Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part Three

Our respondents collectively nominated 51 elected officials as the most influential leaders in Montgomery County. Here are the leaders, along with some commentary from myself and our voters.

1. Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
48 Votes

Respondent: “Ike Leggett, despite difficult fiscal times, still enjoys a loyal following and his consensus-building style plays well with Gov. O'Malley's One Maryland approach to government.”

Respondent: “He can have more day to day impact on county residents than anyone else.”

Respondent: “While he may not have a group of loyalists around him in other elected positions like Duncan, he seems to be personally liked by all. Although he faces an incredibly difficult budget problem much like Neal Potter, he seems to be a smarter politician more willing to use the advantages of his office. Thanks to the county government, he has the largest PR machine of anyone on this list. The tough decisions ahead could lead to a similar fate as Potter.”

Respondent: “He has a soft style but is a scrappy survivor.”

Adam: “The next county budget will be the biggest challenge of the great chess master’s career. Every segment of the county’s establishment will be scrutinizing his performance and weighing any signs of vulnerability.”

2. Chris Van Hollen, U.S. House of Representatives
43 Votes

Respondent: “He doesn't get involved in local stuff, though he'd be influential if he did. He's probably more universally respected than any other local politico.”

Respondent: “He is the main go-to guy for most things federal, and is the most accessible of the lot, and the nicest, too.”

Respondent: “He controls the purse strings for Dems in the House and has direct influence on Democratic gains in this election. He's done this by keeping a low profile, but a new class of freshman representatives will have him to thank if they're elected in November.”

Respondent: “He is extremely well-liked in the county and incredibly talented. I never hear a critical word about him. Now, he has risen in the ranks of the US House. He may lead DCCC to biggest win in a generation while Congress has poor ratings. This will give him clout on the Hill. His endorsement locally may now be more important than MCEA or the Post. He has replaced Duncan as the kingmaker. However, he uses this power very sparingly. As he becomes more powerful/entrenched, will he use it more to build a machine?”

Adam: “Amazingly, he is just now entering his political prime. No one can predict at this point how high he will go.”

3. Rich Madaleno, State Senator (D-18)
35 Votes

Respondent: “Sen. Rich Madaleno has a bright future ahead of him. If Van Hollen ever gives up his spot, Rich - along with at least 5 other colleagues from the General Assembly - is the odds on favorite to keep the seat blue. Look for Madaleno to build a national name in that case, though, with national support from GLBT organizations. His ability to stand up to Mike Miller during special session without facing punishment or the back bench proves his political skill and his influence with the Montgomery Delegation.”

Respondent: “He's respected by the Senate President and everyone goes to him for information. If he wants to get something passed, he can get it passed. He's on the all important Budget and Tax Committee.”

Respondent: “No one understands the budget better than him. Smart and tactical. If there is ever going to be change in Annapolis, it will have to fly with the members of the Senate Budget & Tax Committee.”

Respondent: “Nobody knows the state budget better, and few have the level of political skills he has to make things happen.”

Adam: “One of the smartest people in Annapolis, period.”

4. Brian Frosh, State Senator (D-16)
30 Votes

Respondent: “Oft-talked about successor to Mike Miller, without the Dr. Evil thing going on.”

Respondent: “Highly respected, considered very knowledgeable and, like Van Hollen, his integrity is widely recognized.”

Respondent: “He's a low key legislator and has learned to play the Annapolis game without abandoning his liberal principles.”

Respondent: “I think he is the second most powerful senator in Annapolis only behind Miller. He quietly moves many bills thru the Judicial Proceedings Committee and is great in debate. With Currie's ethical problems, he seems to now be the likely successor to Miller.”

Adam: “Brian Frosh could be the next Senate President, but the legend of Big Daddy will live on!”

5. Sheila Hixson, Delegate (D-20)
28 Votes

Respondent: “As the only Montgomery chair in the House, she has great influence with Busch. She is also the only strong MoCo candidate for speaker, should a vacancy occur in 2011. She will play a critical role in the budget debate since almost all funding formulas go through her committee. She is the de facto chair of the house delegation as Busch turns to her for MoCo matters.”

Respondent: “Ways and means, hello? Will she retire next term though? I doubt it. If Ida Ruben and Barbara Mikulski are trendsetters, our grand dames seem to like to hang around.”

Respondent: “Her power and her weakness are one and the same--she is so tied into the leadership in Annapolis. That can be great for some issues, but can mean she can’t do much for you on others. She can make money move, but always took second chair to Peter Franchot who preferred to be out front. She is also accessible.”

6 (tie). Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council Member
22 Votes

Respondent: “Love him or hate him, he seems to be able to steer a council coalition. Whether this lasts beyond 2010 is another matter. I think he's taken one too many aggressive moves.”

Respondent: “While we frequently disagree, to his credit he’s been a successful power broker.”

Respondent: “He is proving to be very effective behind the scenes. Talks with everyone, and is surprising many in the development world with his willingness to come up with practical long-term solutions. Doesn't want to be Council President – just wants to make effective changes.”

Adam: “Scary smart. Sometimes just plain scary! More of an intellectual than a politician, Elrich digs down deep into details. He is also the patron saint of little guys who take on big business or big government. Chief of Staff Dale Tibbitts is one of the brainiest people in Rockville.”

6 (tie). Peter Franchot, Maryland Comptroller
22 Votes

Respondent: “Making some serious waves (and enemies!) in Baltimore and Annapolis.”

Respondent: “While he is not making lots of friends, he is driving a lot of the discussion in Annapolis. His feud with Miller is legendary and entertaining. His vote on the Board of Public Works is quite important. He has made many connections in the state by going around the establishment. Ehrlich may have cost his own reelection by focusing energy and attention early on Franchot. Could the same happen to O'Malley if he too bothers with Franchot's election?”

Respondent: “Whatever those in the politically savvy elite may think, he is great for a sound bite, they never seem to end, and thousands watch the noon news and see his mug on it.”

8 (tie). Doug Gansler, Maryland Attorney General
21 Votes

Respondent: “Doug Gansler's star is rising. He surprised most insiders by keeping a low profile and expanding his political base to include Baltimore and its suburbs.”

Respondent: “He is making lots of friends. He ran a textbook campaign to win the AG race when little known outside of Montgomery. He has been able to get several initiatives through the General Assembly and earned respect as a hard working and thoughtful person. He has not been the media hog he seemed to be in MoCo. Who remembers the sniper trial now? I would expect either Doug or Chris to be the first Montgomery based governor or senator in living memory and longer - Civil War maybe. He could also get something big from Obama. His early and active support could be repaid handsomely by President Obama. He made the right bet unlike O'Malley. He does seem to be building toward advancement in 2014.”

Respondent: “Finally, the chicken farmers have to curb their damn manure!”

8 (tie). Mike Knapp, Montgomery County Council Member
21 Votes

Respondent: “He has emerged as the counter balance to Ike on the council. He seems best situated to reassemble the Duncan coalition if Ike fails. However, he may also be saddled with the cost of fixing the budget problems as a member of the council. Duncan marched to victory in 1994 from Rockville City government over the incumbent council president.”

Respondent: “He was central to the council vote to uphold the labor contracts.”

Adam: “It is unclear how many votes were cast for the Gentle Giant of Germantown primarily because he is this year’s Council President. Next year, he will still be head of the Council’s Planning, Housing & Economic Development Committee – of course, provided that future Council President Phil Andrews will allow it.”

10 (tie). Valerie Ervin, Montgomery County Council Member
18 Votes

Respondent: “Strong voice on the council. Fights for what she believes in. Lets others know what she thinks. This may make her somewhat less effective, but no less influential.”

Adam: “Has lots of supporters in business, labor and outside District 5. Relentless, tough, smart and fearless. Excellent staff, top to bottom, led by Rockville Hall of Famer Sonya Healy. During the District 4 special election, Ervin went up against the County Executive and four other County Council Members and came within five points of helping Nancy Navarro get elected. Don’t mess with Valerie Ervin!”

10 (tie). Jamie Raskin, State Senator (D-20)
18 Votes

Respondent: “Constitutional and progressive thought leader with an amazing grassroots base.”

Respondent: “Outspoken and inspiring to a lot of people. He can fire up the grass roots.”

Respondent: “If Obama wins in November, Jamie could be one of the few State Senators in Maryland to have the President on speed dial. Both are former editors of Harvard Law Review and Raskin has been a vocal champion of Barack's campaign. I don't know if this will give him any more or less influence than he already has, but in a county as wealthy and large as Montgomery, there are few shining lights of influence in Annapolis.”

Respondent: “One of the smartest people in Maryland politics today. As progressive as they come. But has also proven himself very effective at moving legislation.”

Adam: “On a short list to succeed Chris Van Hollen in Congress.”

12. Kumar Barve, House Majority Leader (D-17)
13 Votes

Respondent: “He could be speaker and certainly is in a position of power.”

Respondent: “As majority leader, he speaks more on the floor than any other member. He is quick, articulate, and witty. He is effective in helping Busch move his agenda. Barve has been less effective at shaping that agenda which is why I ranked him down on the list.”

Adam: “The House Majority Leader gets points for giving us one of the naughtiest quotes to ever appear on this blog on the sensitive subject of MCDCC’s legislative appointments.”

13 (tie). Karen Britto, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman
12 Votes

Respondent: “She has been a big part of making the county entirely blue and determining three new delegates and a senator in this four year cycle alone.”

Respondent: “She asks for little but people jump when she does. 20% of our state delegation is honorable due to her efforts to gain their appointment. Al Carr, Bill Frick, and Kirill Reznik owe her big. The state party should listen to her more.”

13 (tie). Heather Mizeur, Delegate (D-20)
12 Votes

Respondent: “A triple threat - member of the General Assembly, staffer for Sen. John Kerry, and member of the DNC.”

Respondent: “While many may think she's so focused on herself and moving up, she does know how to work the system and play the game to get things passed in Annapolis. She's extremely effective in that way.”

Respondent: “Health policy queen, DNC rep and rising star.”

15. Brian Feldman, Delegate (D-15)
11 Votes

Respondent: “Despite your recent blog posts, my view is that he has done a lot to turn the Montgomery delegation into more of a team.”

Adam: “As Chairman of Montgomery’s House Delegation, Brian Feldman has a thankless job. A few respondents who did not vote for him still went out of their way to praise his patience and hard work.”

Honorable Mention (8-10 Votes), in Alphabetical Order

Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Council Member
Rob Garagiola, State Senator (D-15)
George Leventhal, Montgomery County Council Member
Nancy Navarro, Board of Education President

In Part Four, we will unveil our list of the most influential non-elected people in Montgomery County.