individual, particularly from outside the area, from gaining too much influence. But in order for the bill to work, the incentives to opt into the system need to be strong enough to dissuade candidates from just raising money on their own under the current arrangements.

As John outlined the other day, making hard for people to raise money can serve as a strong disincentive to opt in–not to mention result in the unintended consequence of increasing call time. No one wants candidates to spend even more time raising money rather than meeting with voters.

On the smart decision front, the County has already indexed the limits to inflation. This choice will help avoid the problem with the original Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, which set fixed limits that inflated away before the were raised in 2002.

One major remaining flaw with the bill is that it fails to address the problem of self-funding candidates who can afford to drop hundreds of thousands of their own money on the race and avoid the system. There are solutions, such as substantially raising the match, so that candidates in the system find it easier to participate. The Council should address this problem when it takes up the bill.

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.

SEIU Endorses Council Candidates

SEIU Local 500 has released their endorsements for Montgomery County Council Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4:

1: Roger Berliner
2: Craig Rice
3: Ryan Spiegel
4: Nancy Navarro (unopposed)

The most interesting endorsements are in Districts 1 and 3.

In District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg), Ryan Spiegel now has the endorsement of two major school system unions: MCEA and SEIU. Two nice endorsements in a hotly contested race with several high-quality candidates for this open seat.

In District 1, Roger Berliner has to be relieved to have received SEIU’s endorsement in his tough contest against Duchy Trachtenberg. So far, MCEA has not endorsed in that race.

The District 1 race could be shaping up as a proxy fight between the school system and county government employee unions. The latter have been mighty unhappy with the current Council and believe that the former have done comparatively well.

Roger Berliner looks among the more vulnerable Council incumbents. Duchy Trachtenberg is not labor’s ideal vehicle given her history but she is the only option if the government employee unions want to take out Berliner and exercise some muscle. Recently, Trachtenberg hired Robert Stewart, the just retired executive director of MCGEO, as her campaign manager.

High-income District 1–it includes Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase–seems an unlikely locale for a labor proxy fight but stranger things have happened. Their divisions could also provide opportunities for other groups to have more influence.

Navarro Lambastes Former Council Aide

It’s not every day you see a former Montgomery County Council President take a former Council aide to task in the pages of the Washington Post. But that’s just what Nancy Navarro did to Dan Reed, a blogger and former aide to Councilmember George Leventhal.

Along with Amanda Kolson Hurley, Reed wrote an opinion piece for the WaPo arguing for the preservation and historic designation of the Wheaton Community Recreation Center, a step recommended by the County’s Planning Board:

If the rec center is demolished, it will be a blow to Montgomery County. The building is an underappreciated and irreplaceable asset. Losing it would diminish our heritage and undermine Wheaton’s ability to attract businesses and residents.

Navarro’s riposte said that their piece:

. . . showed how some seem to view this debate as an academic exercise. Wheaton residents, including unprecedented participation by the Latino community, overwhelmingly testified against historic designation throughout the process. Only historians and career preservationists testified in favor of retaining this dilapidated, leaky and moldy facility. The authors’ assertion that losing this eyesore would “undermine Wheaton’s ability to attract business and residents” is absurd.

Leventhal, Reed’s former boss, sided with Navarro on his Facebook page:

The proposal to preserve the old building fails to address adequately the cost of renovation, who should pay, and who would occupy it. Our operating budget is already strained and building maintenance has been deferred throughout the county. Park & Planning’s recommendation to preserve the dilapidated building follows years of neglect by Park & Planning. Further, preserving the old building will limit green space available for activities associated with the new combined Library & Rec Center. Wheaton deserves better!