His introductory piece:
His piece on school overcrowding:
By Adam Pagnucco.
Today we look at fundraising by the Council District candidates. As with our prior posts on the County Executive and Council At-Large races, 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.
Let’s start with the Council District 1 candidates.
Former Comptroller staffer Andrew Friedson is easily the fundraising leader. His total raised for the cycle ($333,081) exceeds any of the Council At-Large candidates and his cash on hand ($245,290) almost equals the cash on hand of the next three candidates combined ($251,205). Friedson has raised $159,257 from individuals in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Glen Echo, Cabin John, Kensington, Potomac and Poolesville, which represents 48% of his take. That amount is not very different from the TOTAL fundraising from others reported by former Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman ($174,996) and former Planning Board Member Meredith Wellington ($138,820). Of Friedson’s 1,074 contributions, 702 were for $150 or less.
The endorsement leader in District 1 is Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, who has the support of MCEA, Casa in Action, SEIU Locals 500 and 32BJ, Progressive Maryland and MCGEO. But Gutierrez’s main base of voters is Wheaton, which is not in the district, and she does not have a lot of money for mail. Friedson got a big boost when the Post endorsed him.
Reggie Oldak faces a cash crunch at the end because of her decision to participate in public financing. Unlike Friedson, Fosselman or Wellington, she can’t get big corporate or self-financed checks to catch up late and she has already received the maximum public matching funds available ($125,000). District 1 has by far more Democratic voters than any other district and past candidates, like incumbent Roger Berliner and former incumbent Howie Denis, raised comparable amounts to the at-large candidates. The next County Council should consider whether to adjust the matching funds cap to avoid handicapping future District 1 candidates who enroll in public financing.
Now let’s look at the Council District 3 candidates.
Incumbent Sidney Katz and challenger Ben Shnider have raised comparable amounts for the cycle. But Shnider’s burn rate has been much higher (partly driven by early mail) and Katz has more than twice his cash on hand.
Katz’s strength is not simply his incumbency but the fact that he has been a county or municipal elected official in the district longer than Shnider has been alive. That shows up in their fundraising. Katz is in public financing and recently announced that he will receive the maximum public matching funds contribution of $125,000. Of Shnider’s $199,454 total raised, just $14,639 (7%) came from individuals in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Washington Grove, Derwood and zip codes 20878 and 20906. That is a huge gap in starting indigenous support that Shnider has to close.
Here are the summaries for Council Districts 2, 4 and 5.
Council District 5 challenger Kevin Harris qualified for public matching funds so he can send mail against incumbent Tom Hucker. But we expect Hucker and his fellow council incumbents, Craig Rice and Nancy Navarro, to be reelected.
By Adam Pagnucco.
Josh Starr was Superintendent of MCPS from 2011 through 2015 and still lives in MoCo. He announced the candidates whom he supports on Facebook yesterday. Agree with Starr or not, his personal experience of working with state and county elected officials gives him a unique perspective on those running for office. With his permission, we reprint his post below.
Very long post for my MoCo friends about my choices for the primaries, with notes/comments where I feel it’s appropriate. Please note that my choices and/or comments are based on my personal knowledge and experience with these folks, not any deep analysis of every statement/position/vote they’ve made. I definitely have biases.
Governor – Rich Madaleno; Baker would be my #2. When I was super, I found Rich to be one of the smartest, most thoughtful and most knowledgeable elected officials, esp. around budget. He was also one of the first Dems to push back against Hogan. Experienced, smart, progressive, would be a great governor. I’d also love to see an open member of the LGBTQ community elected governor, although that’s in no way the primary (pun intended) reason I’m supporting him.
Senator – Ben Cardin
Congress – Jamie Raskin, because he is, after all, The Jamie Raskin.
House of Delegates – 3 candidates:
Ariana Kelly – solid, speaks out on issues re: women, no reason for her not to continue in Annapolis.
Marc Korman – smart, thoughtful (in my LM class so I got to know him well), definitely a bright future.
Samir Paul – have had a few conversations with him, very sharp and we need more teachers in office.
County Executive (wherein I get a little snarky based on my experiences with many of these candidates). I also think the next CE might be a transitional leader, as we move from 12 years of Ike during an economic downturn towards a new vision that supports bold economic development with progressive politics.
I’m supporting Roger Berliner as I’ve always found him to be thoughtful, a really good listener/learner, consistent and progressive. I’ve always felt Roger tries to do the right thing in an inclusive and reasonable way and will work hard to bring people together around his vision.
A few comments on other CE candidates:
Blair – don’t know much about him, not a huge fan of business leaders assuming they can “save” public entities. I’m pretty agnostic.
Elrich – have always appreciated his progressive politics, always had a solid working relationship, sometimes I appreciate his willingness to take strong positions, sometimes I think they’re unforced errors; major concern is the big hill he’ll have to climb to convince a wide swath of the county that he can do economic development and enact a very progressive agenda.
Frick – there are some things I like about him, personally and professionally, but my experience with Roger Berliner outweighs any support for Frick.
Krasnow – don’t know her, but I hear good things, sounds like a solid choice.
Leventhal – based on personal/professional experience, I’m in the anyone-but-Leventhal camp. He doesn’t have the temperament or leadership skills to be CE, despite his sometimes-engaging personal style and progressive politics. Please, trust me on this one.
Council At-Large (4)
Gabe Albornoz – smart, engaging, thoughtful, has a very bright future; very supportive of kids and MCPS.
Hoan Dang – what I know, I like.
Will Jawando – he deserves a shot.
Hans Riemer – very education focused, solid on economy and progressive issues, always had a good working relationship, we need someone with experience and we need a degree of stability.
I am also in the anyone-but-Jill Ortman Fouse category, based on my experience with her as a board of education member while I was superintendent. Trust me.
Council – D1
Peter Fosselman – solid, good record in Kensington, deserves a shot at council.
BoE (always at the end of the ballot)
At-Large- Karla Silvestre, glad to see her running, great community leader, smart, thoughtful, will be a great BoE member.
D3 – Pat O’Neill, because she deserves a shot at the MD record for longest serving board member. On a serious note, she knows what the role of a board member is and provides an essential balance to other board members who think their job is to run the school system.
This is the third in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Today’s topic: what do the candidates think about the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control’s alcohol monopoly?
Bringing levity to the debate on several occasions, Pete Fosselman started by bluntly stating “I like my liquor” to laughter from the crowd. He proposes letting the county retain control of hard liquor but privatizing the sale of beer and wine, arguing that the change would boost in Montgomery restaurants. As an industry that makes most of their money on alcohol sales, they watch this aspect of the business carefully.
Andrew Friedson spoke passionately in favor of privatization. Fighting back against those concerned about the loss of revenue generated by the monopoly, Friedson stated “I believe government should be judged on how well it serves people, not how well it makes money.” Moreover, he argued that the monopoly costs Montgomery revenue, as it is hard to explain why alcohol sales are 41% lower here than elsewhere in the region unless you think Montgomery has “a secret temperance movement.”
Meredith Wellington agreed with Friedson, saying thoughtfully that the monopoly is a symptom of the county’s problematic approach. Arguing that government can’t do everything, Wellington said that we want entrepreneurial people in the county and need to work with them to help us market the county to businesses.
Though concerned about losing the union jobs, Reggie Oldak also thinks the county should not be in the liquor business, pointing out that $30 million is not much in a $5.5 billion budget. She shouldn’t worry so much. Private liquor distributors are also unionized. Why should the county should favor jobs with one union over another?
Bill Cook believes that privatizing the liquor industry would be a huge loss for the county because we’d lose $30 million and those “great paying union jobs.” Taking perhaps an unusual tack, he then proceeded to attack of his own potential constituents, Total Wine Co-Owner David Trone, who lives and has located the headquarters of his business in District 1.
Stating that there is “nothing wrong” with the county selling liquor and endorsed by UFCW 1994 MCGEO, Ana Sol Gutiérrez favors modernization, not privatization. She says that “significant steps have been taken” in terms of improvements. I wonder if she also thinks Metro escalators rarely break down. Gutiérrez likes that we can take on new debt by bonding the revenue stream. In other words, the county is fiscally hooked on alcohol.
Jim McGee opposes privatization but favors modernization. Unfortunately, that has been promised for years but is much like waiting for Godot. They say that it’s coming. But when is it coming? At the same time, McGee thinks it is too hard for microbreweries to distribute their product.
This is the second in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Today’s post looks at whether the candidates are concerned about the share of the county budget going to service debt, which is approaching 20% according to the question.
Ana Sol Gutiérrez doesn’t see County debt as a problem and views it is analogous to a home mortgage, leaving me hoping that we don’t end up under water like so many home owners. She has confidence in analyses showing the county is financially stable but also expressed interest in finding “other funding streams,” which sounds like taxes. Throughout the debate, however, she referred to mysterious state-level funds that the county had left untapped, a perplexing claim from a this long-time delegate on the appropriations committee who should be well placed to direct funds to the County.
In a similar vein, Bill Cook commended the Council for its balanced budget and well-funded rainy day fund, and blamed “reckless” development without appropriate impact taxes for placing additional burdens on county residents.
Reggie Oldak took a more centrist position, arguing that too much debt is a burden and Montgomery needs to preserve its AAA bond rating. At the same time, she agreed it is shortsighted not to spend on the safety net, leaving me a bit concerned as debt should go to capital, not operating, expenses.
Noting a lot of agreement among the candidates, Jim McGee took a similar position. He views debt as an “investment in the future” but also says we need to see the return on the investment. He also noted aptly that interest rates are rising, so debt will cost more in the future. Economic growth is the real solution to this problem.
Meredith Wellington was the first to express directly that she is very concerned about the debt gobbling up more of our budget even as revenues have not bounced back and we’ve raised taxes. She supports the affordability guidelines, even though they constrain the county’s ability to borrow, and said we need to set priorities. In short, Wellington was the first to identify rightly that growing debt and flat revenues is not a sustainable fiscal path, and that the county will have to make real choices as a result.
Andrew Friedson concurred with Wellington. He countered Gutiérrez’s home mortgage analogy directly, arguing cogently that we cannot do the equivalent of taking out a bigger mortgage or taxing our way out of it. There is certainly little appetite for increased property or income taxes in Montgomery, especially in the wake of the County’s big tax hike.
Showing his expertise on the topic, Pete Fosselman noted the $375 million paid in interest last year and the $120 million hole in the current budget. He’s concerned about the County’s AAA bond rating, arguing that we need fiscal discipline and to work better to provide services through nonprofits even as we stop funding politically connected “sock puppet nonprofits.”
Once again, voters appear to have a real choice, as candidates expressed broad differences on both debt as a problem and the solutions. All should be concerned with the county bond rating because lower bond ratings mean we pay more in interest and can afford less. As Wellington identified, and Friedson and Fosselman agreed, we are not on a sustainable fiscal path, so debt should be a real concern. The era of difficult choices is far from over.
This is the first in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Candidates clashed greatly on whether and how to pitch White Flint as Amazon’s future location. While all touted Montgomery County’s assets, there was enormous disagreement on providing tax incentives.
Jim McGee argued against doing anything to recruit Amazon to Montgomery. He’s outraged that Jeff Bezos makes “$35 billion per year” and opposes the siting of the equivalent of “two Pentagons” here. While correct that Bezos is wealthy, though missing that it’s for creating a world-beating company, this analysis ignores both Amazon’s duty to its shareholders or the reality of its economic power to command incentives. McGee admitted candidly that he was “probably not the right guy” to make the pitch to Amazon.
Bill Cook wants the jobs but is “not willing to prostrate” before Amazon. He’d tell Jeff Bezos that he doesn’t need the money and you already have a mansion in Kalorama. Cook says he knows that Amazon is coming to Washington but won’t be going to DC or Fairfax because “the schools
suck are terrible.” Neither true nor the way I’d put it. The Washington area provides three excellent candidates but Cook’s attitude would assure that Amazon doesn’t come to Maryland.
In contrast to these wildly unrealistic, populist views of the world, Reggie Oldak countered that it would be great if Amazon came, pointing out astutely that we are giving tax breaks, not subsidies, and that collecting 90% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Additionally, we’d receive transit funding from the State. Indeed, the tax breaks are spaced over many decades based on Amazon spending many times more in salaries.
Several candidates, such as Andrew Friedson, pointed out the attractiveness of our location near DC and three airports along with our transit system, educated workforce and excellent school system. Citing Montgomery as a diverse and welcoming community, Pete Fosselman argued emphatically that the tax breaks don’t outweigh the “phenomenal” long-term benefits. Fosselman also pointed out the State’s new funding for Metro along our planned BRT system as real positives in our recruitment pitch.
Demonstrating her planning skills, Wellington also emphasized our great location and said agreed with Pete Fosselman’s support for the Council’s recent zoning changes shortening the comment period for the site, perceptively pointing out the most important discussions occur before the submission of the plan. She’d work to make sure that Amazon’s new building integrate well into the community.
Ana Sol Gutiérrez said “Let’s make a deal. We can both win” but did not outline the sort of deal she’d expect or support. Gutiérrez said that the Governor is enticing Amazon with tax credits but wanted to know what we would gain from Amazon, saying that it’s not about the jobs but the diversity. I suspect most would disagree with Gutiérrez and say that it is, in fact, about the jobs, pointing out that Amazon’s arrival here would provide opportunities for our diverse workforce and assure that all people hired by Amazon, or the many businesses its arrival would spawn, would be covered by Montgomery’s protections for employees.
Unfortunately, Dalbin Osorio was ill and unable to attend the debate, which was too bad as he was a lively and interesting candidate at the first debate.
By Adam Pagnucco.
In addition to the wild and woolly Executive and Council At-Large races, MoCo has two competitive District County Council elections. Let’s have a look.
Council District 1
In District 1, which stretches from Kensington in the east to Poolesville in the west, nine candidates are vying to succeed incumbent Roger Berliner, who is term limited and is running for Executive. But of these nine, only four look competitive at the moment and one stands out: former aide to the Comptroller Andrew Friedson.
Friedson’s lead in total raised and cash balance is as obvious as it is staggering. But consider these three facts. First, if Friedson were running in the Council At-Large race, his total raised for the cycle ($218,903) would be second only to Hans Riemer ($219,103), who is the only at-large incumbent running. Friedson’s cash on hand ($200,622) would be second only to Delegate Charles Barkley ($232,428). Second, Friedson’s lead is not in money alone. We added up the number of individual contributors each of the top four fundraising candidates had in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Kensington, Cabin John, Glen Echo, Poolesville and zip codes 20852 (Rockville) and 20878 (Gaithersburg/North Potomac) to approximate in-district contributors. Friedson had 289 contributors in these locations, followed by Reggie Oldak (217), former Town of Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman (195) and Meredith Wellington (92). Third, Friedson has accomplished this in just five months. Fosselman has been running for ten months, followed by Oldak (nine months) and Wellington (eight months). We wonder how much Friedson would have raised if he had been campaigning longer.
The good news for Reggie Oldak is that she has done well in public financing and should have no problem hitting the $125,000 cap for public matching funds. The bad news is that it’s probably impossible for her to catch Friedson because once she hits the cap, she will be limited to $150 individual checks. Wellington has relied on self-financing more than the other candidates and has a high burn rate (41%). Fosselman should have been the fundraising leader in this race. He was Mayor of the Town of Kensington for a decade and is plugged into Ike Leggett’s network, the county developer network (he once worked for Rodgers Consulting) and what is left of the network of former Governor Martin O’Malley, who endorsed him and had his PAC max out to him. But Fosselman is fourth in cash on hand and faces the risk that the business community will turn to Friedson as a better prospect to win.
Council District 3
In District 3, which is mostly comprised of Rockville, Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Leisure World, part of Norbeck and Washington Grove, former J Street Political Director Ben Shnider is taking on incumbent Council Member and former Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz. Shnider, who is in the traditional financing system, outraised the incumbent, who is taking public financing.
Shnider’s fundraising edge, along with his endorsement by SEIU Local 32BJ, gives his campaign credibility against Katz, who has been in county and municipal politics for decades. A further look at the fundraising numbers reveals two things. First, 76% of Shnider’s fundraising has come from out of state. (Katz’s percentage is just 2%). But second, and more worrisome for Katz, Shnider is starting to catch on in the district. When we added up the number of individual contributors from Rockville, Gaithersburg, Washington Grove and zip code 20906 (Leisure World/Norbeck) to approximate in-district contributors, Katz had 99 and Shnider had 75. Shnider is the underdog in this race, but Katz needs to start working harder to hold him off.
The other districts lack competition. District 2 incumbent Craig Rice has not been raising money and is apparently unworried about his Republican rivals in the age of Trump. District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro and District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker have no opponents and are headed to reelection.
We will get to state legislative races soon, folks!
Former Gov. Martin O’Malley has endorsed former Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman in the District 1 Council race:
Pete Fosselman is a results-driven leader who has the know-how and experience to accomplish big things for the people of Montgomery County, Throughout his distinguished career in public service, Pete developed a reputation as a consensus builder who knows how to get things done on important issues like economic development, education, smart growth, and a better quality of life for Maryland’s seniors.
It’s a nice signifier that Pete Fosselman is a major contender for the seat being vacated by Roger Berliner. It’s not a complete bolt from the blue as Fosselman and O’Malley have long been friends.
Fosselman also served in O’Malley’s administration as Deputy Secretary of State–a position to which Gov. Larry Hogan reappointed him. Currently, he works as the planning coordinator for the White Oak Science Gateway project for County Executive Ike Leggett.
Three candidates are vying for the two Council seats up for election this year: Darin Bartram, Connor Crimmins, and Tom Rodriguez. (The Mayor and other two councilmembers are elected in even-numbered years.)
Bartram and Rodriguez are incumbents with Bartram seeking his third term and Rodriguez his second. Reports indicate that challenger Crimmins is running a strong campaign, complete with website. Crimmins is the Chief Operating Officer at Spider Stratagies, a technology an consulting company.
Like in most Maryland towns, elections in Kensington are nonpartisan. However, while Crimmins is an unaffiliated voter (UPDATE: Crimmins is a Democrat), Bartram and Rodriguez are Republicans who are active in national Republican politics through their jobs.
Bartram is a partner at Baker Hostetler who works in environmental and constitutional law. Specifically, he has provided counsel to a utility company that failed to comply with federal environmental regulations and also was part of the team that challenged unsuccessfully the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act.
Rodriguez works as a communications advisor at Luntz Global, the firm run by Republican Pollster Frank Luntz. He has worked as a fundraiser for Republican Members of Congress and also served as a consultant on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Former long-time Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman, now a Democratic Candidate in Council District 1, has endorsed Bartram. Fosselman and Del. David Moon (D-20) jousted over Fosselman’s support for Bartram on Facebook:
Moon and Bartram had tangled on Facebook. Moon, a former campaign consultant, expressed his lack of surprise at Bartram’s criticism of General Assembly Democrats in light of Bartram’s past defense of Trump and Scalia’s critique of the Voting Right Act along with Bartram’s Facebook post proclaiming “I think Sarah Palin is awesome.” Drawing the County Council into the debate, Bartram accused Councilmember Hans Riemer of feeding Moon shots from Bartram’s Facebook page. (UPDATE: Riemer had not seen the page and literally had no idea what Bartram was talking about.)
Washington Grove, an adorable small town with its own MARC stop, will hold elections on May 13th from 4 to 7pm. The Town elects its mayor annually and two of the six members of the Town Council every year. In contrast to Kensington, all is very quiet in Washington Grove this year. All of the positions are uncontested:
Joli McCathran (incumbent)
Audrey Maskery (incumbent)
Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman is not seeking reelection to a sixth term this year. He has asked Councilmember Tracy Furman to file for Mayor and she has. Among the highlights of Fosselman’s tenure was the approval of the new sector plan allowing for higher density in downtown Kensington.
This will be a real change in leadership for Kensington. Beyond winning five terms, Pete has been deft at managing Council meetings and very successful in getting his preferred candidates elected to the Town Council.