Tag Archives: Sidney Katz

Washington Post Endorses for MoCo Council, School Board

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post has endorsed the following candidates for County Council and Board of Education.

Council At-Large: Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe, Evan Glass, Hans Riemer

Council District 1: Andrew Friedson

Council District 2: Craig Rice

Council District 3: Sidney Katz

Council District 4: Nancy Navarro

Council District 5: Tom Hucker

Board of Education At-Large: Julie Reiley

Board of Education District 3: Pat O’Neill

Read their endorsements here.

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The Progressives’ Big Gamble

By Adam Pagnucco.

One of the more remarkable things occurring in MoCo this cycle is the snowballing of progressive groups around District 3 County Council challenger Ben Shnider.  Just look at our latest endorsement chart.  Shnider, who was virtually unknown a year ago, has collected about as many progressive endorsements as much better known politicians like Council Members Hans Riemer and Nancy Navarro, Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (running for Council District 1) and Council At-Large candidate Will Jawando.  That’s a challenge for Shnider’s opponent, incumbent Council Member Sidney Katz, but it’s a challenge for the progressive groups too.

Sidney Katz is an odd target for progressives – and basically anyone else.  Consider this: he has been an elected official at the municipal or county levels for forty years and no one dislikes him.  Generations of Gaithersburg residents think of him as Dad, an uncle or Grandpa.  No one would paint him as a conservative – for Heaven’s sake, he voted for a nine percent property tax hike along with the rest of the council two years ago.  He has also voted for nearly every other progressive initiative passed by the council, including more school funding, more non-profit support, bills establishing sick leave and parental leave and almost everything else.

But there is one glaring exception: Katz was one of four Council Members who voted against the 2016 minimum wage bill which was then vetoed by County Executive Ike Leggett.  That bill had incredible symbolic importance for many of MoCo’s liberal groups, who viewed it as a litmus test for determining which elected officials were true progressives.  Katz’s efforts to forge a compromise and get a different version of the bill passed later did not mollify the left.  For them, the damage was done.  And someone’s head had to roll.  But whose?

Four Council Members – Katz, Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Craig Rice – voted against the first bill and Leggett vetoed it.  Leggett and Floreen are term-limited and retiring.  Rice has only token opposition in his Democratic primary.  Berliner is running for Executive, an election in which progressive groups would be aligned with minimum wage lead-sponsor Marc Elrich regardless of the bill vote.  That left Katz, the only opponent of the original bill against whom the left had a clear shot.  And in Ben Shnider, the left has a challenger who is appealing, smart, hard-working, experienced in campaigns and an unquestioned progressive.

SEIU Local 500, a lead player in advocating for minimum wage hikes at the state and county levels, was the first major progressive group to endorse ShniderMany more followed, including SEIU Locals 32BJ (janitors) and 1199 (health care), Progressive Maryland, the Laborers, Casa in Action, the teachers and more.  The Sierra Club’s endorsement of Shnider was probably connected to another vote of Katz’s, this time against a bill banning pesticides.  Katz is supported by the police and fire fighters unions, the volunteer fire fighters and the apartment and office building owners.  MCGEO is the largest progressive group to not yet weigh in.

Shnider pressures Katz on the minimum wage bill.

Knocking off an incumbent is not easy.  Indeed, only one Democratic district council incumbent has been defeated since the County Council’s current structure was established in 1990 and that happened twenty years ago.  In the last six times that a Democratic district council incumbent was challenged, the incumbent won by 50 or more points five times.

Ben Shnider has nothing to lose by challenging Katz.  He is running a tremendous campaign and has built great relationships with the left and the smart growth community.  If he loses, he could very well come back to win another election as so many other MoCo politicians have.  Win or lose, Shnider will be just fine.

But what about these progressive groups?  The fact that so many of them have endorsed Shnider has MoCo’s political community watching this race – especially the county’s elected officials.  The left will have many priorities in the next term and some will cost serious money and political capital.  If these groups actually knock off Katz – or come close – then no one will want to run afoul of them in the future.  But if they do nothing other than allow Shnider to use their logos and Katz wins big, they will look weak.  Other elected officials will think, “They can’t hurt me so I can do what I want.”  Let’s remember that for most politicians, the main thing on their minds is ALWAYS whether a group can help them or hurt them.  If you can’t do either, you just don’t matter.

The progressives are making a big gamble by targeting Sidney Katz.  For their sake, it better pay off.

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Van Hollen Endorses Katz

Sen. Chris Van Hollen has long been considered the most popular politician in Montgomery County, so this is a good get for the Katz campaign. Councilmember Sidney Katz endorsed Chris Van Hollen for Senate in 2016.

The following is the Katz campaign’s press release:

GAITHERSBURG, MD – Sidney Katz, running for re-election to Montgomery County Council District 3, announced he has received the endorsement of Senator Chris Van Hollen.

“I’m proud to endorse Councilmember Sidney Katz’s re-election campaign,” said Senator Van Hollen. “From his time serving the City of Gaithersburg, Sidney understands how local government works and he’s been an effective advocate for his constituents. Sidney has also been a leader on important issues like criminal justice reform – spearheading Montgomery County’s new Mental Health Courts, and ensuring our seniors can age in place. Sidney has also been a leader in the fight to get big money out of politics and to put the public interest first.”

“I’m honored to receive Senator Van Hollen’s endorsement,” said Katz. “He’s been a progressive champion for our state as a state legislator, congressman, and now senator. He’s been a strong advocate for Maryland on issues ranging from education funding to the environment to campaign finance reform. I’m proud to have his endorsement.”

Katz has also been endorsed by the Montgomery County Public Schools Retirees Association, IAFF Local 1664 Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats of Maryland (CAPAD-MD), Metropolitan Political Action Committee – MD, the Brickyard Coalition, and over 25 local officials, including County Executive Ike Leggett and former District 3 Councilmember Phil Andrews.

Katz was first elected to the Montgomery County Council in 2014; he is serving his first term. Previously, Katz served as Mayor of Gaithersburg for 16 years and on the Gaithersburg City Council for 20 years. His civic career started in 1976 when he was selected to be a member of the Gaithersburg Planning Commission.

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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!

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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.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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

32BJ SEIU ENDORSES BEN SHNIDER’S BID TO UNSEAT MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL INCUMBENT, SIDNEY KATZ

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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