By Adam Pagnucco.
Progressive Maryland, an umbrella organization containing several influential progressive groups, has announced it is endorsing the following candidates for County Council.
At-Large: Brandy Brooks, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm
District 1: Ana Sol Gutierrez
District 3: Ben Shnider
District 4: Nancy Navarro
District 5: Tom Hucker
Progressive Maryland has previously endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Ben Jealous for Governor. Brooks is an employee of the organization. Hucker founded the group’s predecessor, Progressive Montgomery.
Two things strike us as interesting here. First, this is the first major institutional endorsement not received by at-large incumbent Hans Riemer. (SEIU Local 500 has endorsed three non-incumbents in the at-large race but left a spot open for Riemer contingent on further events in Rockville.) Second, Progressive Maryland’s affiliates include MCGEO, UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers), the SEIU Maryland/D.C. council, NOW and ATU Local 689 (WMATA), all of whom play in MoCo elections. Does Progressive Maryland’s decision provide insight on which candidates may be endorsed by these other groups?
Many thanks to Common Cause Executive Director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel for letting me know about the major changes made to the public financing bill by the full County Council before its passage. You can find a description of the bill here.
The major change was the repeal of Hans Riemer’s amendment that passed in committee, which allowed donations made outside the County to be matched by public funds. Instead, recipients of public funds can receive donations from outside the County up to the $150 limit but they will not be matched.
Bevan-Dangel also explained: “The bill was amended to allow candidates to declare their intent to be publicly funded and start raising donations at the beginning of the four year election cycle, instead of waiting to the last year of the cycle. (This is critical because otherwise candidates would have had an incentive to raise funds into those old, non-public funded accounts in the ‘off’ years.)” This amendment was sponsored by Hans Riemer.
A motion to add expenditure limits to the bill died for lack of a second. Due to the potential for self-funded candidates to spend enormous amounts, this was probably a good decision by the Council. It is impossible to limit expenditures by people who opt out of the public financing system, as the Supreme Court declared them equivalent to constitutionally protected free speech in Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
Outgoing Councilmember Phil Andrews must be enormously pleased with the unanimous passage of the bill he sponsored. Common Cause Maryland should also take great satisfaction in the passage of this bill, though I notice that they have been very careful to share credit with other members of the Fair Elections Maryland Coalition, such as Progressive Maryland, that worked for the bill.