Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Restlessness

(Baltimore, MD) The wave of voter restlessness struck Maryland by rejecting a well-respected Prince George’s County Executive in favor of a former Civil Rights leader. Say what you will about a crowded Democratic field but Ben Jealous, the former NAACP Leader, was able to mobilize his base and found much needed campaign funds outside of Maryland to get out the gate first and get up on television before he could be defined.  The "wave election" has sweep in progressives and candidates with political pedigrees are out. Jealous touted his leadership credentials at the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, efforts to remove the death penalty and approved gay marriage in the state.

The victory was almost overshadowed by election problems in Baltimore City where several polling locations didn’t open on time. An emergency order by a judge allowed polls to stay open until 9 pm. The other major snafu was the Department of Motor Vehicle Department (MVA) not updating its system to the Board of Elections. It’s estimated this may affected as many as 80,000 voters. “The leadership of the Motor Vehicle Administration and the Board of Elections must immediately demonstrate that they have the capacity to accurately explain the size and impact of the problem and fix this violation of the public trust or they must make room for leaders who are able to restore confidence in Maryland elections,” said Rev. Kobi Little, a spokesman for the NAACP's Maryland State Conference President, Gerald Stansbury.” The investigation is expected to begin next week ensuring there isn’t a re-occurrence during the General Election.

The story of this election was about the rejection of those who have served to long. Not only did it affect the governor’s race but it spilled into the Maryland Senate race in Baltimore and other parts of the state. Out are Maryland Senators Nathaniel McFadden, Barbara Robinson, and Joan Carter Conway to name some in the upper chamber. In the lower chamber, the House of Delegates, longtime Judiciary Chairman Joseph Vallerio was defeated in Southern Maryland. 

Jealous, if he wins, would become the first Black governor of the state of Maryland. Appealing to racial solidarity in the “old line state,” has its positives and dangers. For the positive, it would send a unique signal that old style politics in the state have outlived its usefulness. Party bosses will not dictate this elections outcome. It is likely to energize young voters who want a seat at the table. Lastly, there will not be a lethargic electorate which helped to suppress voting totals in traditional strongholds for Democrats. I already know that Sundays will be spent in churches, a place where Jealous is very comfortable.

The danger for the Civil Rights leader is being defined by Governor Larry Hogan who easily won his primary because he had no challenger. “It isn’t about them…it’s about a referendum on the job we’re doing,” said Hogan. It didn’t take long for the Governor’s supporters to begin to strike back. It began with a press release from the Republican Governor’s Association.

“Ben Jealous’ radical views make him unfit to serve as governor,” said RGA Communications Director Jon Thompson. “Ben Jealous is promising to systematically undo all of the progress Maryland has made over the past four years by hiking taxes to never-before-seen levels in order to fund his radical pie-in-the-sky spending plans. Voters will reject Jealous’ ill-conceived plans this November and keep Maryland on its current path of more jobs, a stronger economy and better schools.”

A second press release came from a former Democratic Committee Chairman.

Democratic Party Chairman Nate Landow in response to Ben Jealous winning the Democratic primary election for governor:
“It is imperative that Democratic voters who value moderation, fiscal responsibility and functional government support Governor Larry Hogan in the general election. His record of sensible, bipartisan reform and his genuine decency is the antidote for what ails our politics today. He stands in stark contrast to the irresponsible and extreme ideas of Ben Jealous.”

These are coded words and issues. The Root writer, Damon Young, who writes under the section of “VerySmartBrothas,” pointed this out in his recent column called, “30 Ways White People Say Black People Without Actually Saying Black People..” Here are a couple of observations we’re likely to hear; “high crime neighborhood, gang related, and depressed neighborhood/school/people/population.

“We talked with the people,” said Jealous who held his victory celebration at the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland of African-American History and Culture. He continued to point out his difference with the governor and welcomed the opportunity to litigate his case to the voters of Maryland.  “I’m running to the people of Maryland.”

The Next Steps

Raising Money, is paramount. Governor Hogan has at least 9 million dollars in cash on hand for the general election. Conversely, Jealous is reportedly down to about $100,000. To reverse this trend there are several unity events scheduled to coalesce the losers with the Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee. It includes the arrival of former Vice President Joe Biden this weekend for a fundraiser. Like the primary, I’m expecting to see a number of early supporters for Jealous. Including U.S. Senators Corey Booker (NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (California), and Sen. Bernie Saunders (VT). They’ve already made their presence known and I expect them to double down on this early bet. Celebrity wise, comedian, Dave Chappelle has appeared and he is likely to convince others to get on the train.

I don’t know how many debates we’re likely to see but it should be spirited. I can tell you having only two people on a stage will allow questioners to drill down on issues you can’t get with a large field.  As a fly on the wall, I'd love to hear both candidates working on their one liners and sharpen their attack.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Aren’t Talking About?

(Arlington, VA) – “Your Voice, Your Future,” was theme for the second Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial Debate. Held at the WJLA Channel 7/ News Channel 8, the Sinclair Broadcasting Groups, location in the Rosslyn section of Arlington (Wait, this debate for the Governor of Maryland is being held in Virginia?).

Unlike the previous debate which I personally participated in, this included Ralph Jaffe, a perennial candidate. Kia Jackson. the moderator, held a close grip on time with this large group. The candidates had a one minute opening statement but not a closing statement. A new twist was a 30 second rebuttal.  

Before I get into the quotes and arguments it is clear the televised the debates have focused a majority of time on Baltimore/Baltimore County issues. Left by the wayside are the varied pressing issues in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. Democrats have abandoned the party because of this and a number of them are supporting the Republican Governor (it’s borne out in polls).

Now for the lines and the attacks:

·         Once again Governor Larry Hogan is main focus of all the candidates.
  • Racial tensions were the line of questioning from two of the panelist. How to solve this problem was varied. Memorable lines came from state Sen. Richard Madaleno, “hurt people, hurt.” Jim Shea, “we’ve allowed the extremes on both sides to take over conversations.” Alec Ross, “Before the justice system failed, the education system failed.”

·         The recent flooding in Ellicott City was a subject everyone coalesced around. Rebuilding the historic city was high on all the candidates’ agenda.

·         The attacks against the governor centered on education funding and how Governor Hogan went after jurisdictions lead by Democrats (Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince Georges’ County).

·         A question about how much is spent on educating kids in Baltimore shifted the discussion. Quotes were all over the place. Valeria Erving, “We are not going to spend our way out of this problem.” Ben Jealous on the lack of funding, “Till we fully fund our schools…we will not be able see improvements.” Rushern Baker cut to the real issue, “When they say it’s not about money, it is.”

Here are couple of observations. Valerie Ervin says she has filed suit in Annapolis Circuit Court to get her name on the ballot. She received support from Alec Ross, Richard Jaffe, and a surprised endorsement from Ben Jealous. Ervin has accused Jealous of causing her to lose a job, and stopping Ervin from become a Lt. Governor candidate. 

Was pleasantly surprise to see Ervin looking more gubernatorial (dark rimmed glasses, white blazer, Black blouse and no “Black Girls Rock” button)?

At the time of the debate airing, the Washington Capitals will be playing the Golden Knights of Las Vegas. Pandering to that audience Senator Madaleno said he was a Capitals fan (no one else picked up on the idea).

Now back to this idea the debates have been Baltimore centric. Senator Madaleno, “I’ve tried to answer the questions from a statewide perspective.” “There is a reason for it,” says Baker, “Baltimore is the most important city in the state…no governor has approached Baltimore City the way Governor Hogan has. He acts like it doesn’t exist.”

Connecting to voters is key, some believe if we can solve Baltimore’s problems they will transfer to the state. Jealous suggests, “We have to solve the tough kitchen table issues affecting families.”

The large panels clearly aren’t allowing anyone to distinguish themselves. Those with the financial wherewithal are defining themselves via radio and television ads in the Baltimore metro area. It’s more expensive to do so in the Washington metro area.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Shifting Politics: DC Suburbs

Annapolis, MD - The center of Maryland Politics has been shifting for years. The DC suburbs of Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties want to flex their muscles. Its tough but the numbers of voters bear out that the pair of counties which trend Democratic want a say. It's also one of the most diverse portions of the state with large minorities of African-Americans, Latino's, Muslim, and Asian communities. The former power structure still wants a say on who can lead and who should be chosen. Some voters are having any of it. Its pitting the old guard against a group of upstarts which keep asking/telling anyone, "its my turn."
Who better to ask about this other than Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters ( The new website has a cagey bunch of veterans including founder Josh Kurtz (formerly of the Maryland Gazette), Bill Zorzi (formerly of the Baltimore Sun).

In this edition of Live from the Pit we talk about the emergence of the DC suburbs. We also delve into the hotly contested races for County Executive in both jurisdictions. If you're fan please follow and don't be afraid to suggest guest.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Politics of Crime

Annapolis - "Three strikes and you're out" was not a baseball game for those caught in the crack epidemic of the 80's. The get tough measures of the war on drugs left many who came back to the same communities with little to no chance to be reincorporated back into society. An arrest record was a second prison sentence to meaningful employment. That was the 80's and now is 2018.

The get tough on crime lobby and the Hogan Administration has targeted repeat violent offenders. I'm not against having those who maim and murder citizens from being given tougher sentences. I know from covering crime that what one person does when they are younger they aren't likely to do when they reach a certain age. Cue the "OG" anthem.

Balance is more appropriate. We went through this. Dayvon Love, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, has been listening we talk about the how and why in this edition of "Live from the Pit." 

Now for a shameless plug. On Saturday, February 24, 2018 11 am, I will be hosting a screening of Black Panther, at the Hoyt's Nursery Road Theaters in Linthicum, MD. Its located at 1591 Nursery Road. The price is $15. I will have special guest who will join me afterwards for a unique Q and A. There will a light reception at Ruby Tuesdays following the movie.
 You can go this Panther Evite or pay on site.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gauging the Democratic Gubernatorial Field in Maryland

Towson, MD - Live from the Pit, hit the road. On site at the Goucher College for the Young Voters Forum featuring the Democratic candidates who want to replace current Governor Larry Hogan (R). It's clear from Mileah Kromer, the Polling Director, for the Sarah T. Hughes Politics Center, Governor Hogan is popular (62%). The interesting part of her polling, should he continue as Governor drops to just under 50%. Why? She hopes to dig down on this issue in her next poll.

The Forum

So if you noticed from the picture, Rushern Baker, Prince Georges County Executive is not on the stage. Baker remains the front runner among most of the field. Each one of the candidates vying to lead the Democratic nominee has qualities you may like, conversely there are a number of challenges for each of these individuals. Let me suggest there is a lot of opposition research on each of them by the Hogan administration (not unusual). 

"Despite what you've heard we aren't only interested in legalization of marijuana," according to Ashely Alyward, a Goucher College student. It gets a giggle from the audience. As the candidates are peppered with questions, you realize there is more to this age group. There were solid questions about providing tax breaks for Amazon; the issue of day #MeToo was addressed; holding police accountable for wrongdoing; and student debt/college affordable. The answers were enlightening. This is still a strange feeling on the stage. In our current environment, having no experience seems to an asset. Those with experience must tread lightly. I still point to the visual, seven people on the stage looking for one take on a popular governor.

Looking at trends in recent elections this would appear to be a good year for Democrats...maybe?

Take a listen to Live from the Pit with Mileah Kromer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Live From the Pit

Annapolis - The beginning of the year marks the start of the Maryland General Assembly. While you would expect harmony its been anything but that. Governor Larry Hogan suggested "politics should not cloud the session." Well you throw that out the window. It began with the introduction of the 2019 Budget. Governor Hogan previewed his priorities but failed to alert the legislative leaders. The "Mike's" took as a slight, so they didn't show up for a breakfast meeting. It led to some name calling and mistrust.

For the next couple of weeks you'll hear from news makers, journalist and others on this years session. I call the podcast, "Live from the Pit." Its where I work in Annapolis. You can respond here or on twitter @C3newsman.

Here goes, hold on to your hat.

Live From the Pit

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

End of the Year MSM Top 10 Stories

The politics of Maryland is always evolving. Because its close to Washington, DC its often a precursor to national trends. While there are lot of stories which I could have chosen, I whittled it down to just ten. Some will agree, others may point to stories that should have made my list. Simple, if you don't like this list, create your own. Love comments and different points of view.

10. No Redline but Transit Overhaul – Governor Hogan staved off criticism of canceling the Redline
Gov. Larry Hogan
(east west light rail system in Baltimore) for a total redo of the Baltimore MTA System. Overnight the system went from a number system to a color system. Some routes were changed and others were eliminated. Price tag $135 million. The biggest problem in the state are its Beltways and Interstate roads (I-695, I-495, and I- 95). These are some of the most congested roadways in America. Solution create toll roads to speed traffic.

9. Governor Larry Hogan’s Popularity – You don’t have to like it, but the governor gets praise from his base and Democrats. Governor Hogan has cultivated a "every man" approach to governing in a “Blue State.” He shunned going to the GOP Presidential convention in Cleveland. He did not endorse nor voted for President Donald Trump. One thing you won’t find is a picture of the two men together. 

8. Everything Taney – Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Marylander, had number of statues around the state (Frederick, Baltimore, and Annapolis). His name appears on a number of buildings. Judge Taney’s claim to fame was his decision in the Dred Scott Case.  Was it time to rethink Taney’s legacy and those monuments to the Confederacy? Charlottesville, Virginia was shot heard around the nation and the time was now to remove them.

7. Corruption – The list of politicians continues to grow. Some political figures see their elections as a license to benefit financially. The list includes Sen. Nate Oaks (will remain in office while trial continues), former Dels. Michael Vaughn and Will Campo (both resigned from the legislature) were indicted on wire fraud, conspiracy and bribery in connection with a kickback scheme with liquor store owners. 

6. The young guns are coming – From Baltimore (City and County), Prince Georges County and Montgomery County a new crop of young politicians is no longer going to wait its turn. The infusion of new blood is always welcomed in politics, but the entrenched often go kicking and screaming.

4. Keep the Pedal to the Metal – Economically – Maryland is in that unique sweet spot. It’s close to Washington, DC, it has an industrial base, cutting edge technological companies and home to one of the hottest athletic apparel companies. With a highly educated work force, the state is insulated from the whims of the economy.  Expansion seemed to touch various sectors, Marriott in Rockville, Under Armour in Baltimore, and the possibility of having Amazon establish it second headquarters in the state have a number of communities salivating.  

3. The Opioid/Fentanyl Crisis – When Opioids and Heroin found its way to the suburbs, things got real. Baltimore City has had a heroin problem since the 1940’s. Solution, lock people up. Now the answer is treatment. The introduction of fentanyl has exacerbated the problem. Counties like Anne Arundel, Harford, Charles, Allegany and others have seen drug overdoses double. There aren’t enough treatment centers for those caught in addiction. It’s not just a Maryland problem, it’s a national problem.
Maya Rockeymore Cummings

2. Eight Dems v. GOP Governor – We know Gov. Hogan’s popularity, but could you name any of his potential challengers? They are a varied group. Several are first time politicians (Ben Jealous, Jim Shea, Alec Ross, Maya Rockeymore Cummings, and Krishantl Vignarajah). There are three who’ve held political office (County Executives Kevin Kamentz and Rushern Baker, and State Senator Richard Madaleno).  In a year where Democrats are trending well going into 2018, one of this group needs to breakout. The Governor doesn’t seem nervous even if the trends point to rejecting the Republican brand. The group trying to succeed him will try and tie him to President Trump.

1. Fall Out from Baltimore Police Det. Sean Suiter killing. When Det. Suiter was shot and died on November 22, 2017 the police and community were upset. The area where the incident occurred was on lock down for a week. Residents were asked to show identification. Those who didn't lived in the area were turned away. By the weeks end Police Commissioner Davis said, there was no connection between his testimony the next day before a grand jury investigating police corruption. There’s a $215,000 reward. The Commissioner asks for FBI to take over the investigation. The FBI has rejected the offer. I don't want to diminish the nearly 300 + murders in Baltimore. This has to stop. To quote William Shakespeare, “There is something wrong in Denmark.”

Person the Year

Devin Allen – This young man made his mark by capturing the cover of Time Magazine during the “Baltimore Uprising.” He captured the anger of a community which he knew well. This year he published a book of his work called “A Beautiful Ghetto.” Allen is special. He’s part of group of young men whom I met and listen to. They have their fingers on the pulse of the streets.