Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sen. Roger Manno's Aide Maricé Morales Wants to Replace Sam Arora // PLUS ANOTHER MYSTERY: Is Sam Pro or Anti-Choice?

UPDATE: Maryland Juice received the following letter from folks at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland taking issue with our anonymous sourcing on that story. Though I cannot divulge my sources, the article was not at all meant to imply anything about how Arora and NARAL might interact in the future. In fact, a few politicos who contacted me after publication suggested that the jury was still out on the freshman lawmaker's views on abortion and related issues. Blog articles notwithstanding, NARAL itself obviously plans an open and transparent survey process. We will be following this story (and the role of reproductive rights in 2014) in the future, but next time we'll be sure to check in directly with the NARAL staff!
Dear Maryland Juice: In your June 29, 2013 post about Delegate Sam Arora's position on women's reproductive rights, you incorrectly attributed your source as an insider at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. No NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland staff or officers, nor NARAL Pro-Choice PAC board members were interviewed for your article. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and its PAC takes pride in our transparent and fair representation of our positions on all matters concerning the advancement of women's rights in Maryland. We would appreciate it if in the future you would check your sources with our organization before issuing anonymous statements. We encourage you, as well as you readers to contact us directly to answer questions about reproductive rights and where elected officials or candidates may stand on this critical issue.


Wendy Royalty, NARAL Pro-Choice MD PAC Chair
Jodi Finkelstein, NARAL Pro-Choice MD Executive Director

Sen. Roger Manno & Maricé Morales
Rumors are aswirl that an aide to District 19 State Senator Roger Manno is plotting a run against Sam Arora in 2014. Arora famously voted against marriage equality during an extremely close vote -- and after promising to support LGBT rights. But the 2010 runner-up to Arora (Jay Hutchins) recently announced he had decided not to run, leaving many wondering if Arora was still going to face a challenge.

But Maryland Juice recently met Manno's Special Assistant Maricé Morales at a political event in Montgomery County, where she confirmed she was plotting a 2014 bid for the House of Delegates.

In addition, at the urging of an anonymous source, I poked around on Sen. Manno's website and was intrigued to see hints that he may indeed be backing Morales, given that his press releases seem to be highlighting her work in the District (excerpt below):
SEN. ROGER MANNO PRESS RELEASE: This evening Senator Roger Manno and Delegate Ben Kramer each received the prestigeous “Shofar Award” for their advocacy on behalf of the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy (MJBHA) in Aspen Hill.... 
Joining Senator Manno was his Senate Special Assistant, Ms. Marice' Morales, who worked tirelessly with lawmakers and the community throughout the 2013 legislative session to secure passage of the $100,000 capital bond.
Notably, District 19 Democrats are represented by one State Senator (Roger Manno) and three Delegates: Sam Arora, Bonnie Cullison and Ben Kramer.  But a visit to Del. Bonnie Cullison's Facebook page also revealed a photo of Maricé Morales at a recent Cullison fundraiser. Now obviously a photo does not necessarily equal an endorsement, but this is still pretty interesting to see:

And to round it all out, here's Maricé Morales with Sen. Victor Ramirez of Prince George's County:

IS DEL. SAM ARORA PRO-CHOICE OR ANTI-CHOICE? - Strangely, one anonymous source also noted that it is apparently unclear where Sam Arora stands on the issue of reproductive rights. Maryland and Montgomery County politics are weighted toward the pro-choice position, but notwithstanding potential exceptions for rape or incest, a few Maryland Juice sources struggled to figure out where Arora stands on the issue.

A national organization voter education organization called Project Vote Smart attempted to survey Arora on abortion and other issues, but their website only had the following information about Sam Arora's views:
PROJECT VOTE SMART: Sam Arora refused to tell citizens where he stands on any of the issues addressed in the 2010 Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests from Vote Smart, national media, and prominent political leaders.
Nevertheless, Maryland Juice tracked down a 2010 NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland legislative analysis, and Sam Arora is the lone Delegate from Montgomery County who is not listed as a pro-choice lawmaker. Arora is instead listed as "Untested" alongside conservative/moderate Democrats (eg: Steve DeBoy & John Olszewski, Jr.) and Republicans like Kathy Afzali.

At first I thought this could be because no votes on the issue had been taken during Arora's freshman term, but then I realized six additional freshmen from MoCo were rated as pro-choice: Delegates Craig Zucker, Eric Luedtke, Aruna Miller, Ariana Kelly, Bonnie Cullison and Shane Robinson.

AN ANSWER TO THE MYSTERY? - Maryland Juice contacted a knowledgeable source to figure out if there was a story behind Sam Arora being tagged as "Untested" in their analysis. Their response was that in 2010 (ie: his first election for office in liberal MoCo), Sam Arora never returned his candidate survey to NARAL. Hmm.

So does anyone know whether Sam Arora is pro-choice or pro-life? I'm honestly baffled that nobody seems to know the answer to this question. Perhaps one of you knows? If so, please drop a note in the comments section below.

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