Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scramble, Part Two

By Marc Korman.

In Part One, I discussed the scramble of the two political coalitions on the County Council made up of Nancy Floreen, Valerie Ervin, George Leventhal, Mike Knapp, and Nancy Navarro on one side and Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Duchy Trachtenberg, and Phil Andrews on the other. In Part Two, I will take a look at the ramifications for the election.

In my view, the biggest losers in the scramble are challengers. Once upon a time, someone like Becky Wagner was viewed as one side’s pick to knock off an at-large member allied with the other side. That means Wagner may have been able to count on that coalition directing resources to her including campaign donations and promoting her for endorsements. Now, Wagner and other challengers will be much more on their own. They may still get a lot of the same support, but it will be largely through their own hard work than relying on coalitions of incumbent Councilmembers.

In my own view, the biggest loser is likely Ilaya Hopkins in District 1. She appears to be the only challenger taking on an incumbent in a head to head district race. She needed to pull together a “coalition of the willing” to take on Berliner that could have included labor, the town of Chevy Chase, Rollingwood community members who wanted to vote to form a municipality, and the Councilmembers who voted against him as Council President. With Leventhal and Navarro endorsing Berliner, not to mention his receipt of the Apple Ballot, Hopkins’ path to victory has gotten a lot more difficult. She may never have wanted to run that type of campaign anyway, but it presented a neat little formula that is now impossible to follow.

Another person who suffers is Nancy Floreen. Floreen has never had the Apple Ballot and 2010 is no exception. But her best primary election was when she was part of a strong team, Doug Duncan’s End Gridlock slate in 2002. She would arguably be in a stronger position if she could have replicated that 2002 primary maneuver rather than the more go it alone approach of 2006 (when Duncan was not on the ballot).

The scrambling of coalitions is both good and bad. On the plus, it makes the Council much less contentious to not be lined up into two teams. They should be focused on policy and not gamesmanship. On the negative side, I would just say beware of entangling alliances. Although I crudely defined them, there were some differences in these two coalitions leading to them in the first place. I hope honest differences that still exist are not being shoved under the table as part of an incumbent protection program.