Thursday, April 02, 2009

Why I Am Supporting Nancy Navarro

By County Council Member George Leventhal.

Much has been said about how best to carry on Marilyn Praisner’s legacy on the County Council. I served with Marilyn Praisner. I knew Marilyn Praisner. Marilyn Praisner was a friend of mine.

Council Members George Leventhal and Marilyn Praisner in 2006.

I remember when Marilyn Praisner first ran for the County Council in 1990. A School Board member who was unsatisfied with the Democratic Party’s status quo, she courageously took on and defeated incumbent Councilmember Mike Gudis in the Democratic primary election. The current aspirant for Marilyn’s seat who most resembles that candidate is Nancy Navarro.

An outspoken education activist, community organizer and five-year School Board member, Nancy Navarro is not willing to sit down and be quiet just because the Democratic Party machine tells her it isn’t her turn. She believes we need to do a better job of reaching out to, and listening to, all of our constituents, not just the “usual suspects” who have the time and expertise to testify at every public hearing. We must do more to understand the needs and concerns of working and lower-income families, our younger population, and our Latino and African American population. Although they represent the future of Montgomery County, they are badly underrepresented in our county’s political dialogue.

Nancy Navarro has been endorsed by Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Of course elected officials must be fiscally responsible in this economic crisis. Only one candidate has successfully renegotiated contracts requiring employee organizations to forego pay raises: Nancy Navarro. She was elected School Board President twice by her colleagues because of her leadership ability and consensus-building skills. She founded an important non-profit organization and, with her husband, started a successful small business in their basement.

Of course we must plan carefully for the county’s future and, when our county’s economic health returns, manage our growth wisely while preserving our green and open spaces. Nancy Navarro is a vigorous advocate for high-wage, high-tech jobs, smart growth and public transportation.

Most of all, we must keep faith with the generations who came before us who invested in one of America’s best school systems, and keep faith with the generations who will follow us who need a good education to compete in tomorrow’s global economy. The strains of conservative thinking that I hear from some party activists in this primary concern me. I have disagreed often and publicly with our school superintendent, but I know we cannot afford to disinvest in education. We do not have to mimic Robin Ficker to beat him.

My career has been dedicated to opening up the local Democratic Party organization so that it truly represents the population it claims to serve. In the Barack Obama era, we have the chance to nominate a highly-qualified candidate for County Council who provides a role model for young people from underrepresented communities. If we fail to do so, we should ask ourselves how committed we truly are to our party’s ideals. If not now, when?

Editor's Note: George Leventhal served as Chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee from 1996 to 2001.