Thursday, September 5, 2013

JuiceBlender: Could Doug Gansler Pick Anti-Gay Running Mate, Pot Lights Up Baltimore Race, O'Malley & Van Hollen on Syria

Below Maryland Juice writers David Moon and Dan Furmansky present a few items of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY & MARYLAND'S DEMOCRATIC LEADERS RESPOND TO VOTERS ON PROPOSED STRIKES AGAINST SYRIA - Maryland Juice recently reported that anti-war activists have begun pressing the state's Democratic members of Congress on resisting the impulse to carpet-bomb Syria. Below you can see a pair of articles in The Baltimore Sun containing responses from Representatives Chris Van Hollen & Elijah Cummings and Senators Ben Cardin & Barbara Mikulski, as well as from Gov. Martin O'Malley (excerpts below):
BALTIMORE SUN: He knocked on doors in Ohio for President Barack Obama's campaign last year and is active in Maryland's Democratic Party, but Dave Kunes nevertheless opposes the president on what has become the central issue of his second term: whether to launch a military strike in Syria. Kunes, a 24-year-old Silver Spring resident, joined several dozen protesters who rallied in Rockville and Ellicott City on Wednesday to deliver the message that even in Democratic Maryland ... there are deep misgivings about U.S. involvement in another Middle East war....
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday found that nearly six in 10 nationwide are against airstrikes. Some Maryland lawmakers, meanwhile, report being flooded with calls. Additional anti-war rallies are planned at congressional offices this week.

Doing nothing, [Van Hollen] said, "would be an invitation to Assad to simply escalate his use of poison gas." As a half-dozen peace activists crowded into the Ellicott City district office of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, an aide to the congressman, Amy Stratton, told them: "I think you're preaching to the choir...." Cummings said more than 95 percent of the people who have contacted his office on the issue say they oppose a U.S. attack....

Perhaps because of that, most Maryland lawmakers — nine of 10 of whom are Democrats — are wading into the debate carefully. Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was among the first lawmakers to cast a vote on the issue Wednesday. He supported the Senate resolution, which was approved by the committee 10-7. That measure would allow limited military action for up to 90 days and prohibit the use of ground troops....  Maryland's other senator, Barbara A. Mikulski, is undecided on how she will vote, a spokeswoman said....
Meanwhile, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is treading carefully into the debate as he prepares for a 2016 Presidential campaign (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday questioned U.S. military intervention in Syria, saying that although he has closely followed the discussion in Washington this week, it is still unclear to him exactly what the strike would accomplish....

"I think all of us need a clear understanding of what it is exactly this mission would hope to accomplish - and why should we believe that the sort of strike being advocated would accomplish it," O'Malley said....

JUICE #2: MARIJUANA LIGHTS UP RACE FOR BALTIMORE CITY STATE'S ATTORNEY AS CANDIDATE ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR LEGALIZATION - Defense lawyer Russell Neverdon went big today as he announced his candidacy for Baltimore City prosecutor, saying he would support legalizing marijuana. Notably, the current State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, who was elected to his first term in office in 2010, isn’t just opposed to legalization. Bernstein also opposes decriminalization (which means making possession of a small amount a civil rather than criminal offense) and therefore supports jail time and criminal penalties for minor non-violent offenders. Might there be racial dimensions to this campaign debate? With an African American challenger supporting legalization and the White incumbent opposing decriminalization, you bet there is.

You may remember that, according to an ACLU report released this summer, Maryland had the fourth-highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in 2010, the last year for which that information is available. In Baltimore black people were more than five times as likely to be arrested as whites, which is above average. Marilyn Mosby, a former prosecutor, is also running. No doubt this topic is going to rear its head again. Here’s the story on Russell Neverdon from WBAL-TV (excerpt below):
WBAL TV: [Russell] Neverdon, who will challenge incumbent [Baltimore City State's Attorney] Gregg Bernstein, used a favorite political question in introducing himself as a candidate. "Do you feel any safer today than you did three years ago?" Neverdon said....
Now, Neverdon wants to beat Bernstein at the ballot, arguing he can do better to stem the city's most stubborn problem. "I don't know about you, but I am tired of being in my home and in a state of fear. I can't raise my kids where they can enjoy the park because I worry will they come back safe," Neverdon said.

Neverdon joins already announced challenger Marilyn Mosby in the race. [Neverdon] promises to devote his energy on violent offenders and he said that means he can support legalizing marijuana, the kind of minor crime that fills police reports and courtrooms. "I would support any bill that does not violate the Constitution and civil rights that means we can move minor offenses to the side and focus heavily on those crimes affecting our community," Neverdon said.

Political analyst Doni Glover of said Neverdon's entrance in the race makes the state's attorney's contest next year more of a factor in the governor's race. Both races are on the ballot and both feature candidates running against the established political machine.
Neverdon’s position on marijuana is a stark cry from that of incumbent Gregg Bernstein. This summer, Bernstein took the time to write a thoughtful, albeit misguided, op-ed on the subject in the Baltimore Sun..... “Before we go further and consider decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, we need to pay careful attention to the possible unintended consequences,” [Bernstein] added, arguing that “searches based on the possession of marijuana sometimes yield firearms and other contraband.”

Bernstein can’t really point to any good reason to oppose decriminalization, but he does. “Unintended consequences” reminds me of people talking about how the sky will fall if same-gender couples are allowed to marry. Using the criminality of marijuana possession as an excuse to pull over more people and search their vehicles seems misguided, at best.  Possession is a victimless crime, but diversion programs don’t negate the realities of the humiliation of arrest.... Simply put, the criminalization of marijuana—which is safer than alcohol—is wasting police, prosecutorial and judicial resources.

JUICE #3: POSSIBLE PRINCE GEORGE'S PICKS FOR DOUG GANSLER'S RUNNING MATE OFFER SHARP CONTRAST ON GAY RIGHTS - The other day Maryland Juice reported that Josh Kurtz at Center Maryland says “the two leading contenders from Prince George’s to be Gansler’s No. 2 are Dels. Jolene Ivey and Melony Griffith. The choice of one over the other would have sharp implications.

Del. Griffith and Del. Ivey differ on one issue that is important to a large swath of the Democratic base: LGBT rights. Del. Ivey has been a very strong advocate for marriage equality for many years. Del. Griffith, meanwhile, didn’t just vote against marriage equality. She also failed to support much less controversial bills in years past extending very basic, fundamental rights to gay couples. We’re talking simple peace-of-mind bills.

In 2008, Del. Griffith cast no vote at all on a bill granting medical decision making and post-mortem decision making rights to same-gender “domestic partners.” Apparently her green button didn’t work either when it came to a bill exempting domestic partners from real estate transfer and recordation taxes, just like married couples are exempt.

Del.  Heather Mizeur is proudly running as an openly lesbian gubernatorial candidate. And Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown chose another strong LGBT rights supporter, Ken Ulman, as his running mate. If Doug Gansler chooses Del. Griffith as his running mate — or any individual with a shoddy record on gay rights — there will be many, unhappy campers among Maryland Democrats, and it will cost him votes.

JUICE #4: MD LAGGING BEHIND RED STATES LIKE NEBRASKA & MISSISSIPPI ON MARIJUANA REFORM // SEE WHICH MD DEMOCRATS ARE DRAGGING THEIR FEET - Fifteen states have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. (This does not include Colorado and Washington, which have outright legalized). Included on that list are red states like Nebraska, Mississippi, and (now, sadly red) North Carolina. Decriminalization means that possession is a civil offense, typically treated like a traffic violation. And data shows that decriminalization elsewhere does not cause an uptick in marijuana smoking.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin’s bill to make the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 passed the Senate this year by a vote of 30-16. The bill was far from perfect. 10 grams is a far lower than the amount allowed in other states. Decriminalization still carries a penalty, and that financial penalty may be burdensome for poor individuals who cannot pay the fine. But widespread support for the bill carried it over the top, and included five Republicans—Senators Jacobs, Brinkley, Colburn, Reilly, and Kittleman (who amended the bill on the floor to become a cosponsor). Notably, Senators Roger Manno and Nancy King from Montgomery County voted against decriminalization.

Unfortunately, the bill died in the House when Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Vallario predictably kept it in the drawer. It’s a sad day when Maryland is lagging behind Mississippi and Nebraska. Sadly, Gov. Martin O’Malley failed to take a position on the bill, which is shortsighted for someone who should be heavily courting the youth vote right about now. Gov. O’Malley should be out front on legalization. Yet he could have played it safe and supported the bipartisan decriminalization bill without taking a position on legalization. He chose not to, but hopefully he’ll have a bolder stance in 2014, his last year to leave behind a policy legacy in this state.

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