03.15.18 D20 Pride (Moon, Smith, and Wilkins)

Posted March 15, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Montgomery County, Takoma Park

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If you live in Takoma Park or Silver Spring (state legislative district 20) and read today’s Washington Post Metro section, you could not help feeling a burst of pride at being served by the most progressive and among the most effective delegations in Annapolis.

In “Maryland General Assembly advances bill that bans bump stocks on firearms,” we learn that our elected officials are taking the lead on gun control in Maryland. Del. David Moon is the lead sponsor on the bill mentioned in the headline. A few paragraphs later, Sen. Will Smith appears as the star of an effort to bar domestic abusers from owning guns.

Turning the page in the Metro section leads to an article titled “Activists urge Maryland to stop ‘Potomac Pipeline’ ahead of key deadline.” Here we learn of Del. Jheanelle Wilkins’s leadership in opposing construction of an environmentally destructive pipeline.

Of course, these are merely examples of our elected officials’ proactivity on issues we care about. A glance at Wilkins’ Facebook page shows her recent involvement in labor rights, just sentencing, maternal health, windpower, and more. Moon is even more prolific, leading or joining efforts to ban corporate contributions to political campaigns, institute same-day voter registration, make police accountable, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

If you live in D20 and are not following your elected officials on Facebook, you really should.


Speaking of local pride a recent, outstanding series about the geography of political contributions in Montgomery County shows Takoma Park (the zip code, not the city) to be far ahead of all other jurisdictions in average contributions per resident: $1.97, with Chevy Chase a distant second at $1.43. Tired of all the whining about how much an outsize role Takoma Park plays in county and state politics? Just point out to the whiners that if they had our residents, they could also be leaders.

Another interesting tidbit from the Seventh State series is that Marc Elrich beats George Leventhal 4 to 1 at Takoma Park contributions, even though they both reside in Takoma Park. Leventhal beats Elrich somewhat up county, but trails significantly in the activist, densely populated area Seventh State calls the “Democratic Crescent.”

©2018 Keith Berner


02.14.18 Rushern Baker is dead to me

Posted February 14, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland

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Seventh State reports today that Democratic gubernatorial candidate (and current PG County executive) Rushern Baker has endorsed high-rolling liquor salesman David Trone for Congress in CD6. This is particularly remarkable because no part of CD6 is anywhere near PG! Then again, the Trone family’s $39k gift to Baker’s campaign makes the connection crystal clear.

I have written copiously about how awful Trone is (see the notes on the bottom of my most recent post).

Prior to this endorsement, Baker  had the reputation of being a middle-of-the-road, uninspiring, machine politician. But Baker himself already has the support of big-name Democratic establishment types, like Chris Van Hollen and Ike Leggett, proving yet again that a roto-rooter needs to be taken to this state’s center-right clinging-to-power-at-all-costs Democratic “old guard.”

While David Lublin’s (Seventh State) reporting is helpful, about half his piece today is about how great Aruna Miller is doing in CD6, as if she were Trone’s only rival. (The two progressives in that race are Andrew Duck and Roger Manno, who go completely unmentioned by in the blog post). Lublin fails to state that he has any allegiance to Miller, but it’s apparent he does. This is reminiscent of a flaw from the days when the blog was called “Maryland Politics Watch”: frequent shilling for candidates by cherry-picking facts that favor them, without revealing what side you’re on. (Granted, Adam Pagnucco, Seventh State’s other writer, has been much more transparent about his loyalties, recently.)

Rushern Baker must be stopped. Anyone who would align themselves with David Trone is not only unfit to be our governor, but coupled with Baker’s complete inability to inspire enthusiasm and we might be looking at a repeat of Anthony Brown’s devastating loss to Governor Bruce Hogan four years ago.

I am still undecided in the governor’s race, but my guess as of today is that progressives will need to coalesce behind Ben Jealous in order to send Baker packing.

©2018 Keith Berner


02.09.18 Let the deluge begin (bonus: fond memories of David Trone)

Posted February 9, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County

Tags: , , ,

If you thought Snowpocalypse and Snowmaggedon were bad, you ain’t seen nothing like the storm that began dropping its detritus this week. I’m talking about piles of political postal mail and robocalls from the ~130 candidates on the ballot in Montgomery County (at county, state, and Federal levels) – and this is only counting candidates in competitive races. (I’m assuming that those running unopposed will be minor contributors to the deluge.)

Here in Takoma Park, we received our first mail piece two days ago: a letter (in an envelope) from David Blair, a candidate for Montgomery County executive. Then, last night, we received our first robocall, from Lorna Phillips Forde, who is running for county council at-large (Forde’s message was cutoff at the beginning, making her look [sound] bad).

There are benefits to candidates who start advertising (in whatever form) early: the fact that everyone else isn’t yet in the game means your forays will stand out. Of course, not all candidates have the finances to start this stuff mid-winter (some at-large council candidates are nowhere close to being able to afford a county-wide mailing). It will get crazy in May and June, when we come home to half-a-dozen mail pieces a day.

Should we consider this to be garbage? Or is it valuable input voters’ decision-making? I lean towards the former view. Mailing pieces are almost always ugly and tell us very little that isn’t boilerplate pablum. Robocalls are one of the most obnoxious phenomena in the known universe.

But almost none of the candidates will be able to afford broadcast advertising or billboards (except for David Trone* who will  spend $25 million to purchase a seat – from the sixth district – in Congress). How else are they gonna get name recognition across their districts or the entire county? (Well, having legions of volunteers to door-knock for you and visiting a wide array of community and political events are much better ways to connnect with potential voters, but these involve hard work!) So, I try to be tolerant. In the case of robocalls, though, any campaign that hits me more than once is going to get added to my I-hate-you-forever list very quickly.

I plan to collect all the junk mail we receive, with the goal of counting it and weighing it on Primary Day (June 26, 2018). What are your hobbies, Dear Reader?

PS. Some other blogs (like Seventh State) post images of some mailings they receive. I don’t plan on doing that. In my view, either one does it comprehensively (which is most fair to the various campaigns, but would mean this blog would do nothing else) or one is cherry picking based on criteria that your readers most likely aren’t privy to.

*See my prior coverage of this liquor salesman turned buy-it-for-myself politico:

And: in a candidate’s forum, Trone recently said Israel should be our 51st state and should get everything they want.


©2018 Keith Berner



01.30.18 Sierra Club goes cynical

Posted January 30, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Energy/Environment, Montgomery County

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Bethesda Magazine reported yesterday Sierra Club’s endorsements of Roger Berliner for county executive, as well as of Hans Riemer and Will Jawando for County Council At-Large. I have previously written about Berliner’s poor environmental record (aw c’mon – his support for a fossil fuel divestment bill only came after he helped gut it of its substance!). I have also written numerous times about Riemer’s and Jawando’s lack of any substantial accomplishments for our county.

(Note: I may not endorse them myself, but I have no substantial objection to SC’s endorsements of Evan Glass and Danielle Meitiv for At-Large.)

What is clearly going on here is that Sierra Club has cynically calculated whose backs it needs to scratch (because they are potential winners?), rather than prioritizing the candidates who are most likely to push an environmental agenda.

This is not the first time Sierra Club has disgusted me. In 2011, I wrote about how they deluged me with postal pollution because I made the mistake of supporting them financially. Check out that post for a partial list of environmental organizations that are actually worthy of support.

We now know everything we need to know about Sierra Club. I urge all environmentalists in the county to cut ties with this cynical group.

©2018 Keith Berner




01.24.18 More resources for keeping up with local and state politics

Posted January 24, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics

Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to readers who sent along tips!


Maryland Matters calls itself “the premier site for news about Maryland government and politics” and features posts by a variety of authors. I subscribe to emails that come in at the rate of two or three per day.

Political Maryland (Barry Rascovar) is another blog I subscribe to by email. Rascovar posts about once a week.

Other Resources

Paul Bessel’s website lists all races and candidates in Montgomery County, as well as all upcoming candidate forums and other political events.

Maryland State Board of Elections is the definitive listing of campaigns that have officially filed: Maryland and Montgomery County. The site contains contact information, but some campaigns provide inaccurate info in their filing documents.

Maryland Campaign Reporting Information System is the site for all campaigns’ financial reports.

©2018 Keith Berner


01.23.18 How to stay abreast of Montgomery County and Maryland politics

Posted January 23, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Maryland, Montgomery County, Politics

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Your blogger admits with shame that his blog is not the be-all and end-all of local political coverage (though, he still insists that only his opinions are reliable!). With the Washington Post’s having long since jettisoned any pretense of giving a shit about its own region, where is a poor activist or voter to turn? Here is my list of favorite go-to sources.

Seventh State (David Lublin and Adam Pagnucco): This site provides unbeatable statistical/financial analysis, some breaking news, and analysis that is a bit too centrist for my taste, but almost always worth a read. It is heavily MoCo focused. I keep up by following Seventh State on Facebook. (I just have to swallow hard and bite my inner cheeks when Pagnucco acts as cheerleader for the likes of Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer. To be fair, Pagnucco is open about whom he supports and the overall coverage on the site is pretty fair.)

A Miner Detail (Ryan Miner) does pretty much what Seventh State does, but has a broader geographic focus. Miner also takes and posts videos of many candidate forums. I keep up by subscribing to receive new posts by email.

Bethesda Beat (daily newsletter from Bethesda Magazine) is from an actual local newspaper, with some political coverage worth reading. I keep up via an email subscription.

Our Maryland provides a weekly email newsletter that summarizes their coverage. So far (I have only subscribed for a few months), I haven’t found overwhelming value here, but it still seems good to keep tabs on it.

Washington Post Metro Section: If you subscribe to the Post anyway, it’s worth giving Metro a daily skim. Articles on local politics are slim pickings and are always biased to align with the Post’s virulently anti-labor, pro-development editorial bias.

I’m always looking for additional sources of local political news. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way: lhf@kberner.us.

If you are not seeking out and reading political coverage of our region, don’t consider yourself an informed voter.

©2018 Keith Berner


01.16.18 Speaking of candidate tips . . .

Posted January 16, 2018 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics

Tags: , , , ,

Left-Hand View occasionally runs pieces by guest bloggers. This piece, by Paul M. Bessel and Barbara Braswell, is a perfect companion to the candidate communications tips I posted a couple of days ago.

Some people are naturals at public speaking, but others are terrified. If you’re in the latter category, you have little choice but to get over it. Our suggestion is practice, practice, practice. Give your stump speech to a loved one or a good friend who is willing to offer constructive feedback. Give it in front of a mirror or video it so you can review it later. Do whatever you must to increase your comfort.

As you practice, observe yourself carefully to see if you use “verbal gestures,” such as: like, y’know, ummm. Nearly everyone uses these in daily speech, but public speakers are well advised to eliminate them. Also, don’t use the word “literally” unless you literally mean “literally!”

Work especially hard on your opening and closing. Have a good ending, such as (loudly and clearly!), “I would appreciate your vote for me. My name is xxxxx and I’m running for xxxxx.” That’s what you want them to remember. (Your audience will probably only remember about 10% of what you say, but will certainly remember the feeling you gave them and what you said last.)

Have about two or three major points to raise, no more. If you forget a point (it can happen to anyone), don’t call attention to it. Instead, try to quickly remember another point and go right to it.

If you are at a candidates’ forum or debate, anticipate the questions in advance or ask others what questions they think will be asked. Before the forum or debate, work on answers to these anticipated questions.

Don’t focus on your resume. Voters are more interested in what you will do, not what you have done. Only mention your resume as it applies to issues or as it demonstrates your prior commitment to the community.

Avoid speaking in a monotone. Vary your tone and tempo, and put extra “oomph” on the main points. Use your hands for emphasis.

Never say, “I don’t need a mic.” The audience will yell that you do and you’ll be starting off on the wrong foot. Check the microphone before the start of the meeting, to see if you might have to adjust it.

Always keep the microphone in front of your mouth. (You’d be surprised how many don’t do this.) And always face the audience, even If you are referring to something beside or behind you.

Speak loudly, even if you have a microphone, and remember to keep speaking loudly – don’t taper off into a whisper. If you speak loudly and clearly, people will think you know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t.


Pick people in the audience to speak to directly, but look at others as you proceed. (If it’s uncomfortable for you to make eye contact, look them in the forehead ­­– they can’t tell the difference.) If someone is nodding in agreement, feel free to acknowledge them – they’ll love it.

If it’s a candidate forum or debate, never attack anyone personally, just their policies. Even then, say something nice about that person before you stick the knife in. (At a debate, we once declared Robin Ficker** was not a racist – as some alleged – but then said he was completely wrong on the matter at hand. He responded by saying something nice about me. That’s your goal.)

It’s better never to mention other candidates’ names, no matter what. You want your audience to remember your name, not anyone else’s.

If there is a time limit, try to finish just a little early and don’t waste time commenting on the time limit.* Glance at a clock in the room. It’s better than looking at your watch. (That really hurt George H. W. Bush in 1992.)

Dress nicely. Some politicians can get away with the rumpled look, but not many. Wear something that will be visible to the audience so you stand out, such as something red or bright blue.

Get there early and walk among the audience introducing yourself, smiling all the time. No need to get into wonkish details at that moment, just “I’m xxx and I’m running for xxx. Feel free to contact me later if you have questions.” Make sure you have an adequate supply of business cards with you and offer them to everyone before they ask you. Make sure your email is on your card so people can contact you.

Work the room again after the event. Ask each person with whom you speak if they liked what you said. If yes, great. If no, ask, “Tell me more about what didn’t work for you.” Don’t make them uncomfortable. Not everyone will like you or want to talk at all.

Wear a name tag with your first name as large as possible, your surname smaller, and what office you’re running for. Put it on the right side of your chest so people can see it when they shake your hand. Bring extras for when (not if) it drops off your clothing.

If someone starts to argue with you, figure a way out. If need be, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” works nicely. (We did that when Joe Arpaio*** once tried to pick a fight with us.)

Don’t assume no one is looking at you when you’re not speaking. Keep smiling and looking at people in the audience, not other candidates. Don’t look or act bored; keep moving your head and eyes. Never look down. Never put your hands on your face, especially by your mouth. Never have private conversations with others on a panel, or the audience will feel left out and resent you.

Remember that you are not only speaking to the people in the audience. You are communicating to all the people they will speak with. Those who attend candidate functions are activists. They are bound to speak to many others and state their preferences. Do all you can to close the deal then and there.

*Keith Berner adds: Also, don’t waste time thanking the facility, its employees, the host organization, the guy who mowed the lawn, your parents for raising you, etc. And: use humor (unless you truly don’t have a sense of humor, in which case it will sound as forced as it feels.)

**Robin Ficker is MoCo’s own obnoxious GOP gadfly.

***Joe Arpaio is the racist, law-breaking Arizona sheriff whom Trump recently pardoned.

Paul M. Bessel is a retired lawyer and Barbara Braswell is a retired federal employee.  Both are political and community activists and accomplished public speakers. Bessel has made a name for himself in part by becoming the source for constantly updated lists of who is running for what and political events in Montgomery County. Your blogger refers to these lists nearly every day.