Sunday, July 30, 2006

Crowded Contests in Districts 18 and 19

This is the second in a series of posts profiling state legislative Democratic primaries in Montgomery County. Except for the state senate race in District 18, Democrats will have plenty of choices in both Districts 18 and 19. However, the fights are fiercer in District 19 with two delegates fighting for the senatorial nomination and two open delegate seats as compared to only one in District 18.

District 18 (Chevy Chase, Kensington, parts of Silver Spring and Wheaton). This is my district. Del. Richard Madaleno has the excellent fortune to find himself unopposed in the Democratic senatorial primary for an open seat. He is running on a slate with incumbent Del. Ana Sol GutiƩrrez and Del. Jane Lawton. A past mayor of the Town of Chevy Chase, Lawton was appointed to the House of Delegates after Del. John Hurson stepped down in 2005. She had run a competitive but losing race for the House in 2002.

While Madaleno has an easy path to the Senate, the two incumbent delegates are joined on the campaign trail by six other candidates: Dana Beyer, James Browning, Al Carr, Dan Farrington, Noah Grosfeld-Katz, and Jeff Waldstreicher. All of the newcomers appear to be running hard and are not to be taken lightly; so far Dana Beyer and James Browning have knocked on my door in addition to the incumbents. Al Carr is the longest-serving member of the Kensington Town Council.

Noah Grosfeld-Katz is the son of retiring Sen. Sharon Grosfeld; he is young at 21 but working the district hard. Along with the incumbents, Attorney Jeff Waldstreicher received the valuable endorsement of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA); Waldstreicher can also claim support from NARAL and the Sierra Club. I have seen a surprising number of lawn signs for Farrington which is always a boost for new candidates.

The incumbents cannot take this district for granted even if they have an edge in name recognition and of a coordinated slate. All of the challengers except Dr. Dana Beyer, one of the first transexuals to seek public office, are men which may aid the effort of both incumbent delegates to win renomination. However, the incumbents undoubtedly remember that this district dumped incumbent Del. Leon Billings who didn't campaign hard in 2002.

Like Montgomery itself, this district is diverse in terms of both ethnicity and income. It contains significant Latino (18 percent), Black (13 percent), Asian (9 percent) and Jewish populations. Housing ranges from among the toniest in Montgomery to much less affluent neighborhoods. McMansion construction is definitely an issue. However, income doesn't divide District 18 much by party as virtually all of the district's precincts vote strongly Democratic.

District 19 (Aspen Hill, Glenmont, part of Wheaton) is the scene of some of the hottest state legislative races in Montgomery. Maryland's multimember districts often set up interesting Senate primaries between experienced candidates. In District 19, Del. Adrienne Mandel and Del. Carol Petzold are battling it out for the nomination along with Mike Lenett. Petzold has served five terms in the House compared to three for Mandel but Mandel would seemingly have the edge in this race. Retiring Sen. Leonard Teitelbaum has endorsed her. In the 2002 delegate primary, Mandel finished in first place and received 1173 more votes than Petzold who came in third. However, Lenett seems to be scarfing up the endorsements and in a competitive three-way race who knows what will happen.

Eight candidates, including incumbent Henry "Hank" Heller, are seeking the Democratic nomination in this safely Democratic district. Roger Manno has seemingly been endorsed by everyone from MCEA to Progressive Maryland to the Firefighters Union. His experience working with both B'nai B'rith and the Congressional Black Caucus ought to help him gather votes in this diverse district. Melodye Berry has been endorsed by the MCEA; she is one of two African-American candidates in this 17 percent black district.

Attorney Tom DeGonia is supported by Progressive Maryland. Paul Griffin is a veteran. Somali-American Guled Kassim has served in the Marines; the Gazette wonders if this Muslim candidate will have trouble attracting Jewish support despite his all-American immigration story. Alec Stone has been active in a variety of Jewish organizations. Benjamin Kramer is the final candidate for the House. His father held this seat for two terms before becoming a one-term County Executive but that was back in the 1980s. His sister is currently the senator for neighboring District 14.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Will Steele Release the Tapes?

Republican Senate Candidate Michael Steele, who was for President Bush before he was against him before he was for him, claims that Washington Post Reporter Dana Milbank violated his agreement with Steele and that the quotes in Milbank's story were taken out of context. In this case, "taken out of context" should be read to mean "embarrassing to my campaign."

Lt. Gov. Steele now says that he would welcome a Bush visit to Maryland to campaign for him. In Steele's upside-down speak, I imagine this means that he hopes Bush has pressing engagements that take him anywhere but to a state that is only a short helicopter or Metro ride away from the White House. SurveyUSA's latest tracking poll shows that a 64 percent of Marylanders disapprove of Bush's job performance so a Bush visit to Maryland about now is probably more of a dream come true for the Democrats than Steele. A whopping 82 percent of African Americans, who Steele has been heavily wooing throughout his campaign, disapprove of Bush. A Bush visit would probably nail down any prospect of Steele amping up his black support.

Revealingly, Milbank says he'll release the tapes if Steele agrees. So Lieutenant Governor, the ball is in your court. Will the truth set you free?


Attorney General Debate on July 31

I'm the moderator of the first debate among the Democratic candidates for attorney general which is taking place at Prince George's Community College this Monday at 7PM. The official announcement follows:

K. Teya Moore & Associates and the Maryland Voters Education Fund of the League of Women Voters of Maryland are sponsoring an Attorney General Democratic Candidates Debate in Prince George’s County. The debate will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, July 31 at Prince George’s Community College, Largo Student Center Building, in the Rennie Forum.

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez and former Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms have each agreed to participate.

David Lublin, Professor of Government in the School of Public Affairs at American University, will serve as the moderator.

The debate is open to the public. Seating is limited.

Prince George’s Community College is located at 301 Largo Road, MD 20774 and accessible from Central Avenue (Route 214), Landover Road (Route 202), and Capital Beltway (I- 95/ I- 495) Exits 17A and 15A. For more information or directions please refer to


Friday, July 28, 2006

Off to the Races in Districts 15, 16, and 17

This is the first in a series of occasional posts profiling Democratic primaries in Montgomery County state legislative races. I hope to link to the websites of all the candidates so you can check them out for yourself. I have lived in Districts 15, 16, and 18 so I probably know more about these districts but I'm going to attempt to profile the primary contests for the General Assembly in all eight Montgomery districts. Apologies if my geographic description of each district excludes your town; I'm trying to keep them short. Incumbents are heavily favored in all three of the districts (15, 16, and 17) which I look at today though there is an open delegate seat in District 17.

District 15 (Potomac and Poolesville). Both Democrats and Republicans have full slates of candidates which are unopposed in the primary so they can focus their energies on the general election contest, the main event in this competitive district. Democratic Sen. Robert Garogiola defeated Republican incumbent Jean Roesser in 2002 by less than 2% of the vote after the boundaries of the district had been redrawn. Garogiola is seeking reelection against Bill Askinazi, a Republican attorney who ran a competitive but losing race for delegate in 2002.

All three incumbent delegates, Republican Jean Cryor and Democrats Kathleen Dumais and Brian Feldman, are seeking reelection. Del. Cryor is currently the only Republican elected to the General Assembly from Montgomery. Craig Rice joins Del. Dumais and Del Feldman on the Democratic ticket. Rice, an African-American candidate in a district that is only 7 percent black, is part of the happily increasingly common occurence in Montgomery of racial minorities seeking election outside of majority-minority districts. He may find it a tough road to dislodge the well-liked Cryor despite the increasing Democratic leanings of the district.

District 16 (Bethesda). Sen. Brian Frosh is unopposed in the primary. Democratic Delegates William Bronrott, Marilyn Goldwater, and Susan Lee are all seeking reelection. Lee is the first Chinese-American to win election to the Maryland House. Challenging the slate of incumbent delegates in 2002, Charles Chester came in a distant fourth but is giving it another go in 2006. Regina "Reggie" Oldak, Vice President of the Montgomery County Commission for Women, has also filed to run for delegate. Knocking off one of the incumbents will be very tough in this district.

District 17 (Rockville and Gaithersburg). Sen. Jennie Forehand is unopposed for reelection in both the primary and the general. Del. Kumar Barve and Del. Luiz Simmons are seeking reelection. Vying for the third slot are five other candidates, including Jim Gilchrist who came only 210 votes behind Simmons in 2002 and is the son of former County Executive Charles Gilchrist. He is joined on the hot summer hustings by Attorney Laura Berthiaume, Elbridge James (no website), Saybrooke Homeowners Association President Cory Siansky, and Montgomery County Victim Services Advisory Board Chair Ryan Spiegel.

The large number of entrants into that race should make the incumbent delegates in that district sweat for reelection even though one expects both to come through fine if they work at it. Gilchrist built up valuable name recognition in his previous narrow loss four years ago though I don't expect the other challengers to concede the race without a fight. Laura Berthiaume may benefit from being the only woman seeking one of the three delegate slots though the district nominated and elected three men in 2002.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Flexible Steele

Michael Steele brags about his three years studying for the priesthood and says that he "attends mass regularly" in his campaign biography. For such a pious man who declares that he wants an "honest conversation" with Marylanders, Steele sure has a problem stating what he thinks and making up his mind on the issues. In 2004, he adored President Bush and heaped praise on Fearless Leader and the Iraq War. More recently, Steele accepted heaps of money for his Senate campaign at events headlined by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

The lite gov appears to have had a striking change of heart. Just the other day, Steele anonymously lambasted the Administration's bungling of the Iraq War ("It didn't work") and Hurricane Katrina ("a monumental failure"). He even went so far as to declare that Bush is so unpopular that running as Republican is like wearing a "scarlet letter". Steele presumably had an inkling that these comments might become public knowledge since he was speaking with a reporter from the Washington Post at the time.

However, keeping up with the mind of Michael Steele is not for the slow-footed. Today, the Baltimore Sun reports that Steele maintains he was joking when he spoke with Post reporter Dana Milbank. Bush is back to being his "homeboy". Showing real chutzpah, Steele even said that "I am not going to turn my back on a friend" even though this is precisely what he did by stabbing Bush in the back anonymously in the Post.

Only under the theory that Steele was acting with the knowledge of a Bush White House could Steele honestly make this claim. Of course, this requires believing that the White House is so eager to pick up a Senate seat in a place as unlikely to elect a Republican as Maryland that they actually countenanced Steele's disingenuous comments in advance. Since the President doesn't even accept advice from friends, let alone take well to the mildest criticism, this theory stretches credulity. Of course, one never knows with this bunch. Remember these are the same honest Joes who promised to get to the bottom of the Plame leak.

As Tom Schaller has reported, this is hardly the first time Steele has had a problem with either consistency or the truth. Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Steele, Gov. Ehrlich and their communications director, claim that Oreos were thrown at Steele during the 2002 gubernatorial debate. Except that they cannot get their stories straight and have told widely varying version of this event which most likely never happened.

None of the many reporters at the event recalls seeing the infamous Oreos. Apparently, not one was caught on videotape either. One might have suspected that the event would have made the news if it had occurred as this is exactly the sort of drama that reporters live to cover. Oreos raining down on Steele would have been far more memorable than anything which was said at the debate. It would have made great television too. One might also have thought that Ehrlich or Steele might have raised it during the campaign as it could have helped them.

To paraphrase Judge Judy, if it makes no sense, it did not happen. Steele and Ehrlich must be lying.

Unfortunately, Steele's problem with the truth and lack of consistency are becoming his strongest campaign themes. Which makes me very glad that Steele goes to church a lot. As Ann Landers used to say, church is a hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints. At this point, I'd say Steele is ready for the intensive care unit.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Steele is Deep Throat!

The Washington Post reports that Michael Steele is the anonymous Republican Senate candidate who has been bitching about his party and his president. I remember that former Illinois Rep. Rostenkowski, once the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said something along the lines of being able to take money from lobbyists in the evening and then gig them in the morning (at least that's what he said before he was indicted for corruption). Steele puts Rostenkowski to shame despite Rostenkowski's decades of congressional experience.

Steele has certainly shown he can run with the big boys. Or at least take the money and run. After raking in the dough at fundraisers hosted by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, Steele is done with the Bush Administration. The war in Iraq is a mess and the response to Katrina was miserable. I wouldn't be surprised if Steele was endorsed by the DailyKos in the next few days.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy of having praised the Bush Administration to the stars and then taking their money before kicking them to the curb, this is an excellent political move. Steele is in general election mode even though the primary, a cakewalk for him, is over a month away. He probably won't lose many Republican votes by stating the obvious and he may attract independents who will think he is some sort of courageous centrist.

Democrats may be hard pressed to succeed in winning points with voters through attacks on Steele for agreeing with them. However, an excellent question for future Senate debates would be whether Steele was being insincere and acting out of political expediency when he wholeheartedly endorsed Bush in 2004 or when he bashed him in 2006. Or was he simply playing politics on both occasions? Perhaps he was for Bush before he was against him.


Why Mfume Runs

Former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume's home page now has a You Tube video in which he passionately explains why he wants to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate. I still think Mfume's baggage makes him a weaker candidate against Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in the general election. I just hope whoever wins can express himself half as well as Mfume does in this four minute video.


Where is Ben Cardin?

Rumor has it that we have a hot Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate nomination. You'd never know watching Washington area television stations. Neither Reps. Ben Cardin or Kweisi Mfume have commercials in the DC media market. Indeed, watching television might give you the impression that Montgomery businessman Josh Rales has the nomination sewn up.

Never mind that Prince George's and Montgomery cast around 37 percent of the votes in the 2002 Democratic primary. More Democrats turned out in the primary in Prince George's (106,115) and Montgomery (106,115) than in any other jurisdictions in the state. Baltimore County trailed over 10,000 votes behind Montgomery for third place.

But we just don't rate down here. I don't know how these Baltimore politicians think ordinary people who don't follow politics closely will get to know them. Perhaps by osmosis? Mfume at least has an excuse as his campaign lacks the financial juice of Cardin's effort. Moreover, Mfume's leadership of the NAACP has likely made him reasonably well-known among the region's sizeable African-American Democratic electorate.

However, Cardin may be waiting too long to start taking some of the cash out of his relatively fat wallet. Cardin must have support from the region if he wants to best Mfume. He is especially vulnerable in Montgomery thanks to Rales' self-funded folksy media barrage. Rales may be a political unknown but his commercials present a positive image and outline issue positions popular with core Democrats. Allan Lichtman is also making an aggressive effort and may capture liberal voters who might otherwise vote for Cardin.

Advertising in the DC media market is frustrating for politicians. Unlike in Baltimore, a majority of the viewers are people who live in DC or Virginia and cannot vote in the election. However, Cardin cannot afford to wait much longer to begin an aggressive campaign if he doesn't want to let his shot at a Senate nomination slip away.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Ehrlich's Approval Rating Up

SurveyUSA reports that Gov. Bob Ehrlich's approval rating is sharply up. Fifty-two percent of Marylanders now approve of Ehrlich compared to only 44% in June. The number who disapprove of Ehrlich is down to 43% from 51% in June. Markedly increased support from women appears to be driving the numbers. Ehrlich's approval ratings among women jumped from 37% in June to 51% in July. The number of women who disapprove of Ehrlich declined from 56% to 43%. Among independents, crucial to Ehrlich's reelection prospects, the Governor's approval rating is up to 57% from 52% and disapproval down to 35% from 42%. However, the margin of error in the poll is much higher for subgroups (+/- 5.9% for women, +/- 10.7% for independents) than for the poll as whole (+/- 4.1%) so take these conclusions with a grain of salt.


Who Decides Elections to the General Assembly?

Registering as a Democrat and voting in the primary is the smart move in Montgomery County politics if you want to have any influence on the outcome of the election. Registering unaffiliated (the official name for independents in Maryland) or voting only in the general election is practically like throwing your ballot away. The Democrats are the only game in town. Here's why:

Montgomery County may be one of the richest counties in America but it is also a Democratic bastion. Republicans have been gradually all but ethnically cleansed from the County's state legislative delegation. Moderate Republican Del. Jean Cryor (District 15) is the only Republican reamining in the County's 32-member delegation.

Five of its eight state legislative districts (Districts 16-20) are impregnable Democratic fortresses. Districts 14 (Northeast) and 39 (Germantown and Montgomery Village) lean strongly to the Democrats though the Republicans have an outside chance. District 39 elected a Republican state legislative delegation before Sen. Hogan switched parties and all three went GOP delegates went down to defeat in 1998. Only District 15 (Poolesville and Potomac) is a truly marginal district and even it is trending Democratic.

In state legislative districts safe for one party, the primary is the critical election as the general election routinely ratifies the dominant party's choice. In Montgomery County, the Democratic Primary is thus the key election in most contests. Democratic nominees in most of the County's state legislative district don't need to sweat the general election too much.

Although the County's population is steadily climbing toward 1 million, the number of voters who decide our state legislative elections is very small. Only Democratic primary voters have a real say in electoral outcomes most of the time. And the Democratic primary electorate is far smaller the total adult population.

Only 71 percent of the County's adult population is even registered to vote. Though Democrats are the dominant party, only 38 percent of adults are registered Democrats. Maryland elects virtually all of its state and county officials at the same time but turnout in non-presidential election years is much lower than in presidential election years. Turnout in primaries in even lower. In 2002, a year in which a hot congressional primary stimulated turnout, only 54 percent of registered Democrats, or 20 percent of adults, participated in the primary.

However, the number of people who actually select our state legislators is even less than one-fifth of the adult electorate because many Democratic primary voters don't vote in all contests. Most voters cast a ballot in gubernatorial or congressional primaries but many choose not to participate in down-ballot state legislative primaries either because they don't care about the result or don't know enough about the candidates. Political scientists call this the tendency to participate at lower rates in down-ballot contests the "roll-off effect."

The roll-off effect in state legislative primaries in Montgomery County is far from small. Only about 70 percent of Democratic primary voters actually cast a vote in a primary for the state senate. The low rate of participation in these contests was not due to the fact that half of state senate primaries were uncontested. Approximately the same number of people voted in the state senate primaries in districts with primary contests as without them. Moreover, turnout in contests for the House of Delegates was even lower at 65 percent even though all but one district had more candidates than available nominations. (However, this calculation wrongly assumes that all participants voted for the maximum three delegates.)

The electorate that participates in the key election for the state legislature is thus quite an elite group. Only 14 percent of adults voted in the 2002 Democratic primaries for state senate, and an even lower 13 percent voted in the primaries for the House of Delegates. This primary season, this shrunken electorate will be heavily courted by state legislative candidates. They will receive mailings, phone calls and even personal visits from candidates. Most other people will be completely ignored. Now you know why.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Charles County Too

The Washington Post reports this morning that the sharp rise in Charles County's black population has inspired several new African-American candidacies for public office. Edith Patterson, who became the County's first black commissioner by appointment, is now seeking election to the Commission. Attorney Reuben Collins II is also considered a strong contender for a seat on the Commission. Although candidates are elected from districts, voters from around the county can vote from candidates from all districts, so it will be interesting to see if black candidates can attract sufficient cross-racial support to win election. (Southern Maryland online has a complete list of candidates for Charles County office.)

Incumbent white Democratic State Sen. Thomas Middleton has also recruited African-American Gregory Billups as a candidate for the House of Delegates on his slate. Being on a slate with the County's most powerful politician should not hurt his chances of giving a uptick to black representation in the General Assembly.

The rise the County's black population has also flipped Charles from being Republican to narrowly Democratic in national contests. As the U.S. Election Atlas shows, while Charles went for Bush in 1992 and Dole in 1996, it voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Great Minds Think Alike

Tom Schaller calls on Comptroller Schaefer, Maryland's "crazy uncle", to withdraw from his reelection bid in the Examiner.


Year of the African American?

1992 was much touted as the "Year of the Woman" in American politics. 2006 may be the "Year of the African American" in Maryland politics.

Despite Maryland's reputation as a progressive state, it has not been at the forefront in electing black politicians. Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is the first black politician to hold statewide office in Maryland. However, Steele was elected with Ehrlich rather than in his own right and over the opposition of the vast majority of black Marylanders. The share of blacks in the in the state legislature lags farther behind the black share of the population than any other non-southern state besides Delaware.

This year may be different. And I'm not even thinking about the marquee Senate race which features both Steele and former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, though both face a tough battle to get past U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin.

If Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley become governor, Prince George's Del. Anthony Brown will become the first African-American Democratic Lt. Governor. Like Steele, Brown would be elected on a ticket but O'Malley-Brown in 2006 will almost certainly get the lion's share of black support unlike Ehrlich-Steele in 2002. Even if Brown loses this race, it is hard to imagine that this popular Harvard Law School graduate and Army reservist who served in Iraq in 2005 does not have a very bright political future.

Former Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart Sims, also African American, is in a three-way fight with Montgomery State's Attorney Doug Gansler and Montgomery Councilman Tom Perez for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. As his lack of a campaign website shows, Sims entered the race relatively late due to his earlier commitment to run as Lt. Governor on Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan's ticket. However, that race introduced Sims in Montgomery and linked him to the county's most popular politician. Sims is the also only candidate from the Baltimore area while both of his opponents hail from the same county. However, Gansler and Perez are experienced and hungry politicians so Sims certainly does not have the nomination locked up.

Though African Americans compose only 12 percent of Montgomery County residents, Ike Leggett stands an excellent chance of becoming the next County Executive of Maryland's most populous county. This likeable politician was elected four times to an-large seat on the Montgomery County Council before becoming Chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. Leggett faces a tough primary opponent in two term at-large Councilman Steve Silverman.

Silverman may have an advantage in his campaign warchest but I think Leggett may have the issues on his side. Silverman is routinely tagged by his detractors as "in the pocket of developers" at a time when developers have attracted reams of negative press due to the Clarksburg scandal and rising concern over McMansions. Not a good political image to have at a time when placid Chevy Chase just defenestrated of one of the incumbent members of the town council over these issues (and another incumbent with over 20-years experience ran behind two newcomers). Leggett's reputation as a moderate should help him win votes from those who want to address these issues but don't want growth in the County to grind to halt.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Results Are In . . .

Democrats have taken an early lead in state legislative elections. They've already captured 14 seats in the Senate compared to 4 for the Republicans. The Democratic lead in races for the House of Delegates is even larger with 40 Democrats but only 6 Republicans already elected.

No, you didn't miss the election: the filing deadline for state legislative candidates has passed. Individual candidates had to file by July 3rd though party central committees could nominate candidates for another 15 days. We now know how many seats each party has conceded through failure to recruit enough candidates. Most unopposed candidates are Democrats from Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore City.

Republicans would be even further behind before the election even started if Republican Central Committees has not used their power to nominate candidates in races where too few candidates filed to fill all of the party's nominations. The Republican Central Committee parachuted 2 candidates into Senate races and 7 into Delegate contests. Democrats nominated only 1 Senate and 1 Delegate by Central Committee.

District 18 (Chevy Chase, Kensington, Wheaton) Democrats should feel the most glum about the last-minute GOP efforts to find candidates. No Republican filed for the House or the Senate by the individual candidate deadline but the GOP now has a full slate. I doubt they are sweating the general election too much though. Back in 1994, the last time that Republicans ran a full slate in this district, Democrats defeated them by a margin of 2 to 1.

Disclosure: I am volunteering for Democratic candidates in District 18.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

GOP Candidates Good for Democrats

The Montgomery County Republican Central Committee has nominated 15 candidates for county and state legislative races where no GOP candidate filed by the July 3 deadline. This is great for statewide Democratic candidates because it will spur Democratic candidates who would otherwise be unopposed and run a lackadaisical fall campaign to mobilize their supporters and get out the Democratic vote.

It can't hurt Montgomery County Democrats. Republicans were all but ethnically cleansed from Montgomery County in 2002 even as Maryland was electing its first Republican governor since Agnew. Del. Jean Cryor from Legislative District 15 (Potomac and Poolsville) is the only GOP legislator from Montgomery's 32-member delegation. Councilmember Howie "Landslide" Denis from Council District 1 (Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac) is the sole Republican on the 9-member County Council.

Republicans aren't competitive countywide. They have a realistic shot at winning seats in only two legislative districts (15 and 39) and two council districts (1 and 2) in the northern and western portions of the County. However, someone should send the GOP a thank-you note for making a valiant stand that will help assure that Montgomery Democrats turn out for the general election.


Past His Sell-By Date

You can accuse Comptroller William Donald Schaefer of being many things but not of being a dissembling politician. He would not even apologize for his offensive remarks about Korean Americans. You had to feel for his campaign aide who had drafted an apology that Schaefer would not sign though it is great fodder for his opponents. You never know quite know where Schaefer's mind will go these days. Even voters unsympathetic to immigration do not exactly quiver with fear at the waves of Korean immigrants taking advantage of the public school system. Oh, the horror.

Willie Don's penchent for making sexual and racial comments has turned him into a walking gaffe machine and cost him the support of most Democrats according to a new survey reported in the Baltimore Sun. Only 30% of Democrats still support Schaefer though he still leads Anne Arundel County Exec. Janet Owens, who is at 22%, and Montgomery Del. Peter Franchot at 11%. Owens probably leads Franchot largely due to the greater name recognition of a two-term county executive. While Franchot has been a vocal legislator, he is still probably little known outside of his legislative district.

Endorsements will prove crucial in the outcome of this race. If the enormously influential Washington Post and Baltimore Sun both break for the same candidate, Schaefer's long political career may mercifully come to close. If they split, it might allow Schaefer to win the Democratic nomination with only a minority of the vote. The willingness of state legislative and other local candidates to endorse and campaign for Owens or Franchot could also prove crucial to either campaign. The relative conservatism of Owens may prove a liability in attracting support with Democratic activists while Franchot's liberalism is likely an asset.

Schaefer additionally suffers because his formerly vaunted campaign machine has mostly retired even if he has not. Democratic activists will never forgive his bizarre and uninfluential endorsement of the first President Bush in 1988. Schaefer's latest pearls of wisdom have convinced others that the practical politician who dominated Baltimore politics for decades and endeared himself to Marylanders with his "Reach the Beach" program while governor is past his sell-by date.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The world is clearly desperate for another blog. OK, maybe not desperate. In fact, maybe we need another blog like we need another television station at this point. However, as Maryland's quadrennial elections approach, it seems timely if nothing else. Most of the web postings about politics in the Old Line State seem to come either from official sources like the Baltimore Sun or from Republicans.

I am a Democrat and happy to be one. I support my party and its candidates but I am far from slavish about it. I expect better from my fellow partisans than I do from the Republicans, so I'm more critical of Democratic than Republican stupidity. I also like to call it like I see it, so I'm not going to pretend O'Malley's latest campaign move is genius if it is a dud. I'm somewhat eclectic in my views and end up surprising people from both parties on occasion even if it is relatively rare than I cast a ballot for a Republican.

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland located just outside DC. Admittedly, writing about Maryland politics from Montgomery County may be a bit like covering Russian politics from Vladivostok. Maryland politics has always revolved around Baltimore even if the legislature avowedly convenes in Annapolis. Amazing that so little has changed even though Baltimore City no longer contains more than one-half of the state's population. Indeed, it is only the fourth largest jurisdiction.

Nonetheless, I plan to take a rather Montgomery-centered view and pay about as much attention to Baltimore as it does to us. Not that I have anything against Baltimore. I just don't know nearly as much about it as I do my home county. Besides, the Sun does a fine job of covering Baltimore while the Maryland suburbs of DC are comparatively neglected by the Washington Post. Montgomery County may be over fifty percent larger than Washington but the Post will never cover elections for county executive with the same intensity as elections for Mayor of Washington. The Gazette probably a stronger paper of record of Montgomery politics these days.

I teach political science at American University so I am bound to sound like a professor sometimes. I plan to provide information and analysis as well as a viewpoint. In any case, welcome. Any politicos who want me to pass on news of an event are welcome to email me at lublin.david at