An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

D18 Delegate Endorsement

In case you're wondering who to vote for in the District 18 state legislative race, let me recommend to you James Browning, for three simple reasons.

First, experience. Browning, as former executive director of Common Cause Maryland and leader of the American Cancer Society's legislative work in Maryland, has the practical experience with the legislature that no other challenger can match. Silver Spring, Wheaton, Kensington, and Chevy Chase need someone who can be effective from day one -- Browning and only Browning has that.

Second, progressive values. Browning talks straight about the realities of building the Purple Line, about fixing health care and education, about the economy and development. He's got the practical ideas and the grounded thinking to actually get something done.

Third, integrity and energy. Besides being the clean government guy in Maryland for four years, Browning isn't one of those slick, tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear politicians whose speech you have to parse to have any clue about what they really mean. He's got the drive to get things done and the honesty to tell you what he's aiming for. That's rare in politics.

So I support Browning for Delegate because our community needs a leader who can progressive laws passed: James Browning has the integrity, experience, energy, and progressive values to serve us well.


Can you believe that at the end of August Halloween candy is going on sale? Really, check out your local CVS or other purveyor of packaged junkfood.

Comptroller's Race

An interesting Sun article about the Comptroller’s race, gives some new perspectives on Ann Arundel Executive Janet Owens:
Among the issues on which she disagrees with the incumbent is his vote this year to support Ehrlich's proposed cut in the state property tax -- a move she dismissed as an election year gimmick that would worsen the state's long-term fiscal picture.
She said she would focus narrowly on the issues that concern the comptroller -- matters such as tax collection and procurement -- rather than broad policy issues.

And Owens wouldn’t commit to supporting Del. Peter Franchot in the general if he wins the primary.

A new statewide poll on the comptroller's race showed Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens steadily gaining on incumbent and fellow Democrat William Donald Schaefer, coming within four percentage points.

The survey, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies from August 18-26, found that 34 percent of the Democratic voters likely to cast ballots in the Sept. 12 primary said they would vote for Schaefer and 30 percent for Owens. Montgomery Del. Peter Franchot, had support from about 15 percent, with the remaining 21 percent undecided.

Franchot pointed out the pollster’s ties to Owens as discrediting the results. In the end, what we’re seeing is that there is clearly support for ousting Schaefer, but that the two challengers are splitting the vote.

In other campaign news, Reps Elijah Cummings and Al Wynn endorsed Kweisi Mfume for Senate. Polls show O’Malley ahead of Ehrlich in the gubernatorial primary, and Cardin in front of Mfume in the Senate primary. Finally, today the Post went out on a limb and endorsed Donna Edwards over Al Wynn in the 4th congressional district. Edwards and Jamie Raskin were on Kojo Nnamdi’s Maryland Politics Hour today talking about the sense of “entitlement” some incumbents seem to feel about their jobs.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mfume Bio Speech

Monday, August 28, 2006


Can you believe that at the end of August Halloween candy is going on sale? Really, check out your local CVS or other purveyor of packaged junkfood.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Perez Out

In a move certain to shake up the Attorney General’s race, Maryland’s highest court ruled that Montgomery County Councilman Tom Perez is not eligible to run to be the state's lead prosecutor.

The Sun has lots of folks spinning the decision, but we'll have to see whether the decision helps Simms or Gansler.
Geography has loomed large in the race from the start. Baltimore lawyers have had a lock on the attorney general's office for decades, and many in the Montgomery County political community thought it was time for one of their own to take the job. But with two of them in the race, the conventional wisdom held that a solid candidate from Baltimore -- particularly an African-American -- could sweep in and win.

And as folks in Montgomery County wonder what will become of Perez, an email from George Leventhal reminds activists that Stephen Abrams, the Republican Schol Board member who pushed the lawsuit, is up for reelection in 2008.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I love to get your tips and submissions -- send them to: on_background at yahoo dot com. Also, please share other Maryland politics links.

I got two tips from Prince George’s County recently without attribution or details, so we’re not going to publish the visuals, but one was a video attack ad aimed at Jack Johnson (County Exec) on crime and other matters, the other was a shot at Bill Ashkinazi (candidate for Senate in D15), or a supporter whose car has oodles of stickers on it, for parking in a handicapped spot. Also, we recently were sent a link to a site attacking Ike Leggett, and information about the personal donations and outside support of D18 delegate candidates Jeff Waldstreicher and Dan Farrington, but we don't want to get too much into the muck now do we?

The one image we do want to share is a Youtube video correcting some of Gov. Ehrlich's statements:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ACORN Endorses Mfume

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pressuring Voters

A MoCo Dem activist named Keith Berner is sharing a transcript he made of a push poll he got called for on Monday. Once you get down a bit it’s obvious whose poll this is – Steve Silverman’s. One of the interesting things is how many times Doug Duncan’s name is raised and the question “How important is it that next county executive be like Duncan?”

I’m skipping the early fluff questions. The push part of the poll comes from questions like:

Leggett says he supports for Purple Line, but has consistently voted against it, while Silverman has always supported the project. Does this make you more or less likely to support Leggett?
Leggett supports raising the gas tax to the highest in the nation. Does this make you more or less likely to support Leggett?
Then it gets worse:

On issue after issue Leggett says what people want to hear. For example, he said that he supports a massive increase in the gas tax, but has now backed away from it; he supported a massive new building project, but now doesn¹t; he supported using public money to buy supplies for private schools and has now backed away from this. Does this make you more or less likely to support Leggett?
Similar questions about the Purple Line, ICC, development, contributions from developers appear in the lengthy poll, hitting most of Silverman's key message points of late. So if you're not sure what a push poll is, this should clarify that while a legitimate poll asks you questions so that the client can understand what you care about, a push poll gives you information to pressure you to change your answers to get support for their clients. It's a questionalble way to win votes, but ofen effective.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Review: Local Bloggers Make Good

Local Bloggers Make Good: Even the Baltimore Sun has decided to run a piece about bloggers in Maryland elections, so we must be important, right? Right?

Maryland’s comptroller, William Donald Schaeffer has been truant the last couple of years, missing many meetings of one of the state’s most important committees

Hat tip to Stephanie Dray for pointing to a video of the aftermath (sorry readers we can’t get you the prize fight) of the incident between a couple of Wynn supporters and an Edwards supporter last week.

Did you see this funny satire of what Republicans see when they look at the NY Times? (thanks to Isaac of The Old Line)

There’s a summary of glbt candidates running in Maryland.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Marc Elrich for Council

So in case it hasn't been obvious, I'm supporting Marc Elrich for Montgomery County Council At-Large because he has the best experience in matters that county government deals with, combined with strong progressive values that he doesn't push aside as too many politicians do. We need responsible leaders who make sure that growth and develop happen only when they benefit residents and when we have the infrastructure to support them; we need Marc Elrich on the County Council.

Don't Vote for the Incumbents

The message that comes through the dense text that Cary Lamari (an at-large candidate for the County Council and someone yours truly has barely heard hint of in this busy election season) was handing out at a Metro Station this morning. Although he makes it more complicated, the gist of his hundreds of words is that the quality of life in Montgomery County, as indicated by things like traffic, education, affordable housing, and accountability, is getting worse. And the End Gridlock slate of county councilmembers, including Nancy Floreen, Steve Silverman, Mike Subin, and George Leventhal, is responsible.

Now I'd point you to the candidate's web site so that you can learn more about how Floreen, Silverman, et al have jammed more folks than we can handle into Montgomery County without worrying about silly things like infrastructure or public facilities, but it doesn't seem to work. In the meantime, check out the solution to the problem -- Marc Elrich and Duchy Trachtenberg. And if you haven't already, take a gander at the funny cartoon about selling out MoCo residents to developers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Did I Miss Something?

I'm kind of surprised that not many have commented on the Post's endorsement of Ike Leggett (in addition to the Gazette's) for Montgomery County Executive over the weekend. Does this not surprise anyone else? I mean, Silverman's been running a paid operation with several staffers and all of the trimmings that big developer dollars can buy since sometime the middle of the last year, while Leggett's been running a shoe-string operation without big guns or noticeable structure.

For County Executive, Ike Leggett

Something big is happening and with most residents noting that things have been getting worse, not better over the past four years, finally incumbent candidates who haven't gotten the job done on the most important issues of growth, transportation, and education are feeling the heat. One can't help but wonder if we're on the cusp of a change in the county...

I love the attempts by Donna Edwards camp to use the Lieberman/Lamont upset to get Prince Georges and Montgomery residents to change sides with quotes like: "Albert Wynn is Maryland's Joe Lieberman."

Did you know that George Bush Sr. won MD in 1988?

Read today’s Post piece on Mfume/Cardin -- I think it'll give you a clear picture of the different priorities and styles of the two candidates. Unless you imagine that there is some chance that Lichtman, Rales, etc. have a shot, it should help you know which way you’re going to vote. For me it's not much of a contest if it's between Mfume and Cardin -- Mfume has both the brain and the heart to get something done. Cardin's only got the brain and isn't progressive.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Let's Talk About Sex

So I kind of want to write today about how former Governor Hughes is endorsing Tom Perez for AG, Peter Franchot apparently has $900k racked up, or the other hot races in Maryland, but I can't. You see, we'd better talk about sex.

Specifically, today's post is about Montgomery County Public Schools and sex ed. I'll give it to you pretty simply: the schools are grappling with how thoroughly to teach MC young people about sex and sexuality and the most energetic people locally on this issue are often conservatives who want to limit the education our kids get, limiting their knowledge as they make difficult choices that shape their lives. Sexual behavior, contraception, sexual orientation -- these are things our kids need to learn about. A Board of Education election coming up that will decide 4 seats and maybe impact what our kids are taught, but it's getting little notice with so many higher profile races in the County and across Maryland.

The Gazette did a questionnaire of Board of Education candidates that reveals stark differences between the candidates on what should be taught to students on issues like sexuality, pregnancy and contraception. So, if you think MC students should learn about these important subjects without conservative interference, check out the responses of candidates for the Board of Education about sex ed. The Gazette's question was:

Should the school system's health curriculum include discussions of
homosexuality and demonstrations of contraception use?


The school system should provide responsible, age-appropriate sex education with
the option for families to elect participation in accordance with their beliefs.
If we truly want students to grow up informed and ready to make choices that
keep them safe and healthy, we must provide a curriculum that is comprehensive
and medically accurate. Discussion of sexual orientation and homosexuality
should be included. We know that combating prejudice and bullying targeted at
students who are ''different" by virtue of being gay requires education. By
including information about sexual orientation in the health curriculum, we will
foster an environment of greater tolerance in our schools.

Similarly, the video demonstration of condom use should be included in a
comprehensive curriculum. Condoms are the only form of birth control that can
prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The number one
reason for condom failure is improper use. In 2004, at the request of health
teachers, MCPS piloted a condom use demonstration video in three high schools,
designed to present information in a way that would hold students' attention.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. If we are serious about protecting our
students' health and giving them access to information about how to protect
themselves from sexually transmitted infections, HIV AIDS and unintended
pregnancies, we should include the demonstration in our instruction.



No, the public tax money is use to provide the student with education of
sciences, math, English and other academic-related subjects. The discussions of
homosexuality and demonstrations of contraception use are part of parental
guidance and family value retention responsibility and should be no part of our
public school curriculum.



I think that the parents should be the final decision makers in the area of sex
education. I think that we are in an age where schools can create a
''customized" sex education curriculum. I am a believer in developing
non-traditional means to achieve an end result. In the 21st century , we have
VCR's, DVD players, IPODs, ect.... You could have a sex education program that
is ''video-teleconferenced" (where parents could be a part of the sex education
classes if they choose to.


Dana Eugene Gassaway, At-Large
Responses not available
John Horan Latham, At-Large
Responses not available



The health curriculum should be comprehensive and fact based.



Parents are in the best position to decide what their children will learn about
health, sex, sexuality, homosexuality, alternative lifestyles, abstinence,
contraception and other components of the county's health curriculum. Some
parents have decided that discussion about homosexuality and demonstrations on
the use of contraception is appropriate for their child; while other parents
have decided these discussions and demonstrations conflict with their religious
and moral values that they teach at home.

Unfortunately, parents in effect have only one choice - to opt in or opt out
their children in these discussions and demonstrations. Children, whose parents
choose to opt out, are relegated to the library or some other ''holding
classroom" until they are allowed to return to health class. The BoE should
change this policy by giving parents the additional choice of opting in their
children into health classes that teach the values and morals that are
consistent with the values and morals they teach their children at home.

MCPS sets high standards for students in math, science, English, social studies,
visual and performing arts, athletics, reading, literature, history, in all
areas of the curriculum except one - health education. MCPS has watered down the
health curriculum to the lowest expectations of our children. Our children
deserve better.



I strongly support the planned revisions to the health education curriculum, to
include discussions about homosexuality in grades 8 and 10 and a condom
demonstration video in grade 10. Parents will have the opportunity to preview
the curriculum and will still be required to sign a permission form to allow
their children participate. I support 21st century health education for our



I support a comprehensive health curriculum. I foresee my role as a BOE member
to listen to the recommendations of the community advisory panel that is
currently reviewing proposed curriculum changes. It is likely that if the panel
recommends a proposal that includes discussions of homosexuality and
demonstrations of contraception use, I will be supportive.






Homosexuality and contraception use are a part of society and the facts about
both should be taught in a responsible and unbiased manner that demonstrates
respect, responsibility and abstinence. Many students and their families in
Montgomery County don't wish to participate in such discussions and this point
of view should be accommodated by having a strong, meaningful alternative to
those who do not opt in to the health curriculum that includes these topics.

Dangerous Precedent

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Wrong Kind of Friends

Donna Edwards, candidate for Congress in Maryland's fourth takes a swing at absentee incumbent Wynn for skewed priorities. Wynn's ignored the real needs of his constituents living in Prince George's and Montgomery counties to be at the beck and call of big money campaign contributors. It's time for someone new, someone with cool campaign graphics!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Felton and NeighborsPAC

I and a fair number of my neighbors got a postcard over the weekend from Reggie Felton, a candidate for Montgomery County Council. Most of the card is pretty generic, not giving the reader much idea of what Felton will stand for. On one side is a list of goals the candidate has. You know, pretty generic things like good schools, better transportation, etc. The one that caught me is "Safer Neigbors." Since his web site says "Safer Neighborhoods," let's assume the postcard version is just a mistake and not a suggestion that we start screening our neighbors.

If you haven't yet already, take a look at a funny and pointed animated issue ad from NeigborsPAC online -- it makes some good points about how special interest contributions can skew the policy agenda. Getting most people to pay attention to the elections and getting them more than just the pap the candidates want them to know is a challenge. NeighborsPAC might make us pay attention with this.

And if you haven't checked out the current edition of Street Sense, you might want to for both the article about the rise in homelessness (including double-digit percentage increases in Montgomery and Prince George's County) and for an even more painful one. The more touching article is about how the shortage of homeless shelters in the DC area can force women and children fleeing domestic violence back to their abusers.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Let's See What the AG's Office Can Do

Tom Perez, former prosecutor, civil rights attorney and consumer advocate, and current member of the Montgomery County Council, showed this writer a willingness to think outside the box to tackle important problems as he runs for Attorney General during an interview this week.

Saying that “only about 10% of the job” of the Attorney General is traditional criminal prosecution, he pointed to “the breadth and depth of experience I bring to the job” and the “number of unique perspectives on how government and the law can be used to serve people well” as reasons he would best be able to serve the people of Maryland.

Perez touted his own experience as being the best fit for the broad, diverse job of Attorney General of Maryland:

“Many people perceive the office to be a Statewide "State's Attorney" but it’s not. The bulk of the work is in the areas I described above -- consumer protection, health care, environmental protection."

"To be sure, there is work done prosecuting environmental crimes, health care fraud, etc. -- but that is a different kind of prosecution altogether that requires some manner of subject area expertise which I bring."

Perez presents a new perspective on what the Attorney General’s office can do, saying he wants to broaden the work of the AG’s office in innovative ways, for example:

"I think we can use civil rights laws to reduce health disparities for low-income and minority Marylanders. Consider, for example, that diabetes is a disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans. We can use the leverage of equal protection laws to ask why it is that most insurance companies don’t cover routine preventative foot exams to screen for diabetes. Cost = about $40. But the insurance companies happily cover the cost of below the knee amputations when diabetes takes hold. The AG has broad powers to investigate corporate practices, including those that might be discriminatory. I'm not suggesting necessarily that the practice is....but it’s worth asking the questions and seeing if we can’t find some reasonable solution with the insurance industry."

He pointed out that both of his opponents in the primary (former Baltimore State’s Attorney Stuart Simms and Montgomery County States Attorney Doug Gansler) “are criminal prosecutors by background." While he talked about his experience as a prosecutor, he gave examples of his other work that reflects on what kind of AG he’d like to be: “Working with my law students at the University of Maryland, we successfully sued the Ehrlich Administration on their decision to remove 4,000 pregnant women and children from the Medicaid rolls -- based on civil rights laws.”

Perez stood behind his bill against predatory lending, calling the fines it imposes a “significant deterrent” to the “few unscrupulous lenders …taking advantage of people." He also went on the offensive, saying “The Ehrlich Administration had utterly abdicated its responsibility to make funding available to Attorney General Curran for consumer protection. “

Perez points to his many endorsements which, in addition to state and local organizations, prominent people, etc. include "the entire law enforcement community in Montgomery County" and said “I'm the only candidate who has articulated a truly progressive agenda for the office on health care, the environment, etc.”

Go to candidates’ web sites if you want to get the boilerplate about their positions and priorities. I’m going to leave it at: “My three priorities for the office are to improve access to quality, affordable health care, to transform the office in terms of environmental protection, and to protect consumers from fraudulent and unfair corporate practices.”

Tom Perez For Attorney General 2006


I'm not going to link you to the New Republic, since they've been cutting off access to articles for non-subscribers, but I loved this quote "The life of a member of Congress is set up for infidelity in a way that I can't think of for any other profession--aside from being a rock star."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Snarky DC

Snicker, snicker http://goodatdrinkingbadatlife.blogspot.com/2006/08/solution-to-dc-crime-wave.html

Wink And A Nod

From National Journal's Hotline:
Meanwhile, Compt. William Donald Schaefer (D) will unveil new PSAs
today that feature Ehrlich's wife and son promoting tax-free shopping. TV
and radio ads will run 8/23 through 8/27. State Senate Pres. Mike Miller
(D): "For [Schaefer] to continue to cozy up to the governor at this late
stage of the election process isn't going to sit well with some Democratic
primary voters." Schaefer spokesperson Kevin Kane said he's required by law
to implement the tax-free shopping and that he didn't pick the "ads' stars."
Ehrlich spokesperson Henry Fawell said Kendel Ehrlich was approached by the
MD Retailers Assn., which paid for the radio production costs. WMAR-TV in
Baltimore paid TV production costs (Wagner/Mosk, Washington Post, 8/3). MD
Dem spokesperson David Paulson: "I think it's a blatant misuse of special
interests by Ehrlich" (Donovan, Baltimore Sun, 8/3)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Always On

A Sun article talks about how Ehrlich isn't doing a lot of campaigning, except that campaigning has always been woven into his gubernatorial work. The takeaway line is:
"He's been campaigning since the day he got into office," said Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat who admires Ehrlich. "If anybody thinks he isn't campaigning, take it from me," Schaefer said. "He is."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Take a look at a new ad put out by Americans United for Change that has a simple but powerful message about why the Republicans' plans for privatizing social security will hurt seniors across the country. An elderly woman's face is gripping as she cuts her pill in half. The zoom on a hot dog as an older couple cuts it in half tells the story well.