Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Council At-Large: Duchy Trachtenberg

Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg finished third in the 2006 at-large Democratic primary. What does that mean this year?

First, some basic statistics on Trachtenberg along with her performance chart in 2006.

Electoral Experience
Freshman at-large incumbent. Ran unsuccessfully in District 1 in 2002, losing to Republican incumbent Howie Denis by a 51-49% margin. Finished third at-large in 2006.

Areas of Strength, 2006
Finished first in State Legislative District 16, Bethesda, Derwood, Cabin John and Dickerson.

Areas of Weakness, 2006
Finished fifth in Council District 2, Germantown, Olney, Damascus, Clarksburg and Laytonsville.

In 2006, Trachtenberg had the support of nearly every progressive group in the county but was not endorsed by the newspapers. This time, most of her progressive support has disappeared but she has earned the endorsement of the Post.

Campaign Receipts
$319,900 for the 2006 cycle, which ranked third. In the 2006 cycle through the Pre-Primary 1 report in 2006, Trachtenberg raised $305,500. In the 2010 cycle through the Pre-Primary 1 report in 2010, Trachtenberg has raised $313,660, a 3% increase from the prior cycle. About three-quarters of Trachtenberg’s funding comes from outside Maryland.

What is Different Now
Where do we start? Trachtenberg ran as a pro-labor progressive in 2006 and was backed by virtually every union and liberal group in the county. But once Trachtenberg took office, she tried to kill the 2007 domestic worker protection bill, supported Ben Kramer over Nancy Navarro in the 2009 special election, threatened to sue officials with the National Organization for Women, accused Ike Leggett’s Executive Branch of acting like the KGB and declared war on the public employee unions. These kinds of incidents plus what even her allies at the Washington Post call her “cantankerous” personality have alienated a great many of her 2006 supporters. Trachtenberg’s most prominent endorsements now come from the Post and the Montgomery County Business PAC. No Democratic politician in the county has more enemies than Duchy Trachtenberg.


Stripped of the Apple Ballot and surrounded by legions of foes – especially in the unions – Trachtenberg may actually be weaker as an incumbent than she was as a challenger. Her great advantage is her heaping war chest, which contained $226,911 in mid-August – easily the class of the at-large field. But Trachtenberg has not used her money wisely so far. Earlier this year, when Trachtenberg had an enormous financial advantage, she could have done two things that no other candidate could do: hire world-class talent and do some early media, including mail. But instead she hired political neophyte Woody Brosnan to run her campaign and blew $35,000 on tracking polls. Now we are less than a month out from primary day and Trachtenberg will have to flood the field at the very same time that everyone else is clamoring for attention. Contrast that decision-making with District 19 Senator Mike Lenett and District 39 Senate challenger Saqib Ali, both of whom are well-financed and have hit the ground early and often.

We are picking Trachtenberg to finish anywhere from third to fifth. If she spends her remaining money wisely and the campaigns of Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer collapse, she will win. But if Floreen, Riemer and Becky Wagner run well, Trachtenberg continues to squander her money, and her problems with Maryland NOW erupt in public, Trachtenberg could well lose.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Nancy Floreen.