Monday, September 13, 2010

Decision Time in District 19

By Mike Hersh.

As Americans memorialized September 11th, many politicians neatly separate into two categories. Those who call for acceptance and cooperation, and those who exploit fear, mistrust and prejudice. In the District 19 Senate contest, Roger Manno is running a positive, issues-based campaign saying"leadership takes teamwork." Sadly, Mike Lenett is running a dirty campaign unprecedented in Montgomery County history. This according to History Professor Allan Lichtman, who noted that Lenett is making a "blatant appeal to ethnic prejudice," adding, "With some justice, Manno has countered by accusing Lenett of having taken county politics 'into the gutter like no other candidate before him.'"

District 19 has a long-standing tradition for civility. Lenett is out of step with this tradition. Recently, Former Sen. Len Teitelbaum called Lenett's campaign "a terrible distortion of facts, and a clear indication of the desperation of Lenett's campaign. This kind of extreme divisive behavior is exactly why every former elected legislator from District 19 who has endorsed, and the Gazette and Washington Post newspapers, have ALL endorsed Roger Manno for State Senate." Lenett is carpet-bombing constituents' mailboxes implying gang members and criminals support Manno, using faked news clippings, even attacking Manno's wife and the candidate. The Gazette determined Lenett is a "divisive force" and confirms the Washington Post's reporting that Lenett "undermines his own effectiveness" by "alienating" his colleagues. By contrast, Roger Manno achieved remarkable success on bills and reforms benefiting Maryland on healthcare, employment, access to prescription medicines for seniors, non-discrimination, organic farming, protecting seniors from fraud, and earning the respect of his colleagues. Please see: and

Maryland Politics Watch reported factual errors--if not out-right misrepresentations--in a recent Lenett mailer: "What Lenett does not say ... is that Manno also favors gun control." MPW also reported that "A secretive independent mailing sent into District 19 is in apparent violation of Maryland campaign finance law ... is linked to a union that has endorsed one of the competing Senate candidates." That candidate is Lenett. As MPW observes, "The mailer appears to be illegal in multiple ways." See: and

The Gazette quoted insiders describing Lenett's lack of effectiveness: "Colleague problems ... A bill sponsored by him is often the kiss of death ... Maniacal and untrustworthy." There were a few positive quotes as well, but the Gazette took those into account and still named Lenett one of the ten least effective legislators in the entire General Assembly--including the Republicans who are in the minority in both houses and on every committee. See:

Lenett claims he is an environmental superstar, but the record shows Lenett's SB 710 delayed anti-pollution protections for the Bay and he voted against Sen. Frosh's legislation to fine polluters who violate the law Lenett's bill delayed. Lenett excuses his pro-phosphates bill claiming other states were enacting legislation later on. So what? Maryland had already passed it! As The Washington Post reported: "Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) said that pushing the effective date of the ban from January 2010 to July 2010 would 'add up to 15,000 pounds of phosphates to Bay waters.' 'Phosphates are particularly pernicious because they end up stored in sediments,' wrote Frosh, who sponsored legislation last year authorizing the ban. 'Once in the Bay, the phosphates resulting from [Lenett's bill] will be available for years to fuel the algal blooms that each summer day destroy oxygen in the Bay's deep waters and threaten underwater grasses in the shallows.' The bill allowing the delay, sponsored by Sen. Michael G. Lenett (D-Montgomery), passed the Senate 25 to 22 after heavy lobbying from Proctor & Gamble. ... Lenett agreed to sponsor the bill at the request of the industry...." Please see:

Should Marylanders limit ourselves to what other states do? That's what Lenett's bill said. Once a politician starts siding with big out-of-state special interests against Maryland voters, where does it end? Will Lenett decide Montgomery County Maryland schools should be like Montgomery Alabama's? Will he help powerful interests turn back the clock on living wage or safety standards? Hopefully after this Tuesday we won't have to risk Lenett reversing hard-won progress. Whenever a Manno bill passes, we're better off. With a Lenett bill, it's a big (Proctor &) Gamble.

When the bill Manno co-authored with NOW President Terry O'Neill to protect women from deceptive "crisis pregnancy centers" couldn't get traction in Annapolis, Manno worked with Montgomery County leaders and the Council to get it passed here. The League of Conservation Voters, Environment Maryland and the Sierra Club asked Manno to sponsor HB 522, their priority legislation in 2010. When it stalled in the General Assembly, Manno worked with the O'Malley Administration on an executive order which directs the Public Service Commission to plan Maryland's clean energy needs. A huge triumph for those of us concerned about clean energy, global warming, and making Maryland a leader in the 21st century energy economy. This is typical Manno--when he hits a roadblock on an important issue, he finds another way to make progress for Maryland.

Manno is more adept at getting important bills passed into law than Lenett. A few examples: In 2009 Manno's Green Jobs bill helped Maryland secure a $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. Manno's 2009 "Apprenticeship Opportunities Act" (HB 644) created a partnership between businesses, community colleges, and existing programs for green jobs. Manno's Maryland Organic Transition Investment Pilot Program passed after he worked with Capitol Hill to bring $millions in support to Maryland. Then he improved and extended MOTIPP. It's one thing to vote the right way when people are watching (and scoring). It's better to be the difference-maker. Manno drove progress on key issues, and that makes him a better leader.

While Lenett raised more money than Manno, he's "loaned" most of that to himself, and spent it at an incredible rate by printing enough walk pieces and massive mailers to clear cut a forest! Some environmentalist! With his extravagant imagination and taste for the melodramatic, Lenett has a future as a writer for a show like 24. After all, Lenett has to pay himself back the approximately half million dollars he loaned himself trying to re-buy that Senate seat, right?

Lenett boasts of several endorsements. Ask his endorsers, and--if they're honest--they'll admit they're forced by protocol to back any half-way decent incumbent. Now, many of those endorsers probably wish they could take it back. They should. None of the rubber-stamp gang endorsed Jamie Raskin before the primary in 2006, but they all scrambled to get on his bandwagon after he won the primary. Expect the same to happen this year in the Manno vs. Lenett contest.

Roger Manno is an especially good challenger, and Mike Lenett is an unusually bad incumbent. That's why The Washington Post, The Gazette, Del. Hank Heller, Former Sen. Len Teitelbaum, Del. Adrienne Mandel, Del. Carol Petzold, County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, Chair of the Education Committee, Del. Sue Hecht, Chair of the Maryland Green Caucus, Del. Brian Feldman, Chair of the Montgomery County House Delegation, Del. Susan Lee, Vice-Chair of the Montgomery County House Delegation, Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, Del. Aisha Braveboy, Mrs. Cherri Branson, Chair of the African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County, the Municipal County Government Employee Organization, Progressive Neighbors, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, Montgomery Green Democrats, Montgomery County Public School Retiree Association, Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats, Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, Montgomery County Youth Slate, Hispanic Democratic Club of Montgomery County, and dozens of others endorse Manno. See:

Manno is a progressive we can trust to do the right thing when people are watching, in the back rooms, all the time, every day--to serve the public interest, not special interests. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Progressive Maryland among others took endorsements away from Lenett and gave them to Manno, because Manno stood with them while Lenett let them down. It's hard to not get an endorsement as an incumbent, so each one Manno won is a failing grade for the incumbent and a huge vote of confidence for the challenger. These endorsements all buck the "back the incumbent" habit.

Lenett claims the Mannos "lied under oath" by filing amended financial reportss. This although Lenett himself was forced to amend his filings several times. According to official state records, 6 of Lenett's reports are marked "agency requested amend" and 3 of those are not marked "Amend." Are there 3 outstanding unamended Lenett reports dating back to 2007? Also, 3 reports are marked "Deficiency." Lenett amended his 2010 Pre-Primary 1 report, 2009 Annual report, 2008 Annual report, and 2006 Post General Report. Please see:

Lenett cited a statement from William G. Somerville, Ethics Advisor to the General Assembly that explains, "Delegate Manno filed incomplete ethics reports." So what? Nothing supports Lenett's accusations against Manno. Mr. Somerville explained: "Delegate Manno's wife's employment was appropriately disclosed to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, in a timely manner and as a matter of public record. Her employment was also disclosed to the State Ethics Commission, and any discrepancies were appropriately corrected at Delegate Manno's own initiation. It is not infrequent for officials to amend their disclosure statements. Delegate Manno brought this matter to the State Ethics Commission's attention on his own volition, and it is clear from the record that Delegate Manno did not have any intention to conceal information. In addition, it is my understanding from the State Ethics Commission that Delegate Manno was not required to list any leasehold interests that his wife may hold in which Delegate Manno does not hold an attributable interest, which is the situation in this case."

Unlike Lenett, Manno took the initiative amending his reports. Lenett was asked for amendments from the State Board of Elections several times, and at times ignored the requests. Was Lenett "lying under oath" to the State Board of Elections "four times in four years?" According to the standard Lenett imposes on others, the answer is "yes!" Misrepresenting Manno's voluntary compliance into a "cover-up" is as absurd as Lenett implying Manno's playing bass and bartending bar is un-American activity.

Pro-Lenett push-polling delivered attacks against Manno under the guise of gathering information. An MPW source reported: "My wife got surveyed yesterday. She's pretty sure it was Lenett's poll, based on the nature of the questions. Questions focused on Lenett/Manno, no mention of Leggett, O'Malley...." Please see:

A Letter to the Editor from Ruth Burgos-Sasscer explained: "I live in Leisure World and have attended forums where candidates for Maryland State Senate Mike Lenett and Roger Manno have spoken, and have been impressed with both men. I have been leaning toward Roger Manno but until recently had not really decided for whom to vote. The other day I was asked to participate in a telephone 'opinion poll survey,' which I agreed to do.... When the interviewer then asked 'Did you know that Roger Manno ...' and went into a litany of negative statements about him, I immediately stopped her. I said that I would not continue with the interview because I believed it was a deceitful and unethical campaign tactic in support of Mike Lenett and wanted no part of it. I also told her that her efforts were counterproductive because she had just convinced me that Roger Manno is by far the better candidate to represent District 19 in the Maryland State Senate." Please see:

Blogger Keith Berner writes: "...Mike Lenett has gone where only the most shameless GOP race-baiters gather. Desperate to hold off a serious challenge from Roger Manno [Lenett] is riffing on the fact that Manno's legal first name used to be 'Rajah.' Just in case the implication that Manno is a (gasp!) Muslim out to undermine the American way of life isn't clear enough ... the graphic from Lenett's latest mailer [has] an uncanny resemblance the rendering of Manno's former first name has to a terrorist demand letter! ... I call on all District 19 voters to reject, resoundingly, fear-mongering and racism. In fact, all Marylanders should denounce Lenett and make clear that his behavior is completely unwelcome here. Vote for Roger Manno on Tuesday to make abundantly clear that Mike Lenett's politics and way of thinking have no place in Maryland." Please see: "Lenett the Fear-Monger, Lenett the Bigot"

Smart politicians don't go negative unless they're losing, and don't go this negative unless they're losing badly. Others believe Lenett has never come to grips a challenge for what he considers "his" seat, based on Lenett's first public reactions to Manno's challenge. Lenett questions Manno's right to run, even though Lenett decided to challenge then-Senator Len Teitelbaum for the seat while he recuperated from a medical procedure. As MPW noted: "In his end of session letter, [Lenett] includes a ... thinly-veiled slam on ... Manno," In Lenett's words, "The Democratic Party could take a cue from the Republicans...." Please see:

As Oscar T. Ramirez wrote, "Candidates who use fear as a political strategy have no place in our politics. ... Be afraid because Roger used to be Rajah and who knows what else Rajah has to hide! ... I hope voters on Tuesday will think about what Bill Clinton said a few years ago: 'If one candidate is trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to get you to think. If one candidate is appealing to your fears, and the other one is appealing to your hope. You better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.'" Please see:

District 19 Democrats have a clear choice for State Senate on Tuesday. They can vote for Roger Manno's leadership through teamwork--a hard-working, accomplished and ethical legislator they can be proud of-- or they can go along with a push-polling, swift-boating, spouse-attacking, race-baiting, Proctor & Gambling, truth-twisting, colleague-alienating, Bay-polluting, seat-buying, ineffective, divisive, incumbent who's embarrassed them before and will let them down again. Vote for Roger Manno.