Posted tagged ‘Seventh State’

07.10.17 MoCo Politics: Endorsing Elrich & Grimes, plus early musings on the 30+ at-large candidates

July 10, 2017

Marc Elrich is running to be Montgomery County’s next executive to replace Ike Leggett. I have known Elrich since I moved to Maryland in 2000, as a friend, neighbor, and as a member of the Takoma Park City Council (where he served for 19 years) and then the Montgomery County Council (12 years). Elrich is the least ego-driven politician I have ever met. He is not enamored of seeing his name or face in lights or of power for its own sake, but rather gets out of bed every day in order to make a better world, especially for the underdogs. Elrich is also the least corrupted politician in Montgomery County, having consistently refused to take contributions from the politically dominant development industry. While he is able to meet respectfully with all players in county affairs, Elrich is the only member of the council who has consistently prioritized community needs over industry interests.

Further, Elrich is one of the most intelligent and informed public leaders we have. His encyclopedic knowledge of zoning, public education (he was a MCPS teacher for 17 years), and other arcana means he is as prepared to govern as anyone.  You can count on Marc Elrich to support anti-poverty programs, affordable housing, mass transit, quality of life, and the environment. Please join me in helping make Elrich our next county executive.

+++++

County Council At-Large

Talk about crowded fields! Local activist Paul Bessel has been collecting the names of declared and interested candidates for the four Montgomery Council At-Large seats in 2018. Here is a list he posted on Facebook last week:

 

 

There are a few inaccuracies on this list*, but you get the idea: over 30 candidates plan to go for the glory, competing against only one incumbent (Hans Riemer).

In this field, Seth Grimes stands out. I have observed over the past 15 years as Grimes has evolved from a Takoma Park gadfly (when he quite rightly called out the city government for poor management) to a wise contributor on public affairs locally and beyond. As a member of the Takoma Park City Council, Grimes got to know well the people and processes of Rockville. His policy line is consistently progressive, from anti-poverty (he serves on the board of Shepherd’s Table) to the environment. He is also one of three visionary founders and leaders of the Takoma Park Mobilization, formed in mid-November to counter the Trump agenda and now including over 1,000 activists. Like Elrich, Grimes is a smart and extremely well-informed student of local politics. Running for the council is a logical step for Grimes – his level of preparation and commitment to progressive values distinguishes him among the dozens of other candidates. I am proud to endorse Seth Grimes for county council.

+++++

I don’t recognize most of the names on Bessel’s list and encourage them to introduce themselves to me via an email to lhv@kberner.us.

I have recently met some of the candidates in the context of progressive politics, such as the Politics 101 workshop sponsored by Our Revolution and Progressive Neighbors in May. This list includes (in alphabetical order): Julian Haffner, Danielle Meitiv, and Chris Wilhelm. I can see that these three are explicitly progressive, but I don’t know any of them well enough yet to declare early support for them.

Rebecca Smondrowski currently serves on the school board and has a good reputation among progressives. I’m also eager to learn more about her.

Diana Conway has been an influential progressive activist, which makes me wonder why her husband, Bill Conway is running, instead of her. I wouldn’t blame one spouse for the other spouse’s opinions or work, but neither will I automatically give Bill credit for Diana’s. Count this as another candidacy I’m intrigued about.

I know Cherri Branson’s name from her brief tenure on the Council in 2013-14, when she took the place of Valerie Ervin as the District 5 rep, after the latter got bored with the job and quit. Unfortunately, what most struck me at the time was Branson’s endorsement (along with Ervin) of the eminently unqualified and ethically challenged Chris Barclay to take the seat in 2014. I have heard good reviews of Branson’s work on Leggett’s staff since then and am open to learning more to overcome that first impression.

Evan Glass is a smart and nice guy. But he chose to run for D5 in 2014 as a Chamber of Commerce candidate, backed by all the big developers. There was also an arrogant tinge to his campaign that turned me off (he claimed that the transit center debacle woudn’t have happened if only he had been on the council). Since that time, Glass has led the Silver Spring youth education organization Gandhi Brigade: noble work, indeed. As with Branson, my mind is open to being reintroduced to Glass this time around.

+++++

Candidates to oppose. . .

This blog has devoted considerable attention to Hans Riemer — I encourage you, Dear Reader, to search on his name in order to relive all the highlights. For those less hardy, here’s the summary of Riemer’s service to the county

  • began running for office before the paint was dry in his first Maryland domicile (following his move here from California in late 2005)
  • has used empty rhetoric to sound progressive, without actually leading on progressive policy
  • has championed relatively lightweight issues
  • has been less than forthright about his intentions and his record.

Riemer has never added up to much substantively. Yet, in 2010, he succeeded in deceiving experienced activists and naïve voters alike, with his pretty face, California cash (caché?), and ad nauseum repetition of the word “progressive.” Now we have another chance to show Reimer the door; voters would be fools not to take it.

Will Jawando certainly loves campaigning, joining his fourth contest (the other three were losses) since 2014.** Other than being a candidate, though, Jawando seems never to have done anything much for the community or the county.  Jawando is a smart and engaging fellow. He just doesn’t get that paid public service should be less a pursuit of personal glory, than the culmination of a previous do-good record – something earned, not acquired.

+++++

Public Financing

As I learn more about county council candidates, I will look favorably on those who opt-in to public financing and unfavorably on those who self-finance (in effect, seeking to purchase their seat) or who rely on $4,000 checks from special interests (including from the development industry or public-employee unions).

I learned today on the Seventh State Blog, that Conway and Riemer have qualified for public financing.

+++++

*The three from Bessel’s list whom I know or believe are not running for At-Large are Ukaih Busch (who has said so publicly), Bill Cook (who has declared for the D1 seat), and Jill Ortman-Fouse (who seems to have opted to remain on the school board).

**Jawando has previously run for MD D20 state delegate (2014), Congress from MD D8 (against Jamie Raskin, 2016), and for appointment to the D20 house seat that opened when Will Smith was appointed to Raskin’s seat in the state senate (2016).

©2017 Keith Berner

 

 

01.15.17 David Trone: He’s baaaaack (and will be uglier than ever)

January 15, 2017

As you may recall, liquor salesman David Trone burst on the local political scene a year ago (after never having done a thing for the people and communities of the region) by spending $13-million to purchase a seat in Congress (MD-8). This came after years of  contributions to right-wingers around the country in order to increase his personal profits from hooch sales in their jurisdictions. Trone might have won, had another glory-seeking, right-wing contributing pro-business candidate — Kathleen Matthews — not split the anti-progressive vote with him. Fortunately, Jamie Raskin benefited from the contest between Matthews and Trone.

Will we be so lucky when Trone jumps into the 2018 race for Montgomery County executive (primary date: June 2018)?

In fact, the chances are that it will be progressssive candidates who will split the vote when Trone dumps $20-30 million into an attempt to purchase the entire county. (Think it’s too early to conjecture about the reign of havoc Trone intends for us? See Seventh State blog.)

Get scared now, MoCo progressives. 

June 2018 seems a long ways away. But if we are going to beat Trone, we have to start thinking right now about how. A number of regressive candidates, besides Trone, have already indicated an interest in running, including Roger Berliner (against a livable wage, against a plastic bag ban), Nancy Floreen (the Queen of Concrete), and Craig Rice (ditto the critiques of Floreen and Berliner).

There are only two likely candidates worthy of serious consideration by progressives: Marc Elrich and George Leventhal.

My working hypothesis is that Berliner, Floreen, and Rice can’t win against Trone, because he will spend them into oblivion and their Big Developer pals will desert them for the guy with the Real Big Money.

What scares me is that Elrich and Leventhal will both be strong, their supporters and campaigns will be bitter enemies, and the injuries they inflict on each other will end up enabling Trone to walk into office. 

My assessment of Elrich and Leventhal will start out with the usual set of criteria: ideology (particularly: will Leventhal choose to step away from his longstanding ties with the development industry) and competence (who is more likely to be able to run an effective county government). With Trone’s specter looming over the proceedings, though, a vital third criterion will come into play: which is able to run the perfect campaign to beat Trone.

So, my dear progressive readers, we may experience déja vu all over again: just as many Bernie supporters had to swallow hard and back Hillary to stop Trump*, either Elrich or Leventhal supporters will have to drop some pride and some ideology to back the candidate who can win. We all better start contemplating this prospect now. We will  need a pre-primary, where a comparison of campaign messaging, organization, and money raising acts as our guide for whom to ultimately back in June. I expect we will be able to make that assessment by a year or so from now.

*Yeah, I know the bet on Hillary didn’t work out. But, the Bernie supporters who claim with certainty now that he would have run better against Trump are taking hindsight conjecture and trying to turn it into predictive fact. And, the continued bitter sniping between “Berners” (I love that designation!) and Clinton fans is a demonstration of why forces of evil beat the left (center left and more left) so often.

See my previous posts about suburban Maryland’s own Trump equivalent:

©2017 Keith Berner

03.27.16 Kathleen Matthews: the face of political corruption (and GOP love)

March 27, 2016

Executive Summary

Kathleen Matthews has received:

  • more money from lobbyists than any Democrat running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country
  • more lobbyist money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country
  • more corporate PAC money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country

Both Matthews and David Trone have worked only in service to their own enormous wealth (rather than the public good). Both have funneled money to anti-progressives, giving themselves a pass because business interests obviously relieve one of moral responsibility for one’s actions [sarcasm intended].

+ + +

Kathleen Matthews is running a dishonest campaign for Congress in Maryland District 8. While clogging airwaves and mailboxes with liberal pablum, she is running away from her past and present. Since she has no legislative record, the only way voters can judge what she would do in Congress is precisely what she doesn’t want voters to know.

I stipulate that true progressives don’t write checks (or cause checks to be written) to candidates and members of Congress who oppose everything we believe in. It is well known by now (and covered by me) that David Trone, the other moneybags candidate in the race, has given over $161,000 to some of the worst Republicans in the country in the cause of enriching himself. Only in the past couple weeks has Matthews’s GOP love gotten the attention it deserves.

David Lublin at Seventh State blog reports that Matthews’s record is not only worse than Trone’s but is orders of magnitude worse than her infamous $2,600 contribution to anti-birth-control Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). In fact, Matthews has overseen over $700,000 in contributions to right-wingers, as chief lobbyist for the Marriott Corporation. (See partial list below.)

Jeffrey Hearn at Down with Tyranny blog digs even deeper into Matthews’s participation in leadership of American pay-to-play political culture.

Matthews’ [sic] title at Marriott International was Executive Vice President, Global Communications and Public Affairs. Her portfolio there included “[l]eading brand public relations, corporate communications, social responsibility, international public affairs, and government affairs.”

. . .

The Government Affairs Office is where the lobbyists are located at Marriott (the in-house ones, anyway). That office reported to Matthews when she worked there, and while she has recently attempted to distance herself from the Marriott lobbyistsshe has elsewhere acknowledged that she not only oversaw their work, but also “advocated” herself on occasion.

. . .

Government Affairs at Marriott was active on many fronts. Take labor issues for instance. Soon after Matthews arrived at Marriot, opposing the Employee Free Choice Act became a priority for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), the trade association that has described Matthews as a “key member.”

. . .

Opposition to the raising of the minimum wage was another important labor issue that emerged during Matthews’ [sic] tenure at Marriott. The AHLA opposed such efforts furiously whether they took the form of a proposed raise in the federal minimum wage or one of the many municipal ordinances being considered in various cities across the United States.

. . .

Kathleen Matthews has received more money from lobbyists than any Democrat running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country (source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Kathleen Matthews has received more lobbyist money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country (source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Kathleen Matthews has received almost three dozen contributions– totaling over $100,000– from corporate PACs, as of December 31, 2015. This is more corporate PAC money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country has received. 

I began this post by accusing Matthews of running a dishonest campaign. Oppose Tyranny also sheds light on that.  Zephyr Teachout , who leads anti-corruption nonprofit Mayday PAC, endorsed Jamie Raskin recently and said of Matthews that she “has been a corporate lobbyist in D.C. She is running for Congress and isn’t talking about the most central crisis we’re facing today, which is our crisis of corruption.”

Rather than addressing the accurate charge head on, the Matthews campaign split hairs, by declaring that she had not been a “registered” lobbyist. Oppose Tyranny calls this a classic “non-denial denial”: while declaring their candidate not-guilty on a technicality, they purposely ignored her obvious corruption and support for the GOP

A non-denial denial is a statement that, at first hearing, seems a direct, clear cut and unambiguous denial of some alleged accusation, but on carefully parsing turns out not to be a denial at all, and is thus not explicitly untruthful if the allegation is in fact correct. It is a case in which words that are literally true are used to convey a false impression.

There are pro-corporate interests (e.g., the Washington Post) and voters in MD-8 who have two great options in Kathleen Matthews and David Trone. Both have worked only in service to their own enormous wealth (rather than the public good). Both have funneled money to anti-progressives, giving themselves a pass because business interests obviously relieve one of moral responsibility for one’s actions.

Real progressives also have multiple choices in this Congressional race. But only one of those, Jamie Raskin, has a clear, effective legislative and public-advocacy record to get money out of politics and deliver our political system back to the people.

Thanks to Seventh State for this list of Kathleen Matthews-directed corporate contributions to Republicans:

2014 Cycle Total to Republicans: $148,500

Total to House Republicans: $92,000

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor: $5,000
  • Renee Ellmers: $2,500
  • Andy Harris: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $7,500
  • Paul Ryan: $5,000

Total to Senate Republicans: $56,500

  • Roy Blunt: $7,500
  • Joni Ernst: $1,000
  • Mitch McConnell: $7,500
  • Marco Rubio: $2,500

2012 Cycle Total to Republicans: $160,400

Total to House Republicans: $83,900

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $5,000
  • Darrell Issa: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $2,500
  • Paul Ryan: $2,500

Total to Senate Republicans: $76,500

  • Scott Brown: $5,000
  • Mitch McConnell: $2,500

 2010 Cycle Total to Republicans: $152,700

Total to House Republicans: $56,200

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $4,500
  • Darrell Issa: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $2,000
  • Paul Ryan: $2,500

Total to Senate Republicans: $96,500

  • Roy Blunt: $10,000
  • Scott Brown: $5,000
  • Carly Fiorina: $5,000
  • John McCain: $2,500
  • Marco Rubio: $5,000
  • Pat Toomey: $7,500

 2008 Cycle Total to Republicans: $220,300

Total to House Republicans: $144,800

  • Roy Blunt: $6,500
  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $5,000
  • Paul Ryan: $1,000

Total to Senate Republicans: $75,500

  • Mitch McConnell: $7,000

©2016 Keith Berner

01.30.16 WaPo’s fluff on MD-8 race ignores Raskin

January 30, 2016

Full disclosure: I support Jamie Raskin for Congress, but am not formally affiliated with his campaign.

The Washington Post’s sole reporter on Montgomery County politics, Bill Turque, recently covered a Maryland District 8 congressional-candidate forum. Bless Bill: he wanted to shine a little light on all nine forum participants. But in taking an elementary-school-everybody’s-in approach to this important race, he forgot about journalism – the “balance” he seemed to be striving for was (1) unbalanced and (2) vapid.

Ok, it was novel to have GOP candidates present, in a race where a Democrat is 99% certain to win. Hence the seven paragraphs (out of 19) devoted to the GOP. Two of those were about a Democrat, Liz Matory, who switched parties in a fit of rage over the fact that no one anointed fellow-African American Valerie Ervin the automatic winner last summer. (Ervin quit the race in September, issuing a bitter screed about the lack of deference she got.)

Turque devoted two paragraphs to Will Jawando, who is bright and compelling for sure, but who has little chance of winning and is (at least according to this article) running solely on the fact that, as an African American, he would diversify our representation. (I expect that Jawando has more to say than Turque gives him credit for.)

Next Turque spends two paragraphs on one of the true heavy hitters in the race (along with Jamie Raskin): Kathleen Matthews. He actually gives her a sentence on policy positions (all of which are no-brainers for Democrats) before turning, again, to identity politics (Matthews: “We need more women in Congress.”) There’s nary a word on Matthews’s relevant experience (or lack thereof: she doesn’t have any) or previous service to the district (or lack thereof: she doesn’t have any).

Then, more identity politics: Ana-Sol Gutierrez as Salvadoran American and Kumar Barve, who would be the first Asian American member of Congress from Maryland (I fail to see the relevance in the age of Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal). Barve does earn a wee bit of substantive coverage from Turque for the candidate’s claims of business acumen.

Of course, to the extent that identity drivel is what the campaigns are dishing, a reporter can’t be blamed for reporting it. But one gets the overwhelming sense that Turque just doesn’t care about much else.

The outrage of this fluff piece is its treatment of Jamie Raskin, a clear leader in the race, based on fundraising, volunteers, and endorsements alone. Raskin runs leagues ahead of all the others in terms of legislative effectiveness (Barve and Gutierrez are the only other ones with legislative experience at all). If it were not for personal millions, Matthews and (new candidate) David Trone would hardly be irrelevant, and this might be a Raskin-Barve competition.

What did Turque have to say about Raskin? Just this: “Raskin . . . pledged to return any overdue books.” Huh? A man serves as a key leader in the MD legislature for years, is a constitutional scholar, and — at least in Takoma Park and Silver Spring — has more visibility in the race than anyone else, and that’s all Turque can find to say?

If this is what the Washington Post and Bill Turque call journalism, they should be as embarrassed as we are for them. Really, the only game in town for coverage of MoCo politics these days is the Seventh State blog. That’s where to turn for serious analysis, as opposed to bake-sale fluff.

PS. The photo accompanying the article features Jawando, includes six others, and (you got it) omits Raskin.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.27.14 Seventh State blog takes cheap shots at Progressive Neighbors

April 27, 2014

I began following Maryland Politics Watch (MPW) in 2009. What I found there was unmatched coverage of the state political scene, great statistical analysis, and some just-the-facts reporting, including posts of candidates’ campaign lit, without comment or alteration. What I also found, was that Adam Pagnucco, who was then running the site, was providing biased coverage, without acknowledgment. As I reported in 2010, Pagnucco was acting as an undeclared front for Hans Riemer’s campaign for county council, at large. (Please remember, Hans Riemer is a liar. We owe it to future generations to end his political career right here and right now!)

When I called Pagnucco on this, his response was, “How many page views do you have?” which translates roughly to “How big is your dick?” Shortly thereafter, he banned me from commenting on his site. Shortly after that Riemer (the liar) won and Pagnucco became his chief of staff. He stopped writing for MPW after that.

This past February, David Lublin relaunched MPW as Seventh State. In its new incarnation, the blog seems to continue in Pagnucco’s footsteps: Great and thorough coverage. Even better writing and analysis than Pagnucco ever produced. And a mix of opinion and just-the-facts presentations that, again, may end up showing implicit biases that are not acknowledged.

(By comparison, this blog never claims to be anything but my opinion. I try to base my opinion on facts, but my readers know that if I say nice things about a politician, it means I am supporting her/him and vice versa.)

Lublin is clearly hostile to Progressive Neighbors (PN), the grassroots organization that has been endorsing Montgomery County candidates since 2006. (Full disclosure: I have been a PN member since its founding and briefly served on its steering committee.) On April 14, under the headline “Not So Progressive Neighbors,” Lublin claims that “a majority of incumbents” have refused to participate in PN’s endorsement process, because “5 of the 19 members of their Steering Committee are running for either the state legislature or the county council.” That is, PN is just too deeply mired in conflicts of interest to be worthy of politicians’ attention. Further, Lublin quotes one (supposedly) “liberal legislator” as saying “Nobody fills out their questionnaire because they demand extreme positions and offer nothing of value.”

First the facts: Out of 90 candidates listed on PN’s site, 57 returned its questionnaire, including every Democratic candidate for attorney general, MoCo county executive, and MoCo county at-large. So did two of the three gubernatorial candidates. This overall batting average of .633 is not too shabby for a small, underfunded, rule-by-consensus, unincorporated body that is heavily concentrated in the southeast part of the county (MD D20 and MoCo D5). PN has acquired such influcence in this part of Maryland, that — contrary to Lublin’s claims — candidates fall all over themselves to get its nod.

Lublin also completely ignores the fact that PN barred all candidates for public office from taking part in the endorsement process this year, regardless of candidates’ previous or current affiliation with the organization. (Candidates were barred from participation not only in analysis of their own races, but from any part of the endorsement process, which engendered some criticism within PN for excluding some of its best analysts from the process.) While claiming that PN is wrapped up in conflicts of interest, Lublin then makes the opposite case, pointing out that PN did not endorse two of its own steering committee members, Jonathan Shurberg and Will Smith, both candidates for MD D20 delegate. (Full disclosure, I have endorsed both Shurberg and Smith and will have more to say on that, soon.) So much for conflicts of interest determining outcomes.

Finally, apart from the one quote from a (supposed) liberal about PN’s (supposedly) extremist views, Lublin fails to provide any evidence of why a minority of candidates chose not to participate in PN’s process. There is no mention of incumbent overconfidence, disorganization, sheer laziness, or a reasonable acknowledgment by nonprogressive candidates that the process wouldn’t do them any good. Nor does he consider that much of this sprawling county is outside of PN’s core area, with lower participation in those areas the logical result.

Of the 33 nonparticipating candidates, how likely does it seem to you, Dear Reader, that these sorts of reasons apply to a significant percentage of those who gave PN a cold shoulder? For Lublin, it all comes down to conflicts of interest and extremism. (It’s almost comical to declare PN as extremist when the likes of Doug Gansler and Doug Duncan returned its questionnaire.)

Lublin is wrong on every single count here:
⁃ A significant majority of Democratic candidates running in MoCo this year participated in PN’s endorsement process
⁃ PN had no conflict of interest in its endorsement process this year
⁃ There could be any number of reasons why 33 politicians chose not to participate.

As if this one cheap shot at PN were not enough, Lublin piled on further with an April 23 post entitled “Progressive Neighbors Caves.” In this piece, Lublin says it is “bizarre” that PN did not initially endorse incumbent Ana Sol Guitérrez for D18 delegate. He accuses PN of then “quietly” (underhandedly, is the implication)  changing its mind in a “flawed process.” In fact, PN went out to all its dues-paying members (@ $10/year) to ask for feedback on the preliminary endorsements, just as it said it would. The feedback made a compelling case for including Gutiérrez. Is it a “flawed process” to respond to the democratic will of the membership? Is it a “cave” to do so?

Clearly, Progressive Neighbors gets under Lublin’s skin, to the extent that he just can’t honestly assess the organization’s processes and influence. And, Seventh State does not allow reader comments, which is why I am publishing my critique here, rather than going to Lublin first. (This blog does not block any comments. Unless you call me names without providing any content, all feedback is welcome.)

As I’ve said, there is plenty to recommend the new Seventh State. I will be an avid follower from now on. But readers beware: Just because the blog is thorough and well written does not mean it is accurate or unbiased. We should consume the blog’s content (and all journalism) with a skeptical eye and inquisitive mind.

©2014 Keith Berner