Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Primary Election Wrap Up

Having seen so many legitimately odd election cycles, I am reluctant to engage in anything that might be misconstrued as triumphalism. So I will just say that I am generally pleased with most of the Primary Election outcomes.  A number of my friends won and I am delighted for them.  Most importantly, I hope those campaigns continue to work both smart and hard as they refocus their efforts for the General Election.

Some reflections:

On the Governor’s Race:

While the Democratic gubernatorial primary witnessed some hard fighting, there are no deep-seated ideological schisms that threaten to tear the party apart between now and November. Sure Mizeur ran to the left of Brown and Gansler to the right of both of them, but the vast majority of Democrats could live with any of those three candidates as the party’s nominee for Governor.  While there may be some personal animosity among some of the candidates, their family members, their staffers and a few members of the Chattering Class, more than 90% of Maryland Democrats will rally around the Brown – Ulman ticket.  And more Democrats will turn out for the General Election. 

In short, the newly minted GOP nominee for Governor, Larry Hogan, would be wasting his time targeting disaffected Democrats…there will be too few of them. Instead, I expect he will run a modified base strategy to drive up Republican turnout while simultaneously attempting to articulate a sufficiently palatable platform in an effort to cobble together a large enough coalition of conservative-leaning and moderate unaffiliated voters (Independents) to run a competitive campaign.  And hope for a GOP tidal wave of 1994 proportions.  That is his plan and, frankly, only shot at winning.  Such a scenario is unlikely to occur.  Expect a Brown-Ulman Administration.  

And I believe that Heather Mizeur will be an excellent candidate for another statewide office in the not-too-distant future.  She ran a fantastic campaign, but it just wasn’t her time this year.

On the AG Race:

I am glad that progressive talent won out despite the strength of the Cardin brand.  Brian Frosh was clearly the best choice, but the best choices don’t always win (For more information see: “Fair, world is not”).

On House District 9B:

Tom Coale is a bright, good government policy wonk.  He ran a positive, issues-oriented campaign and won.  It was a recurring theme of the night, at least in Howard County, that such candidates emerged victorious while many negative campaigns went down in flames.   The GOP nominee for Delegate, Bob Flanagan, is no slouch.  This is a true swing district and Coale has some heavy lifting ahead; but he is clearly the Democrat best positioned – by background and temperament – to consolidate the base while appealing to Independents as well as those Republicans who might view Flanagan as being a bit too paleo.  

On Senate District 9:

Ryan Frederic was absolutely correct in highlighting the differences between himself and Medinger on certain social issues.  Now, he can focus on his knowledge of economic issues and his history as a job creator in what promises to be a fascinating match-up against Gail Bates.  I don’t know if the 9th Senate District, demographically, can elect a Democrat (yet)…it might be a cycle or two away, but Frederic gives the party a decent chance of a pick-up. 

On House District 12:

Barring some sort of cataclysmic event, Clarence Lam, Terri Hill and Eric Ebersole are going to Annapolis.  The first two were close to virtual locks based on their wide support, deep pockets, and solid campaign skills. 

Ebersole, in my mind, started off as a mid-tier candidate.  He hustled, he worked on his patter, he picked up some serious institutional support and he benefited from a divided field.  So while his mailers were mediocre, at best, he worked the District. You have to respect that.  He ran well in both the Howard and Baltimore County portions of the district.  And, based on the returns available thus far, Ebersole even out-polled Nick Stewart in Baltimore County (1,490 – 1,485).   He also banked a considerable number of early votes, which proved quite important because, among Election Day voters, Rebecca Dongarra placed close behind Ebersole (2,791 for Dongarra compared to 2,903 for Ebersole).

Looking ahead, I hope Brian Bailey (and Rebecca Dongarra) can move past some of the personal issues that frankly, got way out of hand and led to some bone-headed decisions and attacks.  Both have talents and it would be unfortunate to see them squandered.

Stewart, a smart, affable candidate, sent out some great mailers and had the backing of Jimmy Malone and some other organizations…but his relative newcomer status hurt his campaign and I don’t think his positioning as the Pragmatic Choice captured as many hearts and minds as he hoped it might.  Perhaps another office, another year.

And a big thumbs-up to Adam Sachs for running with integrity and grit in the face of long odds.  I was hoping he might fare a little better, but when the Mizeur numbers started coming in, it was clear that an upset would be extremely unlikely.    

On House District 13:

The fact that Vanessa Atterbeary is the leading vote-getter (as of this writing) is a mild surprise.  Perhaps the television spots, in conjunction with her position on the ballot, vaulted her to first place, ahead of Frank Turner and Shane Pendergrass.  In any event, it was a very good night for Team 13, with Nayab Siddiqui failing to catch fire, despite (or perhaps partially because of) his television ads.  It will be interesting to see Atterbeary as a Delegate. 

On County Council District 1:

It is no secret that Jon Weinstein is a friend of mine and I am elated that he won last night, especially in a field with three other serious candidates (clarification: Dave Grabowski is a serious person who, inexplicably, did not run a serious campaign).  Seriously.

I think Jon’s business intelligence combined with his progressive values make him a great fit for District 1, and will serve him well on the County Council.

Wendy Royalty has a future in elective office, should she decide to re-enter the arena.  Like Rick Perry in 2012 (and I am guessing some folks won’t love the comparison but bear with me), she jumped in too late.  Meanwhile, Jon had the benefit of running before and getting an early start this time around, which led to a more polished performance. 

Jon has a legitimate GOP opponent in Kevin Forrest Schmidt. The partisan breakouts indicate that the First remains a winnable district for the Republicans, under a particular set of circumstances.  Jon’s talents as a campaigner, and Courtney Watson’s presence on the ballot, should help keep District One in the Democratic column, but this will be a race to watch.

On the HoCo Democratic Central Committee:

Let’s see…Candace Dodson Reed tied for first place and eight of the ten members of the Progressive Democratic Central Committee Team finished in the Top 12. That is a landslide no matter how you slice it.  This represents an incredible opportunity for the Democratic Party in Howard County to build upon the successes of those who have served well in the past…and to move the Party forward.  Looking at those who ran, it would have been perfect if Agnes Dunson Reid and Charles Bubeck (from the Progressive Team) and Kimberly Pruim had placed in the top 12.  But overall, it was a very encouraging outcome.

On the Howard County Board of Education:

The results could best be summarized as follows: the power of incumbency + the slate backed by the teachers.  That accounts for the top five finishers, with Cindy Vaillancourt, who was first with 15,450 votes (as of this writing), over 1,100 more than the second place finisher, fellow Board Member Sandra French.

Dr. Zaneb Beams needs to step up her game in order to win a seat in November.  Her fifth place showing behind the two incumbents as well as Bess Altwerger and Dan Furman indicate that she has some ground to make up between now and General Election Day.

I am disappointed but not surprised that Allen Dyer made the first cut.  I was hoping that Olga Butler and Maureen Evans Arthurs would finish in the top eight (with Dyer and Smith being the two odd men out, in this Alternate Universe).  They bring different skills to the table, but both Butler and Evans Arthurs would be capable Board of Education members.  I hope they choose to run again in the future.

On the Orphans’ Court:

Pleased that Leslie Smith Turner, Anne Dodd, and Nicole Bormel Miller are the Democratic nominees.  Enough said.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Animal Instinct/Human Nature

So a bear was wandering down Rockville Pike the other day, heading southbound near the Medical Center, Ursus americanus deep in the heart of MoCo.   Those in the know whisper that this is all part of a plot.  The bear(s) sighted in Howard County earlier this month were clearly a vanguard, the first wave in the sinister effort to turn Columbia into Bethesda 2.0.  More are coming from the West. The march continues.

What to make of this news?  Are these omens?  Are they replete with Meaning or is it just a wild creature traipsing about suburbia, looking for open territory and attracted by the olfactory appeal of fresh-baked Panera bread?

It is helpful to remember the different cognitive abilities and drives that distinguish humans from other animals… our unique combination of consciousness, insight, language skills, reasoning abilities and self-awareness.  It is these characteristics, among others, that have allowed us to create complex societies, featuring ever-changing arts and cultures, ever-evolving scientific advancements and ever-expanding languages that allow us to communicate with one another.

Knowing this, of course, makes our form of self-governance all the more fascinating.  To ponder the capacity of human-kind for innovation, yet witness both high-mindedness as well as the indulgence of lower, baser instincts in the pursuit of a position of Authority, one must marvel at how far we, as a species, have evolved over the past 10, 20, 50 generations….and how much farther along we could and should be.

This post is intended neither to praise nor condemn anyone.  On the assumption that it is my last, or perhaps penultimate, update between now and Primary Election Day, it is merely a brief commentary on human nature and a reflection upon the fact that humanity has been bestowed with some truly remarkable gifts.  Perhaps such talents, and the potential which exists within them, are worthy of contemplation as one considers how best to order a fair and just democratic society.  

There will be successes and failures, to be certain.  For we are, after all, only human.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.


Friday, June 13, 2014

And the Fourth Shall be Third

So I ventured out into the Great Drizzle of ’14 yesterday morning…eyeglass lenses fogging up from the humidity.   Driving past a Gisriel sign-spinner, I heard some kind soul shout out to him:  “Make sure you get paid! In cash!!” Solid career advice in any country, in any operation.

This brief journey in the mist ended at a voting booth, tucked inside of the Bain Center where, finally, I was able to cast my ballot for the 2014 Primary Election.

My sample ballot was completely marked up. Some choices were rather easy: Vote for Candace Dodson-Reed and the rest of the Progressive Democratic Central Committee Team…the Talented 10…round it out with Ethel Hill and Kim Pruim for a Dynamic Dozen.  A vote for Brian Frosh as he is a dedicated public servant and because Jon Cardin, based on his track record, would be an absentee AG.  Votes for Bormel Miller, Dodd and Smith Turner for Orphans’ Court because they are several cuts above Chase in terms of qualifications.

What to do about the 12th?

If one assumes that Clarence Lam and Terri Hill will finish in the top three, what remains is a bar-brawl for the third seat.  Realistically, there are four candidates that have a shot at that position: in alphabetical order, they are Rebecca Dongarra, Eric Ebersole, Michael Gisriel and Nick Stewart.

I am still hoping that progressive voters in the 12th coalesce around one quality, viable third option to prevent the election of disbarred attorney Michael Gisriel (of #GisrielGetsItWrong fame). But who should it be?

Nick Stewart is not a conservative by any stretch of a sane imagination, but he is clearly tacking to the center.  Going through such sites as:

and the League of Women Voters

you can see the points of differentiation emerge between Stewart and the other, more liberal candidates.  That said, he is raising a serious amount of dough, sending out high quality mailings and has the backing of Delegate Malone, which is not inconsequential in the Baltimore County precincts within the 12th.   Electable? Sure. But can he wear the progressive mantle?

Eric Ebersole is a polished public speaker.  He has amassed a decent war-chest but he is spending it on direct mail pieces that could charitably be deemed “mediocre.”  Is his message getting out?  Is he energizing an electorate? He is a progressive and is backed by the teachers, which is a Big Deal in many households, including mine.  The frustration here is akin to the letter “i” without the tittle… so close but just not quite there.  Almost the Clear Choice.

From both a policy and political perspective, you can make a (surprisingly) strong case for Rebecca Dongarra.  If many Howard County voters cast their ballot for only two candidates for HD 12 (presumably Lam and Hill), then whoever wins the Baltimore County side of the district – while pulling just enough votes out of HoCo – could eke out a third place finish and a nomination.  Dongarra, like Brian Bailey, is a proven vote-getter in Baltimore County.

But here is where I get a bit idiosyncratic.  Feeling more than a little burned by recent events, and being aware of the history between Dongarra and Bailey, I made up a rule:  I would rule out from consideration anyone who ran for the Baltimore County Council in 2010.  Gordian Knot solved.        

So why the title of this post?  Back when I had three choices for the 12th, I wrote that I also had a fourth, Adam Sachs.  Not seeing a clear favorite emerge between Stewart, Ebersole and Dongarra, why not vote for the liberal populist Sachs?  While he stands to the left of the rest of the field, he is qualified to hold the office.  He is aligning himself with Delegate Heather Mizeur’s tax relief plan (another strong positive) and, frankly, I am drawn to underdog progressive campaigns.  So I voted for Sachs…and Mizeur for Governor.

If Gisriel wins the nomination by one vote, you can blame me.  That said, I walked out of the Bain Center with some pep in my step.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Out and In

Might have been bitten by a brown recluse spider this afternoon.  Or perhaps a particularly malicious dragonfly.  The welt on my back appears to be subsiding, so most likely the latter.

That sort of thing happens when one wanders too close to Nature.  I was striding past the woods near my house, taking a break from a writing assignment that has been (almost) all-consuming.  So I thought I would distribute some literature for some of my favorite candidates for the Democratic Central Committee.  A respite from the infuriating tedium of writer's block.

Although it was sweltering, and the bucket hat intended to cover my sun-burnt forehead wasn't helpful in maintaining a reasonable human body temperature, it felt invigorating to be outside.  The endorphins were in full-force and nothing would stop the forward march of democracy.

I wonder if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor felt a similar sense of progress, of the same hour I was walking the streets of Wilde Lake, as he stood hours away from having his political career upended by previously obscure college professor.  Or did he truly sense the approach of the menace?

Low turnout elections can yield odd outcomes.  If recent history is any indicator, the GOP will take away all of the wrong lessons.  Go hard right.  The voices of Un-reason will cry out...Repeal the 16th Amendment!  Unleash Chiang Kai-shek!   How far will they go? Where will it end?

Oh the cycles of life, growth, decay and death.  And in some cases, re-animation.  Not that I am comparing Howard County Board of Education candidate Corey Andrews to a least not the classic, shambling undead.  Perhaps the lightning-fast zombies from World War Z.    In any event, his campaign is moving again, according to a "reconsideration" email he released on Tuesday night.  He goes into a bit of detail regarding what motivated him to suspend his campaign...and what led him to announce his intention to un-suspend it.  Nothing earth-shattering and I am sure the Traditional Media will cover it in short order.

Too much? Too little? Too late? Too weird?  Two weeks until we get some answers.

And if I am not around to write about it on Election Day, it was probably the spider.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


By now, you have probably heard about the charge involving Brian Bailey’s connection with an amateurish website that attacked Rebecca Dongarra. 

Understanding that there is a much larger world beyond running for, or holding, public office…and having witnessed a fair amount of campaign-related foolishness over the years…I was still shocked and saddened when I read this article:

While I was aware of the existence of bad blood between Bailey and Dongarra, I chalked that up to the emotions that churn up from a hard fought campaign…raw bitterness from the internecine struggles in SW Baltimore County, specifically County Council District One (where they ran against each other in 2010). 

In 2013, I met with both of them for the first time, separately of course, as I was trying to sort out which candidate(s) I would support in Maryland’s HD 12.   At that point, I knew (all things being equal and in the interest of geographic balance) that I wanted to endorse at least one candidate who resides in Baltimore County… perhaps two, depending on how the field shaped up.      

I met with Brian first.  I would like to believe that I have a fairly well developed bullshit detector and he came across as sincerely civic-minded and focused on working for the public good.

I recall that I told Rebecca during our introductory coffee/rap session that I decided to support Brian.  I reasoned that transparency trumped whatever awkwardness ensued…and even then it was only a minor conversational speed-bump in what was otherwise a pleasant discussion that was focused on various public policy matters and her vision of governance.

While I found Rebecca to be intelligent and personable, I thought Brian’s progressive outlook, in addition to his blue-collar background, history of community activism, relevant public policy experience, and ability to overcome some serious health issues made for a more compelling candidacy.

Combine that with my support for Dr. Terri Hill and Dr. Clarence Lam (both of whom I endorsed after Bailey) and I thought, “That would be one heck of a slate.”

Fast forward to Monday.

While I don’t know all of the facts, it doesn’t look good for Mr. Bailey.  If the statement from the news article is accurate, it appears as though Brian has taken responsibility for a violation of some sort.    

This blog has taken a firm stand against the ridiculous candidacy of disbarred attorney Michael Gisriel, and he deserves it.  The legal proceedings that culminated in the disbarment of Mr. Gisriel are a matter of public record.  That case has long been settled whereas the controversy involving Mr. Bailey seems to be fluid, ongoing.  That is a distinction based on the legal realities of both matters. In terms of ethics, there appear to be similarities at least as far as carelessness and/or bad judgment are concerned.  Perhaps a staffer did something monumentally stupid and Brian took the hit? I don't know.

Meanwhile, the political consequences cannot be ignored.  Bearing in mind all likely voter turnout models…and using the admittedly more amorphous, short-hand measure of relative placement in the two counties as opposed to the more meaningful diagnostic of actual vote projections…Brian’s candidacy depends on a strong showing in Baltimore County (first place or an extremely close second) and probably third place in Howard County…or a virtual tie for third where any deficits against Nick Stewart, Eric Ebersole and/or Dongarra would be covered by a positive margin in his home county.

This might have been a long-shot anyway, given the fundraising advantages enjoyed by the other candidates, but I believed there was a path for Mr. Bailey…perhaps slim and broken in places, but a path nonetheless to third place and a nomination.  I marked up my sample ballot with a big X next to Brian’s name just a couple of days ago.

But here we stand.  I believe that Lam and Hill are well-positioned to finish in the top three.  What follows next is a rather evenly divided field...with Stewart’s healthy coffers and the backing of Delegate Malone, with Ebersole running an energetic campaign with the support of many respected progressive organizations, and with Dongarra having a decent amount of resources and a fairly well-defined constituency.  

I am increasingly concerned that the self-funded, TV-ad running Gisriel will somehow slip into third place. 

I think Brian is a talented individual who has a bright career ahead of him.  I hope he continues to be an active community leader.  Based on what I know as of this writing, I can’t see myself voting for him in the Primary Election in 2014.  This blog is about decisions, and this was a tough one…but in light of this new information, and Brian’s apparent acknowledgement of responsibility in this matter, I don’t see how I could act otherwise.

I haven’t decided about the third slot yet. It is too soon. Perhaps I will cast a ballot for Sachs. Maybe I will just vote for Hill and Lam. 

However, given the importance of ensuring that Gisriel finishes no higher than fourth and knowing that one vote could make the difference, that means a third vote for one of the remaining viable alternatives…in no particular order…either Stewart, Ebersole or Dongarra.  At least there is some time to work out that question.

I am guessing Brian had rough day, but hope arrives anew with each sunrise. He will come out of this wiser.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.