Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
As was the case in 2014, I still actively dislike writing about D1 primaries.
That said, I feel compelled (and dyspeptic) to re-visit the campaign in the District in the East.
As the present author opined not-too-long ago, I support Jon Weinstein’s re-election. I believe he has been a strong advocate for the First District (at a time when informed, experienced, and effective advocacy is critical). I believe he is highly knowledgeable about the issues and challenges facing Howard County in general and the communities in D1 specifically. I believe he is a hard worker and is inclined to be a consensus-builder.
Let us not forget that he won a battleground seat in 2014. After the general election results came in, I took a look at the open seats won by Democratic candidates in competitive races at the County and State Legislative levels, state-wide. In a bad year for Democrats up and down the ticket, including right here in Howard County, Jon was one of a handful of success stories. He didn’t get there by accident…his campaign was smart, strategic, focused, and tireless.
He emerged victorious out of a tough primary, thoroughly vetted and trial-tested.
He took a 33.21% plurality, brought the party back together, and went on to defeat Kevin Forrest Schmidt by a 51% - 49% margin. Frankly, I don’t think any of Jon’s primary challengers could have pulled it off…maybe Wendy Royalty (who I think is amazing and who needs to run for office again, somewhere, and soon).
Can you imagine if Schmidt had won in D1? That would have put two Republicans on the County Council…combined with some odd votes coming out of D4 this term…that would have meant only two consistently reliable progressives on the County Council on many issues.
In these times, we need the strongest Democrats on the field as our standard-bearers. They don’t need to be perfect, but they need to be our best. I believe that Jon is the Party’s best candidate to secure D1 and (by doing so) ensure a solid Democratic majority on the County Council.
Elizabeth “Liz” Walsh may be a great person, a good activist, and an engaged community member. I don’t know much about her. But that isn’t the point (especially since I reside in D4) …my point is that I don’t believe that she is nearly as well known in D1 as Jon and I don’t know how she would fare in a contested general election campaign against Raj Kathuria. I know she works at Jones Day, which has been called “Donald Trump’s Favorite Law Firm” (Bloomberg, 2017). Feel free to Google “Jones Day” and “Trump” for more background on these connections. I know she worked on, amongst others, a case where Jones Day “represented the owners of a new coal fired power plant” (information found on the Jones Day website). So there is that.
Now, to be fair, it is entirely possible to be a good Democrat and to work at Jones Day and to be a good Democrat and provide legal services for energy producers. My broader point is that I don’t believe her campaign has undergone the same level of scrutiny that Jon’s campaign had in 2014, or Wendy Royalty’s or Lisa Markovitz’s or Dave Grabowski’s in the same election cycle for the same seat. This is not a time for unknowns or surprises.
Where to assess blame for this lack of oversight? I will take some of the responsibility. I simply haven’t given this race the time and attention it deserves. I think the lack of election coverage by traditional media outlets, at the County Council level, has also removed from the field those who can assess candidates critically and, by doing so, help inform the electorate. We are left heavily reliant, too reliant, on the campaigns themselves for information about where they stand and their vision for Howard County. We need more fact-checkers. We need to dig deep and look at the candidates and their records…their full records, blemishes and all.
I do not pretend to be an objective, uninterested party. But I am a progressive Democrat who wants to win. Right now, there are just too many unknowns when it comes to Liz Walsh. She might be a stellar option for 2022 or 2026. But here and now in 2018? I stand with Jon.