Tuesday, March 24, 2009

County Council Coalition Backs Navarro

The even split on the Montgomery County Council hardened yesterday as Nancy Navarro wrapped up four Council endorsements. As Peyton Manning once said, "It's on like Donkey Kong!"

Left to right: Mike Knapp, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro, Nancy Floreen and Valerie Ervin.

Last year, four County Council Members (Phil Andrews, Duchy Trachtenberg, Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner) and County Executive Ike Leggett endorsed Don Praisner in the District 4 special election. Yesterday, the other four County Council Members (Valerie Ervin, George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen and Mike Knapp) endorsed Nancy Navarro. That suggests clarification of two issues:

Mike Knapp, Nancy Navarro, Leisure World Democratic Club President Jay Harding, Nancy Floreen.

1. The composition of a working majority.
The existing 4-4 split may have originally been based around views on development policy, but that has not always held. (Witness the odd alignment on the most recent vote on Planning Board Members.) At the moment, these two alliances may be based on personal relationships and convenience as much as anything since each side has its internal differences. But whatever the case, mathematics rules: it is better to be one of five than one of four.

District 18 Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez endorses Navarro.

2. Future governance.
It is no accident that three of the last four County Council officers (Marilyn Praisner, Phil Andrews and Roger Berliner) have come from one side of the split. Rumor has it that Duchy Trachtenberg is slated to become Council Vice-President next year, meaning that she is the presumptive President in 2011 (assuming she is re-elected). A victory by the other side endangers this line of succession.

Yesterday's event now puts significant pressure on Council Members Andrews, Elrich, Trachtenberg and Berliner - as well as County Executive Ike Leggett - to endorse one of Navarro's rivals. Former Montgomery County Civic Federation President Cary Lamari is a veteran activist who has long opposed overdevelopment. He is a natural fit with their publicly-expressed views on growth. Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19) is a commercial property owner who supported Pay-and-Go in 1998, a pro-development policy labeled by Marc Elrich as "possibly the worst legislation in 50 years." The Kramer family is an old ally of Leggett's and Ben Kramer's self-financing makes him a formidable contender. Will the County Executive and the other four Council Members choose philosophical consistency (Lamari), expediency (Kramer) or neutrality?

We'll see!