Monday, September 28, 2009

Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part One

Last year, we ran our inaugural series identifying Montgomery County’s most influential people. The results stirred much angst in the egos of the county’s powerful, many of whom claim to be more influential than anyone else. (Just ask them!) The complaining emails and phone calls nearly drove your tender-hearted author out of blogging. So a year later, what have we decided to do?

Why, do it again of course!

No one person is qualified to render a determination from above on who has the biggest stick in the county. But we know who is qualified: our far-flung network of spies, tipsters, moles and wags. Every one of them knows something. Every one of them has an angle. Every one of them perceives at least a part of the county quite clearly. Every one of them has friends and enemies. Every one of them sees at least an act or two of the great, perpetual political drama playing out. And together – but only together – they come as close to knowing all as anyone could. Now it is time to summon their collective capabilities in a great exercise of joint consciousness to chart the strands of influence in Montgomery.

We asked each of our informants to compose two separate lists of the most influential elected and most influential non-elected people in the county. They were allowed to pick up to ten people for each list. Many of them picked a lesser number. Some even picked themselves! (Yes, we allowed that, but we required them to vote for others as well.) And we told them to use their own definitions of influence.

This was a tough exercise and many of our informants did not participate. There are a lot of people to choose from in both the elected and non-elected worlds. Moreover, influence can be used for good and for evil, a fact that weighed painfully on the minds of some of our respondents. “I just hate voting for some of these people!” wailed one spy. “They’re dirty and their tactics are underhanded, but they get the job done.” Many hands no doubt trembled at the keyboard as they typed out the names of their most despised foes. But just as interesting were the responses that declined to name close political allies. Sometimes, honesty comes only through guilty whispers in the dead of night.

Of course, we will never disclose the identities of our 71 participants no matter how far some people might be willing to go to learn them. But here is their demographic breakdown:

Elected Official: 25
Government Staff: 11
Civic: 9
Business: 7
Labor: 5
Non-Profit: 5
Other: 9

White: 57
Asian: 5
Black: 5
Latino: 4

Male: 42
Female: 29

Under Forty: 22
Forty or Over: 49

Silver Spring/Takoma Park: 22
Rockville/Gaithersburg: 15
Chevy Chase/Kensington: 11
Bethesda/Potomac: 11
Other Montgomery: 10
Out-of-County: 2
Note: Many of the Silver Spring respondents live outside the Beltway.

Enough methodology. We know you want to see the results. And soon enough, you will!