Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Council At-Large Incumbents Forge Non-Aggression Pact

The four County Council at-large incumbents – Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Duchy Trachtenberg – have struck a non-aggression pact for the remainder of the election season. While they have not formed a slate by any means, they have agreed to avoid going after each other and to reserve their fire for the challengers.

The pact, agreed to a couple weeks ago, contains the following elements.

1. None of the four will speak ill of each other in public. This covers campaign communications such as mailers and emails.

2. Elrich and Trachtenberg will endorse each other and Leventhal and Floreen will endorse each other, but there will not be a four-way mutual endorsement. Such a public display might irritate some of the supporters of the respective candidates.

3. None of the four will endorse any of the at-large challengers.

The non-aggression pact is the product of several factors.

1. Leventhal and Floreen do not care for Trachtenberg, but her reporting nearly $300,000 in campaign cash back in January convinced them that Trachtenberg can likely not be defeated.

2. Becky Wagner, who was regarded as a fair bet to defeat Trachtenberg last fall, has not caught on other than by landing MCEA’s endorsement. If she was making a stronger showing, more than one council incumbent might consider supporting her. Instead, she has chosen to go negative against the whole council.

3. None of the incumbents respect Hans Riemer. They regard him as a non-substantive candidate who has not lived in the county long enough to warrant election and does not know very much about county government. They dismiss his endorsements and campaign expertise, perhaps to their peril.

4. The incumbents were united by the budget process, during which they were attacked from all sides and hung together until the end. That was the first time that they realized they could put aside their differences and all work together.

5. All four believe that all of them will be coming back. But if a challenger breaks through, no one knows which incumbent would be headed home. So the safest thing for each incumbent as an individual to do is to circle the wagons.

This deal comes from a very different place than the slates in MoCo’s state legislative districts. The latter slates are populated, for the most part, by incumbents with histories of working together and minor policy differences. The at-large incumbents have waged bitter feuds over the years, especially Elrich versus former End Gridlock members Floreen and Leventhal and Trachtenberg versus Leventhal. The non-aggression pact is strictly a marriage – well, more like a limited cohabitation arrangement – of convenience.

But the pact is not without cost to its members. Many of Elrich’s supporters detest Leventhal and Floreen for supporting the ICC and accepting no limit on their developer contributions. Elrich has stressed the problem of developer contributions for MANY years to his significant benefit. So why would his supporters credit any accommodation he makes with candidates they view as the developers’ favorites? The unions will not smile on any deal struck by their endorsees with Duchy Trachtenberg, whom they regard as an arch-enemy. And the district Council Members can hardly be expected to fall in line as none of their interests were considered by the deal signers. Two of them (Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro) have already endorsed Riemer.

The deal may not hold over the long term, especially as other stake holders speak up. But if it does, the structure of the election is basically set. However much they may dislike each other, the incumbents will stand up for the council’s record – especially on the budget – while the challengers will hammer away from the outside. Whether the strategy works will be decided by the voters.