Sunday, February 21, 2016

What the Presidential Race Says About the Future of Maryland Politics // Through the Lens of Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders

GUEST POST - By Delegate David Moon

This year's presidential primaries have been taking place in the midst of the Annapolis legislative session. As a result, I've been far more focused on Maryland politics than the presidential race. But I've finally started tuning in to the national horserace, and I'm noticing some fascinating data points that Maryland politicos might want to consider. Indeed, without making any commentary or predictions on the presidential race itself, my thesis for Maryland is that the battle for the White House shows the impact of a recession-era (and growing millenial) electorate finally registering. Here are five emerging trends to note:

1) AMERICA'S DEMOCRATIC ELECTORATE IS NOW FIRMLY LIBERAL - I've noticed the historic wealth gap routinely discussed in the media, but we hadn't really seen the effects of this on Democrats nationally, in quite the same way the Tea Party has tilted the Republicans. It appears that is beginning to change. This clip from CNN's discussion of the Nevada Democratic Caucus results stands out: "Among the entrance poll numbers that help explain how Sanders became a serious threat to Clinton: 70% of Nevada's caucusgoers identified themselves as liberal. That's up from the even split in 2008 between liberals and those who called themselves moderate or conservatives. The movement mirrors the results in Iowa and New Hampshire, and make clear that the party's leftward drift is here to stay."
  • MY TAKEAWAY: It is a good time for Democrats to speak out forcefully on justice issues, and to do so with credibility. Doing so isn't a guarantee of victory in a 2018 General Election, but it seems harder for us to generate turnout from the base in Maryland, if we aren't speaking to our party's increasingly liberal instincts. At the same time, Maryland's would-be Democratic governors will have to find a way to address this "party-base" sentiment to win the nomination in 2018.

2) ESTABLISHMENT POLITICIANS ARE GOING OUT OF STYLE (THANKS TO INDEPENDENTS) - Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire (where Independents can vote in either party's primary), but only came close to a tie in Nevada (where only registered Democrats can vote in the caucuses). Granted, Nevada has same-day voter registration, thereby allowing people to change parties on caucus day, but polling in the state confirms Sanders' commanding lead over Clinton among these voters: he won over 70% of Nevada's Independent-minded caucus participants. Indeed, unaffiliated voters are growing at a faster rate than Democrats around the nation, including in places like Maryland. But the challenges this can pose for state Democrats are evident from this single data-point in last week's Quinnipiac poll: "If former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumps into the race as a third party candidate against Sanders and Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Bloomberg would hurt Sanders more than either Republican." You heard that right, a bloc of voters would prefer either Independent socialist Bernie Sanders or Independent billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg to today's Republican candidates. This is a puzzling dynamic, given the two very different views of Bloomberg and Sanders. In a lower turnout gubernatorial election, these types of voters may be the key to victory in Maryland.
  • MY TAKEAWAY: All of this means, for example, to defeat Governor Larry Hogan during his re-election race, the solution might NOT be to simply find a more moderate Democrat. A better standard might be to find a candidate who is clearly NOT a party hack. In a 2018 General Election fight, a key question for Maryland voters will be "who actually stands for me?" For various reasons, I think Hogan answered this question better than Democrats did in 2014. But as the presidential race shows, only some of this message can be conveyed by substance, as opposed to style (or lack thereof). In my own case, people often say (without flattery) that I don't dress like a politician. But maybe that's exactly my point -- and I would never run for Governor, hahaha, but I myself like to vote for candidates who seem like "real" people. We often say that authenticity matters, but rarely do I see that statement followed-up with an explanation of why. This year's presidential race provides numerous opportunities to study this question, and we would be wise to pay attention in Maryland.

3) LATENT SEXISM IS ALIVE AND WELL IN PARTS OF THE ELECTORATE - If the race ends up being Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, Clinton's lead among women is somewhere between a tie and a 9-point margin. But the Quinnipiac poll also notes, "Men vote anyone but Clinton by margins of 8 to 16 percentage points."  Yikes!  I've cautioned my Democratic friends against complacency with Clinton as our nominee, because I predict the vitriol we will see against her will be similar to what Republicans have done to Obama. So we have to choose between either a socialist candidate or a polarizing candidate to serve as the punching bag for Republican craziness. That's not an endorsement of either Sanders or Clinton, but one key lesson here is that the Democratic Party establishment should NEVER attempt to scare candidates out of these primaries.
  • MY TAKEAWAY: We should embrace an organic dialogue within the party, and let these dynamics play out. It might've been useful to have a few more candidates in the race this year, and in 2018 Maryland Democrats should not attempt to artificially narrow the gubernatorial field for a chosen establishment candidate.

4) MILLENIALS ARE OUR GENERATION'S DEPRESSION-ERA VOTERS - It is not always easy to see historical trends happening when you're standing in the middle of them, but I believe we're witnessing a shift right now. The Great Depression had a lasting impact on voters who came of age during that period, and I imagine we're seeing the same from the millenial generation. This write-up on a 2015 Reason-Rupe poll provides a snapshot: "Among college-aged Americans, 58 percent report a positive view of socialism and 56 percent a positive view of capitalism." While this may sound like conflicting data to many people, it actually sounds awfully similar to how Northern European social democracies work. Wikipedia's definition of a "social democracy" is as follows: "Social democracy is a political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy, and a policy regime involving welfare state provisions, collective bargaining arrangements, regulation of the economy in the general interest, measures for income redistribution, and a commitment to representative democracy."
  • MY TAKEAWAY: In the future, Democrats should increasingly embrace a populist economic justice agenda. Today's college students who DON'T often vote will be tomorrow's 40-year-old's who DO often vote. The millenials are an emergent very large voting bloc, and voting habits form early and can last a long time.

5) THE RISE OF MELTING POT POLITICS - We've all been hearing how America is headed to a majority-minority future. But just as we're seeing in ‪Montgomery County‬, that doesn't mean that the nation is rehashing a 1960's black-white paradigm; rather we are witnessing the formation of a multi-racial electorate with large disparate blocs of races and ethnicities. Clinton is crushing Sanders among African-American voters, Sanders is supposedly leading among Latino voters, and Asians will eventually to be the largest ethnic minority in the United States. We see these types of political changes manifest earlier in diverse places like Maryland.
  • MY TAKEAWAY: Democratic aspirants won't be able to take these groups for granted in the future. In the past, party politicians seeking a promotion have been quick to throw certain groups under the bus. Here are a few examples -- Democratic support for deportations, pandering to dismantle welfare, voting for foreign wars (Iraq, ahem), cultural cues like the Sister Souljah incident, and of course racially disparate "tough on crime" policies like zero-tolerance, crack-cocaine disparities and the drug war. Staying on this path would be a grave error. Indeed, I was in the audience at the Netroots Nation conference last year in Phoenix when speeches by Martin O'Malley & Bernie Sanders were disrupted by #BlackLivesMatter protesters. I sat astonished as neither candidate addressed the issues raised by the activists, though all the Democratic candidates today are singing a different tune.

That's all I got. Fire away. 


QUINNIPIAC FEBRUARY 2016 POLL: Below you can see a clip from the latest Quinnipiac poll (full results link):
Presidential matchups among American voters show:
  • Sanders over Trump 48 – 42 percent;
  • Sanders tops Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas 49 – 39 percent;
  • Sanders leads Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida 47 – 41 percent;
  • Sanders beats Bush 49 – 39 percent;
  • Sanders edges Kasich 45 – 41 percent.
  • Clinton with 44 percent to Trump’s 43 percent;
  • Cruz with 46 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent;
  • Rubio topping Clinton 48 – 41 percent;
  • Bush at 44 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent;
  • Kasich beating Clinton 47 – 39 percent.
If Bloomberg mounts a third party run, results are:
  • Sanders and Trump tied 38 – 38 percent, with 12 percent for Bloomberg;
  • Sanders tops Cruz 39 – 33 percent, with 14 percent for Bloomberg.
Sanders’ leads among key independent voters range from 45 – 35 percent over Kasich to 52 – 33 percent over Cruz. By comparison, Clinton’s best score among independent voters is 42 percent to Trump’s 40 percent.
Sanders’ leads among women range from 9 to 16 percentage points. Men are generally divided except in the Sanders-Bush matchup where the Democrat leads by 6 percentage points.

Clinton’s leads among women range from a tie to a 9-percentage point edge over Trump. Men vote anyone but Clinton by margins of 8 to 16 percentage points.

American voters give Sanders a 51 – 36 percent favorability. Kasich gets a 35 – 18 percent favorability with Rubio at a split 39 – 37 percent score. All other scores are negative:
  • 37 – 58 percent for Clinton;
  • 37 – 57 percent for Trump;
  • 36 – 45 percent for Cruz;
  • 21 – 26 percent for Bloomberg;
  • 37 – 48 percent for Bush.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ANALYSIS: Sky High Approval Ratings for HoCo Exec Allan Kittleman // Big Smiles, Sharp Elbows, And Both Eyes on 2018

By Matt Verghese

Over the weekend, the Committee to Elect Allan Kittleman announces the Republican Howard County Executive had a 69% approval rating, with only 9% disapproving after a full year in office. Even though no other details about the poll - who was polled, what the margin of error is to start with- were released (I’m perturbed the Sun would ever publish such a result), if true it would make Allan Kittleman more popular than baseball. But this weekend’s disclosure of sky high poll ratings, which Kittleman’s former campaign manager concedes is not normally made public, leaves one with more questions than answers.

THE COATTAILS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Kittleman, a former County Councilmember and Senate GOP leader, defeated his Democratic opponent Courtney Watson by 2,600 votes (2.5%) in a closely contested evenly matched race that made him Howard County’s first Republican County Executive since 1998. The results closely mirrored the gubernatorial contest - where Larry Hogan turned the County red reversing O’Malley victories in both 2006 and 2010. Kittleman benefited from Hogan’s coattails but had little of his own. Democrats retained a 4-1 majority on the County Council, and all other county-wide elected positions.

BIG SMILES, SHARP ELBOWS IN FIRST YEAR: Kittleman - who has often been previously praised for his willingness to buck his own party - has attempted to govern with big smiles, while throwing sharp elbows at his opponents on a number of issues that may not receive a lot of attention from County voters. In his first year Kittleman has prioritized building community trust and held four town hall meetings, and closed a budget deficit through a hiring freeze. He also does weekly tours of schools, dressed up like ‘The Raven’ author Edgar Allen Poe, and didn’t shave in November  to raise awareness for men’s health.

On more substantive note, one of his first actions was overturning Ulman’s executive order banning the sale of unhealthy snacks and drinks. When the Council passed legislation to reinstate the nutritional restriction, Kittleman vetoed it - only for the Council to overturn it.Kittleman also gave a number of his Democratic predecessor’s appointees their marching orders, refused to reappoint well performing persons to nonpartisan boards and commissions, and was so aghast that the County Council pushed back that his political operation circulated a petition targeting the Democratic members.

Late last year, Kittleman followed in Hogan’s footsteps and proposed phasing out the County’s stormwater management fee (the supposed “rain tax”), but promised to maintain the funding to maintain the County’s pollution reduction goals. Unlike Ulman who prided himself on a transparent stormwater program that was model on how to fund important projects to protect the Bay and constructively engage community stakeholders, Kittleman has yet to explain how he will replace the lost revenue or what he will cut in general fund to make up for it. No surprise, that at a public hearing filled with supporters of the policy, Kittleman’s proposal was called “shortsighted, factually inaccurate and politically driven.”

INSECURE LEADERSHIP? But Kittleman’s rush to poll his approval ratings may be due to recent controversies. First there was his much criticized response to the January blizzard, where he prioritized plowing out the Republican Lt. Governor before every other County resident. In a classic he said,she said -- Kittleman claims the Lt. Governor called him to ask for the preferential special treatment, while the Lt. Governor claims that Kittleman offered first.

Then there’s the reappointment of Renee Foose as HCPS Superintendent despite criticism of her leadership and lack of transparency from parents, teachers and local elected officials. Even Governor Hogan weighed in, stating that “there’s a palpable loss of trust between many parents and the [Howard] county school system.” Granted Kittleman doesn’t run the Board of Education or choose the Superintendent, but this distinction is often lost among County residents who see education as their top issue.

WHAT ELSE WAS IN THAT POLL? No one polls with one question, and thanks to our sources in Howard County we have a sense of the other items the Kittleman campaign was asking about:

  • Is the County heading in the right or wrong direction?
  • If we the election was held today would you vote for Allan Kittleman or potential opponents - Councilmember Calvin Ball, Councilmember Mary Kay Sigaty or Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane.
  • Favorable or unfavorable opinion of potential opponents - Ball, Sigaty, Macfarlane and 2014 opponent Courtney Watson
  • County and state’s handling of snow removal efforts: Good, fair or poor
  • Do you think Allan Kittleman is a reasonable moderate or a dangerous extremist?
  • Grade Howard County Public Schools on an A-F scale
  • Support or oppose the following issues: rain tax, increasing the property tax, and funding for police body cameras
  • Name the top issue the County Executive and Council need to work on
  • 2018 gubernatorial matchups: Governor Larry Hogan or Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, or Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker 

Seems to me that despite being in office for 14 months, Kittleman already has an eye to 2018 and is sensitive to potential threats - both issues and candidates -  to his reelection bid.

ALWAYS DIALING FOR DOLLARS: Kittleman’s 2015 fundraising report only seems to confirm the hypothesis that he is obsessed with his next election. Kittleman had nearly $514,000 in the bank - more money than the incumbent County Executives in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Harford, Frederick Montgomery, Prince George’s and Wicomico.

While Kittleman’s campaign claims “the majority of donations came from individual donors in amounts of $200 or less” a deeper dive paints a much different picture. More than 75% of Kittleman’s total contributions came from people and entities that gave $1,000 or more. His average donation? $608. Not exactly being funded by grassroots donors.

Even as Kittleman rakes in the cash from developers, contractors and out-of-county interests - Democrats on the Council are taking the first steps to implement a citizen funded campaign system or County elections. If successful, Howard would join Montgomery County - who passed the first local public financing system law in 2014.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

BREAKING: Delegate Dereck Davis To End Campaign For Congress // Race To Replace Rep. Donna Edwards Down to 3

Multiple sources confirm that Delegate Dereck Davis (D-25) will end his congressional bid this week. Davis' departure comes on the heels of former County Councilmember Ingrid Turner signaling that she too was exiting the race.

Davis, the powerful and popular Chairman of the House of Delegate Economic Matters Committee, was a favorite among many in the Prince George's County establishment, had surrounded himself with seasoned political operatives, and was clearly in the top tier of candidates to replace Rep. Donna Edwards. Davis' departure from the race is a reminder of the challenges of running for higher office from the General Assembly, especially with the primary occurring only days after the end of the legislative session.

With Turner and Davis out, the race for the Fourth Congressional District is essentially down to former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, former States Attorney Glen Ivey, and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk. While it is unknown whether Davis will make an endorsement in the race, Brown may have the most to gain. Brown and Davis both represented the 25th Legislative District in the House, and their regional paths to victory likely were similar.