Tag Archives: Tom Moore

Tom Moore’s Thoughts on MCDCC

The following is by Tom Moore, a former Rockville City Councilmember and and candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Montgomery County Council’s 3rd District seat in 2014. I disagree completely with Tom’s suggestions for the future focus of MCDCC but thought it would be interesting to present an alternative viewpoint.

Two years ago, David Lublin asked, “How can we measure the success of MCDCC in the future?” and listed four areas of metrics being discussed by MCDCC leaders that might do the trick: Fundraising, precinct organization, field organization, and policymaking.

Now, these were certainly important things to track, but they mostly seem to be chasing the main political party metric, the only one that really matters: So, how many of your candidates won this year?

Because the MCDCC scores an envious 100% just about every year on that metric, subsidiary metrics like fundraising and precinct and field organizations miss the point.

They don’t get nearly to the heart of the question facing the Montgomery County Democratic Party:  What is the role of a party organization when it effectively doesn’t have a party opposing it?

If Montgomery County were home to a robust county GOP, the role of the MCDCC would be obvious: Build and maintain the organization that will vanquish as many Republicans as possible every November.  Funds would be raised for a reason. Precinct and field organizations would have a clear mission to pursue.

Now, the day may arrive when the GOP decides to start nominating electable candidates, and when it does, the MCDCC can revert to being a regular political party with a traditional mission.  But the MCDCC has to figure out what do to with itself until that day arrives – which I’m not betting will be anytime soon.

Because until that day arrives, it will be impossible to build a precinct organization when it doesn’t really have anything to do, or to build a field operation when it doesn’t really have anything to do, or to raise funds for the MCDCC when it has no opposing party. You need continuously competitive local races versus another party to sustain that kind of interest, and we simply don’t have them. People simply have better things to do with their time and money.

What can the MCDCC do until that day arrives? Recruit and train good progressive Democrats to run for office, and help all of them when they do run.  Provide information. Pool the costs of running that can be shared across all candidates.

We’re Democrats.  We deeply care about how well our government works – would we rather our standard-bearers spend more time raising funds, or more time making our government work well?  The cheaper and easier we can make it for our fellow Democrats to run for office here, the more time our candidates and officeholders can actually spend making good policy, and the more money Montgomery County Democratic contributors can keep in their pockets.

I was taken aback during my campaign for the Montgomery County Council’s 3rd District seat in 2014 to learn that I would receive absolutely no support from the MCDCC during the primary season, and wouldn’t receive any were I in the general election, as there was no Republican on the ballot.  I called the MCDCC and found that no county voter data was available. My only formal interaction with the Democratic Party at any level was to pay the state party a good chunk of money for my voter data.

Much better would have been for me to be able to send my volunteers to MCDCC classes on field operations, or fundraising, or communications, or data analysis.  (I wouldn’t particularly have cared had they been sitting next to my opponents’ staff – there are some easily teachable basics that all Democratic activists should know.)  Much better would have been for the MCDCC to have provided me and my opponents with free voter data, and to have some expertise on hand to help us understand it when we had questions.

I don’t suggest that the MCDCC directly intervene in primaries; of course that’s improper.  But there’s no reason why the MCDCC can’t offer training  – or provide data – to any Democrat who requests it.  That’s not helping some candidates at the expense of others, that’s evenhandedly helping every Democrat who bothers to take advantage of the opportunity.

Campaigns end. But Montgomery County’s need for trained and engaged political activists continues. Two years ago, my supporters and I engaged in a spirited contest versus Sidney Katz, Ryan Spiegel, and Guled Kassim and their supporters for that 3rd District seat. This fall, I found myself working with Councilmember Katz, his supporters, and others in the attempt to beat back the developer-supported term-limits initiative. It would have been helpful to have had a corps of progressive activists who were trained in field operations and fundraising and media, regardless of who they supported two years ago, and regardless of who they’ll support two years from now.

We’re in a special situation here.  The focus should be on building the MCDCC we need for the situation the MCDCC actually finds itself in, and not the situation that a party with a functional opposing party is in.

The MCDCC could really be helpful to its candidates if it adjusted its approach; right now, it really isn’t doing anything much at all for anyone.  The party has an opportunity to chart a new course – a useful one: Recruit good candidates. Train them and their volunteers. Support all of them.

Tom Moore lives in Rockville. He is president of the board of Common Cause Maryland. He is a former Rockville City Councilmember and ran for the Democratic nomination for the Montgomery County Council’s 3rd District seat in 2014.



Term Limits Goes to Court

Today, at 9:30am, the Circuit Court will hear arguments as to whether No on B’s case against the referendum on term limits can go forward. The argument is purely about whether the proposal has met the legal requirements to be placed on the ballot–not the constitutionality of the referendum.

No on B’s argument rests on two points: (1) Robin Ficker marked up the petition pages and made changes before their submission to the Board of Elections in violation of the law, and (2) the petition lacks sufficient number of legal signatures. Having checked 28% of the pages so far, they have found 63% of the number of flaws required to knock the referendum off the ballot.

Weighing heavily on the pro-referendum side will be that the Board of Elections–the main defendant in this case–has certified the petition has a sufficient number of valid signatures. The judge could well regard the Board as more neutral party, as their job here is to carry out a bureaucratic process, not to advocate. At the same time, neutral does not immunize them against legal errors–and they may not have known of Ficker’s changes.

Robin Ficker, the petition’s proponent, has received permission from the Court to be an additional defendant. Whether Ficker’s brand of obnoxious vocal advocacy aids the case remains to be seen. While bringing strong support for the referendum, his presence could undermine any view of the Board as a more neutral party.

There is also the little underlying problem that Ficker is a walking advertisement against his own proposal. After all, the voters managed to unseat the Republican after his one and only term in the House of Delegates. While irrelevant to the case, it isn’t the sort of background that aids the pro-term limits side.

Democrat Jonathan Shurberg, a former candidate for delegate in District 20 who now blogs and has remained active in County politics, will serve as the attorney for No on B. While No on B aspires to pay him, they have not raised the funds so far.


Tom Moore Will Not Seek Reelection in Rockville

Here is the statement he posted on Facebook:

After much soul-searching, I have decided not to run for re-election to the Rockville City Council this fall. I have cherished the privilege of serving the people of Rockville on their Council. But my family has paid a high price while I have campaigned and governed virtually nonstop over the past six years, and it is time for me to turn my attentions homeward.

Though I am keenly disappointed that my elected service must draw to a close for the time being, I take great satisfaction in what I have helped accomplish in office:

• We ended our downtown’s disastrous decade-long building moratorium;

• We saved an entire affordable neighborhood from developers who would have priced hundreds of working families out of their homes;

• We adopted a tough City ethics law; and

• We protected Rockville residents’ privacy by placing sharp limits on the data the government keeps on our movements.

My hard-won victories on these and other issues leave the City in a much better place than when I joined the Council. We can better protect our existing neighborhoods and better create great new ones. We can better compete with neighboring jurisdictions for residents and businesses and investment. The tough decisions I made on budgets and utility rates will maintain our infrastructure and strong City services for years to come.

I am surpassingly grateful for the efforts of Rockville’s superb City staff, whose round-the-clock efforts have made my job significantly easier every moment I have served in office.

You should know that I am very excited about some good folks who are preparing to run for office in Rockville this year. You will be hearing much more from them in the coming weeks. Keeping Rockville such a wonderful place to live, work, and enjoy life requires dynamic, experienced, and forward-looking leadership. We will have the chance for just that this fall. Stay tuned!

Finally, I am deeply grateful to the hundreds of friends and neighbors who have worked so hard over the years to send me to office so I could help fulfill our shared vision for a progressive, efficient, fair, safe, and neighborly Rockville. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make our great City even better.

With warmest regards,


I can understand him calling it a day after six years–the same amount of time before I made the same decision. Tom was most recently in the news on this blog regarding Rockville’s debate over the removal of a statue of a Confederate soldier.


Civil War Skirmish in Rockville

Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton has no opinion on whether the statue of a Confederate cavalry private outside the courthouse in Rockville should be removed. “It’s a County decision. It’s not my choice,” Mayor Newton explained, when I asked her for personal views on the subject.

The statue, which has a memorial plaque stating “To Our Heroes of Montgomery Co., Maryland, That We Through Life May Not Forget To Love The Thin Gray Line” has been the subject of controversy lately in Rockville’s City government. On July 20, the City held a 3.5 hour public meeting on the topic.

Mayor Newton has gone to great lengths to make sure that her non-opinion is the official opinion of the City of Rockville. Here is what appears to have happened: Though the Council had planned to take up the issue publicly at its next meeting, Mayor Newton communicated to the Council that County Executive Leggett wanted a letter from the City more quickly.

Remove the Statue

City Councilmember Tom Moore’s draft of a proposed letter in support of removal of the statue from the courthouse gained approval from two of his colleagues–Councilmembers Virginia Onley and Julie Palakovich Carr. Here is the letter: Moore Letter_Page_1Moore Letter_Page_2Councilmember Beryl Feinberg wrote her colleagues that she couldn’t support it as written. The Mayor did not weigh in on Moore’s draft. However, as she has just one vote among five under Rockville’s system of government, Moore’s letter still had a majority.

How “Remove the Statue” Became No Opinion

At that point, Mayor Newton had two options in my view. She could  sign the letter and send it on to the County. Alternatively, she could present a counter proposal and see if she could gain support for it from a Council majority.

Newton chose the second approach but appears to have gone about it an unusual, problematic way. The Mayor got two of her colleagues–Feinberg and Onley–to approve a very different letter that says nothing most eloquently on the key subject of whether the statue should be removed.

But she appears to have left Moore and Palakovich Carr completely out of the loop on this significant rewrite–a major violation of conventional Council order. While colleagues often consult each other separately, all are normally invited to weigh in on a final decision, especially when an alternative approach has already gained majority support.

Here is the letter Mayor Newton sent:

Letter to County Executive for Confederate Statue_Page_3 Letter to County Executive for Confederate Statue_Page_4Newton did not notify Moore and Palakovich Carr until she had secured approval for the new letter privately and sent it to the County. Here is the email she sent:

Hi – attached please find the letters to County Executive Leggett and Council President Leventhal.

As you know – I was asked by Mr. Leggett to send a letter regarding the Worksession and the need for the County to follow Rockville’s HDC process.  As I have also mentioned – we have received several calls (5) from the CE’s office asking where the letter was.   Mr. Leggett was appearing live at 12:30 today and wanted to have the letter by then.  Unfortunately – we didn’t meet the deadline.

This has been an arduous process and unfortunately there have been many iterations of this letter.   My thanks to Councilmembers Onley and Feinberg for their time today in working with me to create an authentic recap of Monday’s Worksession.  This letter has been approved by a majority of the Council.

You will remember that we did not have a discussion among the Body regarding any of the options proposed by the SME’s –  or the public  – and therefore it is not possible for us to opine on the position of the Council or our  recommendations.  We have removed any statements from the letter that do not accurately reflect what happened Monday evening. . . .

I know this letter will not be pleasing to all members –  and while I regret that – what I don’t regret is that it is an factual reporting of a very significant meeting. The Worksession was a highpoint for the City – I’ve had positive comments and reactions from many different sources.  I sincerely hope that we can move past this point and get back to the business of working together to govern our City.

Not the Way to Do Business

When I spoke with Mayor Newton yesterday, she explained that she thought that the changes were necessary:

There were changes that needed to be made to be consistent with the Council worksession held on Monday, July 20th. It was important the letter reflect what happened at the worksession. There were no votes taken at the worksession. It would’ve been improper to indicate that decisions had been made.

That’s a nice explanation and sounds reasonable. But it doesn’t explain why two colleagues seem to have been left entirely out of the loop while the Mayor was shopping her very different letter. Clearly, Mayor Newton does not want to take a position and worked very hard to make sure that the City took a similar approach, even to the extent of keeping colleagues in the dark.

Moreover, though the Mayor avers that it was inappropriate for the City to opine on the subject, expressing no opinion does not mean that no decision was reached. Indeed, this approach can be an oblique way of making a decision and rendering an opinion, as it appears to have been in this case.

Especially as the Mayor’s letter takes positions on several topics, which undercuts her contention that it was inappropriate for the City to express an opinion in the absence of a public vote. For example, the letter states that the statue “should be moved once” if it is moved, and declared that it is of “historical significance” and there are “lessons to be learned from it.”

The claims made regarding the importance of public consultation are further belied by the Mayor’s seeming decision not to consult with two councilmembers and notify them only after the letter was sent. Not a model of open decision making.

Finally, the Mayor’s contention to me that it is inappropriate for the City to express an opinion because it’s the County’s decision makes little sense since (1) the County Executive solicited their opinion repeatedly, (2) the letter thanks the Council President for seeking their input, and (3) the Mayor encouraged the Council to respond to the request.

No doubt Rockville’s next Council meeting will be interesting.



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.