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by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 12:25 pm 0

District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly (file photo)District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly plans to introduce a bill in Annapolis that could move the state toward a paid family and medical leave program.

In an email to supporters earlier this month, Kelly said she is working with a coalition called the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women on a bill that would require a feasibility study on creating such a program.

While some states provide paid leave to new parents or people who suffer serious health problems, the money generally comes from a temporary disability insurance program. Maryland doesn’t have a disability insurance program set up.

“Maryland does not have such a program, so our road to paid family leave, although not impossible, is somewhat more complex,” according to a summary of the bill written up by the coalition.

It is my goal to make sure Maryland is the next state to follow suit,” Kelly wrote. “We need to look at what works (and what can be done better!) with those state programs, talk with the Maryland business community, Government agencies, and other stakeholders, and come up with a plan that works for Maryland working families.”

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by Aaron Kraut — January 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm 395 19 Comments

Governor-elect Larry Hogan (middle) signs Peter Franchot's "Let Summer Be Summer" petition on Thursday, via office of Peter FranchotMaryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has a new and potentially powerful friend in his push to move the start of the school year to after Labor Day.

Republican Governor-elect Larry Hogan pledged his support to the idea at a press conference on Thursday in Annapolis, during which he also signed Democrat Franchot’s “Let Summer Be Summer” petition.

Franchot said the petition has 13,244 signatures, exceeding the goal of 10,000. An economic impact report commissioned by Franchot’s office claims moving the start of the public school year in Maryland to after Labor Day would mean an extra $74.3 million in direct economic activity, mainly in well known vacation destinations such as Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake.

“This isn’t just a family issue, it’s an economic issue. It brings in a tremendous amount of economic activity, brings in tax revenue, and there’s no cost to the taxpayers,” Hogan said at the presser. “As a guy who spent a lot of summers with his family in Ocean City on Labor Day weekend, it makes a whole heck of a lot of sense to start school after Labor Day. There’s just no downside to this issue. There are an overwhelming number of people in this state who are in favor of starting school after Labor Day.”

Education leaders in Maryland and Montgomery County disagree.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 12, 2015 at 2:40 pm 849 4 Comments

Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer with Republican challenger Robert Dyer at a forum in May 2014 (far right) at a candidates forum in May in Chevy Chase (file photo)Talk surrounding the incoming Larry Hogan administration has been that Maryland’s smaller, more Republican-leaning counties will naturally get the bulk of the governor-elect’s attention once he takes office.

County Councilmembers in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are teaming up to make sure the so-called “big counties” don’t get left behind in the fray.

Montgomery Council President George Leventhal said he and Council Vice President Nancy Floreen talked last week with their counterparts on the Prince George’s County Council about creating a “Large County Caucus” within MACo, an association of local government officials from across the state.

The group’s primary aim would be to protect education and mass transit funding, specifically the Purple Line light rail project that would link the counties and that Hogan has indicated he doesn’t support.

“There’s a significant interest among the large counties in working together in a much more cohesive and cooperative way,” Leventhal said during a weekly press briefing on Monday. “I think, had the election of the governor gone differently, I don’t think you’d see this spirit of cooperation in quite the same way.”

Leventhal said Prince George’s County Council Chair Mel Franklin initiated the idea in a meeting at last week’s MACo winter conference.

Leventhal also argued that protecting kindergarten-grade 12 education and infrastructure projects mesh with what he characterized as Hogan’s primary goal: boosting the state’s economy.

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by Aaron Kraut — December 12, 2014 at 10:45 am 484 6 Comments

Governor-elect Larry Hogan speaks to reporters at the Committee for Montgomery event Friday

Governor-elect Larry Hogan focused almost solely on fixing the state’s projected budget shortfall during a speech Friday in front of more than 800 Montgomery County elected officials, business owners, school officials and others in North Bethesda.

During a short question and answer session with reporters beforehand, the Republican from Anne Arundel County had little to say about the Purple Line, the $2.4 billion light rail system he indicated he won’t support during the gubernatorial campaign.

“I’ve said we have to take a look at if we can still afford it and that’s still the case,” Hogan said when asked where he stands on the project.

“It doesn’t really impact us much because we still gotta look at the state’s role. It doesn’t matter what the federal government does,” Hogan said when asked if $100 million toward the project in the new federal spending bill will affect his view.

With that, Hogan was whisked away into the main event hall at the Bethesda North Marriott, where the Committee for Montgomery was once again holding its legislative breakfast.

A long line of local officials and business leaders formed to greet Hogan as he made his way to the main stage. Hogan entered the Republican primary for governor after the Committee for Montgomery event last year, during which all candidates took part in a forum.

Still, the focus then was on the Democratic candidates. Few in the room expected a Republican to win the general election as Hogan did in November.

“I know that many of you in this room probably did not think I was going to be the one addressing you as governor elect,” Hogan said in his speech. “In fact let’s face it, no one in this room thought I was going to be here this morning.”

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by Aaron Kraut — December 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm 271 0

The fronts of the primary day apple ballots, with the MCEA trademarked one on the left and Gansler campaign's on the right The backs of the primary day apple ballots, with the MCEA trademarked one on the left and Gansler campaign's on the right

It was probably the most bizarre moment on an otherwise sleepy Democratic primary day last June.

As members of the county’s largest teachers union handed out the group’s well known “Apple Ballot” in front of polling places, another apple-shaped piece of campaign literature suddenly appeared.

While the official Apple Ballot included the Montgomery County Education Association’s endorsement of Anthony Brown for governor, the other apple ballot claimed Brown opponent Doug Gansler was “supported by teachers across Montgomery County.”

Unsurprisingly, the people running the roughly 12,000-member MCEA weren’t happy.

The MCEA filed an action against the Gansler campaign on primary day (June 24), claiming the Friends of Doug Gansler violated federal and state trademark law and an unfair competition law by distributing the very similar looking piece of paper.

On Thursday, the MCEA announced a settlement in the matter, saying Gansler’s campaign acknowledged MCEA’s Apple Ballot was properly registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office “and is therefore preemptively valid.”

According to a MCEA press release, the Gansler campaign “shall not at any time or for any reason challenge the validity of MCEA’s Apple Ballot service mark or registrations or MCEA’S ownership thereof.”

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by Aaron Kraut — December 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm 279 8 Comments

Councilmember George Leventhal (file photo)Councilmember George Leventhal borrowed a saying from a former mayor of Chicago upon being officially named County Council president on Tuesday.

“Richard J. Daley was the mayor of Chicago for 21 years, from 1955 to 1976. His slogan, ‘The City That Works,’ came out of his great attention to the efficient delivery of city services, as well as his efforts to ensure a healthy business and job climate so that Chicagoans are employed. And I want Montgomery County to be known as ‘The County That Works,’” Leventhal said.

The Council unanimously elected Leventhal to the position. It’s tradition for the person who served as Council vice president to be moved up to the president spot in the next year. Leventhal served as vice president next to Council President Craig Rice over the last year.

The Council president position is largely ceremonial, with the president serving as the public face of the nine-member body, speaking at county events and holding regular press conferences to discuss issues on the Council’s agenda.

Councilmember Marc Elrich, a fellow at-large councilmember from Takoma Park, quickly raised and then put down a finger as a vote in support of Leventhal’s appointment.

One of Leventhal’s first moves as Council president was removing Elrich — often a lone vote against development — from the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm 530 10 Comments

A meeting this week with members of Montgomery County’s delegation to Annapolis and MCPS officials exposed some friction when it comes to the school system’s recent request for $223 million in state school construction funding.

The Parents’ Coalition, which describes itself as a school system watchdog, posted video of a question and answer session with county delegates, state senators and MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr during the meeting on Tuesday morning.

District 15 Del. Kathleen Dumais had some stern words for Starr, claiming the school system’s public campaign for state school construction funding has put the delegation in a tough position considering the state’s overall budget deficit.

District 15 Del. Kathleen Dumais, photo via Wikimedia user 1msulax“I’m just saying, be realistic in your request,” Dumais told Starr. “Don’t set us up for failure. Work with us. We want to work with you. But you put us in this position and then say, ‘Ooops, you didn’t do it,’ and we’re getting the blame. That is not fair.”

She also criticized a school system press release from Nov. 17 that mentioned how last year’s push for state construction funding “fell through.”

“I read the press release and there’s like, something missing that is stark. What it doesn’t say, says a bill didn’t pass so you didn’t get any money, but that’s false,” Dumais said. “Montgomery County got $39 million in school construction money. You don’t mention that in your press release. That’s unfair.”

Starr responded by assuring Dumais that MCPS and the Board of Education are on the same page with the delegation. He also said Montgomery County legislators aren’t the only ones who face skepticism from officials elsewhere in the state.

He described a recent meeting of local school superintendents from around the state during which an unnamed official questioned Montgomery County’s need for the funds.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm 649 13 Comments

Blair Lee IV, photo via The GazetteSome Montgomery County Democrats aren’t too happy with Governor-elect Larry Hogan’s selection of an outspoken local conservative to be part of his transition team.

The Montgomery County Young Democrats on Wednesday called on Hogan to remove Blair Lee IV — the Silver Spring developer and The Gazette columnist — from his newly-minted position.

Lee IV is the son of Blair Lee III, a former secretary of state, lieutenant governor and acting governor of Maryland. The Lee family played a major role in the founding of Montgomery County. Two of the family’s ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.

Lee IV is chairman of the board of the Lee Development Group and often shares his political musings on WBAL Radio.

The Young Democrats say he’s also “firmly embedded in right-wing policy and corporate politics,” and has expressed “extreme homophobic views that do not view all Marylanders as equal.”

The group based that assertion on Lee’s opposition of the state’s 2012 same-sex marriage referendum. In an interview with the Washington Blade this week, Lee said he still holds the opinion that gay sex is a sin.

“Governor-elect Hogan is packing his transition team with consultants, legislators, and policy makers who are against the progress that Maryland has made over the past four years,” read a press release from the Young Democrats. “In fact, voters affirmed much of this progress at the polls when the civil right to marriage equality and sensible, compassionate policies toward immigrant children in our state passed in 2012. His appointments set a disturbing tone for the future of our state in the next four years.”

The group also went after Lee and Hogan’s other transition team members for supporting the elimination of the state’s corporate tax and their opposition to repealing the death penalty and raising the minimum wage.

Photo via The Gazette

by Aaron Kraut — November 5, 2014 at 10:05 am 282 0

Newt and Callista Gingrich, via Gingrich ProductionsTwo decades ago, Republicans drubbed Democrats in a mid-term election to take back control of the U.S. House and Senate.

On Wednesday, the day after a similar Republican drubbing in this year’s midterm, the man at the forefront of the 1994 “Republican Revolution” will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda (4801 Bethesda Ave.).

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista will appear at the bookstore starting at 7 p.m. to sign two books — Mrs. Gingrich’s new children’s book, “From Sea to Shining Sea” and Mr. Gingrich’s new policy book, “Breakout.”

The book preview gives a rundown of five things “you’ll learn” by reading it:

  • Why environmental extremists cling to the myth of “peak oil,” and how the fracking revolution is about to make America the world’s leading oil producer
  • How personalized healthcare–radically individualized treatments made possible by advances in genetics–and regenerative medicine could wipe out our most feared diseases, and why they’re on a collision course with Obamacare
  • How self-driving cars are on the verge of making traffic jams–and traffic deaths–a thing of the past, unless regulators wreck them before they leave the lot
  • Why a one-size-fits-all education will become a historical curiosity, unless the teachers’ unions and professional academicians succeed in preserving the current dysfunctional systems
  • How NASA–once the repository of American dreams of the future–became a textbook case of death by bureaucracy
    Americans don’t have to settle for a shrunken future. We can escape from the prison of the past into a future of undreamed of opportunity and abundance. All we need is the courage to break out.

Photo via Gingrich Productions

by Aaron Kraut — November 5, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,011 10 Comments

Voters fill out electronic ballots at Bethesda Elementary School on Tuesday

Only about 39 percent of registered Montgomery County voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, the lowest number in at least the last four gubernatorial general races and what one veteran county lawmaker deemed as “terrible turnout.”

Of 634,659 registered county voters, only 246,987 voted — a not-so-shocking result that played a part in Republican Larry Hogan’s shocking upset win over lieutenant governor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown.

With 1,981 of 1,986 statewide precincts reporting on Wednesday morning, Hogan had a roughly 77,000 vote advantage on Brown, good for a 4.5-point lead. Two other big Democratic jurisdictions — Prince George’s County and Baltimore City — had voter turnout rates of 38.03 percent and 35.57 percent, respectively.

Brown conceded to Hogan just after midnight, after it became clear that any late-arriving results from those traditionally Democratic areas weren’t going to put him over the top.

In 2010, incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley beat Republican challenger Bob Ehrlich by 15 points and got 68 percent of the vote in Montgomery County. Ehrlich pulled in 30 percent of the Montgomery County vote. County turnout in that election was 51 percent, with 294,604 out of 573,431 registered voters casting ballots.

In the 2002 election Councilmember Nancy Floreen referred to, Ehrlich beat then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend with roughly the same breakdown of Montgomery County voters as last night despite a county turnout of 61 percent.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm 1,314 4 Comments

12:22 a.m. In victory speech, Governor-elect Larry Hogan says his stunning upset of Anthony Brown “is the largest mandate for change in Maryland in 63 years.”

12:18 a.m. “What a historic night in Maryland,” Hogan says as he takes the stage at his event in Annapolis.

“They said it couldn’t be done here in Maryland. But together we did it,” Hogan continues.

12:09 a.m. “Tonight, we fell short of our campaign goal,” Brown says in concession speech.

12:07 a.m. Multiple reports have Anthony Brown conceding the gubernatorial election to Republican Larry Hogan and now the Associated Press has called the race for Hogan.

11:40 p.m. As most wait to see how late-arriving Montgomery County results affect the governor’s race, the one tight Montgomery County race has remained that way.

With 140 of 250 county precincts reporting, Jill Ortman-Fouse has a roughly 2,000-vote lead on Shebra Evans in the race for the at-large seat on the Board of Education.

11:07 p.m. “I think it would not be so close if he wasn’t so negative and talked more about himself,” says Jolene Ivey of Anthony Brown on NewsChannel 8. This comes just after former Republican governor Bob Ehrlich predicted Hogan will win.

11:05 p.m. With 1,333 of 1,986 statewide precincts reporting, Larry hogan leads Anthony Brown by more than 100,000 votes. With 110 of 250 Montgomery County precincts reported, Brown leads Hogan by just 17,000 votes in the traditional Democratic stronghold.

11:00 p.m. As you might have guessed, the Montgomery County Democratic victory party event in Rockville has wound down a bit. Many folks headed to College Park for Anthony Brown’s event.

Remaining in the crowd was Brian Frosh, who’s looking as if he’ll win the attorney general seat.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm 183 0

Voters wait in line to vote at Bethesda Elementary School (file photo)

Tuesday is election day.

In case that news has caught you unprepared, the Maryland State Board of Elections has an easy way to find out everything you need to know, including your voter registration status, where to vote, and sample ballots to show you who and what you’ll be voting on.

Polls in Montgomery County will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In heavily-Democratic Bethesda and Chevy Chase, incumbent Democrats and some newcomers are favored to win. That doesn’t mean election day will be devoid of drama.

District 16 Republican candidate Rose Li got credit for being one of the few Republicans running a viable campaign a few weeks ago, when the Washington Post endorsed her. Incumbents Bill Frick and Ariana Kelly and first-time candidate Marc Korman are running on the Democratic side.

Statewide, it’s likely to be a big day for Somerset’s Brian Frosh, the longtime District 16 state senator expected to win the attorney general race.

As for the gubernatorial race between Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan, different reports show conflicting opinions of whether underdog Hogan has closed the gap. If elected, Brown would be the state’s first black governor and the first Maryland lieutenant governor to win a promotion to the Government House in Annapolis.

As always, turnout is a key concern for candidates and campaigns on all sides.

Montgomery County’s early voting totals were, at best, subpar. A total of 35,444 registered county voters voted early, good for a 5.58 percent early voting turnout rate. Only Allegany and Washington Counties had worse numbers.

by Aaron Kraut — November 3, 2014 at 9:00 am 898 2 Comments

MCDCC's Democratic Sample Ballot for District 16 mistakenly lists District 15 Republican candidates, see the lower left corner here

The campaign manager for a Republican up for a local House of Delegates seat accused Democrats of playing “dirty tricks” with a misprint on a recent mailer.

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee last week sent out sample ballot urging county voters to select Democrats when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

The District 16 sample ballot, however, omits District 16 Republican candidates such as Rose Li and instead lists the Republicans running for House of Delegates in District 15.  Above, the names of Democrats Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman have check marks.

“This omission is, of course, an action aimed at deceiving voters,” said John Arnold, campaign manager for Li.

Republican District 16 House of Delegates candidate Rose Li speaks to supporters at a fundraiser in September“Mere days before election day, and with a small campaign that works hard on the ground — old style retail politics that builds trust with the people and does not use TV or radio — it will be hard to fight this unconscionable tactic,” Arnold said.

Kevin Walling, chair of the Central Committee that sent out the mailers, said the misprint was an honest mistake.

“The misprint with the Republican candidates for the House of Delegates in District 16, was exactly that…a misprint,” Walling wrote in an email. “There are over 30 variations of the Democratic Sample Ballot that we print because of the overlap of congressional, legislative, council districts and our designer made a mistake.”

Walling’s claim would seem to be backed up by similar misprints made on sample ballots for other districts, including one that omitted a Democratic State Senate candidate.

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by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm 0

District 16 House of Delegates candidate Marc Korman (file photo) Republican District 16 House of Delegates candidate Rose Li speaks to supporters at a fundraiser in September Councilmember Roger Berliner (file photo)
Delegate Susan Lee Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer with Republican challenger Robert Dyer (far right) at a candidates forum in May in Chevy Chase (file photo) District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly (file photo)

Before you head to the polls Thursday (the last day of early voting) or on Tuesday, please don’t forget to check out our “Why You Should Vote For Me” series featuring a number of candidates for local county and state seats.

BethesdaNow.com asked all of the candidates a basic question: Why should voters vote for you?

Here are their responses, in 750 words or less:

County Council At-Large

Nancy Floreen (D)
George Leventhal (D)
Hans Riemer (D)
Tim Willard (Green)

Also running: Robert Dyer (R)Marc Elrich (D), Chris Fiotes (R), Adol Owen-Williams (R) and Shelly Skolnick (R)

County Council District 1

Roger Berliner (D)

Also running: Jim Kirkland (R)

House of Delegates District 16 

Marc Korman (D)
Rose Li (R)

Also running: John Andrews (R), Lynda del Castillo (R), Bill Frick (D) and Ariana Kelly (D)

State Senate District 16

Susan Lee (D)

Also running: Meyer Marks (R)

State Senate District 18

Rich Madaleno (D)

by Aaron Kraut — October 28, 2014 at 10:25 am 0

Tim WillardWe asked Tim Willard, a Green Party candidate running for one of four at-large seats on the County Council, to write a sub-750 word essay describing why residents should vote for him on Nov. 4.

Below is Willard’s unedited response:

I have lived in Montgomery County for thirty years. My wife and I raised our three children here, including a son and daughter that we adopted from Guatemala. I have a Ph.D. in history and worked for 26 years at the National Archives. I am now retired and providing day care services for my two year old grandson.

I am running because I want to build a sustainable future so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same quality of life that we do. There are many creative solutions we can use to achieve this goal.

We need to reduce our global warming emissions, starting at the local level. We should set a goal of using 100% renewable energy. The county government can take the lead by leasing all county owned roof space and right of ways for crowd funded solar efforts, which will provide residents an inexpensive way to profit from the solar economy. The cost of renewable energy is coming down rapidly, and renewables are now competitive with other sources of electricity. Now is the time to bring the County into the renewable era.

We can build a thriving green economy that provides local jobs for our citizens. Oakland, California established a Green Job Corps that trains youth for the new green economy. D.C. public schools train students for green jobs such as green roof technicians. We can do the same.

We should help small, locally owned businesses by simplifying the sometimes burdensome, bureaucratic maze they face. Promoting cooperative banks, consumer unions, and other locally owned financial institutions will result in more investment in local needs while being less vulnerable to the kind of financial malfeasance that brought down the economy in 2008.

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