Tuesday, November 13, 2012

JuiceBlender: Push For MD GOP Chair Alex Mooney to Resign, Councilmember Leventhal Eyes MoCo Exec & Marijuana Reform

Maryland Juice knew that many political machinations would be on hold pending the outcome of the Presidential election. But now that Obama has been re-elected, things are ramping up again. Below we highlight a few examples of post-election organizing, starting with some calls for housekeeping within the Maryland Republican Party:

JUICE #1: CONSERVATIVES CALL ON MD GOP CHAIR ALEX MOONEY TO RESIGN - Last week we noted that conservatives activists were grumbling on Twitter about Chairman Alex Mooney's botched management of the Maryland GOP. Now they are beginning to get serious about it. Four editors at the rightwing blog Red Maryland published a column calling for Mooney's resignation. Meanwhile, several knowledgeable Maryland Juice sources indicate that conservative activists are quietly mobilizing a coalition to re-define the Maryland Republican brand. We shall see where this all goes soon enough, but in the meantime enjoy this short snippet from Red Maryland's scorching full article (excerpt below):
RED MARYLAND: When former state senator Alex Mooney won the race for MGOP chair ...  his biggest drawback ... was that he saw the position of MDGOP chair as a place holder position....
While MDGOP was mired in $120,000 debt, he was busy raising $108,00 for a 2012 congressional campaign to replace Roscoe Bartlett....
The defeat on questions 4 through 6, and to some extent question 7, lies squarely on Alex Mooney.  Instead of organizing and raising money to win those races, Mooney was busy helping Roscoe Bartlett get shellacked by 20 points....

We have no confidence in Alex Mooney’s leadership.  He must go. Now.

Note that one Red Maryland writer disagreed with the calls for Mooney to resign, stating "this is a bad idea that will result in nothing good, but we are the Maryland GOP and that is our nature." It remains to be seen whether the anti-Mooney forces in the GOP will prevail. If they do, Mooney's ouster as Republican Party Chair might prove an embarrassing start to a potential run against soon-to-be Rep. John Delaney in 2014.

JUICE #2: MOCO COUNCILMEMBER GEORGE LEVENTHAL FUNDRAISING FOR 2014 EXECUTIVE RUN - The 2014 Montgomery County Executive's race has been quietly stirring for several months now. But now that the Presidential election is over, we expect to start to seeing a trickle of announcements from prospective candidates. The Examiner's Rachel Baye today carried a quote from At-Large Councilmember George Leventhal indicating that he is fundraising for a 2014 Exec run. See the excerpt below, but note that at most recent check Maryland Juice also heard rumors of potential runs from the following District Councilmembers:  Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, and Valerie Ervin. Additionally, the names of former County Executive Doug Duncan, former Councilmember Steve Silverman, and Delegate Ben Kramer continue to generate rumors of activity. Back to The Examiner's tidbit below:
EXAMINER: ...Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal is already looking ahead to 2014. The at-large Democrat is throwing himself a 50th birthday party Monday that will double as a fundraiser for his campaign for Montgomery County Executive, Leventhal told The Washington Examiner

JUICE #3: MARIJUANA BACK ON MARYLAND'S POLICY RADAR - Though all eyes in Maryland were glued to the raging referenda battles over gambling, marriage equality and the Dream Act -- around the nation pundits were watching returns with a broader issue lens. Indeed, this year American voters around the nation affirmed a wave of laws protecting individual rights and liberties. Yes, this included marriage and women's rights -- but outside of Maryland it also included the now mainstream issue of marijuana legalization. The issue has been promoted through various lenses, ranging from a liberty and taxpayer waste issue, to a criminal justice reform issue with loud racial overtones. But Maryland Juice has been predicting the turning tide for months, and the recent marijuana legalization wins at state ballot boxes are creating demands for policy sanity within Maryland. After the election, Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks described the results of law enforcement and political idiocy on the issue (excerpt below):
DAN RODRICKS (VIA BALTIMORE SUN): [Arrests for marijuana possession] accounted for 43 percent of all drug arrests in 2011. So, just in case you were operating under the impression that the law had backed off the whole grass-possession thing, there it is: More than four out of 10 of all narcotics arrests made in United States were for people having marijuana in their possession.... So that's what our cops spend a lot of their time doing — arresting people for pot, hundreds of thousands of times per year....

On Tuesday, voters in Colorado and Washington made it legal to smoke pot without a prescription or a medical reason.

That's a breakthrough in the long stalemate in the public debate about the war on drugs — electorates in two states expressing what the American public has been telling politicians for a long time, that we spend too much money and manpower on chasing and incarcerating people who use drugs. It has been going on for 40 years. It hasn't decreased the demand for drugs, but it has led to an epoch of terrible violence related to the underground commerce, and it has filled our prisons....

MAJORITY SUPPORT FOR LEGALIZATION // SUPER-MAJORITY AMONG DEMS & LIBERALS: Again, demographic churning and the shifting importance of various birth cohorts is leading to surging support for an end to the anti-science War on Drugs. My personal hunch is that we are now at a convergence point in the timeline of political opinion, where a large chunk of young voters are in agreement with older voters who came of age during the 60's and 70's. Indeed, a very recent 2012 Huffington Post/YouGov opinion survey confirmed our hunch about the shifting attitudes:
HUFFINGTON POST: A solid majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, either with or without taxes and regulations similar to those imposed on alcoholic beverages, according to a new survey conducted by YouGov for The Huffington Post.

The poll found that 51 percent of adults support legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.... Only 26 percent of respondents said that marijuana should not be legalized.... Those under age 29 and between ages 45 and 64 were most likely to support legalization pure and simple...
The poll found more variation among people of different political parties. Sixty-four percent of Democrats ...  said they supported legalization with taxes and regulations. Overall, opposition was highest among Republicans, but even so, more Republicans favored one of the two legalization options (47 percent) than opposed legalization entirely (44 percent).

A Gallup poll conducted last year also verified new majority support for marijuana reform and noted that a whopping 69% of liberals support the legalization effort. Check out a few summary tables below:

CALLS FOR GOP TO SUPPORT DRUG REFORM THROUGH A STATES RIGHTS & LIBERTARIAN LENS: Though it appears that the base for marijuana legalization is Democrats and young voters, some on the right are beginning to point out the ideological ties between their views and pot reform. The writers at Red Maryland today pointed their readers in the direction of a post-election analysis from a writer at Reason.com (excerpt below):
REASON.COM: The short answer is that the GOP insisted on pushing backward-looking social issues in a country that is increasingly libertarian.... There’s no question that on broadly defined social issues such as immigration, marriage equality, and drug policy, Barack Obama has been terrible....

Similar dynamics hold true on issues such as drug policy.... Obama has raided medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal under state law without a second thought. Now that Washington and Colorado have legalized not just medical marijuana but all pot, the GOP should stay true to its valorization of federalism and the states as “laboratories of democracy” and call for an end to the federal drug war....

The GOP can lick its wounds and tell themselves whatever they want to hear—that it was the media's fault, that they need to be more religious, that they just need better candidates, or whatever. But until the party actually changes its positions on basic policy issues and articulates a clear and consistent role for limited government, it has nowhere to go but down.

MARIJUANA INITIATIVES DROVE SURGE IN YOUTH VOTE: On a more practical note, at least one writer at FireDogLake is pointing out that in states where marijuana was on the ballot this year, youth turnout surged. Compared to other states, the pot states witnessed between a 5x to 12x higher turnout increase among young voters:

CONCLUSION: BELIEVING IN THE WAR ON DRUGS IS LIKE BELIEVING IN SANTA CLAUS (AKA CHILDISH) - Indeed, for many ordinary Americans, belief in the War on Drugs has become as ridiculous as holding onto visions of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. But just as with marriage equality, Maryland Juice believes that the public is way ahead of the arrogant and/or incompetent policymakers who are again unable to game out the rapidly moving shifts and trendlines in public opinion.

But a few Maryland politicos have (unprompted by me) mentioned a renewed interest in making the Free State a beacon of rational policymaking by pushing marijuana legalization/decriminalization and a broader overhaul of our criminal "justice" system. In the meantime, a White House petition on the issue is gathering thousands of signatures. Onward!

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