Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Apple Drops, Part One

The endorsement of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which is distributed by teachers on election day as the “Apple Ballot,” is a seminal event in any MoCo election cycle. In the last election, the Apple outperformed the newspaper endorsements and most politicians rate it as more important than support from the Post. Most Apple endorsees are reliable incumbents with good voting records who are almost certain to win. But in every cycle, there are surprises and the Apple can make a big difference. Here’s what caught our eye in this year’s endorsement round.

District 14 Endorsements: Senate challenger Karen Montgomery, Delegate Anne Kaiser, Delegate candidates Craig Zucker and Eric Luedtke

No surprises. Incumbent Senator Rona Kramer has a woeful labor record and Karen Montgomery should sweep the unions. Kaiser and Luedtke (a former MCEA board member) are no-brainers and Zucker is a heavy favorite to win. MCEA will take some criticism for not endorsing a black candidate, but few people think that former WSSC Commissioner Gerald Roper or home minister Vanessa Ali will run viable campaigns.

District 15 Endorsements: Senator Rob Garagiola, Delegates Brian Feldman and Kathleen Dumais

Again, no surprises. MCEA is leaving open a Delegate endorsement because incumbent Craig Rice may be running for County Council and the field to replace him has yet to materialize.

District 16 Endorsements: Senator Brian Frosh, Delegates Susan Lee and Bill Frick, Delegate candidate Ariana Kelly

Frosh, Lee and Frick were locks. We hear ten candidates came in to interview for the open seat vacated by former incumbent Bill Bronrott. Most were no-names. Kelly stood out because of her long record of advocacy on women’s issues. She is going to face a vigorous contest from Kyle Lierman, the son of former Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman. Young Dems President Scott Goldberg has an outside chance if he can put together a big campaign.

District 17 Endorsements: Senator Jennie Forehand, Delegates Kumar Barve, Luiz Simmons and Jim Gilchrist

The incumbent Delegates have no declared Democratic challengers. MCEA’s endorsement of Forehand is intended as a message for other incumbents: if you have a good voting record on our issues, we will not abandon you in your time of need. The teachers endorsed former District 20 Senator Ida Ruben for the same reason in 2006 despite the fact that challenger Jamie Raskin was running a much stronger campaign at the time. The Apple is helpful to Forehand, but by itself it cannot hold off Cheryl “Energizer Bunny” Kagan. Forehand has a lot of work to do.

District 18 Endorsements: Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez, Jeff Waldstreicher and Al Carr

Senator Rich Madaleno’s exclusion from the Apple Ballot sends a different kind of message to the other incumbents. Madaleno was the staff author of the Thornton Plan, a 2002 law that has spread hundreds of millions of dollars of state money to school districts across the state, including MCPS. He has been with MCEA on every issue since until this year, when he proposed a plan to send part of the state’s teacher pension obligations down to the counties. This was an unspeakable heresy for MCEA because MoCo could never bear the resulting colossal liability. So while Madaleno will definitely be re-elected, MCEA is warning the other incumbents not to stray on the issue. If they can withhold the Apple from their former best friend over pensions, they can withhold it from any other apostates too.

The incumbent Delegates have solid labor records and were natural endorsees. (Disclosure: the author is the incumbent team’s Treasurer.)

District 19 Endorsements: Senator Mike Lenett, Delegate Ben Kramer, Delegate candidates Bonnie Cullison and Jay Hutchins

The message on the Senate side is the same as in District 17: MCEA does not abandon helpful incumbents even if they face quality challengers. The difference is that Mike Lenett, unlike Jennie Forehand, is an aggressive campaigner who will take full advantage of the Apple. District 19 voters are going to be so buried under Apples with Lenett’s name on them that they will have to eat cherry pie for a year after the election.

The Delegate decision has lots of implications. Cullison is MCEA’s former President so she is an automatic endorsee. Kramer would win re-election with or without the Apple. But MCEA is telling him this: we will be with you if you want to go back to the House, but we will oppose you if you want to go to the County Council. We’ll find out in a month what Kramer wants to do. Hutchins is a big winner as the Apple gives him instant credibility. Sam “Hunk of the Hill” Arora has a lot more money and has been more active on the campaign trail than any of the other Delegate candidates. Hutchins needs to get into high gear to hold him off.

District 20 Endorsements: Senator Jamie Raskin, Delegates Sheila Hixson, Heather Mizeur, Tom Hucker

Total no-brainer. All four are great on labor and education and are destined to return.

District 39 Endorsements: Senator Nancy King, Delegates Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik, Delegate candidate Arash Shane Robinson

King is a longtime MCEA ally who helped to hire MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast when she was on the school board. The teachers were never going to throw her overboard for challenger Saqib Ali. Barkley is a former MCEA Vice-President and Reznik has done well since his 2007 appointment. Robinson is a complete unknown who just left the Green Party to become a Democrat, but the teachers preferred him to former Republican Bob Hydorn. Robinson is an ally of Saqib Ali and spoke at Ali’s Senate kickoff. Will Ali steer money to him? Hydorn is the President of the Montgomery Village Foundation and is a name in his part of the district. He needs to run an aggressive campaign in the rest of the district or Robinson could squeak in.

We’ll cover the County Council tomorrow.