Wednesday, April 9, 2014

JUICE: Status Check on Governor, MoCo Exec and Council Races // PLUS: Takoma Park Special Election, Hot Bills & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a status check on a few campaigns of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1:  THE LATEST ON MARYLAND'S GOVERNOR'S RACE // BILL CLINTON ENDORSEMENT, TV AD WARS & MORE - A few interesting things have happened since we last reported on the status of Maryland's race for Governor. First, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown reported in a press release yesterday that former President Bill Clinton endorsed his campaign (excerpt below):
BILL CLINTON: “Anthony Brown’s lengthy record of public service to our nation and the state of Maryland is a powerful testament to his character and leadership... As Lt. Governor, Anthony has worked to create thousands of jobs, to make quality health care more accessible and affordable, to secure passage of some of the nation’s toughest gun safety laws, to protect women and children from domestic violence, and to make record investments in Maryland’s public schools. He is uniquely qualified to lead Maryland, and I am proud to support him for Governor.”
Meanwhile, Delegate Heather Mizeur continues her effort to wage an issue campaign on progressive causes with recent policy proposals to legalize marijuana, start school later, index the minimum wage, fully fund retiree pensions, reform redistricting, tackle women's pay equity and more. An interesting thing to note about Mizeur's platform is that it seems obvious that having a statewide candidate out front on these types of issues can help lead to a more robust discussion of them in Annapolis and create the political space for positive (albeit compromise) efforts to move forward. That being said, as the race heads into the home stretch, Mizeur has also taken to criticizing the positions of her rivals, including highlighting Doug Gansler's support for an estate tax cut and questioning Anthony Brown's leadership of Maryland's health exchange.

Lastly, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown are up on the air in different regional markets with television advertising. Check out a couple recent examples below:

JUICE #2: THE LATEST ON MOCO EXEC // IKE LEGGETT HIGHLIGHTS FLIP FLOP, DOUG DUNCAN CALLS OUT TRANSIT CENTER & PHIL ANDREWS QUESTIONS MOCO BUDGET    - In Montgomery County's three-way race for County Executive, several themes are emerging. So far, much of the press coverage has been centered around rival candidates putting incumbent Executive Ike Leggett's eight-year record on trial. Former County Executive Doug Duncan, for example, recently released the following snarky video criticizing Leggett's handling of the Silver Spring Transit Center:

IKE LEGGETT HITS BACK: But Leggett has fired back with multiple data points casting the blame for budget difficulties on Doug Duncan's previous tenure as County Executive. The Washington Post's Bill Turque highlighted an example of the tit-for-tat (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: ... In his budget letter to the County Council on Monday, Leggett never identifies his predecessor and opponent in the June Democratic primary. But he depicts Duncan as a profligate and reckless spender during Duncan’s three terms from 1994 to 2006. It’s certainly no mystery who Leggett is talking about....

“First, the County had to stop spending beyond its means,” he said. “Under the prior administration, tax supported County government spending increased by 36 percent in the three years immediately before I assumed office.” From there, Leggett piles on the data points. County payroll: up 28 percent. Tax-supported county spending: up 128 percent. Total budget growth: up 112 percent. “We have brought down the rate of growth in County government from the unsustainable levels prior to my taking office,” he said....
Leggett also highlighted a potential flip-flop by Doug Duncan on the county's recently approved $11.50/hour minimum wage increase. Duncan previously stated the state rather than the county should set minimum wage rates. Bethesda Magazine's Lou Peck captured Leggett's criticism in an article last month (excerpt below):
BETHESDA MAGAZINE: ... “We’re rewriting history here this morning,” Leggett snapped after Duncan had answered a question on a minimum wage increase, as Leggett suggested that Duncan had changed his position from an earlier appearance.
PHIL ANDREWS CRITICIZES LEGGETT BUDGET: Lastly, the third County Executive candidate, Phil Andrews, has taken to criticizing Leggett's proposed 2015 budget by describing it as a "fiscal straightjacket." Andrews issued a litany of complaints in a press release (excerpt below):
PHIL ANDREWS: The budget proposed by County Executive Leggett would put County taxpayers in a fiscal straightjacket because it exceeds the amount required by the State’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law. This law requires funding MCPS at $28 million more than last year. Going above that amount by an additional $26 million, as proposed by Mr. Leggett, would lock County taxpayers into that amount year after year.... This is the second straight year that Mr. Leggett’s budget includes excessive pay raises for County employees of 6.75 to 9.75 percent, at a cost of approximately $33 million in FY15 and an annualized cost of $88.7 million.

In 2010, Mr. Leggett proposed a 100 percent increase in the County’s energy tax, and proposed it sunset after two years. In 2012 and 2013, I led efforts on the County Council that reduced the 2010 increase in the energy tax by 10 percent each year. The Council should continue to reduce the energy tax rate until it reaches its 2010 level. The cost of continuing to reduce it by an additional 10 percent in FY15 is $11.8 million....

JUICE #3: TURNOUT BELLWETHERS FROM APRIL'S TAKOMA PARK & DC ELECTIONS  // CONGRATS TO NEW TAKOMA COUNCILMEMBER KATE STEWART - Yesterday voters in Takoma Park's Ward 3 participated in a special election for a vacant City Council seat. City Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen passed away in February, triggering a race to fill her seat for the remainder of her term.

KATE STEWART WINS TAKOMA PARK SPECIAL ELECTION WITH 8 VOTE MARGIN: Congratulations to newly elected City Councilmember Kate Stewart, who won her race by a hair-splitting eight votes. Kate is an executive at the nonprofit organization Advocates for Youth, where she promotes youth education for reproductive and sexual health.

Kate Stewart (left) at election night party with supporter Howard Kohn

EXPLANATION OF THE FASCINATING TAKOMA PARK SPECIAL ELECTION RESULTS - There are many interesting aspects to the Takoma Park special elections to dig into, but first Maryland Juice explains the city's unique election methods. Notably, the city's elections are nonpartisan and both 16-year-olds and noncitizens can vote in the municipal races. Most importantly, the city uses a ranked voting election system known as "instant runoff voting" (aka IRV) for its races. Here's how it works: voters rank candidates in order of preference (eg: 1st choice, 2nd choice, etc). If a candidate wins a majority of first choices, the race is over. But if no candidate gets a majority, the last place candidate is eliminated and their votes are instead counted for the 2nd choices of the eliminated candidate. This is precisely what happened in last night's Takoma Park election count. The IRV system is designed to eliminate the so-called "spoiler" problem where election results can be tipped away from the ideology of the majority through vote-splitting dynamics.

In the Ward 3 Special Election, there were three candidates: Kate Stewart, Roger Schlegel and Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum. Stewart earned the support of Delegate Heather Mizeur and City Councilmembers Tim Male and Seth Grimes. But Schlegel was a former Mayoral candidate in 2009, when he earned roughly 40% of the vote. In any case, here's how the Takoma Park election counts went:
  1. Kate Stewart - 323 votes
  2. Roger Schlegel - 315 votes
  3. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum - 20 votes
  1. Kate Stewart - 332 votes
  2. Roger Schlegel - 324 votes
  3. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum - ELIMINATED
In the first round of counting, no candidate won a majority of the vote, so the last place candidate's supporters determined the outcome of the race. After Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum was eliminated, his 20 votes were recounted for his supporters second choice candidates: 9 for Kate Stewart and 9 for Roger Schlegel. After this process was completed, Kate Stewart maintained her 8 vote lead and will be the next Ward 3 Councilmember for Takoma Park.

TURNOUT BELLWETHERS FROM TAKOMA PARK AND DC'S MAYORAL ELECTION? - One interesting thing to note in the Takoma Park results is the turnout figures. Indeed, a few candidates and operatives I've talked to this cycle have been trying to predict what turnout might look like in Maryland's upcoming June Democratic Primary. This is a bit of an x-factor, given that this is the first year Maryland is not holding its primaries in September. Here are a couple data points to consider. In 2011, Ward 3 had 2,241 voters, and turnout for this week's special election was 660 voters (or roughly 30%).

Meanwhile, nearby Washington, DC held Democratic Primary elections last Tuesday, April 1st. Like in Maryland, the early primary was a new feature for DC voters. In a post-election analysis, The Washington Post reported historic low-turnout for the April elections and attributed part of this to the new date (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: A historically small swath of the city decided the race, with Tuesday’s turnout appearing to rival elections in 1986 and 1998 for the lowest in a mayoral primary in 40 years of District home rule. In part, the lower turnout reflected a new, earlier schedule for the city primaries, dictated by a federal law mandating more time between primary and general elections to expand absentee balloting.
Indeed, turnout in DC was about 25%, even with a crowded field of candidates, multiple contested races, high profile political scandals, and heavy spending. Though in maps of voter turnout that I've seen, it is clear that the turnout drop was concentrated in a few Wards in DC. It remains to be seen whether any of these indicators are bellwethers for June turnout in Montgomery County and Maryland.

JUICE #4: STATUS CHECK ON MOCO COUNCIL RACES // ENDORSEMENTS BEGIN TO TRICKLE IN  - There are numerous competitive races for the Montgomery County Council this cycle. Here is a very quick round-up of developments in each of the contests. Note that a number of high-profile endorsements have not yet been announced in some of the county races.
DISTRICT 1: In District 1, incumbent Roger Berliner is facing off against former at-large Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg. Berliner has received the backing of the Sierra Club, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, State Senators Brian Frosh, Rich Madaleno and Brian Feldman, and other community leaders. Meanwhile, Trachtenberg has been endorsed by a range of developers and business leaders, one of whom described the Sierra Club as a "vicious" organization. One report also indicates Trachtenberg is wooing labor unions with promises to restore "effects bargaining" for MoCo police officers.

DISTRICT 3: In the District 3 open seat race, candidates include Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz, Gaithersburg Councilmember Ryan Spiegel, Rockville Councilmember Tom Moore, and activist Guled Kassim. In the D3 race, Ryan Spiegel has earned the support of the teachers (aka MCEA) and public school retirees, while Tom Moore has the backing of the Sierra Club and the volunteer firefighters.

DISTRICT 5: In the District 5 open seat race, candidates include Delegate Tom Hucker, school board member Chris Barclay, and activists Evan Glass, Terrill North and Jeffrey Thames. Tom Hucker has earned endorsements from NARAL, Sierra Club, public school retirees and labor unions representing firefighters, police, county employees, electricians and more. Meanwhile, Chris Barclay has been endorsed by the teachers, alongside current and former Councilmembers: Valerie Ervin, Craig Rice, Cherri Branson and Nancy Navarro. Evan Glass has the support of Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilmember Seth Grimes.Terrill North has endorsements from Takoma Park Councilmembers Jarrett Smith and Fred Schultz, along with former Takoma Park Councilmembers Kay Daniels Cohen, Hank Prensky and Donna Victoria.

AT-LARGE: Lastly, Montgomery County elects four at-large County Councilmembers, and all four incumbents are seeking re-election: Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer. Two challengers have entered the race: Beth Daly & Vivian Malloy. In previous election cycles, one at-large Councilmember typically loses, but it seems too early to size up the state of this race. So far newcomer Beth Daly has earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, public school retirees, Delegate Charles Barkley and Gaithersburg Councilmember Mike Sesma. Marc Elrich also has the support of the Sierra Club, while George Leventhal's supporters include Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilmember Seth Grimes.

JUICE #5: MOCO SCHOOL BOARD RACES GETTING INTERESTING AS CANDIDATES ANNOUNCE ENDORSEMENTS - There is an unusual amount of activity in Montgomery County's non-partisan Board of Education races this year. All seats are contested, and the top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the General Election ballot to determine a winner in November. Note that in some of the races, there are only two candidates, meaning both will automatically advance to the General Election ballot. Here's a quick run-down of the races:
AT LARGE (OPEN SEAT): The open seat race for at-large school board has drawn four contenders: Edward Amatetti, Shebra Evans, Merry Eisner-Heidorn and Jill Ortman-Fouse. Shebra Evans is the choice of the teachers union, Merry Eisner-Heidorn has the support of the public school retirees, and Jill Ortman-Fouse has the support of Attorney General Doug Gansler, Sen. Jamie Raskin, and County Councilmember George Leventhal.

DISTRICT 1: Incumbent school board member Judy Docca is facing off against Kristin Trible. Docca has the support of the teachers.

DISTRICT 3: Incumbent school board member Pat O'Neill is facing off against Laurie Halverson. O'Neill has the support of the teachers, public school retirees, and Coalition of Asian-Pacific American Democrats of Maryland.

DISTRICT 5: Incumbent school board member Mike Durso is facing off against Larry Edmonds. Durso has the support of the teachers. 

JUICE #6: BILLS THAT PASSED & FAILED THIS SESSION // ROLL CALL LINKS FOR MINIMUM WAGE, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS, MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION & MORE - Maryland's legislative session adjourned last Monday. Below we provide an update on the status of a few interesting and high-profile bills debated in Annapolis this session:

  • $10.10 Minimum Wage:  Roll Calls  [ Senate 34-13 ] & [ House 87-47 ]
  • Marijuana Decriminalization:  Roll Calls  [ Senate 36-8 ] & [ House 78-55 ]
  • Transgender Nondiscrimination:  Roll Calls  [ Senate 32-15 ] & [ House 82-57 ]
  • Tax Cut for Wealthy Estates: Roll Calls [ Senate 36-10 ] & [ House 119-14 ]
  • Ban on Shackling Pregnant Inmates: Roll Calls  [ Senate 47-0 ] & [ House 135-0 ]
  • License Plate Scanner Rules: Roll Calls [ Senate 46-0 ] & [ House 136-0 ]
  • Requiring Court Order for Electronic Surveillance: Roll Calls [ Senate 46-0 ] & [ House 134-0 ]
  • Shielding of Nonviolent Convictions:  Roll Call [ Senate 44-3 ] & [ No House Floor Vote ]
  • Ban on Academic Boycotts:  [ No Floor Votes ]

A final interesting bill worth mentioning is the proposed subsidy for the Netflix TV series "House of Cards." Though lawmakers approved $15 million in tax credits, the House and Senate were unable to agree on the full $18.5 million requested by the producers. The Washington Post provided a blow-by-blow on how the bill failed during the closing minutes of the Annapolis legislative session.

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