Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Short Strange Trip

If Deadheads ever were to become political junkies then they would have loved last night's gathering. Come early. Stay late. Party on. Ignore laws. The only thing missing were the $2 PB&Js. I came early -- getting to MCDCC HQs at 6:50 for the 7:30 performance. Sadly, there 15 people ahead of me. I stayed late -- making visits to two post campaign gatherings. The MoCo Democratic Party was on -- as in most of the insiders were crammed inside party HQ.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

Truckin' the classic song from the Grateful Dead, which became a national treasure in 1997, talks of a long strange trip. This trip was anything but long and, more importantly, it was legal -- well if one ignores County occupancy laws. Twelve days removed from Jane Lawton's death we gathered to select her replacement. I got the same vibe as David did that the pre-vote momentum was all Al. It showed in how many of the District 18 activists had lined up behind him, first at the forum on Sunday and those that came early to see the proceedings.

Looking at the people who came a mere 15 minutes early.

I was hoping to blog from the site but my signal was too weak even after several fruitless tries. Something for the future. I was going to tell you that the pre-vote support for Rick Kessler was stronger than I had initially suspected. I still had a first ballot win. But I had really felt that Roz Pelles was going to be the more serious challenger to eventual winner Al Carr. By mid-day yesterday my internal numbers for Rick were higher than for Roz. Both Rick and Roz were hampered by the compressed election cycle and if either had a few more weeks the results might have been different. But it was the strength of familiarity that triumphed all others. And familiarity resided with the Councilman from Kensington.

A Little Bit About the Process
The MCDCC returned to open ballots. Something resident historian and MCDCC member, Elliot Chabot, told me has happened in the past. I think opening up the voting process did two things. It allowed for tracking of votes by outsiders better. It also encouraged finding consensus as early as possible.

Each of the five candidates got five minutes for opening statements followed by the lightning round of 8 questions. (Try answering what you'd change from the special session in 45 seconds.) Closing statements were a minute. Fortunately, the candidates and the actual voters (the 23 member MCDCC) did this two nights ago in front of the District 18 Caucus. So it was more than a single night oral examination for the five aspirants.

Opening Statements
This is where a candidate gets their best time to outline their platform. Al Carr pointed out his experience as both an elected official and as a candidate in both 2005 and 2006. Fred Cooper pointed out how he had worked on issues 20 years ago in Silver Spring that just got completed in 2006. George English wanted everyone to know that the special session was a sell out to the racing industry. He also used examples of problems in Baltimore when he was running for office in downcounty MoCo. Interesting. Rick Kessler claimed the experience of working in federal and state legislatures for over 20 years. He claimed that this experience of working with a wide range of personalities is the best training. (As a former Hill staffer, I had to agree.) Roz Pelles was running to preserve the legacy of Jane Lawton and how she was the change agent among the candidates.

Foreground, right: Roz Pelles' son Malcom Pelles; Middle ground, Rick Kessler's wife, Cindy Schwartz and their son, Matty Kessler; Background: Delegate Tom Hucker (20)

What I Learn From These Forums
To me, it is insightful not so much what they say but how they say it. And in the rapid fire questions, where you are asked almost anything and have 45 seconds to master it shows how quickly one can think on one's feet. It also shows how much they know about the issues and the district.

The first two questions were what have you done for the district. It put all but Al Carr on the defensive. I thought Roz Pelles did an excellent job of pointing out that her work on women's issues and labor issues across the state and the country had a direct impact on the district.

As MCDCC member Marc Korman mentioned in his post. He asked a question on the Purple Line and Gas Tax. Forty five seconds to answer. Two candidates completely punted on the gas tax portion. They both said "it needs more study". But like Marc wrote, Al showed a knowledge of divide in LD18 on the Purple Line -- eastern half "yeah"; western half "nay, if we lose the Capital Crescent Trail" and gave the most reasoned answer.

The best question came from Lindsay Brewer, a student member, who asked about bringing students more into the election process more. All favored more student involvement. Rick Kessler and Roz Pelles both highlighted how they have done that in their work on Capitol Hill and local campaigns respectively. But Al Carr stole the show when he said "as the father of a 5 year old and 2 year old, I am well aware of young people wanting more rights."

Even this blog got mentioned during a question of support from inside District 18.

The Voting
If you were a candidate not named Al Carr, your goals were not to finish last and to make sure that Al did not get to the magic number of 12 -- absolute majority.

As the votes of the MCDCC member were announced it was clear by the middle of the alphabet that Al was going to be the winner. It was only by how much.

Treasuring Our Time Together
Just as Truckin' took almost thirty to be considered a national treasurer by the Library of Congress, many of us took about the same time to realize the treasurer we had in Jane. This short strange trip was fun. Well for winners. But for the challengers I hope they learned more about themselves and the District. That will benefit us all.

Congratulations to Al Carr on winning. Jane, we tried to have fun.