05.03.14 Terrill North for Montgomery County District 5
The District 5 race for Montgomery County Council makes me very sad: two very decent and qualified candidates have had all the oxygen sucked out of the race by two bad guys. First, the good guys.
I’m proud to endorse Terrill North for this seat. North is the most consistent progressive in the race. I have known him for about a decade and am a fan of his integrity and passion for economic and social justice. You just have to love a VP of ACLU Maryland, long-time activist with Progressive Neighbors, former advocate with Earth Justice, and leader of a Silver Spring mentorship program for at-risk youth. Putting North on county council will ensure that local hero Marc Elrich (At-Large) will have a partner for the things we care most about.
Give other good-guy Evan Glass credit: while everyone was else cowered in fear, Glass declared his candidacy for D5, before Destructive Force Valerie Ervin quit her post mid-term. Glass is a serious and capable candidate with a long history of community leadership in Silver Spring, including service as chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. Just like North, Glass advocates for closing the educational achievement gap, sustainable environmental practices, and bus rapid transit (thanks to Elrich for that plan!).
If North and Glass were alone in this race, we could expect an uplifting campaign in which voters might end up having to flip a coin. I am going with North, because he has direct experience with a broader range of progressive issues than Glass. But I expect that Glass would also do a fine job on council.
Alas, these two good guys have been eclipsed by two politicians you should not vote for.
Tom Hucker served MD D20 well as delegate since 2007. As one progressive political leader puts it, “I agree with Tom on the issues 90% of the time.” Tom was going to remain a delegate until Valerie Ervin quit her council post. I get why Hucker wasn’t interested in taking on Ervin (fear), but don’t respect it. When it became apparent that Hucker was going to jump in the race after Glass and North had been working it for weeks, I and others pleaded with him to run for an at-large seat instead, creating an opportunity for progressives to take two seats: D5 and one of the at-large slots. His name recognition and connections with political leaders across the county would have made him a favorite to knock off an incumbent like Nancy Floreen or Hans (The Liar) Riemer. Hucker’s response (not verbatim): You can’t expect me to do that. It would be too hard.
Notwithstanding the selfishness of taking an easier road, I was prepared to back Hucker enthusiastically, until I started hearing about the nasty, underhanded campaign he was running. Yes, Hucker is the bully I was referring to in my recent post on the state of local politics. His 2006 campaign for delegate was widely considered to be unsavory, which I had put this out of my mind in recent years. But when I started hearing that Hucker was spreading false rumors about his opponents this year and publicly attacking their backers (driving one of them to tears), it revived unpleasant memories and revealed that this is Hucker’s default modus operandi, not an aberration.
I made about a dozen calls about Hucker to community leaders, elected officials, and political observers, seeking reassurance about his character. Instead, every single person I spoke to — none of whom was associated with his opponents’ campaigns and some of whom expect to vote for Hucker — described him as a bully. I heard not only about campaign tactics, but also about strong-arm behavior in Annapolis that had alienated allies and reduced his effectiveness.
When I called Hucker to tell him why I would not be endorsing him, he angrily described himself as the victim of “scurrilous hearsay” spread by “desperate” opponents who “have nothing to offer.” When I repeatedly pointed out to Hucker that this stuff was coming from neutral observers and even political friends, he just couldn’t hear me. This is classic bully: playing the victim of the very sorts of behavior he engages in.
I really wanted to endorse Hucker, at the very least in order to stop Chris Barclay (see below). But I decided that I just could not ethically attach my name to his style of politics. And here’s the practical aspect of my decision not to back him: Can you think of the other bully who has been in the headlines? That’s right, Tom Hucker is a Chris Christie in the making. How long will it be before Hucker’s behavior results in scandal that takes him down and a part of the progressive agenda with him? I don’t think progressives should take the risk.
I also oppose Hucker for two substantive reasons. He is a union guy first and foremost. There have been other labor backers — people like Elrich, Ervin, and county executive Ike Leggett — who, in the midst of the county’s recent budget crises, demanded that the public employee unions share the pain with other county residents, rather than be given a pass. Hucker has promised the unions never to ask them again to contribute to a sustainable county budget. County residents voted in 2012 to put an end to “effects bargaining” by the Fraternal Order of Police (FoP), under which the union could object to impositions of simple workplace rules (like a requirement to check email). Hucker has promised the FoP that he will fight to restore their stranglehold on common sense.
More surprising is Hucker’s opposition (in two recorded votes) to indexing the state’s new minimum wage to the rate of inflation. Indexing is essential for assuring that newly increased minimum wages don’t end up as poverty wages a few years later. When confronted with this at a recent Silver Spring Democratic Club forum, Hucker hemmed and hawed and finally admitted to having voted against indexing, saying that he was doing what the party leadership in the House wanted him to. That is, Hucker was more concerned about his political future than he was about good policy in support of working women and men.
Rounding out the D5 field is school board member Christopher Barclay, who doesn’t even live in D5 (and is the only one of the four candidates never to have done any work on the ground here)! That’s right, Dear Reader, Maryland law doesn’t exclude carnet baggers if they move to the district by election day, which Barclay promises to do. Why does Barclay even stand a chance? Because a Coalition only Concerned with Color — Ervin and current county-councilmembers Nancy Navarro (D4), Craig Rice (D2), and Cherri Branson (interim D5) — have endorsed him. His apparent prime qualification? He’s African American. His apparent secondary qualification? He’s needy, which means he would be indebted to politicos who help him. Word on the street is that Barclay has no money for this campaign or for moving into our district. This means that Ervin & Co. will be raising or giving Barclay the resources he needs for the campaign and for house-hunting. I can’t prove this point, but it seems to be a logical supposition.
(Barclay is also the politician I referred to whose campaign manager was found rummaging around Hucker’s Annapolis office in the dead of night.)
For those of you who thought we might be rid of Ervin when she up-and-quit her Council seat mid-term, here is your wake-up call. Ervin got bored because she didn’t have sufficient power or limelight. So what she is doing is cultivating easily manipulable candidates in preparation for eventual runs at county executive, governor, or dictator of the universe. As part of this effort, Ervin has declared D5 a black seat. She is backing empty shirts like Barclay and Will Jawando (empty-shirt candidate for MD D20 delegate — more on him later), all in service to building a political empire. Ervin is seeking to remake the political fault lines in our county from developers/Chamber of Commerce vs. environment/slow-growth to people of color vs. white. All in service to her ambition.
I’m 100% in favor of affirmative action. And there is no question that people of color have been underrepresented in Montgomery County politics. But, in a year when the US president is black, the likely governor of Maryland is black, the current and likely future county executive is black, and four of nine current county council members are of color, is race really the most important criterion for selecting candidates?
In case you missed it, Terrill North happens to be African American. I don’t know why Ervin didn’t settle on him (though, she evidently promised a bunch of candidates her support this year, only to ditch them when push came to shove). Perhaps Ervin decided that North has too much character to serve her future empire. I have settled on him because he is the best man for the job. Period.
PS. In my recent post on dirty local politics, I referred to a political consultant who used blatant anti-Muslim hysteria and Nazi imagery as a campaign tactic. This is David Goodman, who used such horrific themes on behalf of then-MD D19 senator Mike Lenett in 2010 in a losing effort against Roger Manno. (The Gazette cited Goodman as “the architect of Mike Lenett’s aggressive direct mail campaign, which received low marks and helped contribute to one of the nastiest primary races [in 2010].”) He is working for North in this campaign. It turns out, sadly, that other local politicos like Jamie Raskin and Sheila Hixson have given this despicable man work. This sucks. It is also the nature of politics and ultimately not reason enough for me to punish North.
©2014 Keith Berner
Tags: ACLU, Chris Christie, Christopher Barclay, David Goodman, Earth Justice, Evan Glass, Ike Leggett, Jamie Raskin, Marc Elrich, minimum wage, Progressive Neighbors, Sheila Hixson, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, Terrill North, Tom Hucker, Valerie ErvinYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.