Guide Guide

Dear Readers,

There will be NO comments about the blind guiding the blind! Gilbert will not stoop so low.

Gilbert WILL stoop to using other people’s election guides to make his own gentle suggestions to you, Dear Readers, in case you need them next Tuesday in the voting chamber.

Three such voters guides have come to Gilbert’s attention, one from a Takoma Park councilmember, another from a city resident involved in progressive liberal Democratic politics, and a third in the Takoma Voice newspaper (which provides granolapark with a home and substantial salaries for its staff).

Let’s see what these guides have to say about campaigns of special interest to Takoma Park, particularly the ones in which local citizens are running: State Comptroller, State Senator District 20, State Delegate District 20, and two for County Council At-Large. Takoma Park is poised to take over!
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The nerve of some people! Here we have a politician acting the role of pundit! City Councilmember Bruce Williams (Ward 3) has sent out to his constituents an “Election Guide and Comments” e-mail. As though he were an expert on politics or something!

He makes candidate picks and provides telling, often candid, details from his observations as Mayor Pro Tem, Councilmember, and member of the Municipal League. In a couple of instances he uses his insider knowledge to rat out a couple of candidates.

Wiliams’ perspective is the most conservative of the three guides Gilbert reviewed. Of course, in Montgomery County and particularly in Takoma Park, our “conservative” would be “rabid revolutionary” anywhere else. Nevertheless, Williams goes against the progressive grain (that would be whole grain, no doubt) by saying, “this election, particularly the County races, is not about “development.” He describes a long history of election fights over development, resulting in “wide swings of the pendulum,” pro-development regimes following antidevelopment ones.

“I don’t think that a continuation of the wide pendulum swings is in anyone’s interest, so I am looking for candidates who can work to find a middle ground that we can all live with. A nice mix of people to duke it out is preferable to a slate who can force a swing of the pendulum.”
Now there’s a lot of talk about developer-interests funding and influencing candidates. You can find healthy helpings of this rhetoric in Keith Berner’s Annotated Voters Guide. Berner is a Takoma Park resident who seems fairly typical of the antigrowth (even no-growth), antiwar, progressive liberal wing of the local Democratic Party.

The progressives are saying developer contributions are evidence that candidates are at developers’ beck and call (See the last granolapark posting, “Deep Pocket”). If Gilbert were one of the more paranoid progressives he’d note that Bruce Williams is more directly tied to “developer interests” than any of the running candidates – he’s a building contractor! Gasp! Don’t stand too close, he’ll nail an addition to your back!

This may come as a shock, but councilmember Williams endorses Takoma Park resident and State Senator Peter Franchot for state Comptroller. I know, it’s a huge surprise (Gilbert is being ironic, Dear Readers). Williams’ reasons are that “Peter has been an attack dog for the Democrats,” and that he has gotten “lots of money for Takoma Park projects, . . . [and] he was the one behind making the change in state law that set up two half-year property tax payments – this resulted in refunds for most of us.”

This is what is called “bringing home the bacon” or “reality,” and Williams makes the same case in support of a few other politicians. Progressives get all thin-lipped and sniffy on this subject. Yes, yes, bringing home the bacon and real politics, they say impatiently, but they want politicians who raise their voices and lead the charge for progressive programs! Anyway, they are vegan.

Vegan progressive programs do not stir Williams’ appetite. His saliva only starts flowing when he imagines the meaty banquet that Franchot as Comptroller would serve: “things like community center and gym funding, open space funding, state highway project funding, sidewalk project funding, etc.).” Drool, drool! If Franchot wins, we’ll all have to wear bibs.

Of the third candidate, Janet Owens, Williams admits he knows only “that she is a chain smoker,” reporting “I observed this at the Md. Municipal League convention . . . .” Such a tattletale!

At least he didn’t diss her for looking like Old Mother Hubbard. William Donald Shaefer’s comments to that effect have been getting Owens a lot of big-media column inches lately, and Gilbert wonders if this free, sympathetic publicity will draw votes away from Franchot to her. Maybe if Franchot started wearing a long granny-dress?

Williams says “I’m afraid that Owens and Franchot will split the anti-Shaefer vote, and Shaefer will win again.” At least we’ll be entertained.
Both the Takoma Voice (editor Eric Bond) and Keith Berner allow that relatively speaking Franchot is the most progressive choice. Gilbert concurs.

Using the same “bringing home the bacon” standard, Williams endorses Ida Ruben. This will likely infuriate local progressives most of whom support Takoma Park resident Jamie Raskin.

Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter also endorses Rubin, doubtless for many of the same reasons Wiliams states, “she has been tireless in watching out for our interests in Annapolis, especially where funding is needed. She’s been very active with truck safety issues, drunk driving issues, and other areas in her more than 30 years in office. She single-handedly got us funding for the Community Center last year, when it seemed we wouldn’t get any. Her position and her seniority will get us more in the future.”

Dear Readers, squint at the above quote and see if you make out what Gilbert reads between the lines. Does it say something like “We are SO obligated to this notoriously cantankerous, entrenched old bat we don’t dare oppose her in case she wins and takes vengeance on the city.”? If she does win, Williams and Porter may be the only thing standing between our homes and a grannie with a giant flame-thrower.

Williams does decry Ruben’s infamous “Seeking a Real Democrat” mailer. Speaking of which, while everyone and their donkey was braying about the mailer’s ridiculous content, Gilbert was even more bemused by the form.

The mailer was a mockup of a dating service website, a fictitious “” Contrasting information about Raskin and Ruben was set up like single’s ads on such a website.

Now, if you’ve ever looked at Ruben’s campaign website, especially early in the campaign, you’d realize that when it comes to the internet Sen. Ruben is a dinosaur. She probably had no clue what this mailer was all about when the idea was presented to her. Oh, she understood about casting herself as “a real Democrat” and making Raskin out to be pro-life and pro-Bush, but somehow Gilbert doubts granny Ruben spends much time browsing for hot dates on the web. She probably doesn’t even have a Myspace page! Ohmygawd!

So, some hotshot in her campaign must have decided she needed to look “with it,” presumably for the younger, computer-savvy voters.
OK, THAT didn’t work. Gilbert advises the Senator that if she want’s to look “with it” to Takoma Park voters, she could redo the hair! Imagine her in a short, no-nonsense, career-woman, henna-dyed “do,” one that suggests same-gender-orientation. And Birkenstocks. A cloth peace-sign-emblazoned shoulder-bag. On a bicycle. If she shows up like that at next Sunday’s Takoma Folk Festival, she’ll have it locked!

By the way, there purportedly is a new Ruben mailer with a photo of George W. Bush making a thumbs-up gesture, saying “Thanks, Jamie!” , and the headline, “Jamie Raskin helped put George W. Bush into office.” You’re wasting your time, Senator, go for the new “do” instead!

Back to William’s election guide. He notes Raskin has “quite a bit of support in Takoma Park”, but he has doubts. He is reluctant to replace a senior senator with a newbie backbencher, especially one who will be an “outsider . . . because of his campaign against leadership.” He doubts Raskin’s effectiveness to accomplish all he’s promised, and he doubts his ability to “get down in the trenches and fight the tough battles when deals are cut.”

Like Gilbert, Williams is dubious about Raskin’s call to make voter registration mandatory for all high school graduates. “How will this help our kids to be involved and to understand the importance of voting?” Williams notes that some students are not quite of voting age when they graduate. “Why is this progressive?” asks Williams. Well said! That councilmember Williams certainly does have a head on his shoulders – when he agrees with Gilbert, anyway.

The Voice “enthusiastically” endorses Raskin, calling him a “champion of civil rights,” noting his “years representing fellow citizens whose rights were trampled upon.” It goes on to say “Raskin knows and understand the environmental threats that we face, and . . . has the drive and scruples to be a progressive force . . . . We need a senator who opposes the cronyism that continues to plague Maryland politics.

Keith Berner’s guide says simply “Jamie is an energetic, creative, extremely articulate champion of progressive values.” but he lavishes six paragraphs of criticism on his opponent Rubin. The Voice is careful not to say anything against her. Grannie with a flame-thrower, don’t forget.

As for your Gilbert – oh, OK, with a few reservations he’ll endorse Raskin. But, just a little bit. It will be a light touch on the ballot button.
In the race for Maryland House of Delegates, District 20, Williams endorses Takoma Park resident and former city Councilmember Heather Mizeur. Again, no surprise there. Gilbert reckons she will get one of the three seats. She has a lot of local support, a fat bankroll, and big name backers. She might turn out ok, but Gilbert’s spidey-sense is tingling. Last week’s automatic-call recording featuring the cloying voice of a 4th grader asking support for “my friend” Heather Mizeur, only deepened this feeling.

Williams picks incumbent Gareth Murray, somewhat of a surprise, since Murray has been quoted as opposing gay marriage, and Williams is gay. But, Williams says he is among those working on Murray to open his mind on the subject, and he feels Murray, a Baptist pastor, has “shown a lot of growth.” A lot of local progressives do not have William’s patience. Keith Berner says, “Gareth has been the “invisible delegate”: until he started running for reelection, he was never seen at community or political events and he has left no trace of his existence in Annapolis.”

Progressives such as Keith Berner tend to support newcomer Lucinda Lessley (also endorsed by the Takoma Voice) or Tom Hucker, though Hucker is controversial among progressives (see below). Diane Nixon also gets some progressive support.

Councilmember Williams also endorses incumbent Sheila Hixon for House of Delegates. He tends to favor incumbents, Gilbert notes, often because of his personal relationship with them. For instance he says Hixon is “a wonderful individual.” The Takoma Voice also picks Hixon as one of their three choices.

If he could pick a forth, says Williams, it would be Aaron Klein. Klein has a lot of supporters (including Gilbert) judging by the ubiquitousness of his yellow signs. Keith Berner supports Klein

Williams goes out of his way to slam Lex Luthor look-alike Tom Hucker. Hucker is the former (barely – he delayed getting into the race until he stepped down) director of Progressive Maryland (formerly Progressive Montgomery). He rats Hucker out for “my experience with him a number of years ago when the City hired Progressive Montgomery to perform tenant organizing tasks. . . . I don’t want to get into many details, but the Council became unhappy with how that contract was being performed, and did not renew the contract. When we attempted to discuss our issues with Tom, I was not satisfied that he saw the seriousness of our concerns, and he didn’t appear willing to address them.”
Berner gives Hucker a reluctant thumbs-down, saying that while “Tom knows the details and players in Annapolis better than anyone running for delegate, other than Sheila Hixson. . . . there is an air around Tom of being more concerned about his own success than how he achieves it.

. . “ Berner also says “Tom has less than friendly relationships with some of the other delegate candidates, meaning that if he and they get elected, he may not be able to work cooperatively with them.” He take umbrage that Hucker has been attacking Heather Mizeur, {and your Gilbert says ‘why not?”).

Acknowledging the split among progressives about Hucker, Berner says, “Tom is the candidate I’m most likely to disagree with my good friends about (i.e., they’re endorsing him and I’m not).”

For county executive, Williams backs Steve Silverman, not the progressives’ favored Ike Leggett, though he says “This has been a tough call for me-I know and like them both.” He sees them as “similar on the issues”, but antidevelopment forces remember that Silverman ran last election on the pro-growth, pro-ICC “End Gridlock” slate and they are unforgiving, even though Leggett never took a strong stand against (or for) the ICC. HIs statements on growth and development indicate that he will limit them more than Silverman, however, which has earned Leggett the endorsements of many, including the Washington Post, The Takoma Voice, and The Gazette.

In his election guide Keith Berner voices the view of most progressives still bitter over End Gridlock slate’s victory last election, calling Silverman “The most despicable politician in Montgomery County [who] continues his campaign of lies and distortions, while taking well over 70% of his campaign finances from the development industry. Silverman is the poster child for everything that is wrong in this county.”

Williams says he plans to “bullet-vote” in the county council at-large race. There are four seats to fill, but Williams is casting just two votes. Marc Elrich, his fellow city councilmember, gets one. Incumbent Mike Subin gets the other. Subin, who along with fellow county councilmember Mike Knapp was recently reported meeting secretly and illegally with a zoning and land use attorney about a matter before the county council – see MoCo Progressive Blog.

Keith Berner’s guide claims that 84% of Subin’s funding is from developer interests and “he also has a nasty temper.”

Williams is uncomfortable with Elrich’s strong anti-developer stance, “He can get a little crazy in his denunciations of evil developers,” but he continues, “his heart is in the right place. He has also showed a willingness to work toward compromise solutions to thorny issues, and he has mellowed over the years. He has lots of knowledge and experience dealing with countywide development and transportation issues, and can explain the intricacies of those issues in his sleep. He will be a solid antidote to some of his potential colleagues on the County Council who have favored a more pro-growth stance, and he will push hard for commonsense projects like the Inner Purple Line.”

Williams gives an awe-touched-with-envious glimpse of what it’s like to work with Elrich as a councilmember, “Marc is very smart – he reminds me of the kids in school who do a little studying the night before the test and ace it.”

Elrich is running in alliance with Duchy Trachtenberg, but Williams dismisses Trachtenberg, saying “when I have heard Duchy at campaign events, I find her very hard to listen to – she doesn’t seem to say anything.”

The one Takoma Park candidate Williams pans is incumbent at-large councilmember George Leventhal (featured in granolapark’s last post “Deep Pocket”). Williams says Leventhal “has been good on many issues, but I think he has a hard time working with folks who may disagree with him on some issues. He will run roughshod over you on one issue, then wonder why you aren’t inclined to work with him on the next issue.”

The Takoma Voice, has a different take, saying Leventhal “has proved to be a sincere and thoughtful county legislator.” The Voice lauds him for his environmental initiatives such as “the reduction of power plant emissions and green building,” but is uncomfortable with his past association with the “End Gridlock” slate and the “positive light” in which he sees growth.

Keith Berner takes the harshest view, but he still cuts Leventhal some slack, calling him the “least evil” of the “End Gridlock” slate. He allows, ”for one thing, his developer contributions are below 50% this year and he occasionally shows signs of thinking for himself (as opposed to being a knee-jerk shill for the developers)”

“But,” says Berner, “he is downright mean (e.g., his quote in the Gazette last year hoping that those in Takoma Park who opposed a massive hospital expansion in their residential neighborhood should all get sick) and pretends to be far more progressive and green than he really is.”
For the other at-large seats Berner and the Voice endorse Trachtenberg, and Hugh Bailey, and where the Voice endorses Leventhal, Berner picks Cary Lamari.

Councilmember Williams dishes some of the other county council at-large candidates.

“You would think that incumbent Nancy Floreen, having been a former Mayor of Garrett Park, would understand municipal issues.”
“Bill Jacobs is running to be the warm body at the table to report the results of polls of constituents who tell him what they want him to do and how to vote. When I saw him speak, he totally lost his train of thought three times in 45 seconds.’

In the county council at-large race Gilbert recommends a bullet vote. One vote for Marc Elrich. Gilbert worries how we could replace his intelligent, saunchly pro-tenant voice on the city council if he is elected to the county council, however.

In the county council District 5 race just about everyone except your Gilbert endorses Valerie “Astroturf Val” Ervin over the promising Hans Riemer. Bruce Williams cites her experience as Board of Education representative, Dean of the George Meany Labor Center, and as aide to county councilmember George Leventhal.

Williams is evenhanded towards her opponent Hans Reimer (the one Gilbert urges everyone to vote for because he seems more genuinely progressive and he won’t pave the county school’s athletic fields with Astrofurf). Williams says Reimer is “intelligent and dedicated, but he has only been in this area a short time – he should stay involved and try again in a few years.”

The Voice is also kind to Reimer (he’s the non-Astroturf candidate), but gives Erwin the edge because of her many years involvement in local issues and politics and she “knows firsthand the the difficulties of economic survival.”

Keith Berner slams Reimer (the one you should vote for, remember?) as a “carpetbagger.” He voices suspicions that Reimer is more interested in using the council seat as a stepping stone to higher office. Others, including Gilbert, have made the same observation about Reimer (vote for him anyway), as well as Jamie Raskin, and especially Heather Mizeur, whose slick website and ads, snowstorm of mailers, and big-name and big donor backers are worthy of a run for President.

Berner insists Astroturf Val is progressive, based on her endorsements from The Sierra Club, Marc Elrich (who she knocked out of the race – another reason not to vote for her, despite Elrich’s gallantry), Ike Leggett, Jamie Raskin, and many others. Berner does admit (ha!) that Ervin’s campaign is “void of substance,” as your Gilbert observed in his brilliant but tragically unheeded “Politics on Parade” post back in July.

Gilbert is perplexed about the progressives failure to notice (or take seriously) that Astroturf Val’s rhetoric does NOT match up with that of her endorsers. Gilbert predicts there are going to be some shocked progressives when Ervin starts casting votes.

So, we’ve covered all the Takoma Park residents running for office: Franchot, Leventhal, Elrich, Mizeur, Raskin, and . . . and . . oh, dear! Poor Tom Perez! As you probably know, county councilmember Perez was knocked out of the race for State Attorney General. A toadlike Republican took Perez to court over a legal distinction in the election rules and won. So, nobody can endorse him, though all of us would. At least Mr. Perez has found gainful employment as a telemarketer. Gilbert has had several calls from him trying to sell him Simms-something-or-other, but Gilbert, being very busy, always has to hang up before the end of the message.

Gilbert will now get himself into deep into hot water by pointing out that there are a few candidates who are running not only on their stated platforms but on their subtextual minority status. Whether it be their ethnicity or sexual preference they are quietly courting the votes of their own, and the votes of principled liberals.

Gilbert recalls applauding the gerrymandering of US Congressional District 4 to create a “black-majority” district. He recalls stoutheartedly voting for Al Wynn because it was the principled liberal thing to do, because minority groups should have representation in public office.
And what a disaster Al Wynn turned out to be, “voting to authorize the war in Iraq, voting to drill in Alaska, voting to subsidize petroleum interests,” as the Voice points out. Keith Berner describes him thusly, “a Democrat who sides with Republicans more often than not (eliminating the estate tax, the war, Bush energy policy, etc.) and uses thugs to beat up volunteers for his opponent’s campaign.”

Liberals have such big, soft hearts they assume that all the minorities they support support them back. The Wynn experience demonstrates that is not the case. Liberals should make damn sure that candidates, ALL candidates, agree entirely with their principles and agendas before they give them support. Dare Gilbert say that it is better to elect an officeholder who supports civil rights for minorities as part of a consistently progressive platform than it is to elect a minority member whose platform is unclear or tepidly moderate? Or for a minority member who has massive backing from big names and big donors, big ambitions, but not much of a track record?

– Gilbert
Keith Berner’s Annotated Voters Guide can be had by writing Keith at:

Contact Bruce Williams for his Election Guide and Comments:

The Takoma Voice Election Guide is online..

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 Comments on "Guide Guide"

  1. Posting this comment for Seth.
    – Gilbert
    For what it’s worth, here are mine —
    For US Senator, Kweisi Mfume seems to have broader social concerns than
    Ben Cardin, and he’s more electable. But Cardin isn’t a bad choice
    despite his Iraq War support and I’ll happily vote for him in November
    should he win the primary.
    For comptroller, Peter Franchot. I buy his line that he’s the only true
    Democrat in the race.
    I plan to vote for Stu Simms for Attorney General. Only relatively minor
    points differentiate him from Doug Gansler in my view. I don’t think
    we’ll lose with either candidate.
    For state senator, Jamie Raskin. Jamie brings excellent new energy and
    ideas to the race. I have a lot of respect for Ida Ruben, but she seems
    to be out of touch, and simply put she doesn’t seem particularly effective
    despite her position in the senate leadership.
    By contrast, Sheila Hixson seems quite effective and I expect she’ll be
    the top vote-getter in the race for delegate but for a variety of reasons
    I’m NOT going to vote for her. I’m supporting Aaron Klein, Tom Hucker,
    and Lucinda Lessley. (You get to vote for three.) Aaron combines
    intelligence and political skill and experience and he grew up in the
    district and knows it well. Tom has solid advocacy credentials in
    Annapolis and great potential although I have had reservations about his
    political style. (All the candidates are progressive although Gareth
    Murray has some definite shortcomings.) And Lucinda Lessley is smart,
    knowledgable, and dedicated, and I believe she’d would replicate her hard
    campaign work in Annapolis.
    For county exec, Ike Leggett, who seems much fairer and more responsive
    than his opponent and who eschews the full-tilt growth policies that
    Silverman favors.
    For county-council at-large: George Leventhal, Duchy Trachtenberg, and
    possibly Hugh Bailey. (You get to vote for four.) George & Duchy are
    both strongly progressive and politically moderate, with balanced programs
    that seek to benefit the whole of the county. I don’t know so much about
    Bailey but he appears to fit this mold. I’m undecided about a fourth.
    I’m also undecided on District 5 County Council: Valerie Ervin and Hans
    Riemer are, so far as I see, a dead tie in terms of progressive
    credentials. (I’d have been quite happy to vote for Joy Austin-Lane!)
    Hans has great organizing skills and seems to be a fast learner, but in
    talking to the candidates it’s quickly clear that Valerie understands far
    better how the county works. The hitch is that I’m concerned about the
    vagueness of her plans and about her responsiveness. I may decide this
    one on election day.
    Outside the districts where I vote: I strongly support Donna Edwards for
    Congress in congressional district 4 and Dana Beyer for delegate in state
    district 18.
    I don’t have strong feelings about other local races.
    I hope this helps.

  2. Thanks for including our endorsements, Gilbert. Your endorsements are much more engaging than mine. And all good points.
    Your comments about my failure to criticize Ruben is almost right. I was not so worried about the flame-thrower aspect, since—as a member of the fourth estate—I am untouchable (in more ways than one). No, I’m just a nice guy. I preferred to focus on what I like about Raskin, rather than what I don’t like about Ruben.
    I feel that Ruben’s community service has been adequate, but not stellar. Even if she wins this election, she probably has no more than a couple of terms ahead of her. Why not send her into retirement (either now or in some not so distant future) with a hearty handshake and thanks.
    Running for office is an ego-trip that I’d never take. There are better paying jobs (though, not at the Voice), with less identity drama involved. So, a politician isn’t perfect…we can still say, “Thanks for standing up and trying to do something.”
    HOWEVER, I have to admit that the last mailing—the George Bush card—from Ruben shows such a lapse in judgement on her part (to be charitable), that I felt compelled to post a message about it on my Editor’s Blog:
    The mailing makes me a bit queasy from the combination of ire, shock, and sadness that it invokes.
    This may have been the inevitable conclusion to Ruben’s campaign, but I feel that she has made a mistep that will haunt her, whether she wins or loses.

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