06.09.14 MD D20 Endorsements

I wrote recently that the Maryland District 20 race presents a dilemma of riches. The riches are wonderful: a bunch of candidates so compelling and progressive that we wish we could send them all to Annapolis. If only we could distribute them across the county — any one of them could be our first choice in other districts.

Alas, they all belong to D20. Which produces the agony of choosing only as many as we’re allowed to choose (three delegates) and having to say “no” to some really great people.

I have pondered and ruminated and considered and triangulated and studied the D20 delegate candidates for months (since their first forum in November, to be more precise). Only yesterday did I finally decide what I would write here.

You will notice that I don’t discuss policy very much in what follows. That is because there isn’t a centimeter of daylight between any of these candidates on the issues progressives care about. What distinguishes them from each other is largely experience, potential effectiveness, and style.

So, without further ado, here is a rank-order listing of my candidate preferences, with my endorsements in bold.

For Senator

Jamie Raskin is running unopposed, so I don’t have to spill much virtual ink on him. Just the same, it’s fun to write that this budding national progressive hero is our very own. Raskin is a captivating orator, constitutional scholar, and progressive firebrand. He also knows how to reach out to and defang potential opponents (e.g., the very conservative senate majority leader, Mike Miller, with whom Raskin has a strong relationship) making Raskin not only a moral leader, but a highly effective one. Raskin is also just a great guy; accessible, down-to-earth, humble. What’s not to love about Jamie?!

For Delegate (in preference order – select up to three)

Sheila Hixson used to be my favorite politician whom I didn’t vote for. She had a record of being disappointingly centrist, a go-along-to-get-along Democrat. This began to change with the disappearance of bad influence Ida Reuben and replacement by Jamie Raskin in 2006. Hixson began to realize just how progressive her constituents are and responded. She built a powerful partnership with Raskin and they are quite the dynamic duo, helping each other pass progressive milestone legislation in their respective houses of the Maryland legislature. Talk about power: Hixson is one of the most powerful politicians in Maryland, as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. She is a treasure: how often to progressives get to have not only a representative voice for their views, but one that can deliver. And that partnership with Raskin is so much more than the sum of the parts. Any D20 progressive who doesn’t vote for Raskin and Hixson is a fool and a knave. Why was Hixson always a favorite of mine, even when I wasn’t voting for her? Because she (like Raskin) is another mensch — she is warm, engaging, and downright fun.

Will Smith is a born and bred Montgomery County resident. He is smart as a tack and itching to make a difference in the lives of D20 and Maryland residents. Smith has an impressive record of service in our district, having run Raskin and Hixson’s 2010 campaign, raising substantial funds for local young scholars, and serving with IMPACT Silver Spring and the local chapter of the NAACP. Smith is relatively green (inexperienced), but the fact that he knows the Annapolis players and has been endorsed by Raskin and Hixson is significant. I expect he’ll be able to hit the ground running, working with his mentors to make a mark in the house. As an African American, officer in the Naval Reserves, and the first in his family to graduate from college (and graduate school), Smith adds much-needed diversity to the D20 delegation. It is high time for this highly diverse district to send a highly capable person of color to represent us in Annapolis.

Jonathan Shurberg and I have known each other since we both worked on Raskin’s 2006 campaign. Talk about smart: Shurberg can discuss articulately the fine points of policy from economic justice, to civil rights, to education. He has spent lots of time in Annapolis writing and promoting legislation. He and his late wife, Rebecca, were major players in the county Democratic Party. My readers know I’m no huge fan of the party, but having elected officials who are plugged in and know everyone is a bonus. Shurberg will balance Smith’s relative green-ness. Last November, I described Shurberg as “the adult in the room” and “a passionate fighter for progressive causes.” I stand by those words.

Darian Unger was so amateurish at the November D20 forum, that I disregarded him completely in my write up of the event. He has come a long way, baby. I have been blown away by his ability to captivate the public and political observers with a grass-roots, pure elbow-grease campaign. His service as a volunteer firefighter and chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board shows his commitment to the community.  I particularly like Unger’s green credentials: an environmental engineer by trade, he lists “sustainable development and environmental protection” as his top priorities.
Unger’s mail campaign stands out as the most creative in the race. With limited funds, he has sent out three smallish postcards. The first two were unusual by being useful: one contained recycling tips, the other was about fire safety. The last card proudly proclaims: “The BIGGEST postcard he can afford. Big ideas, not deep pockets.” I just love this creativity and willingness to take a different tack from the crowd. Unger has, of course, eschewed cooperate contributions. Yet, this quirky progressive is the only candidate in the race to be endorsed by the hyper-corporate Washington Post and Montgomery Gazette. If Unger can get these folks on board, maybe he can overcome his Annapolis inexperience help build effective coalitions. Not picking Unger in my top three was a very tough call. I would shed no tears if he’s elected.

David Moon matches Shurberg for smarts, knowledge, and probably has even greater encyclopedic knowledge of county and state politics. Moon is also a fighter — absolutely fearless about speaking truth to power. (I also know Moon from that first, magical Raskin campaign — as campaign manager, Moon gets credit for creating the strategy to bury Ida Reuben by a two-to-one margin.) There may be some concern that Moon’s record of truth telling would make it hard for him to work with the powers that be in Annapolis, but endorsements by Raskin and Hixson provide him with needed cover. If elected, Moon will make his presence felt, very quickly.
So, why haven’t I ranked Moon second, just behind Sheila Hixson? Because of his longstanding ties to Valerie Ervin, one of the most destructive forces in county politics. I believe Moon when he tells me that he won’t let Ervin (or anyone else) tell him what to do if he’s elected. But the fact that his first brochure of this race put her picture and quote front and center, concerns me, as does his recent declaration to me that he considers Ervin among the most important local politicians to work with. Make no mistake, Ervin plans to run for county executive or governor or congress. I would hate to see one of my elected delegates endorsing her pursuit of power. Just the same, Moon looks likes like a winner in this race and I also wouldn’t shed tears over this result.

Will Jawando deserved the apology I recently issued. He is not a bad guy, by any means. He’s smart, articulate, experienced with (federal) legislation, and — just like everyone else in the race — a solid progressive. But my strongest criticism of him remains valid: though he was born here, he has not provided any direct service to our district, unlike his fellow native Will Smith. If there weren’t so many more captivating choices, I could see getting really enthusiastic about Jawando. But in this fine field, he just does not rise to the top.

D’Juan Hopewell is another great guy with a passion for making a difference. The couple of hours I spent with him a few months ago were as enjoyable as any I have spent with a candidate. Just the same, I feel like he is searching for his calling in life and that this campaign is more of an experiment than a commitment. Also, he is nearly invisible in the race, meaning that there is no way his campaign is viable.

Justin Chappell is the only disabled candidate in the race. I was unable to find a Chappell website via an internet search, which shows how unserious his campaign is.


George Zokle was completely unimpressive in that November forum and invisible since.

©2014 Keith Berner

 

 

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One Comment on “06.09.14 MD D20 Endorsements”


  1. Thank you Keith
    I obviously agree with most of what you wrote, particularly about Sheila. I would however bring David Moon higher up on your
    list. We (the Hixson Campaign) are working with David and Will Smith and so I have come to know David better. He is definitely his own man and he will pursue his policies tenaciously, informed by his ideals and not a backroom un-elected power broker. He is a very good guy and will make an excellent Delegate.
    As for Sheila, I think she was less of a middle of the road centrist than you say. She was the lone voice year after year on progressive legislation, particularly gay rights. Sheila understands the art of the possible. It took Jamie Raskin coming into the Senate to give her a robust partner to get things done.
    The rest is history.
    I do acknowledge that sometimes ugly horse trading occurs in the legislative kitchen, particularly when you are part of leadership. However, Sheila has a much bigger herd of horses to trade these days, particularly if we elect Smith and Moon to support her. You can expect more good stuff to happen over the next four years.
    Best
    Michael Vaughan
    Chair, Friends of Sheila Hixson

    Like


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