Tuesday, June 25, 2013

UPDATE: Race to Fill Rob Garagiola's Senate Seat Heats Up // MCDCC, Politicos and Delegates Miller & Dumais Weigh In

UPDATE: The article below has generated a lot of heated debate; enough so that Maryland Juice thought it would be worth clarifying a few points. First, though I sprinkle some light commentary throughout the post below, the views printed are almost all those of other politicos in the State. Second, some have suggested that the writings about this topic from me and others is not productive, but it is hard to argue for ignoring this emerging dialogue when I receive multiple emails representing different perspectives about it. 

As for my own views on the matter, I put social and economic justice issues ahead of demography (meaning, no, I would not vote for a conservative minority over a progressive white candidate). But that being said, I think there are many examples where demographic representation is important. During the marriage equality battle, for example, the LGBT caucus was a powerful voice for change. Similarly, Latino lawmakers were instrumental in getting some of the major immigration-related bills through Annapolis in recent sessions. Sometimes its a win-win, because the LGBT and Latino lawmakers in question are also progressives!

Maryland Juice recently reported on the jockeying to replace State Senator Rob Garagiola when he resigns from his District 15 seat later this year. Garagiola's D15 colleague Delegate Brian Feldman is the likely frontrunner for the seat, but the State Senate vacancy has created an opening for minority activists to highlight the lack of diversity in Montgomery County's all-white Senate delegation. Below we provide a few updates to the story, starting with an interesting take on the situation from Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz:

JUICE #1: A NEW GLASS CEILING FOR WHITE, MALE DEMOCRATS? - It is unlikely that the domination of white men in state and national politics will end anytime soon, but Center Maryland's Josh Kurtz today published a very interesting take on the D15 Senate vacancy (full article). The column below places the race in a national context (excerpt below):
CENTER MARYLAND: It’s tough to be a white male in Democratic politics these days. Just ask Brian Feldman, the state delegate from Montgomery County. And Attorney General Doug Gansler. And maybe even Gov. Martin O’Malley....

Feldman instantly became the odds-on favorite to succeed Garagiola, whose replacement will be chosen by O’Malley based on a recommendation from the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. But a loose coalition of minority community and political activists who have been agitating and organizing to get more minority candidates elected to public office in Montgomery County have different ideas.... Montgomery County has never, ever, sent anyone to the Senate who isn’t white. This is, undoubtedly, an embarrassment and a disgrace.
A similar conversation is taking place in Howard County, where more than half the legislative seats will be open in 2014, and in Prince George’s County, where voters in a jurisdiction that’s two-thirds African-American must surely be wondering why only three of their eight state senators are black.... [The] fact is that if black voters turn out in huge numbers for [Lt. Gov. Anthony] Brown, the primary’s over — that’s too big a structural advantage for his opponents to overcome....

JUICE #2: DELEGATES ARUNA MILLER & KATHLEEN DUMAIS ENDORSE BRIAN FELDMAN FOR STATE SENATE - Two of Delegate Brian Feldman's District 15 colleagues endorsed him for the State Senate seat in the letter below. Delegates Aruna Miller and Kathleen Dumais issued the following statement of support to the Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) Gabe Albernoz. Notably, the members of the MCDCC will soon be voting to appoint a replacement for Garagiola. The letter below highlights Feldman's long record of service to the Democratic Party, though I continue to nitpick on one point that keeps getting raised during this debate.

Feldman backers keep insisting that D15 could be taken over by Republicans without him being appointed to the seat. But the truth is Feldman will be well-positioned to win a Democratic Primary for the seat in 2014 -- whether or not he is appointed to fill the remainder of Garagiola's term in 2013. Moreover, it is absolutely false that any Montgomery County District is susceptible to a Republican takeover. In 2010, Sen. Rob Garagiola beat his Republican challenger 64% to 36%, and in 2012 Democrats held a massive registration advantage in D15 -- 43,939 Dems vs. 23,323 GOP voters. I'm just calling it like I see it! With that clarification, check out the letter below:

The Honorable Gabriel Albornoz
Chair, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee
3720 Farragut Ave. Kensington, MD 20895

Re: Unanimous Support for Appointment of Delegate Brian J. Feldman to Maryland Senate Seat Being Vacated by Hon. Rob Garagiola

Dear Chairman Albornoz:

Please accept this letter as evidence of our unqualified support and endorsement of our colleague Delegate Brian Feldman to succeed Senator Rob Garagiola.

District 15 and the State of Maryland certainly benefitted from Senator Garagiola’s years of public service. His recent resignation announcement, needless to say, is one we were both saddened to learn about as we will miss his leadership and friendship. With Senator Garagiola’s resignation on September 1, 2013, the MCDCC faces the tremendous responsibility of submitting a name to Governor O’Malley to replace a person who upheld the duties and responsibilities of the office of State Senator with great integrity, compassion, intelligence and commitment.

We believe Delegate Brian Feldman is the right person to fill the position. He has maintained a remarkable career in public service, both in and outside of the government. As you know, Brian was first elected in 2002 when three of the four legislative seats in District 15 were occupied by Republicans. Brian was re-elected in 2006 and 2010 and has distinguished himself over the past 11 years in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Brian has a proven track record as a progressive voice in the Maryland House of Delegates and has an extensive and impressive portfolio of legislative accomplishments. He served for five years as Chair of Montgomery County Delegation representing the interests, needs and concerns of the citizens of Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly (MGA). As Chair, he worked tirelessly to work in partnership with his colleagues, bring consensus amongst the 24 delegates and overcame MGA partisan politics. As Montgomery County represents the largest voting block at the MGA, Brian’s leadership allowed Montgomery County to have a greater influence on policies, the budget and the strengthening our presence in the state of Maryland.

In 2011, the Speaker of the House appointed Brian as the House Parliamentarian and in 2006, as Chair of the prestigious Banking, Economic, Development, Science and Technology Subcommittee on the Economic Matters Committee. Throughout his tenure in the Maryland General Assembly, Brian has demonstrated the knowledge and proven capacity to effectively resolve some of Maryland’s toughest challenges and has been a pioneer in the development of legislative initiatives in the area of bio-tech, directly affecting Montgomery County’s business economy.

Having had the opportunity to work closely with Brian in Annapolis, we can attest to the fact that he is well respected, considered a team builder, influential, and most importantly, deeply committed and dedicated to serving the people of District 15, Montgomery County and the state of Maryland. Brian has consistently demonstrated his ability to coordinate with his constituents, democratic activists and elected officials, special interest groups, and the two of us in producing as well as executing important pieces of legislation that benefit the state of Maryland. He is a political intellect, humble and well liked and well respected.

We also believe Brian is particularly well suited to fill the seat to be vacated by Rob because he will be ready to hit the ground running, based on his legislative experience. This is critical since Montgomery County will be losing two leadership positions in the Senate with the departure of Rob, who serves as the Majority Leader and Senator Brian Frosh, current chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, who is running for Attorney General and will not be returning to the Senate.

In conclusion, District 15 which had a Republican delegate as recently as 2006, remains competitive beyond the Democratic primary. Thus, it cannot be assumed that any Democrat winning the primary is guaranteed to win the General Election in District 15
. Brian’s successful record in Annapolis, his years of commitment to our constituents, and as a candidate in District 15 will ensure the Senate seat remains Democratic in 2014.

Delegate Feldman has sustained a lifetime of successful public service and because of his work ethic and long list of achievements we enthusiastically endorse Brian for the District 15 State Senate position. We believe he is the best candidate and we humbly request that you give full
consideration for Delegate Brian J. Feldman for the soon to be vacated Senate seat.

Thank you for allowing us to share our thoughts. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you any questions.


Delegate Kathleen Dumais   Delegate Aruna Miller

cc: Members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee

JUICE #3: DISTRICT 15 MINORITIES CONTEST DECLARATION OF UNANIMOUS SUPPORT FOR FELDMAN FROM D15 CAUCUS - Maryland Juice previously published an endorsement from the District 15 Caucus announcing unanimous support for Delegate Brian Feldman for the upcoming State Senate vacancy. The D15 Caucus is a political party club that operates externally from the MCDCC. But strangely enough, I received a letter from members of the D15 club indicating that they were not provided an opportunity to weigh in on the vacancy:
DISTRICT 15 CAUCUS MEMBERS: Dear Members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC):

Recent press reports indicate that the Board of the District 15 Democratic Caucus has sent a letter to the members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee.  The letter recommends a candidate for the District 15 State Senate vacancy.

We are members in good standing of the District 15 Democratic Caucus; however, we were never given the opportunity to comment on the Senate vacancy and we were not made aware of the letter before it was sent.

The purpose of this correspondence is to implore the members of the MCDCC to implement a fair and open process.  The process should enable all interested candidates to be interviewed (by the MCDCC) and to be considered over the next three months.  Moreover, District 15 residents should be permitted to share our views on all of the candidates.

We recognize that efforts are being undertaken to wrap-up the process quickly in order to dissuade competition; however, that stance is contrary to what the Democratic Party stands for.  The Democratic Party stands for inclusive participation and the Democratic Party stands for expanding opportunities for all.  So, we urge you to resist efforts to curtail the deliberation process. 

As very loyal members of the Democratic Party, we appreciate the opportunity to be part of this process and respectfully submit this letter.


Tufail Ahmad
Khalid Chaudhry
Vernon Ricks
JUICE #4: ANONYMOUS MCDCC MEMBER HIGHLIGHTS HISTORY OF VACANCY APPOINTMENTS - In previous commentary about the MCDCC's history of filling vacancies, Maryland Juice suggested that the organization had a mixed record at using the appointment process to diversity MoCo's Democratic delegation. An anonymous MCDCC member provided us with the following timeline of appointments to help clarify the record:
ANONYMOUS MCDCC MEMBER: Now that your blog post made it into the Gazette, I thought I would send a quick recap of MCDCC's "record at filling vacant seats with women and people of color" for your own background as you continue coverage of the appointment process.

2001 - Kopp becomes Treasurer, Susan Lee appointed.
2005 - Hurson resigns, Jane Lawton appointed.
2007 - PJ Hogan resigns, Nancy King appointed.
2007 - King elevated, Kirill appointed.
2007 - Goldwater resigns, Frick appointed.
2007 - Lawton passes, Al Carr appointed.
2010 - Bronrott retires, Karen Britto appointed (as she ran as a seat warmer I could see not counting this).

There might be others I am forgetting.  I can't tell you the record before 2001, although I think only one or two current members were even on the committee then.

CONCLUSION: So there you have it folks! Montgomery County Democrats continue to face growing pains relating to the significant churning and demographic shifting in the county's electorate. I know a lot of folks are getting testy about having this conversation, but come on, there's something wrong if the Democratic Party is uncomfortable confronting issues of race, gender, and diversity. It is healthy and will help us evolve in a way that the Republicans are incapable of competing with. But more importantly, Delegate Feldman shouldn't feel threatened by this conversation. I consider it due diligence, as the D15 Senate appointment will likely lead to perpetual re-election of whomever they choose. A State Senate seat should not just be given away lightly. Lastly, the most important factor in this discussion is that there is currently no woman or person of color seeking the D15 Senate vacancy! So what's all this fuss about?

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