Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On Weinstein, Walsh, and a CE Endorsement

First, some history.

When I decided to get involved in local politics, shortly after I moved to Howard County from the brutal streets of Kensington, one of the first people with whom I met was Jon Weinstein.   I reached out to him in May 2013 and in June, we sat down at La Madeleine where we discussed a range of topics, including his nascent campaign for County Council.  I walked away from that meeting finding him to be thoughtful, affable, and sincere.  We stayed in touch over the course of the 2014 campaign, and I offered up my two cents every now and then.  I supported his candidacy via this blog.

Professional, academic, and other obligations conspired to limit my attendance at local political events over the past couple of years, although I was always pleased to see Jon when he and I found ourselves at the same gathering.

When I first made his acquaintance, I was a rather mainstream liberal.  Jon was always to my right but I thought he profiled well as a moderate D that was a good fit for the First, a swing District.  In fact, Jon was one of the few success stories coming out of the 2014 General Election in Maryland. If you took a look at Democratic state legislative, County Executive, and County Council/County Commission candidates who 1) ran for open seats, 2) were in competitive or at least semi-competitive districts, and 3) won…there were about a dozen such successful D campaigns across the state.  Jon was one of them.

After he was elected, and as this author moved steadily to the Left, I became more concerned about certain facets of his term in office.  While one can (and will!) argue over how much of a County Councilperson’s job is driven by ideological or partisan considerations as opposed to more nuts-and-bolts non-partisan/technical/no “R-or-D-way-to-fix-a-pothole” motivations, I thought his positioning re: Kittleman was, optically, sub-optimal politically.  Look, you can work with someone to find practical solutions to local problems, but I thought some Democrats might view Jon and Allan as two sides of the same clad coin…which I believed would create problems for Jon down the road, should he have decided to run for a County-wide office as a Democrat.  More on that later.

More importantly, Jon cast a couple of bad votes. I am not going to rehash those issues here and now, but I was disappointed in one particular vote from back in early 2017.  I regret that I wasn’t posting more actively during that time-span and I further regret not penning an article on that particular vote (OK, fine, it was the Sanctuary County issue).  At the time, I seem to recall thinking that Jon was “voting his District” on that bill.  In short, I was trying to rationalize his stance through some realpolitik framing.  That said, even with his detailed explanation for said vote, it is clear that he was on the wrong side of that issue and that any Democrat, particularly a Howard County Democrat, should have voted the right way on it…no matter what the electoral consequences might have been. 

I didn’t know if Jon would seek re-election and we didn’t talk about his campaign this cycle. Once he filed, I still supported his re-election for several reasons (before and after Liz Walsh joined the race).  First, I thought he cared about the District.  Second, I thought he was a dedicated public servant.  Third, I thought he was the best Democratic option to hold the seat.  Not knowing much (but enough) about Liz Walsh back in February, I wrote that “Jon Weinstein bought himself a primary.”  Looking at how he fared in the 2014 primary election and considering his term in office, my initial handicapping had Jon winning with 60% of the vote.  That number dwindled, but popped up again when I saw the campaign finance filings (and the disparity in terms of fundraising).  I scribbled my prediction on the back of an envelope somewhere, I think I ended up at Weinstein 55% - Walsh 45%.  This is why I stay away from prognostication pieces.

After the primary, beyond being stymied in my efforts to do a 2014 vs. 2018 District One primary election precinct-by-precinct comparison (OK, I could, but the Board of Elections could make it far easier for me to do this if they just changed their formatting back to how they used to do it), this blog hasn’t spent much time on the First.

So let me be clear:  the electorate has spoken and Liz Walsh has been nominated as the Democratic standard-bearer in the First County Council District.  This is why I am supporting Liz Walsh and am encouraging all of my friends who reside in that constituency to vote for her in the General Election.  And I would have taken this position even if a write-in campaign had been mounted, as that would only have served to take votes away from Walsh (and some from Kathuria, but more Ds than Rs would have written in Jon’s name). No matter what the intent/motivation for such a candidacy might have been, the impact would have made this race a toss-up with a good chance for an R pick-up, and Raj Kathuria is no Liz Walsh, or Jon Weinstein.

Back to pundit mode…what does this all mean?  It means that all good Democrats in the First should rally behind Walsh.  No matter how you feel about Jon or the campaign that was waged, Ms. Walsh won.  It’s time to be a professional about such things.

And as for Jon?  His political career in this County, as a Democrat, is over.  Perhaps he doesn’t care about that political element of the job.  I do believe that Jon’s County Executive endorsement decision was made out of his sincere conviction as to what is best for the common good for Howard County.   I think he is wrong.  Furthermore, I believe that many of Jon’s people in the First were pro-Jon, but they won’t transfer their CE preferences to Kittleman because of Jon’s endorsement.  In short, I think his endorsement will have minimal impact on the CE race. 

Maybe Jon runs as an Independent one day, or decides to leave electoral politics behind entirely.  Who knows.  While I am saddened by certain aspects of his voting record and disappointed (albeit not surprised) by his CE endorsement, I still believe he is a decent person. 

I am not going to say “thanks for your service” at this point as I am, frankly, more than slightly nettled by the Allan thing at the moment.  So no hagiography today. But remember, anyone can donate to Calvin Ball here:  https://votecalvinball.com/

In solidarity.

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