Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part Two

Our respondents collectively nominated 53 elected officials as the most influential leaders in Montgomery County. We present the leaders starting today, along with some commentary from myself and our spies, in reverse order of their number of votes.

15 (tie). Kumar Barve, House Majority Leader (D-17)
13 Votes

Reader: The Speaker’s point person on any number of issues, he is well liked in Annapolis and knows how to use the weight of the powerful Majority Leader position.

Reader: Universally liked, and that means something. I would bet there’s not an influential person on your list that hits ignore when he calls their cell phone.

Adam: Funny, charming, smart Bad Boy. Earns extra points for marrying way out of his league. Would be a wildly entertaining Speaker of the House if he could get there.

15 (tie). Karen Britto, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman
13 Votes

Reader: She runs the Democratic Party with a tight fist and is working hard to see that all of the now-incumbents she selected for the legislature are re-elected in 2010.

Reader: Runs a tight ship that has helped keep the County Dems so popular.

Reader: She knows everything about every district and every precinct, and works day and night for the party and its electeds.

Reader: Puppet master, and I mean that in a good way. She understands what this county will look like in a few years and is making sure that the Democratic Party reflects that.

Reader: Our MCDCC head should be nicknamed the “hidden hand.” While your average voter likely knows little about her, Karen Britto works hard to try and keep the peace in the Democratic Party and has also been known to tip the scale when legislative vacancies occur. More importantly, she works hard to advance a vision for the party and its interests in the region. Remember that there are zero Republicans representing Montgomery County at the County Council, State House or Congress.

Adam: A gracious, wise and exceedingly well-connected woman. Easy charm conceals tempered steel. Anyone who wants to run for office in this county must see her first.

15 (tie). Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council Member
13 Votes

Reader: I’ve been impressed with his pragmatism, and yet I believe he doesn’t stray from his core beliefs (which I don’t always agree with but I respect his commitment to them.) I don’t think any other Council Member enjoys the office more than Marc, or who puts the time into the job as he does.

Reader: Dogmatic and rigid, yet has managed to touch a chord with those that wish for a County of yesterday – rolling hills, cul-de-sacs, and a sprinkle of people of color so we can feel good about calling ourselves “liberals.”

Reader: Drops in influence now that he lacks a majority on the council and has to hustle for re-election. He should be fine, but doesn’t have a lot of money or bills to point to after four years.

Reader: A real opinion leader. First, you think he’s crazy. Next, you turn around and tell everyone about his ideas. Finally, you begin thinking they’re yours.

Adam: Show me a local politician with a more visionary idea than Elrich’s county-wide BRT system. No, I didn’t think you could.

13 (tie). Donna Edwards, U.S. House of Representatives
14 Votes

Reader: Now an icon of the netroots and the national progressive movement, Edwards has a lot of influence to wield. Some are disappointed in her performance so far, but the fact remains that for candidates for office in CD4, her endorsement will mean a hell of a lot.

Reader: Politico ranked her as one of the top incoming Congresswomen, and her super-liberal stances on every issue both reflect the liberal stances of CD-4 and her national donor network, but she has a lousy, unresponsive staff and her best skill seems to be burning bridges. She’s trying to play locally in Prince George’s to build a local base, but not in Montgomery. Most of the elected officials and activists who supported her in 2008 are dissatisfied, and she has a big problem with the local and national Jewish community. Apparently Van Hollen and Sheila Hixson got angry because they started receiving constituent calls because Donna’s office wouldn’t return them. Her poll numbers among black men are abysmal, and if Glenn Ivey runs and AIPAC raises money for him, along with a Herman Taylor challenge picking off a few votes in MoCo, she might not lose, but she’ll certainly have a fight.

Reader: At the Obama event at the University of Maryland campus when Obama introduced the top elected leaders from Maryland present at the rally, Donna Edwards was received like a rock star among the students. It was really remarkable considering she has only been in office for a year and a half. She appeals to young voters and is obviously really popular among young people. She is a relentless fighter on all the issues that matter to progressive democrats. She works hard, does her homework and is a relentless campaigner. I think that she has a brilliant future in Congress or whatever she chooses to do in the future. It is interesting to note that she is the first African American woman ever elected to congress from the state of Maryland. African American women vote in huge numbers in Democratic primaries in Maryland and in many other states. This fact alone could make her a contender in a statewide run for governor or the US Senate. There is nobody out there that can beat her in a debate. She has to make sure to listen to people who are telling her to beef up her staff which many perceive as weak.

Reader: Everyone knows her staff is her biggest problem, and her constituent services aren’t winning her any points, and she needs to be more thoughtful in how she speaks on Israel-Palestine issues, but overall Donna Edwards has shown herself to be a true progressive, bold, and highly intelligent in her approach to her job. Progressives in Montgomery County will stick with her, especially labor and the LGBT community, because despite her flaws, she’s everything we never got from Al Wynn.

Reader: Giant killer. If she can turn back prospective challengers from MoCo and PG next year, she has a bright future statewide.

Adam: Still a progressive hero despite the faults of her staff and her occasionally testy nature. Chews up opponents and spits out the broken bones.

13 (tie). Mike Knapp, Montgomery County Council Member
14 Votes

Reader: Being chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, he controls land use issues in MoCo.

Reader: Has respect of labor and business. Solid. Leader. Doesn’t knee-jerk like most politicians.

Adam: A decent, genial Upstate New Yorker who has never let his political success go to his head.

12. Rob Garagiola, Senator (D-15)
15 Votes

Reader: He has the ear of the Senate President, which can have a huge impact.

Reader: A rising star in the State Senate, he is Montgomery’s representative on the powerful Senate Finance Committee and has the ear of the current Senate President, Mike Miller, and the possible future President, Mac Middleton.

Reader: Politically, I think he’s way too conservative, but is a solid State Senator and is the county’s counterpoint to Jamie Raskin. In looking at people to fill Van Hollen’s seat, Garagiola is among the top contenders, especially for moderate Democratic voters.

Reader: Bright and decent man with a conservative bent – thinks it serves his district well – some wonder – in comparison to Raskin – very different agendas.

Reader: Paying his dues with Mike Miller while earning creds with workforce legislation.

Reader: Tough, courageous and smart. Willing to take risks and violate liberal orthodoxy. Another possible Senate President.

Adam: I know all you spies like to gossip about Garagiola’s relationship with Big Daddy. But it’s time that we respect him for his intelligence, his ability to work the levers of Annapolis and his aptitude for learning policy and politics quickly. He is a legitimate contender to be Senate President someday.

11. Peter Franchot, Maryland Comptroller
16 Votes

Reader: Doesn’t get much respect, doesn’t give much respect. But don’t underestimate the guy. No one out-hustles Franchot.

Reader: It is remarkable how someone holding statewide elected office could have so few friends and so many detractors. The ultimate self promoter in Maryland politics. He is on this list solely by virtue of the vast authority conferred upon his office.

Reader: The State Comptroller may rub some people the wrong way, but he knows how to garner ink and is one of three votes on the Board of Public Works. His position is powerful in the State as compared to Comptroller jobs in other States.

Reader: Outspoken. Love him or hate him – he’s still underrated. He was right on slots and has an agenda. Two terms as Comptroller a guarantee and will be a challenge for Gansler to hold MoCo votes in the Governor primary in 2014.

Reader: Now that he’s cooled his jets he can refashion himself. But for a Comptroller he casts a big shadow, he knows how to use media and isn’t averse to switching gears.

Reader: In contrast to some of our more conciliatory County politicians, Comptroller Peter Franchot has been willing to ruffle feathers. Where others see challenging Governor O'Malley and Mike Miller as heresy, Franchot has stepped into the ring and usually on the progressive side of the equation. Unfortunately, though many of our politicians act like lemmings, Franchot almost always finds himself alone in his crusades. One would think this would be a sign of his lack of influence, but in fact, somehow it has all worked out and Franchot looks headed for safe reelection.

Adam: Here’s Franchot’s dilemma. When he’s noisy, he gains visibility but infuriates other politicians with whom he needs to have relationships to get anything done (assuming he’s interested). But when he quiets down, he loses influence. Franchot can still make a splash in the media but because he is not at all a team player – and never will be – his ability to move any policy issues is limited.

10. Jamie Raskin, Senator (D-20)
22 Votes

Reader: Jamie Raskin has proven that outspoken liberal does not have to mean ineffective. He’s peripatetic but still gets a lot done.

Reader: Our legislatures are filled with lawyers, too many of whom give that noble profession a bad name. Jamie Raskin, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of lawyer I want in my legislature: smart, principled, liberal, and academic. Officials and activists in Annapolis turn to him because of the knowledge and skills he brings to the table as a constitutional lawyer, qualities that make him unique in the Montgomery County state legislative delegation.

Reader: From freshman Senator to instant leader! It is as if Jamie has been in Annapolis for ever! Or he is just one smart politician. Either case, none of the other freshman from 2006 have had the impact he’s had. People from other counties who could care less for Montgomery County know his name. That’s got to be influence baby!

Reader: Since he beat Ida in 2006, his base has only kept growing. He’s a progressive star in the state, and will move up to higher office soon – he’s a favorite for Maryland AG once Gansler vacates for governor in 2014 or Van Hollen’s seat, whichever he chooses or comes first. In a county represented by Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, Jamie could not be better positioned to run for higher office. He’s particularly influential now, as many potential and declared 2010 challengers look to him for advice.

Reader: Has emerged as a leader of the Progressives – some say he is too brash and will not be content to grow and become part of leadership in the traditional seniority and favor driven Senate of Mike Miller. He does have good, sometimes quirky ideas, but he is shaking up the formerly sleepy District 20.

Reader: Well loved by progressives, managed to be effective in Annapolis without being marginalized which is no small feat given how outspoken he is. But he has humor and great integrity.

Reader: No other Montgomery County politician can claim the legions of diehard groundtroops that Jamie Raskin has mobilized since first taking office in 2006. He is a true movement progressive, as evidenced by his inspiring speeches, involvement at the national level, and the true grassroots organizing he engages in with his supporters. The rumors are persistent that Raskin is planning a 2014 run for Attorney General, a position he should be a natural for, given his background as a Constitutional law professor, but he is also often mentioned as a successor to Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Adam: Raskin is becoming an icon who is embraced by all the feuding camps of people who call themselves progressives.

8 (tie). Phil Andrews, Montgomery County Council President
24 Votes

Reader: Continues to set the standard for graciousness and how elected officials should conduct themselves.

Reader: You always know where he is on issues. He will not play games, even when one does not agree with his positions. He is to be respected for standing his ground.

Reader: He was at least a year ahead of his colleagues in understanding what was coming with the county budget, and he got a bunch of crap for it.

Reader: As his year as Council President comes to an end, Andrews made sure that issues affecting his district - the controversial I-270 widening and even more controversial Gaithersburg West Master Plan - are in the spotlight, framing the conversation of how Montgomery County will grow in the future. Like Adam wrote before, he is the person to watch in the I-270 debate.

Reader: Any higher aspirations that Andrews has will be stymied by his having pissed off so many core democratic constituencies during his time on the council.

Reader: For all of my disagreements with Phil Andrews, it is hard to say that he is not providing a steady and measured hand as Council President. It just proves that you can take strong positions on issues, tangle with those who disagree with you, and still get along with others at the end of the day. Andrews’ colleagues and especially those that wish to succeed him as Council President would be wise to take notes.

Adam: A budget-cutting President in a budget-cutting year. Andrews was a lone ranger on fiscal issues three years ago but now many of his views are dominant. He is also a decent, competent and civil public servant in a county that could use more of them.

8 (tie). Doug Gansler, Maryland Attorney General
24 Votes

Reader: By his own standards, he has been low key. But the Office of Attorney General in Maryland routinely makes legal decisions that impact the lives of every Marylander.

Reader: The antics of Peter Franchot aside, if he wants it, I think Gansler's the next Governor. Both reasonable and effective.

Reader: Doug Gansler has positioned himself well to be Maryland’s first governor from Montgomery in awhile. Accomplished good things and gained a reputation as a workhorse, not a show horse, especially in comparison with Peter Franchot but also in comparison to his rep as State’s Attorney.

Reader: His race for governor begins in November of 2010. He manages to show up to everything in the county while still being an active presence everywhere else in the state.

Reader: Not mixing it up in local or state circles right now, but almost certain to be the next Governor.

Reader: I suspect that Doug Gansler has been preparing a run for governor since at least 1987. Since becoming Attorney General, Doug Gansler has set himself up nicely for when he decides to run for the Democratic Party nomination. For instance, his vocal support for marriage equality legislation in early 2008 provided a strong contrast to Governor O'Malley’s deeply offensive reaction to the state high court's anti-equality decision a few months earlier. I suspect there are a lot of Montgomery County Democrats who are looking forward to volunteering for a Gansler For Governor campain in 2014 - and wish he were running instead of O'Malley in 2010.

Reader: Montgomery County’s strongest statewide office holder. Unlike Franchot, he understands how to accomplish things in Annapolis. He also hasn’t made any enemies, but he isn’t actually too influential on the lives of Montgomery County residents. He’s a strong candidate for Governor in 2014, but he’s not too progressive, and while he has an early money lead, who knows what will happen in 2014.

Reader: Mr. Gansler is a fundraising machine and has name recognition throughout the state. Let's hope he doesn't disappoint progressives, who are waiting with baited breath to see if he will do the right thing and issue the opinion that, according to longstanding legal precedent, Maryland must honor marriages between same-sex couples legalized in other states.

Reader: Doug Gansler has taken a strong stand in the past on marriage equality, and is about to issue a ruling on marriage equality that will have a direct effect upon my life. While that might not make everyone’s list of “Most Influential,” to me, few things matter more than an official who takes seriously the concept of equal protection under the law.

Reader: Not much impact directly on Montgomery County, but clearly a force to reckoned with at the State. He’s avoided letting his ambition push him into attention getting behavior. I think he’s better behaved than he was as the County Attorney.

Reader: Our Attorney General seems to have many enemies and haters but somehow continues steamrolling up the political ladder. The “silent majority” would be a term best used to describe Gansler voters, because I can’t seem to locate anyone who is willing to admit they actually voted for him. To his credit, he has raised ungodly amounts of money and at this point in time is entering the 2014 gubernatorial contest from a much stronger position than any of his potential rivals. Unless something changes, I predict we will be bowing down to Governor Gansler in a few short years.

Adam: Goes everywhere and raises money for everybody. Clearly running for Governor once O’Malley leaves and is, right now, the heavy favorite to win.

7. Brian Feldman, Delegate (D-15)
29 Votes

Reader: House Chair of Montgomery County Delegation. Going places.

Reader: House Delegation Chair, finishing his second term in the House. Helps give the whole delegation credibility with his demeanor and talent.

Reader: Strong job as Chair with no competitors.

Reader: As head of the Delegation, he can help unite the state delegation to pass (or stop) priority legislation for the state. Smart and respected as well.

Reader: Cool, calm and collected. A measured and serious legislator.

Reader: Does a good job as Montgomery County Delegation House Chair. Is seen by others in Annapolis as a calm, reasonable representative for Montgomery County issues.

Reader: As head of the County Delegation – holds a lot of power in setting the Legislative Agenda – since he is among the more cautious members of the Delegation – wonder when he is going to step up with a more progressive agenda.

Reader: He is Chair of the Delegation for a reason. He is confident and smart and understands the politics of everything very well. He plays the game well in MoCo and in Annapolis where he is well respected.

Reader: Mover and shaker in Annapolis who knows how to get things done.

Reader: I’ve gotten to like him a lot better. He’s quietly effective and has a lot going on in his head that you don’t see. He’s good with his colleagues, he’s respected and thoughtful.

Adam: Grows in stature every year.

Come back tomorrow for the Super Six!