Bethesda Beat: Politics Roundup: County’s Democratic Central Committee To Vote on Conflict-Of-Interest Rules
BY LOUIS PECK AND ANDREW METCALF
County Democratic committee expected to vote Tuesday on conflict-of-interest rules
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) Tuesday is expected to discuss and vote on a conflict-of-interest policy designed to ensure that MCDCC members who seek public office do not use the party structure and its resources to their personal advantage.
While the MCDCC’s Rules Committee has been working on the matter for more than a year, focus on the issue has intensified in recent months as six members—a quarter of the MCDCC—have declared their candidacies for the state House of Delegates, County Council or Montgomery County Board of Education.
“I am very excited that the committee has gotten to the stage where we can close these gaps in the rules. The goal is to make the process more open and fair, less backroom politics-style,” said MCDCC member Chris Bradbury of Brookeville. Bradbury chairs the Rules Committee, which finished its work on the new policy this week and forwarded it to the full MCDCC for consideration.
While the proposed conflict-of-interest policy contains provisions for sanctioning of committee members and other officials in the local party organization who violate it—including possible removal from their posts—the policy does not include one proposal that has been discussed within the MCDCC in recent months. This would have required that a MCDCC member step down from the committee once he or she became a candidate for public office.
Some involved in crafting the new policy contended that, since sitting members of the Maryland General Assembly or Montgomery County Council are not required to leave their current jobs when seeking another office, it would be unfair to impose such a rule on MCDCC members pursuing public positions.
The current MCDCC members seeking public office include Vice Chair Emily Shetty of Kensington, running for District 18 delegate; Treasurer Julian Haffner of Gaithersburg, District 17 delegate; Marlin Jenkins of Silver Spring, District 19 delegate; Loretta Garcia of Bethesda and Danielle Meitiv of Silver Spring, both County Council at-large; and Brenda Wolff of Silver Spring, District 5 Board of Education member.
The conflict-of-interest policy is designed to prevent MCDCC members and other party officials seeking public office from using voter registration data—available to the committee for purposes of party-building—for individual candidate campaigns. The latter campaigns can obtain separate access to such data, but must pay for it.
Fosselman plans to formally file soon in District 1 County Council race
With less than a month before the filing deadline, there has been some speculation swirling about why District 1 County Council candidate Pete Fosselman, who launched his campaign in last February, hasn’t formally filed with the board of elections to run for the seat.
However, Fosselman, a former Kensington mayor, said Friday that will soon change. He said he plans to file for the seat on Monday.
“I was waiting to see how we did in January financially,” Fosselman said. “Last month alone, we raised $55,000. I’m very excited about that.”
He also said he’s building up his volunteer base and is encouraged by the endorsements he has received from local municipal and state leaders.
Fosselman is running in the Democratic primary for the council seat against former Planning Board member Meredith Wellington, Bethesda attorney Reggie Oldak, state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Chevy Chase), former state comptroller adviser Andrew Friedson, Bethesda benefits professional Jim McGee, community activist Bill Cook and social worker Dalbin Osorio.
Friedson led the candidates in cash on hand in the annual campaign fundraising reports filed with the state’s Board of Elections in mid-January. The Bethesda resident reported $206,000 on hand, Oldak and Wellington both reported about $95,000 in their campaign accounts, while Fosselman reported about $80,000 at the time.
Elrich and County Council candidates receive laborers’ union endorsement
Montgomery County executive Democratic candidate Marc Elrich received the endorsement of the Baltimore Washington Laborers’ District Council, a regional union that represents more than 7,000 members, many of them skilled construction workers, in the area.
The union also endorsed several Democratic candidates running for County Council including incumbents Hans Riemer, at-large; Nancy Navarro, District 4; and Tom Hucker, District 5. Navarro and Hucker are currently unopposed in their races.
First-time Democratic council candidates who received the union’s endorsement were Andrew Friedson in Bethesda-based District 1; Ben Shnider, who is running against incumbent Sidney Katz in Gaithersburg-based District 3; and at-large candidate Chris Wilhelm, a teacher from Chevy Chase.
Elrich’s campaign has garnered significant union support over the past two months. The council member has also been endorsed by the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and the regional service employees union 32BJ SEIU.
Jordan Cooper files for second run for delegate—and seeks a second office as well
Jordan Cooper, who finished out of the running in the 2014 Democratic primary for delegate in Bethesda-based District 16, filed last week to try again. And this time, his name will appear twice on the June 26 primary ballot.
Cooper filed not only for delegate, but also for a Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) seat. While having the same person serve simultaneously in public elected office and the local party committee is the norm in several Maryland jurisdictions, it would represent a departure from long-time practice in Montgomery County.
In fact, before Cooper filed late last month, members of the MCDCC were discussing barring anyone seeking election to state or county office from also running for the central committee.
The proposal was discussed at a meeting of the MCDCC’s Rules Committee in early January before Cooper filed his dual candidacy. At its latest meeting Wednesday, Rules Committee members opted to put off further discussion of the change until after this year’s primary election—not wanting to be perceived as targeting Cooper.
Still, sources said significant sentiment remains within the MCDCC to bar dual candidacies—because they would limit opportunities to serve in a county with no shortage of political activists.
For his part, Cooper said he was motivated to run for the MCDCC after an overwhelming majority of registered Democrats failed to come out to vote when he last ran in 2014.
He complained that, when he organized five voter canvasses prior to the 2016 election as an area coordinator for the MCDCC, “on none of those canvasses did any central committee members ever show up, even though they had agreed to ahead of time.
“I feel if I serve on the central committee I may have more gravitas, more cachet to get people actually joining in this in this effort to reach out to the overwhelming majority of the party,” he declared in a phone interview.
Cooper, who holds a master’s degree in public health, said his second bid for delegate is focused on creation of a “public option” intended to hold down health premiums by allowing residents to buy insurance through the state of Maryland.
He joins a field of five other non-incumbents taking aim at the seat held by Del. Bill Frick, who is running for county executive. The others include writer/consultant Nuchhi Currier, attorneys Joseph Hennessey and Sara Love, and teacher Samir Paul. Freelance journalist Marc Lande, who filed late last week, is the newest entrant.
After two runs in MoCo, Democrat-turned-Republican Matory looks to Baltimore County
The political journey of Democrat-turned-independent-turned-Republican Liz Matory has taken another unusual turn: After losing races for Maryland House of Delegates in 2014 and Congress in 2016 from Montgomery County, she’s headed north to try to improve her political fortunes.
Matory on Tuesday filed to run for the 2018 GOP nomination in the Baltimore County-based 2nd Congressional District. “I believe that my level of conservativism may fair [sic] better in the Baltimore region,” she said in an email to the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, on which she has served since last year.
“It is crystal clear that if we’re going to drain the swamp, we need to focus some attention to Congress as well,” added Matory—utilizing a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump, even if she backed Ohio Gov. John Kasich over Trump for the presidential nomination in 2016.
“It took me a couple or three weeks to get my head around having Donald Trump as our nominee,” Matory, a business consultant with a law degree, said in a phone interview Thursday. “I kind of had my moment of peace when he won the [nomination] without it being stolen, like it was for Bernie Sanders. …What got me to distance myself from John Kasich was his not going to the [Republican National Convention] in his home state. I thought that was very classless.”
Such unvarnished talk became a Matory trademark in her bids for office in Montgomery County.
Running in the Democratic primary for delegate in District 18 in 2014, she took aim at the three incumbents seeking reelection, calling them “the weakest delegation in the entire state of Maryland.” She finished last in a seven-way contest.
In early 2015, she told a Democratic gathering that she planned to seek the party’s 2016 nomination for Congress in Montgomery County-based District 8. Several months later, she shifted to running as an independent.
“I have not backed down from this race, having heard numerous white men tell me to wait my turn, to wait until I had more experience,” Matory, whose father was African-American and whose mother is Filipino, told a forum. At that event, she dismissed now-Maryland Democratic Chair Kathleen Matthews, then a candidate for Congress, as a “millionaire white woman.”
By early 2016, Matory had switched to seeking the Republican nomination in District 8—declaring herself in support of the GOP mantra of lower taxes and less regulation, and opposed to abortion rights. She finished third in a five-way primary.
Part of Matory’s motivation in taking aim at the 2nd Congressional District—where she will face at least one opponent in the Republican primary—is gerrymandering, which she termed “my biggest gripe with how politics is played in this state.” If she makes it to the general election, she would face eight-term incumbent Democrat C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, 72.
“Dutch Ruppersberger has been an elected official since before I was born,” gibed Matory, who turns 38 this weekend. She also appears ready to go after Ruppersberger, formerly senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, from a libertarian perspective.
“Do we have the defense industry, do we have the intelligence industry controlling our politicians?” Matory asked. “It’s clear that we have no civil liberties anymore because Democrats like Ruppersberger have sold out our liberties—for what purpose?”
While members of Congress must reside in the state but not the district they represent, she plans to relocate from Silver Spring. “I was actually planning on moving to Baltimore within the year for personal reasons,” said Matory. A Washington, D.C. native, she has regrets about leaving the area—but cited the lack of influence in her latest political incarnation.