Archive for the ‘Montgomery County’ category

07.29.18 The Montgomery County executive race: buckle your seat belts

July 29, 2018

After a harrowing month, a partial recount requested by candidate David Blair determined this past Monday that Marc Elrich is indeed the Democratic Party nominee, by a margin of less than 80 votes. Elrich will face perennial Republican candidate and gadfly Robin Ficker in November. Normally, one would predict a landslide victory by any Democrat over the widely disliked Ficker (there are plenty of Republicans who can’t stand him).

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But, there is no “normal” this year. The biggest departure from past elections is at-large incumbent Nancy Floreen’s abandonment of the Democratic Party to run against Elrich in November. For another, the Washington Post – always a strongly regressive force in local politics – is becoming more and more doctrinaire under gazillionaire Jeff Bezos’s leadership. The Post is a leading voice in the new red scare sweeping the country, as a backlash against Bernie Sanders and in the wake of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset against a machine politician in New York state (the same day as Maryland’s recent primary).

Our (supposed) newspaper of record has been calling Elrich names all spring, editorializing against him (and in favor of Blair) at least three times and declaring the End-Times near if Elrich (and, I assume, anyone with a social conscience) were to be elected to local office.

We can be 100% certain that WaPo will endorse Floreen early and often in the coming months. (One disappointment with Floreen’s candidacy is that we will miss the spectacle the Post’s agonizing over whether to endorse Ficker over Dangerous Socialist Marc Elrich.) We can also be certain that the development industry – terrified by the prospect of a county leadership that asks them to pay for the infrastructure all their concrete requires – will spend millions of dollars to keep Elrich out of office. (See the nasty mailers sent out by Empower Montgomery – a developers’ cabal – in the run-up to the primary: they rated Elrich -5 and nearly everyone else +5 or higher.)

So, does Floreen pose a real threat to Elrich’s election? The simple answer is “yes” and the Elrich campaign would be foolish not to taking her extremely seriously.

But. . .

  • Nancy Floreen is an unlikable candidate who has repeatedly won her at-large seat on County Council more on the basis of name recognition and developer money than on inspiration. (As Elrich says, Floreen was never much of a Democrat, anyway. My strong belief is that if she were anywhere in Red America, she would have been a perfectly comfortable Republican all along. She pretended to be blue here, because she is unprincipled and that was the only route to getting elected.)
  • Marc Elrich has a long history of out-performing his relative fundraising by large margins (Blair outspent him this race by more than 2 to 1). This means that Elrich – who might have the best name recognition of any politician in the county (would Jamie Raskin rank higher?) won’t need a large war chest to run a strong campaign.
  • More people will start listening to what Elrich actually says, rather than falling prey to the red-baiting. He is a principled lefty, to be sure, but he also has been able to work with and reach compromises with people of all stripes across the county. Check out what he said on the Kojo Nnamdi show on July 20: that he doesn’t waste anyone’s time on ideological legislation and policy that he knows won’t pass. This is a mature, pragmatic person and politician, not a bomb-thrower or revolutionary.
  • And here’s the amazing thing: nearly all Democrats in the county have lined up to support our nominee. Hans Riemer and Ike Leggett, two very centrist politicians, got behind Elrich before the recount was over. Primary opponent Roger Berliner did so as well. And, in the biggest (pleasant) surprise at all, David Blair announced his support for Elrich as soon as the recount determined the winner, once and for all.

(A side note to all this wonderfulness is that it took current Council member, and primary opponent George Leventhal longer than David Blair to come out for our nominee. As I previously have written on Facebook, this shameful delay was due to Leventhal’s personal antipathy towards Elrich and a ridiculous case of sour grapes for a for a fifth-place finisher.

Leventhal is mostly a solid progressive. But he has sided too often with the development industry and has an angry temperament that is nearly 180-degrees opposite from Elrich’s soothing demeanor. I’d love to see Leventhal continue to make public contributions in areas such has homelessness and immigrants rights. But his recent shenanigans play to the worst perceptions of him, including his inability to control his emotions and a basic untrustworthiness. If he keeps up the personal grandstanding, he might render himself irrelevant and that would be a shame.)

So, does Elrich have a strong chance against Floreen? You bet he does. With a great ground game, committed volunteers, and a substantial part of the Democratic establishment working for him, he should win in November. (Not all of those who have endorsed him will lift a finger on his behalf. Riemer, for example, was red-baiting Elrich only two weeks earlier and endorsed almost certainly just to preserve his viability for ego-pleasing future campaigns.)

Montgomery County voters can’t afford to rest in 2018, following a primary election that customarily is the election-of-record in our deep-blue county. Buckle your seat belts, write a check to Elrich, and if you have the stamina, sign up to door-knock or make phone calls on his behalf. Our county needs your engagement to assure that Marc Elrich soundly defeats two Republican opponents this fall.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

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07.14.18 Takoma Junction development won’t . . .

July 14, 2018

. . . end life as we know it,

  • threaten the existence of the universe,
  • hurt a single poor person,
  • make a whit of difference in the availability — or lack thereof — of affordable housing in Takoma Park,
  • gentrify the whole city or otherwise change the progressive ethos of Takoma Park,
  • damage other structures,
  • harm children who need to cross the street,
  • inconvenience more than a few people due to traffic (it won’t have much impact on traffic at all).

Takoma Junction development will

  • replace an ugly impervious surface with a nicely designed two-story building that will improve quality of life in our city, following at least 30 years of inaction,
  • force the Coop to adjust how it operates.

As for the Coop, not only has it refused to engage constructively over the past five years, it has whipped up an ideological frenzy, in which a small and positive change to our city becomes the moral equivalent of

  • separating families at the border
  • GOP theft of the Supreme Court
  • police violence against people of color
  • collapse of liberal democracy
  • hating the poor.

Opponents’ arguments have at times been amusing, more often been baffling, and now have become outright offensive. By turning their opposition into the Moral Issue of Our Time, they are distracting themselves and the rest of us from the more serious work needed in the face of resurgent racism, international collapse, and climate change. Heck, every breathless moment they spend on their struggle is a minute they are not spending countering the very-present threat to our county from the Washington Post, the development industry, and Nancy Floreen. If you hate over-development, that is the battle to be waged. (Go Marc Elrich!)

Reason will prevail at City Council on July 25, because the majority of councilmembers and residents know the difference between reality and frenzy.

PS. Jarrett Smith: now that you have no political future, how about regaining a shred of dignity by resuming your support for Junction development? You switched sides in an instant for no good reason, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to switch back.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

 

 

07.09.18 An open letter to my Democratic elected officials: Stop Floreen now!

July 9, 2018

In addition to publishing this blog post, I will also email it to all the officials listed below. I encourage all readers to send something similar to their elected representatives.

To:
US Sen. Ben Cardin
US Sen. Chris Van Hollen
US Rep. Jamie Raskin
Sen. Will Smith
Del. David Moon
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins
Del.-Elect Lorig Charkoudian
County Executive Ike Leggett
County Councilman Tom Hucker
County Councilman George Leventhal
County Councilman Hans Riemer
County Councilman-Elect Gabe Albornoz
County Councilman-Elect Evan Glass
County Councilman-Elect Will Jawando

With today’s news that the Maryland Board of Elections will allow Nancy Floreen’s independent run for county executive to proceed this fall, I call on you to waste no time in standing up to this nefarious attempt to undermine our party’s nominee. The time to stop Floreen’s bid is now, before the Washington Post and its pals in the development industry start funding a smear campaign that will drown us in propaganda and weaken our nominee and our party.

I urge you not only to speak out, but also to ban Floreen from all party gatherings and activities henceforth.

While you might be forgiven for not endorsing our nominee, if you fail to denounce Floreen’s campaign, you will have taken sides against the Democratic Party, which I and others will not forget.

©2018 Keith Berner

07.04.18 Official campaign lit report

July 4, 2018

At our home, we received 3.84 pounds of campaign literature during the Maryland/Montgomery county primary election campaign, beginning with a piece from county executive candidate David Blair in early February. Overall, we received 105 pieces of campaign mail. The biggest polluter of all was (big surprise, eh?) the aforementioned Blair, MoCo Pharma Bro and General Plutocrat, who drowned us in 14 pieces. This doesn’t include three more pieces sent by the developer’s group, Empower Montgomery (which Blair helped found), from whom we got three particularly ugly pieces in the final two weeks.

What amazed me as a political analyst is that Blair had the mailing campaign almost completely to himself until mid-May for the June 26 primary. I asked one candidate who I know had enough money to mail why he waited so long to do so. His reply was that his political consultants told him no one would be paying attention until the end.

Common sense tells me that when as many as a dozen pieces are arriving daily in mailboxes by early June, no one is going to pay attention to your piece then, either. So much for the great wisdom of consultants who only know one way of doing things: the way they did them four years ago.

Because I follow local politics so closely, none of the deluge made a whit of difference to me. I read almost none of it; though, I occasionally marveled at something that was particularly well (or poorly) designed. I get that this stuff is meant for low-information voters, some significant percentage of whom are actually swayed by  it (though, the Washington Post’s horrific endorsements certainly counted for more).

Of course, very few mailers contained any actual information about what the candidate intended to do or why they deserved a chance to try and do it. Perusing such vapid campaign communication is the equivalent of following the email-only campaign of my Takoma Park City Councilman Jarrett Smith who threw his hat in the ring for County Council at-large just before the deadline. (He managed to spend a few thousand on graphic design, but had no money to mail — the two or three signs he managed to put up were gorgeous). Smith’s justification for running was laid out so carefully in this email he sent to the main Takoma community listserv on June 26:

Neighbors,

I ask for your vote on this Election Day. There are big issues before our county. It is the time to vote for experience and proven leadership.

In your service,

Jarrett K. Smith

I suppose Smith should be congratulated: he got his substance-less message out for tens of thousands less than other candidates who spent all that money to tell us nothing.

PS. Smith came in 29th place out of 33 candidates for MoCo at-large, so maybe his strategy was a little wanting, after all.

©2018 Keith Berner

06.27.18 Post-election blues

June 27, 2018

There were some sweet victories last night. Yet, I felt depressed when I went to bed towards 1 am and even more so today. Let me focus on the positive, first:

  • District 20’s dream team –  Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, and Jheanelle Wilkins – beat back the ethically challenged Darian Unger.
  • Marc Elrich holds a 452-vote lead against Evil Plutocrat David Blair, pending counting absentee and provisional ballots.
  • My completely irresponsible Takoma Park city councilman, Jarrett Smith came in 29th place out of 33 in the County Council at-large race.
  • Ben Jealous summarily kicked ass against the bland, ethically challenged (his endorsement of David Trone for $39k) Rushern Baker. Jealous offers the hope that a passionate campaign can unseat Larry Hogan this fall.
  • An outstanding progressive, Vaughn Stewart, won a delegate seat in D-19.

Oh, but the bad news seems boundless:

  • The new County Council was practically hand-picked by the Washington Post and the development industry. Newcomers like Andrew Friedson (D-1) and Evan Glass (at-large) will team up with pave-it-all incumbents like Craig Rice (D-1), Sidney Katz (D-3), and Hans Riemer (at-large) to give away to the developers what little remains of the store.
  • In the at-large race, every strong progressive got nearly obliterated: Bill Conway (3.3%), Seth Grimes (1.5%), Danielle Meitiv (3.3%), Jill Ortman-Fouse (3.3%). (By comparison, the fourth-place winner in this pick-four race –  Gabe Albernoz –  garnered 7.3%.) Two progressives – Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm –  did relatively well at 5.9%, but not winning means only bad guys (and, yes, no women won) will be making policy.
  • Liquor salesman and plutocrat David Trone successfully purchased his seat in Congress (unless he gets beat by a Republican in the fall) from District 6, destroying progressive hero Roger Manno in the process.
  • Elrich could still lose. If David Blair manages to pull this out, we will have by far the worst county government in my 18 years living here.
  • Darian Unger and Jarrett Smith got a sufficient number of votes that they might be encouraged to keep living in their alternate universes where time is on their side and they will eventually be swept to glory by adoring crowds. (Someone: please tell me how a content-less city councilman who doesn’t interact with city officials or constituents managed to get ~2,200 votes. Who are these people? Did they just like the name Smith?)
  • Turnout was abysmal. I’m not comparing to previous years, but simply looking at the fact that in a county of one million, the county executive winner will have garnered less than 35,000 votes. US democracy is broken and this is a leading indicator.

As if I weren’t feeling glum enough, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. There is no way to sugarcoat this: the GOP theft of the seat that went to Neil Gorsuch and the right to replace swing-vote Kennedy give the far right control of the Supreme Court for the coming 20 years. Couple this with our system’s bias towards the GOP (from partisan gerrymandering, to the concentration of Democrats in small geographical areas, to the Electoral College) and a minority band of racists and authoritarians could dominate our politics for decades.

(I don’t mean that Democrats won’t score any victories: they may well take the House this year and Trump seems pretty vulnerable going into 2020. But the victories will be partial and sporadic, hardly enough to rebalance the system.)

Even though US foreign policy has been hypocritical in relation to our stated values more often than not, our rhetorical support for democracy and human rights – as well as our ability to collaborate with allies – has done a substantial amount of good in the world. The damage done by the Cheeto administration in <2 years will never be remediable, especially as democracy retreats all across the globe. And, as we slide ever more towards authoritarianism and minority rule at home, any possibility of domestic or international progress is as good as dead.

I don’t know yet how I will manage to keep fighting for positive change given my present despair, especially when I don’t even see any hope at the local level. If any of my dear readers has a suggestion, please bring it on.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

06.25.18 Annoy the Post: vote progressive

June 25, 2018

If you have decided not to follow my guidance completely or you think your favorite labor union’s endorsements are off the mark; if you’re still confused about what to do tomorrow (that is, if you haven’t already voted), you can remember this basic rule: anyone the Washington Post has endorsed is to be avoided like the plague. From Rushern Baker to David Blair, good ol’ WaPo can be counted on to loathe workers and to consider  development titans to be a disadvantaged minority deserving affirmative action (and a good percentage of your take-home pay).

So, look up all the Post endorsements tonight and just resolve to vote for someone, anyone who isn’t on their list. Not only will you be voting for a better state and county, but you’ll have the added pleasure of causing aneurysms in the editorial suite. What more fun could a person have on Election Day?

©2018 Keith Berner

06.23.18 It’s Elrich vs. Blair – what kind of county do you want to live in?

June 23, 2018

It is now a two-man race for Montgomery County executive. You can choose Marc Elrich, the least ego-driven, most ethical politician in the county, someone who prioritizes people and communities. OR you can choose David Blair, the plutocrat who is spending millions  to purchase power, a man with no governmental experience, set on feeding the rapacious development industry at our expense: the notorious #MoCoPharmaBro.

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No one reading this blog was going to vote for Blair. But some of you may have been tempted by George Leventhal, a distant second-best to Elrich on policy, but also someone whose bad temper makes him a risk with executive power. You may also have been tempted by Roger Berliner, because you were deceived by Sierra Club’s misguided endorsement. Whatever their strong points, face it: Neither Berliner nor Leventhal is going to win on Tuesday. If you cast your vote for one of them, you will be helping to elect Blair.

Don’t waste your vote. Vote for Marc Elrich for county executive.

©2018 Keith Berner