by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm 512 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.


by Aaron Kraut — November 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm 633 12 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.


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.


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.


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.


by Aaron Kraut — October 27, 2014 at 3:25 pm 220 0

A little more than a week from election day, Democratic attorney general nominee Brian Frosh headed to the polls in the place where he cemented his political career.

The Somerset resident and five-term state senator appears likely to win his race against Republican Jeffrey Pritzker, which would land Frosh one of the state’s highest offices after nearly three decades representing Bethesda and Chevy Chase in Annapolis.

“I’m running on fumes to a certain extent, but the response that we’ve gotten all over the state has been very kind,” Frosh said after voting early in Chevy Chase.

Frosh won nearly 50 percent of the vote in June’s Democratic primary to best Baltimore County Del. Jon Cardin and Prince George’s County Del. Aisha Braveboy. A good chunk of his margin came from a 70 percent to 20 percent advantage over Cardin among Montgomery County Democrats.

The race, during which polls showed Frosh trailing Cardin despite significant backing from state leaders, tested Frosh’s soft-spoken and genial style. The popular narrative had Frosh being forced into attack mode to beat Cardin, who had a name recognition advantage thanks to his uncle — Sen. Ben Cardin.

The general election against Pritzker looks as if it will be smoother sailing.

An early October poll from the Washington Post and the University of Maryland had Frosh up 23 points on his Republican opponent.

Still, Frosh acknowledged a bit of angst over what some are saying will be a low Democratic turnout on Nov. 4.

“At the moment I’m more concerned about Anthony Brown than for me,” Frosh said. “It’s a tough year. We’ve had six years of a Democratic president, eight years of a Democratic governor and nobody’s life is perfect. So people are looking at their options.”


by BethesdaNow.com — October 27, 2014 at 12:30 pm 285 1 Comment

Rose Li, candidate for House of Delegates in District 16We asked Republican candidates vying to represent District 16 in the House of Delegates to write a sub-750 word essay describing why residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

First is Rose Li. Below is Li’s unedited response:

Montgomery County receives only 20 cents back for every dollar we send to Annapolis while richer Howard County gets back 30 cents. The average county gets 55 cents.

What does this inequity mean? The simple answer: a growing burden on Montgomery County residents.

Montgomery County has legitimate claim to its fair share of state funding.  Currently our residents contribute 27 percent of the total tax revenue to the state coffers. No wonder we’re known as Maryland’s ATM. At the same time, we are faced with the need to support the increasing diversity and resource deficiencies in our schools, a transit network strained at the seams, county services that are under-funded, residents who are over-taxed and moving to neighboring states, and many other challenges.

I am running for Delegate in this election as a referendum to determine if we will continue with the status quo or begin to effect real change at the State level. My PUT MONTGOMERY COUNTY FIRST is a pledge to fight to apportion the resources to meet our needs.


by Aaron Kraut — October 21, 2014 at 10:45 am 263 4 Comments

(Updated at 2 p.m.) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in Bethesda for the second time in two months to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan.

Tuesday’s appearance with Hogan came at The Original House of Pancakes, where the two shook hands with volunteers and some diners surprised by the accompanying media swarm.

Last month, Christie helped Hogan’s campaign raise more than $400,000 in a luncheon fundraiser at Redwood on Bethesda Lane.

At that event, Christie told an audience of Hogan supporters that Hogan has a legitimate chance to beat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Nov. 4.

The latest Baltimore Sun and Washington Post polls have Brown ahead of Hogan by seven points and nine points, respectively.

On Tuesday, Hogan fended off questions about his recent endorsement by the National Rifle Association before Christie spoke about his confidence in Hogan’s chances.

The video below is via Montgomery Community Media. See their report and more photos here.

Video via Montgomery Community Media

by Aaron Kraut — September 23, 2014 at 10:45 am 313 4 Comments

Listen to Republican House of Delegates candidate Rose Li and you’ll hear much of the same message some Democrats used in battling it out with each other during June’s primary.

Li, a research consultant and former NIH supervisor, is attempting to become the first Republican delegate from heavily-Democratic District 16 since Connie Morella in 1986 and she’s doing so with a similarly moderate approach.

Her rallying cry during a Bethesda fundraiser on Monday night was about making Montgomery County’s delegation to Annapolis stronger in order to get more state funding for county projects such as new school construction.

Iterations of the phrase “We receive only 20 cents for every tax dollar sent to Annapolis” permeate her campaign literature. One of her closest supporters said he actually worried the message too closely mirrors that of Phil Andrews, the Democratic councilmember who lost a three-way Democratic primary for county executive.

“Our delegates can’t seem to bring home the bacon. Now when I ask people, including the Democratic County Councilmembers and other state officials, the answer is, ‘You don’t have a very strong delegation. Everybody knows, you’re just going to roll over and do whatever the leadership says,’” Li said on Monday. “The biggest antidote I think to fixing that is to get at least one Republican in office, because that gives those Democratic colleagues of mine the leverage to go back to their leaders and say, ‘Look what happens when we don’t vote in the best interests of our county. We could lose our seats.’

“And then we could start to get the resources that our county needs,” Li continued. “And I think that message resonates regardless of party. It’s about our county and the voters in our county. They’re overlooked, neglected and taken for granted because there’s no accountability.”

At least two of the three winners of the District 16 Democratic primary — incumbent Ariana Kelly and first-timer Marc Korman — appear to be taking Li’s campaign seriously and have restarted campaign fundraising efforts after a financially draining primary. Incumbent Bill Frick is expected to join the pair for an event sometime next month.

At Li’s event on Monday, held at the Positano restaurant in Woodmont Triangle, former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich said there’s no doubt Li faces an uphill battle.

“This is a really tough seat in a really tough county in a really tough state,” Ehrlich said. “We have this lady who wants to attack that and win. This is not for show. I’m not here wasting my time, I’m not here wasting your time and we’re not wasting our money.”


by Aaron Kraut — September 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm 1 Comment

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told a Bethesda audience on Wednesday that Democrat Anthony Brown would mean essentially a third term of term-limited Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, stumped for Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan at a luncheon fundraiser at Redwood on Bethesda Lane. The Hogan campaign posted video of the closed-to-the-press event on YouTube later in the week.

“There’s no reason why you want a third O’Malley term and that’s exactly what the lieutenant governor would be,” Christie said. “He’d be a third O’Malley term. You don’t want that. You don’t need that and everything that he’s said that he’s been responsible for in this state has been a disaster as far as I can tell.”

The Hogan campaign said the event brought in more than $400,000 from 62 attendees. Hogan’s campaign said Christie’s appearance on behalf of Hogan is also significant in that it shows Republicans on a national stage have taken interest in the Maryland gubernatorial race.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to an audience of Larry Hogan supporters on Wednesday at Redwood in BethesdaHogan told attendees his campaign’s polling has him dead even with Brown. Election day is Nov. 4.

“Let me be really clear abut why I am here: I am here because there are dozens of pundits and supposedly smart people in this state who are going to tell you over the next 48 days that Larry can’t win,” Christie said. “And I am here to tell you that if that were true then we wouldn’t have a two term Republican governor in New Jersey, and we can have one here in Maryland too.”

The Democratic Governors Association has invested a reported $750,000 in support of Brown, including for ads attacking Hogan that the Anne Arundel County businessman has decried as false and misleading.

Christie was in town for about 20 minutes before hitting the road.

Video, photo via Larry Hogan Campaign

by Aaron Kraut — September 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm 255 8 Comments

District 16 House of Delegates candidate Marc Korman (file photo) District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly (file photo)

Bethesda’s District 16 is one of the few Montgomery County House of Delegates races where there’s significant Republican competition.

After two Democratic candidates spent more than $200,000 in pursuit of one of three nominations in the June primary, a couple of the winners are gearing up more fundraising events for the Nov. 4 general election.

Marc Korman, who was the third leading vote-getter in the primary, had just $3,896 left in his campaign account according to the most recent campaign finance report released in late August.

On Saturday, he’ll be joined by Montgomery County House of Delegates Chair Anne Kaiser for a fundraiser at a supporter’s home in Chevy Chase. Tickets cost $50 and $150.

In an email to supporters, Korman campaign treasurer Mark Brown used the words of Bethesda Magazine political reporter Lou Peck to hammer home the fact there is a contested general election to win:

“District 16 may be home to one of the few active contests for General Assembly in the fall
-Lou Peck, Bethesda Beat, 8/27/14

According to one of Montgomery County’s leading political writers, District 16 may be the only active contest for the House of Delegates in the County.  That’s why Marc needs your support.

If you know Marc, you know he is not taking anything for granted as we approach the general election.  Marc will be on the November ballot for the first time and knows he has to earn a seat in Annapolis.  He has been meeting with community leaders and is back at the doors speaking with voters just like he was before the primary.  But Marc needs sufficient campaign funds to win in November.

That main Republican competition is coming from Rose Li, a research consultant and former NIH employee who reported $27,364 in the bank in her August report. Republican candidates John Andrews and Lynda del Castillo were both nominated by the county’s Republican Central Committee and have waived their right to raise more than $1,000 for campaign purposes.

Democratic incumbent Ariana Kelly reported $19,754 in the bank in August and this week announced her own fundraising event on Oct. 7 at Roof Bethesda, with tickets costing $100, $250, $500 and $1,000.

Democratic incumbent Bill Frick reported $34,844 in the bank in his late August report.


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