Council At-Large candidate Seth Grimes has released this campaign video.
Council At-Large candidate Seth Grimes has released this campaign video.
By Adam Pagnucco.
Today, we look at the Council At-Large candidates. As with yesterday, we start with a note on methodology. First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period. Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others. Self-funding includes money from spouses. Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.” That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.
Below is our fundraising summary for the Council At-Large candidates.
First, a few random notes. As of this writing, five at-large candidates – Craig Carozza-Caviness, Ron Colbert, Paul Geller, Richard Gottfried and Darwin Romero – have not filed May reports. Lorna Phillips Forde did file a May report and requested matching funds, but her report contains many duplicated entries and is a big mess. We are not printing her numbers until they get straightened out. Michele Riley has given herself a combined $21,000 in two loans and one contribution, which exceeds the $12,000 self-funding maximum allowed in public financing. That needs to be corrected or otherwise remedied.
Now to the numbers. In the pre-public financing days, winning at-large candidates generally raised $250,000 or more with the notable exception of Marc Elrich. Four candidates are in that territory: Hans Riemer (the only incumbent), Evan Glass, Bill Conway and Will Jawando. Gabe Albornoz and Hoan Dang are not far off. Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) has not raised quite that much, but he started with a big war chest built over years of little competition in his district. The cash on hand leaders are Glass, Riemer and Barkley, who are virtually tied, followed by Conway and then Jawando.
In evaluating differences in cash position, we don’t find variances of $20,000-30,000 very significant. That’s because candidates schedule their expenditures differently. Some have spent a bit more before the deadline and some held back to show a bigger balance. What we do find significant is the difference between candidates who have close to $200,000 available for the final push – Riemer, Glass, Barkley and Conway – and those who have half that amount or less, such as Albornoz, Dang, Marilyn Balcombe, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Mohammad Siddique, Ashwani Jain, Danielle Meitiv, Seth Grimes and Brandy Brooks. (Forget about those who have $25,000 or less.) The latter group of candidates now faces very tough decisions on resource usage. A mailer to super-Dems can cost $35,000-$45,000 depending on how the universe is defined. So a candidate with $100,000 on hand might be able to squeeze out two or three mailers and that’s about it. Is that enough to stand out given all the other races going on?
Institutional endorsements also play a role. Several of the lesser funded candidates, especially Brooks and Meitiv, have some good endorsements that could help them. We think the biggest beneficiary will be MCPS teacher Chris Wilhelm, who has more cash on hand than Albornoz, Dang and Balcombe and also has the Apple Ballot. If the teachers mail for Wilhelm, that could effectively close the gap a bit between him and the top-funded candidates.
For what it’s worth, the conventional wisdom is that Riemer will be reelected, Glass and Jawando will join him and the last seat will come down to Conway or Albornoz. We’re not ready to buy that for a couple reasons. First, among the seven County Councils that have been elected since the current structure was established in 1990, only one – the 1998-2002 council – had zero at-large female members. Combine that with the fact that 60% of the primary electorate is female and it’s premature to write off all the women running. Second, this is an unprecedented year. We have never had public financing before and we have never had so many people running at-large. What seems like conventional wisdom now could seem very unwise in the blink of an eye! So we expect surprises in this historic election.
Next: the council district races.
By Adam Pagnucco.
We conclude with the remaining five Council At-Large candidates who have qualified for matching funds in public financing.
Wilhelm, an MCPS teacher, is becoming a progressive darling of the Council At-Large race with endorsements from MCEA, the Laborers, Progressive Maryland and the Democratic Socialists. His contributions are heavily tilted towards the very liberal areas of Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park. The question for Wilhelm is whether he can hang with the other strong competitors going for those same votes, especially Hans Riemer, Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Seth Grimes and find a way to break into the top four. Wilhelm is a smart and passionate campaigner so don’t count him out.
Jawando is the leading fundraiser in Silver Spring East County, which we define as zip codes 20903, 20904 and 20905. This area overlaps with the section of District 20 in which he performed best in his 2014 race for Delegate. Jawando has put together a long list of institutional endorsements that exceeds even the race’s sole incumbent, Hans Riemer, and includes the Apple Ballot. (He was also endorsed by the Laborers Union shortly after we published the latest list.) Now Jawando has to raise enough money to get the word out and finish the job. If he does, he will become just the second Council Member of color to win an At-Large seat after Ike Leggett left in 2002.
Meitiv, the famous Free Range Mom, is so far the only female at-large candidate who has qualified for public matching funds. (Shruti Bhatnagar came close but has been ruled ineligible by the State Board of Elections. Brandy Brooks says she has enough contributions to qualify but has not yet filed with the state.) Meitiv’s contribution geography resembles the all-candidate average and is largely based in the Democratic Crescent that is so critical to winning countywide elections. If she continues to raise money, her status as one of the few competitive at-large women will help her in a primary electorate that is nearly 60% female.
The good news is that Siddique is the second-leading fundraiser in Gaithersburg ($5,515) after George Leventhal ($6,808). The bad news is that he has a minimal presence in Democratic Crescent areas like Chevy Chase, Downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park that are critical to countywide performance.
Grimes, a former Takoma Park City Council Member, has collected a majority of his contributions from the city with relatively little money coming from elsewhere in the county. Takoma Park is not a big enough base from which to win a countywide election by itself. Grimes needs to pick it up elsewhere to have a chance for victory.
By Seth Grimes.
Someone asked me earlier this week, “What is Montgomery County doing really well?”
My answer: We are a welcoming, compassionate, and inclusive community. That’s the Montgomery Way.
The Montgomery Way: Our $312 million Health & Human Services budget funds an array of programs that assist our most vulnerable neighbors. Our “inclusionary zoning” approach to land use has made the County an affordable housing leader. And we stand with our immigrant neighbors, including undocumented individuals, in the face of Trump Administration attacks and Republican congressional complicity.
Let’s credit County Executive Ike Leggett with shaping this ethos, which includes a policy of public-safety non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Yet attacks on immigrants are intensifying, nationally and here in the Washington DC area. We must respond. Let’s consider two ways we can strengthen local protections.
Montgomery County should fund deportation legal defense and pass a Community Trust Act that formalizes ICE non-cooperation as County law, a step promoted by CASA de Maryland.
Momentum toward these local steps has been building over the course of Donald Trump’s year in office. A start: I recall a productive Takoma Park Mobilization meeting with County Councilmembers Marc Elrich and George Leventhal last February at my office, to broach both ideas. (I’m a Mobilization co-founder; the Mobilization grew out of a November 11, 2016 Rally for Community, taking place the Friday after Trump’s election, that I initiated to show solidarity with immigrant and Muslim neighbors.)
Progress can take time, however; in the last year, the threat to undocumented neighbors has only grown. It’s time to act.
A Montgomery County Deportation Defense Coalition is pushing for action, for funding in the County’s FY19 budget. The Coalition’s argument: “Immigrants in deportation proceedings are not entitled to court-appointed counsel. This means that immigrants who cannot afford to hire an attorney must represent themselves. Per a nationwide study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, represented immigrants are 5.5 times more likely to win their case than non-represented immigrants.” Implicit is that it is our collective duty to stand with and support our neighbors facing deportation.
Public deportation legal defense funding could support and expand the work done by organizations such as Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), which seeks to ensure that every child in the immigration system has a lawyer. Ayuda and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition also provide legal services to individuals facing deportation. We’re not talking about a new assignment for the County Attorney.
There’s more we can do. A new Maryland Legislative Coalition, working closely with ACLU PeoplePower, is backing the Maryland SAFE Act, currently before the General Assembly. SAFE stands for Supporting All Families Everywhere; PeoplePower is an initiative dedicated to grassroots action in defense of civil liberties. The SAFE Act, HB 1461, was introduced Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez. It would limit Immigration cooperation by state authorities and provide immunity and indemnification for officials who do not cooperate. SAFE is another form of deportation legal defense. I testified for 2017’s failed Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act, and I support this year’s very similar SAFE Act in addition to local, Montgomery County action.
Deportation legal defense is the Montgomery Way, a set of concrete steps we can and should take to ensure that ours remains a welcoming, compassionate, and inclusive community. The Trump Administration is targeting our immigrant neighbors. Deportation legal defense is an important way we can stand up and fight back.
Seth Grimes is a candidate for County Council At-Large.
Based on their emails, many Democratic candidates for local office are none too interested in the bread and butter issues of local government. Why talk about snow plowing, property taxes, and sector plans when you can run against Donald Trump?
Roger Berliner is running for Montgomery County Executive to fight for net neutrality and against federal tax legislation:
At-Large Montgomery County Council Candidate Seth Grimes is running on a similar set of themes:
Similarly, George Leventhal is running for County Executive to fight for gun control:
These three candidates are good examples but they are far from alone in talking non-local issues, so don’t think they’re remotely outliers. Voters are quite naturally fixated on the latest horrendous news to come out of Trump’s cauldron.
Among Democrats, there is no greater motivator than running against Trump and his works. My guess is that it works a lot better at getting people to open up their wallets than talking about the county’s budget shortfall or zoning.
However, as someone who writes about local and state politics (and Trump too), it grates. Democratic candidates agree on all of these issues, so it doesn’t distinguish them. Despite trying to gain points for standing up for “the resistance,” opposing Trump is truly the path of least resistance in scoring Democratic dollars or votes.
It’s all the more problematic because there are many pressing local and state concerns. I just don’t seem to hear much about them from many candidates who are busily trumpeting their opposition to all things Trump.
If you’re running for the Democratic nomination for Montgomery County office, tell voters what you’re going to do here. If you focus on core county issues and concerns, that would be even better. I’m even willing to stipulate that you are a fervent Trump opponent.
By Adam Pagnucco.
Seth Grimes, Takoma Park
Former Takoma Park City Council Member Seth Grimes’s edge is his experience. Other than incumbent Hans Riemer and Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39), Grimes is the only candidate in the field who has served in elected office so far. During his two terms in office (2011-2015), Grimes passed legislation allowing 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections as well as banning environmentally harmful pesticides and polystyrene containers. The latter two bills were models for similar county legislation. He also pushed for better management practices in the city both before and after he started serving on the council.
In person, Grimes comes across as studious and tremendously substantive. Those qualities are present in such abundance that he can struggle to convey ideas in layman’s terms. He can go into significant detail on his favorite subjects, including affordable housing, food security, reducing poverty and municipal tax duplication. On many other subjects, Grimes can relate them to his work in the city. As a provider of many more services than a lot of Maryland municipalities (including a full service police department), the city provides a good laboratory for understanding the functions and problems of county government.
One major plus for your author is that Grimes is a blogger. (Folks, we bloggers are sorely misunderstood and must stick together in the face of a sometimes unforgiving world!) His blog shows a person who is fact-oriented, careful, versed in policy and extremely well informed. It’s obvious that he would be ready to serve on the County Council from day one. That fact alone makes him worthy of consideration for your vote.
Ashwani Jain, Potomac
Former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain has an inspiring story. He is a first generation American whose father came here from India years ago with no connections and built a thriving family jewelry business. He is also a cancer survivor, having contracted the disease at age 13 and undergone chemotherapy. Jain understands the American dream as well as personal tragedy. Lots of people will relate to him.
Jain’s claim to fame is his association with President Obama, dating from his volunteering for him ten years ago and ultimately culminating in positions at the White House and the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development. He is part of the local Obama network that also includes Council Member Hans Riemer, Delegate Marc Korman, former Maryland Obama Director Jason Waskey, former Delegate candidate Kyle Lierman, former MCDCC Member Oscar Ramirez and fellow at-large council candidate Will Jawando. But Jain is not just a national-level person – he is also a native of the county and has lived in several parts of it, both east and west. That gives him a gut-level knowledge of the county that most transplants don’t have.
Jain’s policy views on land use and budgetary issues are not well developed, though he does favor transit projects like the Purple Line and the BRT system, he supports a $15 minimum wage, he believes the county should be a sanctuary jurisdiction and he emphasizes the need for affordable housing. He also thinks the county should consider ending its liquor monopoly. But perhaps the biggest reason why voters will like him in addition to his Obama experience is his appealing personality. Simply put, it is virtually impossible to dislike him. That’s a major asset for any politician. Local activists don’t know him yet, but he could really surprise people before this race is over.
That’s it for now, folks. As we meet more candidates, we may renew this series in the future!