Tag Archives: Sidney Katz

Campaign Finance Reports: District County Council, January 2018

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!


SEIU Local 32BJ Endorses Ben Shnider

By Adam Pagnucco.

SEIU Local 32BJ, the mammoth building services union that is one of the biggest and most powerful locals in SEIU, has endorsed insurgent candidate Ben Shnider in his challenge to District 3 Council Member Sidney Katz.  Shnider has been working hard to topple Katz from the left but it’s an uphill challenge.  An endorsement of this kind grants legitimacy to Shnider and will help him draw more progressive support.  We will have a lot more to say about this race, but for now, we reprint the union’s press release below.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Julie Karant: jkarant@seiu32bj.org


Shnider’s Unwavering Support for Working Families Sharply Contrasts Katz’s Record of Opposing the $15 Minimum Wage

Washington, D.C. – Janitors and security officers from 32BJ of the Service Employees International (SEIU), today announced their endorsement of Ben Shnider’s campaign to replace Montgomery County Council District 3 incumbent, Sidney Katz.

“Sidney Katz originally voted against the $15 minimum wage which delayed the effort to raise the wages for struggling workers,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras. “Montgomery County deserves a reliable champion like Ben Shnider who will fight for working families not industry lobbyists.”

32BJ members will knock on doors and speak out within their communities towards the primary election scheduled for June 26th.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the backing of the incredible members of 32BJ. I’m running to ensure that every resident of Montgomery County can afford to live and thrive in this community that I love. I’m proud of the grassroots coalition we’re assembling to bring new leadership to District 3. I’ll work tirelessly on the County Council to provide the members of 32BJ — and all county residents — with the bold, progressive leadership they deserve,” said Shnider.

32BJ members are also inspired by Shnider’s leadership on immigrant rights and racial justice during his tenure with Bend the Arc.

With more than 163,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.



Implications of the Minimum Wage Outcome

Bethesda Beat has the story:

The County Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to a compromise that will phase in the $15-per-hour wage over four years based on businesses’ size.

Under the compromise:

  • large businesses with more than 50 employees will be required to pay the minimum wage in 2021
  • businesses with 11 to 50 employees will have to pay the wage in 2023
  • small businesses with fewer than 11 employees will need to pay the wage in 2024.

The council also approved a measure to tie the wage to the inflation rate in 2022 to prevent the need to vote to increase the wage in the future.

Indexing’s Long-Term Impact

This last bit may be the most important. Indexing to inflation assures that Montgomery’s minimum will continue to rise. As a result, the gap between the minimum wage in Montgomery and elsewhere will continue to grow.

If demand for labor keeps the going rate below Montgomery’s minimum, especially as indexing drives it up, it will make the county less competitive in businesses that don’t need to be located here, though have less impact on many services that are hard to move. However, even these businesses, like restaurants, can choose where to open and we would likely see the result.

The impact on the County budget over the short term is unclear. Over the long term, it may force the County to ratchet up wages and cut other services more in lean budget times, since the County will no longer be able to limit COLAs for workers at the bottom and will have to fight wage compression.

Any future economic and budgetary pressures will be made more acute, as the popularity of indexing wages makes it politically perilous to remove. These potentially negative impacts, however, will occur enough in the future that the current crop of officials will not have to address any consequences of their actions.

Political Impact

The short-term politics are more interesting. It gives Marc Elrich a major victory to tout and undermines critiques of him as ineffective in marshaling his colleagues behind him. At the same time, the unanimous adoption of a compromise takes a lot of the juice out of the political issue as it was adopted unanimously.

Candidates can’t differentiate themselves when there is no difference on an issue. Incumbent Sidney Katz’s opponent, Ben Shnider,  regards this as a victory since he pressured Katz on the issue. But the Council’s action makes it very hard to campaign against Katz on this basis – a win for Katz.

The decline of the issue’s salience also benefits outsider candidates worried about the financial impact, as they are on the less popular side of the question. It may give an opening to County Executive Candidates Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow with the business community, which won’t like the outcome.

Roger Berliner will be grateful this issue is off the agenda and will tell business leaders that he did the best he did to mitigate its impact. Ultimately, however, he still voted for a policy they think is harmful, while Frick was willing to say publicly that minimum wage policy should be left to the state.

Frick will argue to business that his actions show that he is willing to take on tougher causes and they should get behind him. Krasnow is not yet formally in the race, which limits any lumps she can take but also prevents her from earning points on this issue. As the Maryland Lottery has spent much money to explain, “you have to play to win.”


MCGEO Paves the Way for Alcohol Reform

[UPDATE at the end of this post.]

During his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Montgomery County District 5, Evan Glass pushed hard for liberalization of Montgomery’s antiquated monopoly on the sale of alcohol in the County. Despite his narrow defeat, the next four years presents the best opportunity for reform in ages.

MCGEO, the union that represents the employees at County owned liquor stores, bet disastrously on the wrong candidates in the recent Democratic primary. The attempt by MCGEO under the leadership of Gino Renne to flex its muscle and become the leading force among unions and possibly in County politics backfired and earned the union far more enemies than friends.

Montgomery County Council
Let’s look first at County Council races. In District 1, MCGEO endorsed Duchy Trachtenberg’s bid to return to the Council in a challenge to incumbent Roger Berliner. Duchy even hired MCGEO’s former executive director as her campaign manager. Trachtenberg lost with 21% of the vote. MCGEO didn’t just lose; it looked puny and ineffectual.

The big race in District 3 went no better for MCGEO, Gaithersburg Mayor Sid Katz defeated their choice of Ryan Spiegel, who won less than one-quarter of the vote. In Districts 2 and 4, MCGEO did not endorse either incumbent in the primary even though they were unopposed. No relationships built there.

Tom Hucker, who was expected to win by more, limped home to the District 5 nomination in his battle against newcomer Evan Glass. While MCGEO should have a friend in Hucker, his narrow victory hardly impresses and its not clear yet how much weight this new member of the Council will carry with his colleagues.

In the at-large races, MCGEO supported incumbent Marc Elrich so a bright spot for them there. However, they also supported Beth Daly, the most serious challenger to the other incumbents, who all won reelection. No real reason for Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, or Hans Riemer to prioritize MCGEO’s interests. And Hans has already expressed public interest in alcohol reform.

General Assembly
MCGEO played it safer in the General Assembly but surely has teed off the three incumbents whose opponents it supported in District 18. It gave $1000 to Sen. Rich Madaleno’s opponent. Madaleno won despite being heavily outspent by his self-funding opponent who dumped over $300K in the attempt. Unfortunately for MCGEO, he is already one of the more influential insiders on the Budget and Taxation Committee.

While MCGEO supported Jeff Waldstreicher, it also gave $1000 to Natali Fani-Gonzalez, which certainly cannot especially please incumbents Al Carr and Ana Sol Gutierrez. The two incumbents romped home easily with Fani-Gonzalez placing sixth out of seven candidates.

The Results
MCGEO spent a lot of money and political capital in an effort to look strong but made its weakness apparent. Its ill-conceived campaign to plant friends on the Council and instill respect of its power has left it vulnerable. Montgomery officials can move ahead with alcohol reform. They know they have nothing to fear.

UPDATE: MCGEO made another terrible investment in the District 17 Senate race. They donated $6000 to Del. Lou Simmons, another heavy self-funder. Despite having a clear financial advantage, Lou lost the nomination to former Del. Cheryl Kagan by 9 points.


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.


The Next Mayor of Gaithersburg

In October, the Gaithersburg City Council will meet to appoint a new Mayor, as longtime chief executive Sid Katz awaits his uncontested elevation to the County Council.  After reaching out to my vast network of spies the following council members appear to be interested in pursuing the top job.

Jud Ashman – The early favorite would appear to be Councilman and Small Business Owner Jud Ashman (Republican turned Independent turned Democrat). He likely starts out with Cathy Dryzugla’s vote, meaning he needs only one other council member to reach a majority. However, this is made a bit more complex by the fact that everyone else on the Council appears to display at least some interest in running for Mayor.

Henry Maraffa – The last Republican on the Council is Real Estate Developer Henry Maraffa. He’s probably a bit to conservative to be elected Mayor today.

Mike Sesma – The only minority elected official in a rapidly diversifying municipality certainly cuts an appealing profile. He would need to convince Henry (who I suspect would  be more inclined to back ex-Republican Jud if he opts out of the race) and Ryan (who I believe would lean towards Mike naturally) over Ashman.

Ryan Spiegal- Coming off of a hard fought county council primary in District 3, Ryan Spiegal might be more interested in some well-deserved downtime. If not, the Democratic stalwart (despite an impeccable resume) faces a challenging path to the magic number of three votes.

Whomever the appointed Mayor is, I would be truly surprised if they didn’t face a spirited challenge for the seat in November 2015, either from a councilmember who lost on the appointment or from someone else in the community. The strongest contender, in my observant opinion, would be Montgomery County Young Gun Dan Campos. Campos is a dynamic Latino Businessman and ex-Capitol Hill Staffer who would give any councilman appointed Mayor a serious challenge.



Winners and Losers: MoCo Edition

This is an off-the-cuff first glance assessment of last night’s primary election results.


1. Incumbents. Did any of them lose? Even the ones facing strong challengers seem to have made it safely to dry land. In the Council races, Hans Riemer, George Leventhal and Roger Berliner all made it home safe. While Leventhal lagged notably behind the other incumbents, he still had a relatively nice margin over Beth Daly who ran strong. Ditto for executive and legislative offices.

2. Sidney Katz. The Mayor of Gaithersburg’s campaign was consistently underrated by many as Ryan Spiegel scooped up union endorsements and Tom Moore garnered support from the Washington Post. But Katz’s longtime service and knowledge of the area just mattered more.

3. Minority Representation. The legislative delegation will have  new African-American (Will Smith), Latino (Marice Morales), and Asian (David Moon) representatives. Additionally, appointed Del. Fraser-Hidalgo fought off a tough challenge. Susan Lee just became the first non-white to win a Senate seat. And Ike Leggett will return for a third term as county executive.

4. Cheryl Kagan. Second time is a charm for the former delegate who sought election to the Senate previously in 2010. Despite Luiz Simmons’ incumbency and seemingly endless barrage of self-funded negative mail, he could not overcome her strong campaign or problems created by his own legislative record.


1. MCGEO President Gino Renne successfully positioned his union as the leader of the county public employee unions outside the school system, including the FOP and the Firefighters. His efforts backfired hugely yesterday as preferred county council candidates lost across the board with the exception of Tom Hucker, who won a tight race over newcomer Evan Glass.

2. Sam Arora and Ben Kramer. Arora was more or less forced out of the legislature after his last-minute switch against marriage equality led to national outrage. His effort to extend his influence through his endorsement of Charlotte Crutchfield also failed. Kramer also lost in betting against Maricé Morales, the choice of Sen. Roger Manno and Del. Bonnie Cullison.

3. Kevin Gillogly didn’t have much success as a campaign operative, having worked for unsuccessful legislative candidates Jonathan Shurberg and Dana Beyer.

4. Duchy Trachtenberg had lots of money but incumbent Roger Berliner just cleaned her clock. This ought to be Duchy’s last stand but that doesn’t mean that it will be.


Montgomery County District 3 Round Up

council_districtsThree major candidates are fighting for the Democratic nomination for the open seat in Montgomery County Council District 3: Ryan Spiegel, Sid Katz and Tom Moore. Spiegel is likely the early favorite but Moore and Katz both have a decent chance as well.

Spiegel has served on the Gaithersburg City Council since 2007. He is also a partner at Paley Rothman, one of Montgomery County’s largest law firms. Previously, he worked as an associate at the national powerhouse firm of Winston & Strawn. Spiegel ran a strong delegate campaign in 2006 in District 17, narrowly losing to Jim Gilchrist. He has the support of much of the Democratic establishment for his county council bid. In particular, he received the endorsement of MCEA, a particularly useful endorsement that also signals he is seen as a good bet.

Sid Katz has served as Mayor of Gaithersburg in 1998. If he can mobilize his base within the City of Gaithersburg, which makes up roughly one-third of the district, and appeal to seniors in Rockville and Leisure World, he may be able to pull off a win.

Rockville City Councilmember Tom Moore’s candidacy bears watching. He is the only candidate from the City of Rockville. If he can solidify his constituency within Rockville, which makes up the majority of the district, the seat is his. It remains to be seen if he can do that. I also hear good things about Moore from my spies in the business community, although the same is true of Spiegel and to a lesser extent Katz. Interestingly, Moore’s business support is also paired with a Progressive Neighbors endorsement. Pleasing both constituencies will be quite a juggling act if he is elected.

A fourth candidate, Community Activist Guled Kassim, is also running. He is not seen as a serious threat presently. However, Kassim has a compelling personal story as an immigrant who served in the Marines and been active in the County.

Interestingly, it seems likely that none of the candidates will have six figure budgets in this race, increasingly unusual in open seat races in this populous and expensive county.

Rating: Lean Spiegel

Disclosure: Guled Kassim is a former client of mine. I have pitched Ryan Spiegel on Direct Mail Services in the past but am not working with him this cycle.