Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ISSUE JUICE: Roll Calls on Transgender, Minimum Wage, Estate Tax & Pot Bills // PLUS: Purple Line, School $, Privacy & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a round of updates regarding hot button legislation in the Free State:

JUICE #1: ROLL CALL // TRANSGENDER NONDISCRIMINATION BILL PASSES STATE SENATE - After years of stalled efforts, the Maryland Senate passed the "Fairness for All Marylanders Act" (32-15) to provide transgender residents protection from discrimination. 4 Democrats joined 11 Republicans in voting against the nondiscrimination bill, while only 1 Republican voted in favor of transgender nondiscrimination. See the names of lawmakers who broke party lines below:
Democrats who voted against transgender nondiscrimination:
  • John Astle (D30)
  • Ed DeGrange (D32)
  • Roy Dyson (D29)
  • Jim Mathias (D38)
Republicans who voted for transgender nondiscrimination:
  • Allan Kittleman (D9)
The measure now awaits consideration in the House of Delegates, where we expect it to pass, given its broad support (eg: 61 members co-sponsoring the bill).

JUICE #2: ROLL CALL // $10.10 MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE PASSES HOUSE OF DELEGATES WITHOUT INDEXING - Last week the Maryland House of Delegates approved an increase in the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The vote was 89-46 (via Washington Post), but according to a press release from Raise Maryland, the bill was watered down a bit along the way (excerpt below):
RAISE MARYLAND: Key provisions of the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014 were stripped out during consideration of the bill in the House Economic Matters Committee.  A proposal to index the minimum wage so that it would rise during to keep pace with the cost of living was amended out of the bill. A measure to raise wages for tipped workers from 50 to 70 percent of the minimum wage has been changed to freeze tipped wages at $3.63, the current rate. This amendment means that as the minimum wage rises, tipped worker’s pay would remain at the current level, giving them a pay cut. Advocates are working to keep address these issues in the Senate version of the bill, as well as an amendment that broadly exempts amusement parks....
Every Republican Delegate voted against the minimum wage increase, along with 7 Democratic members of the House. See the names of lawmakers who broke party lines below, along with a few members for whom there is no vote recorded either way:
Democrats who voted against a $10.10/hour minimum wage:
  • Pamela Beidle (D32)
  • Eric Bromwell (D8)
  • Norm Conway (D38B)
  • Kevin Kelly (D1B)
  • Joseph Minnick (D6)
  • David Rudolph (D34B)
  • John Wood (D29A)
Democrats with no recorded final vote on a $10.10/hour minimum wage
  • Luiz Simmons (D17) - NOTE: Simmons had an excused absence due to the death of his father
  • Theodore Sophocleus (D32)
MIZEUR AMENDMENT: Delegate Heather Mizeur, a gubernatorial candidate, offered a last-minute amendment to try and revive indexing in the minimum wage bill through a 2% annual increase after the wage reached $10.10. Mizeur's amendment was defeated in a 8-124 vote, but here are the names of the seven other Delegates who supported her effort. Note that Doug Gansler's running-mate, Jolene Ivey, voted for Mizeur's amendment:
  • Liz Bobo (D12)
  • Jolene Ivey (D47)
  • Doyle Niemann (D47)
  • Shane Robinson (D39)
  • Mary Washington (D43)
  • Ana Sol Gutierrez (D18)
  • Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D21)
The minimum wage increase now awaits consideration in the Maryland Senate.

JUICE #3: ROLL CALL // MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION PASSES MARYLAND SENATE COMMITTEE - Last week the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings committee approved legislation to remove jail time as a penalty for marijuana possession. State Senator Bobby Zirkin (a bill sponsor) issued the following press release explaining the legislation (excerpt below):
BOBBY ZIRKIN: The bill will create a civil fine not to exceed $100 for adults possessing a small quantity of marijuana. In addition, minors who are found in possession are subject to the $100 fine but also must appear in court in front of a judge or a juvenile master. Juvenile offenders could be ordered to participate in community service or participate in drug education programs.
The bi-partisan vote in the Judicial Proceedings committee was 8-3. Here are the Senators who voted for and against the bill:
Senators who voted for marijuana decriminalization in committee:
  • Jim Brochin (D42 Democrat)
  • Jennie Forehand (D17 Democrat)
  • Brian Frosh  (D16 Democrat)
  • Nancy Jacobs (D34 Republican)
  • Anthony Muse (D26 Democrat)
  • Jamie Raskin (D20 Democrat)
  • Chris Shank (D2 Republican)
  • Bobby Zirkin (D11 Democrat)
Senators who voted against marijuana decriminalization in committee:
  • Steve Hershey (D26 Republican)
  • Norm Stone (D6 Democrat)
  • Lisa Gladden (D41 Democrat)
The measure now awaits consideration by the full Senate and action in the House, though it is worth noting that decriminalization legislation passed the Senate last year. Meanwhile, officials in neighboring Washington, DC have decriminalized pot.

JUICE #4: FEDS APPROVE FUNDING FOR PURPLE LINE // LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM WILL OPEN IN 2020 - Maryland's light rail Purple Line project was approved for federal funding last week. The transit line would run from Bethesda to New Carrolton, with numerous stops in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Washington Post's Katie Shaver reported on the development (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: A proposed light-rail Purple Line project has been recommended for $100 million in federal money in the next fiscal year as part of President Obama’s budget released Tuesday.... Just as significant to the project’s future is that the Purple Line was included on a list of seven large transit projects nationwide that the Federal Transit Administration recommends for a “full funding grant agreement,” a ­longer-term commitment by the federal government to help pay for the project’s construction.... “This is really good news,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), whose district includes part of the proposed Purple Line route in Prince George’s County. “This really keeps the Purple Line on the trajectory we need.” The 16-mile light-rail line would have 21 stations from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s. Maryland transit officials have said they hope to begin construction in 2015 and begin service in 2020.

JUICE #5: ROLL CALL // ESTATE TAX CUT APPROVED BY MARYLAND HOUSE OF DELEGATES - Progressive Maryland and some labor allies launched a campaign to stop a cut to Maryland's estate tax. Last week a Maryland Juice reader reported that Progressive Maryland had even launched calls to voters offering to patch them through to their lawmakers. But the organization reported on Facebook last week that the House of Delegates approved the estate tax cut (excerpt below):
PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND: Maryland House of Delegates just voted 120-13 in favor of cutting taxes for the wealthiest 3% of Maryland estates via HB 739. This vote came just 1 day after the State disclosed that it is in a budget hole and is weighing a $300 million cut to teachers and other state employees' pensions....
Progressive Maryland reported that 13 Democrats opposed cutting the estate tax, and we learned that a 14th Delegate added their name to the "no" votes:
  • Charles Barkley (D39)
  • Liz Bobo (D12)
  • Al Carr (D18)
  • Jill Carter (D41)
  • David Fraser-Hidalgo (D15)
  • Ana Sol Gutierrez (D18)
  • Carolyn Howard (D24)
  • Tom Hucker (D20)
  • Eric Luedtke (D14)
  • Heather Mizeur (D20)
  • Shane Robinson (D39)
  • Jeff Waldstreicher (D18)
  • Alonzo Washington (D22)
  • Mary Washington (D43)
The tax cut bill is now awaiting action in the State Senate.

JUICE #6: IN MIDST OF MEDIA AND NONPROFIT CRITICISM, LAWMAKERS ABANDON BILL TO BAN ACADEMIC BOYCOTTS - Maryland Juice previously reported on a controversial bill (HB998 & SB647) pitting the politics of the Middle East against academic freedom. The Washington Post recently editorialized against the bill, as it would prohibit state funding for academics engaged in boycotts (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: When an academic group announced it would boycott Israel’s higher-education institutions, the president of the University of Maryland, like dozens of his peers across the country, condemned the move. “A breach of the principle of academic freedom” said Wallace D. Loh in a joint statement with the school’s provost. We completely agree. However, legislation being advanced by state lawmakers to bar participation in the boycott goes too far and constitutes its own insidious assault on academic freedom. The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would bar public universities from providing funds to academic organizations that support boycotts of Israel.....

Academicians, including those who abhor the boycott, are right to be alarmed by this kind of legislation. The American Association of University Professors argue that the measure would impose a political litmus test on faculty members seeking university support for research meetings and travel.... At a hearing this week before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, an official from the American Civil Liberties of Union termed the bill “inimical to democratic principals.” This bill is ill-advised and should be killed. If it advances out of the General Assembly, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) should veto it.
As a result of the backlash over the bill to ban academic boycotts, at least two sponsors are withdrawing support for the effort. A Maryland Juice reader sent us comments from the offices of two bill sponsors who are now opposing the effort:
OFFICE OF KUMAR BARVE: ... although the delegate co-sponsored HB 998 (Public Higher Education- Use of Funds- Prohibition), he has decided to vote against it if it reaches the House floor.

OFFICE OF MARY WASHINGTON: After further research on the bill, Delegate Washington is no longer supporting HB 998 and has asked to be removed as a cosponsor.

JUICE #7: GOOD BILLS TO SUPPORT // TIME TO PASS BLACK LIQUOR BILL, SECOND CHANCE ACT & PACKAGE OF PRIVACY LEGISLATION - Over the last few years, progressive lawmakers have attempted to pass a few common-sense bills but have been rebuffed time and again.

BLACK LIQUOR: The first bill is a bill to end Maryland subsidies for a dirty energy source called "black liquor" that is produced from wood and paper waste (SB734 & HB747). The Chesapeake Climate Action Network describes the 2014 legislative effort as follows (excerpt below):
CHESAPEAKE CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK: A massive loophole in Maryland's renewable energy law is forcing ratepayers to reward the creation of greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants. In the 2014 General Assembly, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard - Qualifying Biomass bill (SB 734/HB 747) would eliminate that loophole to ensure that Maryland's clean energy is actually clean.

In 2004, Maryland became one of the first states in the country to create a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).... However, while fellow Mid-Atlantic States like Delaware and New Jersey get over 70% of their renewable energy portfolios from the wind and sun, these resources make up only 15% of Maryland's portfolio. The primary reason is a flaw in the renewable energy law that supports out-of-state, high-emission black liquor and wood waste facilities that have been in operation for over 32 years on average. These old, polluting facilities are receiving more of our renewable energy dollars than true clean energy sources like wind and solar.
EXPUNGING CRIMINAL RECORDS: The second bill "good bill" we're highlighting is called the Maryland Second Chance Act. This is an effort to allow residents with minor nonviolent criminal convictions to be able to shield them from public view after a number of years (SB1056 & HB1166). The Job Opportunities Task Force provided the following update on the status of this bill:
JOB OPPORTUNITIES TASK FORCE: This Tuesday the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will consider the Maryland Second Chance Act of 2014. This important legislation would permit the shielding of certain nonviolent misdemeanor convictions from the public. For many Marylanders this means their criminal record would no longer stand in the way of getting a job.

Please take a minute to contact your lawmakers and share your support for SB 1056/ HB 1166. Phone calls are best, but please feel free to send an email using templates for the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary Committees.
In a press release yesterday, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (a candidate for Governor) announced that he would be testifying in support of the Second Chance Act at the Senate hearing today (TUE 3/11/14) (excerpt below):
DOUG GANSLER: Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler will tour the Community Kitchen in East Baltimore at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday March 11 to learn how the Episcopal Community Services program uses its catering service to train and certify formerly incarcerated persons and prepare them for employment and careers in food service....

Following the tour, Attorney General Gansler will hold a news conference on site at 11:30 a.m. to discuss his support of The Maryland Second Chance Act of 2014 (SB 1056 and HB 1166) before heading to Annapolis to testify in House and Senate committee hearings on the legislation....
ELECTRONIC PRIVACY LEGISLATION: Lastly, civil liberties advocates are promoting a package of legislation aimed at increasing privacy protections for Marylanders. The Cumberland Times-News reported on the effort (excerpt below):
CUMBERLAND TIMES-NEWS: While technology that tracks cellphones and cars has made work easier for some law enforcement officials, a bundle of proposed laws would ensure that the same technology could not violate Marylanders’ protections from unwarranted searches and seizures.

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland testified last week  in the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of four bills aimed at curbing law enforcement officials’ ability to electronically monitor citizens. If passed, the bills would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before reading electronic communication and tracking a cellphone.

“Your phone can tell the government where you are at any moment,” said Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, who sponsored the bill on cellphone tracking. The proposed bills would also limit the ability of police to use drones, and would place parameters on how long law enforcement officials can keep records based on license plate readers. David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned that laws requiring warrants did not yet exist when smartphones be-came available to the public.

JUICE #8: MOCO LAWMAKERS RALLY FOR MORE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDING AS COUNTY EXEC CANDIDATES JOCKEY - Montgomery County officials have been pushing for increased school construction dollars from Annapolis this year. In response to surging enrollment, MoCo electeds have joined with lawmakers in Baltimore and Prince George's counties to present a united front for increased modernization funds. But The Gazette's Kate Alexander reported a couple weeks ago that the funding push was facing an uphill battle in the General Assembly. Since then, MoCo officials and residents held a rally in Annapolis, and County Executive Ike Leggett issued an action alert calling on residents to contact the Governor and leaders of the House and Senate. Rival County Exec candidate Doug Duncan also released a letter he sent to MoCo's Del. Anne Kaiser and Sen. Jamie Raskin (MoCo's House & Senate leaders) declaring an absence of "strong, local leadership" on school funding. Below we provide a few excerpts from the relevant statements, starting with dueling releases from Ike Leggett and Doug Duncan:

Overcrowding in County Schools Requires More State Construction Dollars:
Pass Senate Bill 927 and House Bill 1323

Montgomery County is working closely with Baltimore County and Prince George’s County to win a state program where every $2 of County money will be matched by $1 in State money. Together, the three counties represent 44 percent of the State’s students and 46 percent of students eligible for free and reduced meals....

Montgomery County is already planning to invest another $1.1 billion of our own County money for school construction – a record high. Over the last eight years, County funding for school construction has increased by 36 percent.

Montgomery County needs the State of Maryland to step up with a matched program for resources over and above what the County normally receives. Investing in our future teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and innovators - and our kids' quality education - is absolutely essential for Montgomery County and is a smart investment for the whole State of Maryland.

For more details on this campaign: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/schoolfunding/

Send messages to:
Thank them for their past support and tell these State of Maryland leaders why investing in our schools is critically important and why we need Senate Bill 927 and House Bill 1323.

Dear Senator Raskin/Delegate Kaiser,

I was disappointed to read last week that Montgomery County local officials are already declaring defeat on our number one priority in Annapolis - obtaining additional school construction funding to address the public school’s system’s severe overcrowding.  I am writing to ask you and your colleagues to take decisive action and provide the leadership needed to secure this critical funding approved this year - not later as some have suggested.

Montgomery County faces a public school overcrowding crisis, with approximately 2,500 additional students entering the school system each year for the next several years.   We owe every child in Montgomery County the opportunity to learn in a clean, safe, modern, and uncrowded classroom.

As you know, during the debate over increasing the gas tax in 2012, Baltimore City delegation members leveraged their support to get more school construction money – funds they will now receive.  Unfortunately, largely due to the absence of strong, local leadership, Montgomery County did not secure a similar funding package to address our significant overcrowding.  In fact, it appears that effort was given little consideration until just before this year’s legislative session began.

As a life-long resident of Montgomery County and someone who has always made education my top priority, I respectfully ask that you and your colleagues take over where the local officials have failed, and enact legislation that will lead to Montgomery County receiving its fair share of state school construction funding.


Douglas Duncan

The Montgomery Sentinel's Holden Wilen covered the jousting over the school funding fight, including commentary from some of the figures above (excerpt below):
MONTGOMERY SENTINEL: Doug Duncan and Ike Leggett are finding themselves at odds again, this time because Duncan says Leggett has not done enough to get Montgomery County its fair share of state construction funding....
[Delegate Anne] Kaiser also shrugged off Duncan’s comments about poor leadership, saying “he should know better.” “(Duncan) knows these things take time,” Kaiser said. “There is no question everyone thinks this is important....”

Leggett campaign officials defended the current county executive’s efforts. According to Scott Goldberg, Leggett’s campaign manager, Leggett has helped secure $262 million in school construction funds during the last seven years. “That is $60 million more than the county received under (Duncan’s) previous seven years—during which the economy was booming and budgets much easier...."
Lastly, the Montgomery County Council released a video last week making the case for increased school construction funding:

GUEST POST: A Maryland Farmer Makes the Case for Legislation to Require GMO Labeling // By Michael Tabor

MARYLAND JUICE: Activists are urging Maryland lawmakers to pass legislation (SB778 & HB1191) that would require foods from genetically modified organisms (aka GMO's) to be labeled. The push for GMO labeling has been a huge political battle in numerous states and around the world, with public interest advocates taking on well-funded opponents from the ag industry like Monsanto. There are many nuances to the fight, including numerous public health arguments and claims that corporations often sell or license patented GMO seeds to poor farmers who would be better off using traditional methods of seed harvesting & reuse. Today the State Senate is holding a hearing on the GMO labeling bill, and we have a guest post from MoCo farmer Michael Tabor about the effort:
MICHAEL TABOR: Regarding the March 11th hearings on GMO labeling legislation, Marylanders should contact their legislators to support bills SB778 and HB1191.  As a farmer and consumer, I believe we should have the right to know if genetically modified organisms are in our food -- just as we do with the amount of calories, preservatives and food coloring consumers fought to have on food labels.  We're intelligent enough to read, research and choose -- if we have the information; thus the need to have GMO foods labeled.

Regarding the FDA’S role in protection of the public, the FDA does no independent testing of GMOs.  They rely on short term tests conducted by the bio-tech industry! And FDA's Chief of Food Safety, Michael Taylor, has been a Monsanto Vice President. Are these tests and individuals impartial?  You can't blame the public for being skeptical.

On the argument of selective breeding of seeds, I do want the most disease and pest resistant varieties of seeds when I farm.  But, genetic engineering is a hit or miss new and risky process of splicing genes from one species (usually animal) into the DNA of another (vegetable).  This is not "natural" and not what is meant by the age old practice of "selective breeding" within the same species.  GMOs are not an extension of "natural breeding", but rather ultimately meant for company profit because bio-tech companies have received patents on these new life forms.

Monsanto, Syngenta and other bio-tech companies want control of what seeds farmers use.  They have bought up the majority of the smaller seed companies in this country.  The purchase of their GMO seeds mandates the use of their exclusive chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) and Atrazine, which have created superweeds that their chemicals can no longer kill.  These chemicals flow into our drinking water.  Syngenta recently lost a $100 million class action suit against many states and municipalities to clean the Atrazine out of the drinking water. Maryland has one of the nation's highest amounts of Atrazine in its drinking water, but for some unknown reason it was not part of the suit and did not receive any money for the cleanup.

The issues of GMO health dangers have raised enough questions that 64 countries, including the European Union, require labeling.  The bio-tech industry cannot prove to them that GM foods are safe. In fact, we, the American public, never had that choice - and in the end we are really the bio-tech industries' guinea pigs. 

I am always saddened by the fact our Governor, our Senate President, and most members of the General Assembly turn to the MD Dept of Agriculture for guidance on these issues. Its head, Buddy Hance, was the former president of the MD Farm Bureau. The farming sector, which represents only 2% of the Maryland GNP, controls public policy when it comes to the health and safety of 98% of its citizenry, the environment, and health of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Farm Bureau, although composed of family farmers like myself, mostly represents the interests of large corporate farming including the multi-billion dollar profits of the biotechnology chemical companies.  They pour millions of dollars into state campaigns against the labeling of GMO foods because they believe it will cut down on company profits.  Our health and well-being are not a concern of theirs.

So, we, the citizens of Maryland, have the right to know, so we can make informed choices, which is the backbone of a democratic society.  We need to pass a GMO labeling law for ourselves, our children and the future.  Call your state delegates and let them know that!

Michael Tabor
Farmer, Consumer and Maryland resident

Friday, March 7, 2014

CAMPAIGN JUICE: Brown & Gansler Launch TV Ads, Hucker v Barclay, Kagan v Simmons, D13 & Analysis of MoCo Exec Race

Below Maryland Juice has a few quick updates regarding campaigns of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: GUBERNATORIAL AD WARS BEGIN // WATCH ANTHONY BROWN & DOUG GANSLER'S FIRST TV SPOTS - Begun the ad wars have. Gubernatorial candidates Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler are beginning to unload their multi-million dollars war chests on the television airwaves. Below you can see their first ads in the race for Maryland Governor:

HEADLINE UPDATE: Notably, these early ads are soft and fluffy. But I fully expect the tone of future ads to take a downward spiral, based on the headlines of recent press releases I've been receiving. See a few examples below:
  • DOUG GANSLER:  Lt. Gov. Brown Says, “Leadership is About Inspiring People to Achieve Goals” – Really?
  • HEATHER MIZEUR:  Mizeur Questions Gansler’s Commitment to Middle Class Families
  • ANTHONY BROWN:  Doug Gansler yet to explain why he refuses to support funding full-day Pre-K for all Maryland children

JUICE #2: TOM HUCKER VS. CHRIS BARCLAY // DUELING UNION ENDORSEMENTS IN MOCO COUNCIL DISTRICT 5 - With the filing deadline closed, the race for Montgomery County Council District 5 is beginning to take shape. Board of Education President Chris Barclay received an endorsement from MoCo's teachers union, while Delegate Tom Hucker received the support of the MoCo government employees union. Check out the MCEA Tweet and MCGEO press release excerpt below:



Praises his work as state delegate advocating for women, children, and working families

Silver Spring, MD. - Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1994 MCGEO announced its enthusiastic support of Tom Hucker for the vacant seat in the Montgomery County Council District 5 race. Key to the endorsement, said Local 1994 President Gino Renne, was “Tom’s tireless work to protect and fight for legislation that protects our most vulnerable residents – our working moms, our children, our seniors....” MCGEO plans to make the District 5 race its top priority this election season, and will launch a robust political program including weekend door knocking and phone banks.

JUICE #3: ENDORSEMENTS IN DISTRICT 17 SENATE RACE BETWEEN CHERYL KAGAN AND LUIZ SIMMONS - Two new endorsements have been announced in the District 17 State Senate slugfest between Delegate Luiz Simmons and former Delegate Cheryl Kagan. Kagan received the support of retiring D17 Senator Jennie Forehand, while Simmons was endorsed by the MoCo government employees union MCGEO. See press release excerpts below:

Statement by Senator Jennie M. Forehand

My friends and supporters have been asking me which Senate candidate I believe should represent District 17. I am proud to announce my enthusiastic endorsement of my former colleague, Cheryl Kagan, who will best reflect my views and priorities in the State Senate.

... I am delighted to endorse Cheryl Kagan for State Senate. Cheryl is the clear choice, and I look forward to campaigning together toward victory in the June 24th Democratic primary. I strongly urge my friends and neighbors in Rockville and Gaithersburg to join me in supporting Cheryl.

Montgomery County Public Employees Endorse Simmons for State Senate

Simmons is UFCW 1994 MCGEO First Legislative Endorsement of 2014 Political Cycle
Rockville, MD – Today, Del. Luiz Simmons received the endorsement of UFCW 1994 MCGEO, the Montgomery County Public Employees, in his run to be the next State Senator for District 17.  The support of Simmons is MCGEO’s first legislative endorsement of the 2014 political cycle.  MCGEO represents 8,000 public employees in Montgomery County and beyond.

Gino Renne, President of UFCW 1994 MCGEO released the following statement praising Simmons for his hard work on behalf of Maryland working families, “Delegate Simmons has proven himself time and again to be a strong advocate for working families in Montgomery County and beyond.  I am confident that as a state senator, Luiz will continue to fight and address the problems plaguing our poor and middle class....”

JUICE #4: POLITICAL CHESS IN DISTRICT 13 DELEGATE RACE - David Lublin, who has rebooted the Maryland Politics Watch blog at www.theseventhstate.com, has an interesting write-up about the political chess match in District 13's Delegate race (excerpt below):
SEVENTH STATE: Long story short, a husband and wife both filed for delegate as did an uncle and his niece. The wife, School Board Member Janet Siddiqui, withdrew at the last minute to refile for School Board but her husband, Nayab Siddiqui, stayed in the race.

Both Vanessa Atterbeary, formerly a candidate in District 18, and her uncle, incumbent Del. Frank Turner filed and neither dropped out. Del. Guy Guzzone, who is running for Senate, originally planned to form a slate with incumbent Del. Shane Pendergrass, Del. Frank Turner, and Janet Siddiqui.

Now, Guzzone, Pendergrass, and Turner have decided to put Vanessa Atterbeary on their ticket as its third candidate for delegate after a series of interviews with the prospective candidates. Nayab Siddiqui and Vanessa Atterbeary both had inside knowledge that someone was going to drop out–or else why on earth would they have filed? And now Team 13 has added the niece of an incumbent delegate to the slate....

JUICE #5: MY THOUGHTS ON THE RACE FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE - There are a few months left to go until the June Democratic Primary for Montgomery County Executive. After the January campaign finance filings, incumbent Exec Ike Leggett had a sizeable cash advantage over challengers Doug Duncan and Phil Andrews:
  • County Executive Ike Leggett (incumbent) = $971,159.00
  • Former County Executive Doug Duncan = $330,120.86
  • Councilmember Phil Andrews = $118,805.41
Between the power of incumbency and the heft of his war chest, Leggett may be sitting in a decent spot right now. But it is worth noting that even after the campaign finance reports came out, Duncan picked up endorsements from the MoCo police and firefighters unions. Meanwhile, a few major groups have yet to weigh in on the race, and Duncan may have decent residual name id from his previous terms as County Executive.

On the financial front, history also demonstrates that money is not decisive in these races. When Leggett first won in 2006, he was heavily outspent by rival candidate Steve Silverman ($770,000 to $1.9 million according to The Gazette). Even still, there is likely a threshold amount of spending a countywide candidate needs to meet in order to get their basic message out. Perhaps recognizing these challenges, in recent campaign debates Duncan has attempted to draw sharp contrasts with his rivals (Leggett especially) by criticizing their records on school construction funding and other issues.

DUNCAN JABS: In the latest bout of sparring, Duncan has taken to attacking Leggett for the stalled opening of the Silver Spring Transit Center. Though I can't speak for the rest of the parts of the county, I've spoken to lots of voters in the downtown Silver Spring area, and it is true that they frequently raise the Transit Center as an issue of concern. For those interested in further details on the Silver Spring Transit Center delays, the Action Committee for Transit has a chronology of news coverage at its website. In any case, the key question at hand is whether this and other issues like school funding will come to define the race, and whether any blame will be pinned on Leggett. Perhaps that's why Duncan held a press conference this week to raise questions about county officials' roles in the Transit Center controversy (excerpt below):

Duncan Urges Completion of Silver Spring Transit Center;
Calls on County to Provide Answers, Plan of Action

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – Standing on the site of the long-delayed Silver Spring Transit Center, Democratic candidate for County Executive, Doug Duncan, today called on Montgomery County officials to stop making excuses, offer up a plan of action, and move swiftly to complete a critically important transportation hub that serves thousands of Washington area commuters. Duncan, who, as County Executive, oversaw the successful revitalization of downtown Silver Spring[1], said taxpayers deserve to know when the transit center will open – and how much more it will cost to complete it.... The Silver Spring Transit Center is currently two and a half years overdue and tens of millions over budget....

Duncan called on the County Executive and County Council to promptly give the public answers to these questions. "It’s time for answers.  Silver Spring residents and community leaders fought too long and hard for a vibrant downtown to have to wait for this mess to be cleaned up, before they have access to the state-of-the-art transit center they were expecting," said Duncan. "This failure on the part of the County government to get the job done here leaves pedestrians at risk, commuters frustrated and hurts the economic vitality of Silver Spring.  The people of Montgomery County deserve better."
LEGGETT HITS BACK: Patrick Lacefield, a spokesperson for Ike Leggett, responded in turn with the following statement:
PATRICK LACEFIELD: This is nothing more than the previous County Executive playing politics by seeking publicity for his campaign. If he had been following this issue, he would know that we are awaiting warmer temperatures to resume the remaining work on the private contractor’s faulty concrete work. All other things being equal, the facility could be completed, turned over to WMATA and opened by the summer. The detailed plan to fix it is embodied in the KCE Report made public last year and discussed by the Council. The cost for the concrete overlay is estimated at $2 million, costs which the County will ensure would be borne by the private parties at fault for construction, design and inspection flaws, not by County taxpayers.

The County continues to work with WMATA and the designer about the possible need to further strengthen interior beams and girders, as was discussed with the County Council last November.  Again, the County would work to ensure that any additional costs for fixing flaws would be borne by the private parties responsible.

It is heartening that the former County Executive is interested in the safety of the facility since previously he had expressed the view that he would simply have covered over the faulty workmanship and moved on, notwithstanding the more profound safety flaws that were discovered by KCE, with findings endorsed by three independent engineers. The County Executive has stated that he will turn over to WMATA a structure that is both safe and durable and that he will not let politics get in the way of safety, period.
The interesting thing about Duncan raising the Transit Center controversy is that he worked for one of the parties involved in its construction. The Washington Post's Bill Turque reported on the connection yesterday (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Duncan has worked as a consultant for Foulger-Pratt, the general contractor on the project. KCE held the firm responsible for the absence of reinforcing steel in two critical 10-foot-by-40-foot slabs in the center of the bus roadway. Foulger was also accountable for unacceptably thin concrete covering in some portions of the building, KCE said. Duncan said that contractors and engineers “did not perform as expected,” but declined to criticize Foulger directly.
THE PHIL ANDREWS EXPERIMENT: While Doug Duncan and Ike Leggett take turns punching each other, Councilmember Phil Andrews is embarking upon an interesting political experiment. He is essentially testing whether a candidate can win a countywide race in MoCo almost entirely by door-knocking. It seems clear at this point that Andrews will be outspent (heavily perhaps?), but in his literature (scanned below) he claims that he's knocked 17,000 doors in the last year or so. By comparison, there were 104,979 votes cast in the 2006 Democratic Primary when Leggett received 64,382 votes to Steve Silverman's 37,279. Notably, my wife reports that some of her co-workers (who are not plugged in to local politics) report having spoken to Phil Andrews personally when he canvassed their neighborhoods. In any case, you can read Andrews' literature below (click on the images to expand them):