by Aaron Kraut — April 28, 2015 at 4:05 pm 0

Bill Frick, Susan Lee, Marc Korman and Ariana Kelly, the District 16 delegation to Annapolis, via Facebook/Marc KormanState legislators representing Bethesda’s District 16 will talk about what happened in Annapolis this year in a town hall meeting next month.

State Sen. Susan Lee and Delegates Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman will take part in the event, set for 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. on May 11 at the Davis Library (6400 Democracy Boulevard).

The four will discuss the 2015 legislative session, which ended earlier this month with disagreements over the state budget.

Photo via Marc Korman/Facebook

by Aaron Kraut — April 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm 1 Comment

County Executive Isiah Leggett (right) speaks as Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Nancy Floreen and Craig Rice look on earlier this monthChris Van Hollen announced he’s raised more than $1 million about a month in to his bid to replace Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

The Kensington Democrat and longtime 8th District representative was the first candidate to jump in for what’s likely to be a very competitive Senate primary.

Since Van Hollen announced in early March, 4th District Rep. Donna Edwards has also announced she will be seeking the seat. Others, such as 7th District Rep. Elijah Cummins, have also looked at entering.

The fundraising announcement was the latest in the Van Hollen campaign’s efforts to present him as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Van Hollen announced his campaign two days after Mikulski announced her retirement after the current term. The next week, his campaign organized an event in Rockville in which all nine County Council members and County Executive Isiah Leggett endorsed him.

The fundraising announcement touted that Van Hollen now has $2.5 million in campaign cash on-hand.

The campaign said more than 75 percent of the $1 million raised in the last four weeks were from contributors in Maryland.

“I’m grateful for the strong support our campaign has received from people all across our great state. We look forward to a people-driven campaign focused on issues important to all Marylanders,” Van Hollen said in the announcement. “With their help, we will advance our common vision of a Maryland where everyone can benefit from greater economic opportunities — not just the wealthiest few.”

On Tuesday, April 14, Van Hollen’s campaign will hold a “grassroots fundraising event” at the Silver Spring Civic Center. Tickets are $25, $100, $150 and $200 each.

by Aaron Kraut — March 31, 2015 at 8:15 pm 242 6 Comments

Rich Madaleno, via Wikipedia user Edward KimmelThe controversial Indiana law many have criticized as anti-gay has a local lawmaker calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to ban all state-funded travel to the Hoosier state.

District 18 State Sen. Rich Madaleno, the first openly gay person elected to the legislature, wrote a letter to Hogan on Tuesday calling for the ban. It would follow the lead of states like Connecticut and cities like San Francisco and Seattle, where political leaders have enacted similar bans on government-funded travel to the state as long as the law remains.

“I trust you share my deep concerns over the new, so-called religious freedom law in the state of Indiana, and its implications for many elected and appointed representatives of Maryland,” Madaleno wrote. “I fear it could lead to a public humiliation of many of us when visiting Indiana.”

Madaleno also said the bill could allow businesses to discriminate against Hogan’s wife, Yumi Hogan, because she divorced her first husband.

“Your family, an exemplary ambassador for the State of Maryland, could be denied service due to a random business person, waiter, or clerk’s objection to the First Lady’s previous divorce,” Madaleno wrote. “Many of our colleagues could also be denied service because of an Indiana business owner’s objection to a Marylander’s marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance, or a myriad of other excuses.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which grants businesses legal grounds to defend themselves against discrimination claims, has been misunderstood and blown out of proportion by the media.

He said the law doesn’t give businesses the right to deny services to anyone. But Indiana political leaders are considering clarifications to the bill amid a firestorm of criticism.

“To protect Maryland officials from the potential public humiliation and embarrassment of denial of service, I call upon you to enact a ban on travel to Indiana with State resources until this discriminatory law is repealed,” said Madaleno, who helped lead the successful marriage equality effort in the state a few years ago.

“Maryland needs to stand up for our values,” Madaleno continiued. “Indiana may have taken our Colts; they cannot be allowed to trample our principles.”

by Aaron Kraut — March 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm 408 11 Comments

Purple Line and Red Line supporters gather on Monday in Annapolis to tout the project, via betterDCregion

Purple Line supporters were out in full force Monday night in Annapolis, something Purple Line opponents say means “they know the project is in trouble.”

More than 150 residents, business leaders and elected officials took part in “Transit Night” in the state’s capital, a few months before Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to decide whether to move forward with the long-debated 16-mile light rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda.

The elected officials included County Executive Isiah Leggett, Councilmembers George Leventhal and Roger Berliner, local Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez and Marc Korman and District 16 State Sen. Susan Lee.

The advocates continued to make the economic development argument that became the talking point of choice when Hogan — a Republican who campaigned on improving the state’s business climate — upset Purple Line supporter Anthony Brown in November.

“We probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 to 100,000 jobs in the pipeline in Montgomery County,” Leggett said, “and what is tied to all of that is transportation, and most specifically transit. There is no ‘Plan B’ for the Purple Line. Any backup is a mild substitute and we all will suffer.”


by Aaron Kraut — March 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm 453 10 Comments

Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Monday continued his aggressive early push to shore up Montgomery County support for his U.S. Senate campaign.

County Executive Isiah Leggett and eight of the nine County Council members (Councilmember Tom Hucker had a family obligation) took a microphone one-by-one to endorse Van Hollen, the longtime 8th District House representative who lives in Kensington.

“It is not easy to represent the residents of Montgomery County. They are very knowledgeable. They’re very involved. They’re well-organized,” Leggett said. “I am delighted, enthusiastically, to endorse our next U.S. senator from the great state of Maryland, Chris Van Hollen.”

The endorsements came before any other officials have announced for the race, which now seems likely to involve 4th District Rep. Donna Edwards as soon as Tuesday.

“If you look at what the county executive and this County Council have done in so many areas, it is a model for our nation,” Van Hollen said in thanking the officials for their support. “They increased the minimum wage. They are a leader on climate change. One county in one state in one country, but they’ve been a leader.”

When asked after the press conference about Edwards’ progressive reputation, Van Hollen characterized himself as an “effective progressive.”

It was a common theme throughout the press conference, which took place in front of the Council Office Building in Rockville. Van Hollen had a previously scheduled lunch meeting with the Council after the event.


by Aaron Kraut — March 6, 2015 at 9:05 am 162 5 Comments

Rep. Chris Van Hollen endorsed County Executive Isiah Leggett for reelection last year. Leggett returned the favor for Van Hollen's Senate campaign on Thursday

Updated at 9:25 a.m. — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Thursday endorsed Chris Van Hollen for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski in 2016.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh followed with an endorsement for Van Hollen on Friday morning.

Leggett’s endorsement, in which he said Van Hollen “is widely respected by each and every one of our local leaders,” is hardly a surprise. Van Hollen endorsed Leggett last year in his primary race for a third term as county executive.

It does reinforce how quickly Van Hollen is moving to cement his place in the race to replace Mikulski. The Kensington resident and 8th District representative since 2003 is so far only candidate to announce. He did so just more than 48 hours after Mikulski announced she will be retiring.

“Chris has deftly navigated through extraordinary and difficult times to achieve the leadership role as ranking member of the House Budget Committee,” Leggett said. “Now, at this key point, our country needs a leader with a proven record of fighting to create jobs, make critical investments to keep America competitive, and protect the promises we’ve made to our seniors. It needs a leader with broad experience in transportation, infrastructure, and housing. And it needs a champion for the environment. Chris delivers on all counts.”

Frosh praised Van Hollen’s environmental and gun safety efforts while the two were both state senators in Annapolis. Frosh, the longtime District 16 state senator from Somerset, won the attorney general seat last year.

Meanwhile, plenty of potential candidates to replace Van Hollen in the 8th District continue to express their interest in that race. District 18 State Sen. Rich Madaleno told the Washington Blade on Thursday that he’s “seriously considering” a run.

District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro and former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin told Bethesda Magazine roughly the same thing on Thursday. Bethesda Magazine also reported that Van Hollen will be in Annapolis today looking for support for his Senate bid.

The full Leggett and Frosh endorsements are after the jump.


by Aaron Kraut — March 5, 2015 at 10:30 am 597 7 Comments

D-20 State Sen. Jamie Raskin, Flickr photo via Adam Fagen

A bevy of state lawmakers, some county officials and others outside elected office will likely position themselves in the coming months for a run at the 8th District House seat to be vacated by Chris Van Hollen.

State Senators Jamie Raskin (who has publicly expressed interest), Rich Madaleno and Roger Manno have already been rumored by local political observers to be looking at a run to replace Van Hollen in 2016.

So have Delegates Kumar Barve, Bill Frick and Ariana Kelly, plus former delegate and gubernatorial nominee Heather Mizeur.

D-19 State Sen. Roger Manno, Flickr photo via Edward KimmelFormer County Councilmember Valerie Ervin is a possibility, according to some. Sitting County Council members George Leventhal, a former Hill staffer, and Hans Riemer, a former political director for Rock the Vote, might also consider a run.

“So much of the political class has been waiting for this,” said one observer, who pegged Raskin, Mizeur and Madaleno at the top of the list right now.

There’s also the wild card factor: A well-funded candidate who comes from outside the local political establishment to crash the primary, as 6th District Rep. John Delaney did in 2012 by handily beating State Sen. Rob Garagiola.

That person may be Kathleen Matthews, the Chevy Chase resident, former local news anchor and Marriott International’s executive vice president and chief global communications officer. She’s also the wife of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

Politico reported on Thursday that Matthews has begun talking to activists and “interviewing potential consultants.”


by Aaron Kraut — March 4, 2015 at 5:30 pm 197 0

Rep. Chris Van Hollen in Bethesda last year

Eighth District Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday announced he will seek the state’s U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Barbara Mikulski in 2016.

Van Hollen, a Kensington resident, has represented the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area in the House of Representatives since 2003.

His political stature has grown ever since. He served as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2007-2011 and was frequently mentioned as a potential future House speaker if Democrats regain control of the legislative body.

He was also pegged as a potential replacement for Mikulski as soon as she announced her retirement on Monday.

“I am excited to share that I have decided to run for the United States Senate from our great State of Maryland. I am very grateful to the citizens of Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District for the opportunity to represent them and want to thank the many Marylanders who, over the last 48 hours, have called, sent text messages, or emailed to urge me to run for the United States Senate,” Van Hollen wrote on Facebook.

Van Hollen is expected to face stiff Democratic competition for the seat. The competition for his Eighth District House seat, in a hotbed of Democratic politics, could be just as heated.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin, from Takoma Park, has already expressed interest. He could be joined by many state legislators and county officials. That game of “musical chairs,” as Raskin called it, could impact county elections in 2018, as County Executive Isiah Leggett is not expected to seek a fourth term.

Van Hollen’s full message announcing his Senate campaign follows the jump.


by Aaron Kraut — March 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm 239 2 Comments

County Councilmember George Leventhal with U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski during a meeting in Rockville in 2009, Flickr photo via George Leventhal

Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced on Monday she will retire at the end of her current term, ending the decades-long tenure of Congress’ longest-serving woman legislator and inviting a wealth of reaction from local and national elected officials.

County Council President George Leventhal worked on Mikulski’s staff for five years in the 1990s and told reporters “to say I love her is not strong enough.” Council Vice President Nancy Floreen also worked on Mikulski’s staff.

In his official statement, Leventhal said “all Marylanders should be grateful” for her service:

It is hard to remember now what a seismic change Barbara Mikulski represented when she was elected to the U.S. Senate as one of only two women in that body. Her election sent a signal to America and the world that the U.S. Senate didn’t have to be an exclusive good old boys club. She has consistently been a strong voice for a more open and inclusive politics and her retirement announcement continues that tradition, as it offers an opportunity for a new generation of leadership to rise. All Marylanders should be grateful to Senator Mikulski for her influence and her example. Through her efforts, thousands of jobs have been created and retained and Maryland’s share of federal spending has remained generous. Most importantly, women and men of every background, regardless of where they lived in Maryland, had an effective fighter working on their behalf in the Senate. She has been a force for good in American politics.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, rumored as a candidate to replace Mikulski in 2016, said she’s been a “true champion for the people of Maryland”:


by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm 383 10 Comments

Rendering of Purple Line vehicle heading to Bethesda, Image via Maryland Transit Administration

A new statewide poll shows 72 percent of Marylanders support moving the start of the school year to after Labor Day and that most who have heard of the Purple Line project support its construction.

Goucher College’s Department of Political Science and International Relations asked 619 residents about a number of prominent state political issues and the presidential ambitions of three Marylanders.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said they support Comptroller Peter Franchot’s controversial effort to move the start of the school year to after Labor Day. Nineteen percent of respondents opposed the idea and 9 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (file photo)Franchot, a Montgomery County resident, has argued the move would boost the tourism industry in vacation hubs such as Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake.

State and local education officials are opposed to the idea, cautioning that moving the start of school after Labor Day could push the end of the school year well into June or even July if there are enough weather closures. Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill has argued school scheduling decisions should be left up to local school districts.

Franchot’s office highlighted the poll numbers on Wednesday in a press release. A State Senate bill that would ban public school districts from starting school before Labor Day is scheduled for a committee hearing on Thursday afternoon in Annapolis.


by Aaron Kraut — January 28, 2015 at 2:10 pm 672 9 Comments

District 18 State Sen. Rich Madaleno (left) in October with Marcy Masters Frosh and then-attorney general nominee Brian Frosh  MCPS Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr, Flickr photo by MCBREOfficial

While it appears Joshua Starr isn’t finding enough support from the Board of Education to keep his job, at least one local elected official has made it clear he thinks letting the MCPS superintendent go would be a mistake.

District 18 State Sen. Rich Madaleno said ousting Starr would be “a huge gamble” with the county’s future. An editorial from the Washington Post published Tuesday night cited sources saying the Board of Education won’t renew Starr’s contract when it ends in June.

Madaleno made the comment in a Facebook post:

“Not sure who will be running MCPS next. Our school system is our county’s most important civic enterprise. This is a huge gamble with its future. If the school board cannot decide on the current leadership, how will they agree on a new direction? Who will want the job in these conditions?”

He later posted a link to graduation rates released Tuesday that show the county’s Class of 2014 graduation rate had increased and the gap between white and minority students had decreased:

On the same day many of us are learning from the Washington Post Editorial Board that a split Montgomery County school board may be dismissing our superintendent for, among the reasons given, his inability to close the achievement gaps between different ethnic groups, the Maryland Department of Education released new graduation statistics that show meaningful progress in reducing these gaps. Interesting coincidence. It might even be labeled ironic. But why should data get in the way of personal passions. You can review the data and sort it a variety of ways at the linked site.


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.”


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.


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.


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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