Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Voters Guide Silver Spring 2016 Democratic Primary

Guest Post with Marie Mapes (my wife)

Maryland voters will have their chance to vote in the primary elections April 14th-21st (early voting) and on April 26th (regular voting). There is plenty of information out there about the presidential primary, but we are always left wondering who are all these people running for other races. In downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park we have just three races (US Senate, US House of Representative, and Montgomery County Board of Education). We are registered Democrats so we only look at those races. We don't really make specific recommendations but basically condense what we can find after googling for an hour or so. One take-way we already find: There are a lot of good candidates in each of the elections. All of the front runners appear to be worth voting for, and many of those who have received less attention in the press as well would likely represent us well, too. We see broad commitment to progressive values (e.g. commitments to women's rights, living wages, environmentalism, closing the achievement gap in Montgomery County schools) among the candidates. One distinguishing factor among candidates that is compelling to us is evidence of the ability to collaborate and pragmatically find ways to make progress in polarized political situations. We try to point it out when we see it.

Where to start: 

Use this site to find your sample ballot and your polling place where you can vote.

Good information on all the races:
League of Women Voters Guide

US Senate

Basically this race comes down to Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen. Both are current members of Congress. As the Washington Post puts it "Each has received our endorsement in the past, and each is qualified to serve in the Senate." Both are progressive, excellent candidates, and the major differences may come down to style and methods.

The Post endorses Van Hollen saying "The main difference is that Mr. Van Hollen — pragmatic, detail-oriented, agile — could be a real force for accomplishment. By contrast, Ms. Edwards, whose many attributes do not include a gift for team play, would reinforce Congress’s tendency toward stalemate along partisan lines." However, if you are looking for a Senator who marks out a leadership stance, Van Hollen has shown "a reluctance to stake out strong stands independent of his party. To make a lasting mark in the Senate, he will have to do that at times."

Edwards also makes a compelling candidate, as pointed out by the endorsement by The Nation: "Edwards, the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress, took an activist route to the House... she has worked for decades with civil-rights, media-reform, labor-rights, peace, and social-justice movements. And she has brought this sensibility to her work as a member of the House, reaching out to Black Lives Matter activists and to campaigners for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, championing criminal-justice reform and gun control."

Other links:
Baltimore Sun Voters Guide
Coverage of the Race from Bethesda Magazine and Voters Guide Bethesda Magazine

US House of Representatives:

The Washington Post endorses Kathleen Matthews  "In this formidable lineup, one candidate stands out as having the potential to make an impact in Congress: Kathleen Matthews, a longtime TV journalist and, more recently, corporate executive. Ms. Matthews is a first-time candidate for elective office, but as a local reporter and anchor for WJLA for 25 years, and then as head of public affairs for Marriott International, she has a broad and deep facility with policy and politics." (Profile of Kathleen Matthews from the Washington Post.) Their endorsement stems from a belief that she may "be more pragmatic and less doctrinaire than the left-leaning Mr. Raskin, whose passionate liberalism is unsurpassed in Annapolis."

Also from the Washington Post endorsement of Matthews is the acknowledgment that "Another strong candidate is Sen. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Senate’s majority whip, who is recognized in Annapolis as an effective legislator."  From the Washington Post profile on Jamie Raskin:
"He prides himself on his statehouse collaborations with Republicans and more-moderate Democrats. Among his legislative efforts, he co-sponsored Maryland’s medical marijuana bill with then-state Sen. David Brinkley (R), like Raskin, a cancer survivor.  Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County, one of the Maryland Senate’s most right-leaning Democrats, said Raskin’s “gentle and persistent” advocacy got him to change his position on same-sex marriage. “He spent two years working on me,” Brochin said. “He’s got an incredible amount of decency.”

Board of Education Member at Large:

Local blogger Dan Reed at Just up The Pike has by far the best write-up on this race (here)
He sees it as a three way race among "[the incumbent] Phil Kauffman, retired principal Jeanette Dixon, and former teacher and student board member Sebastian Johnson".

From the article: "Kauffman lives in Olney and was a PTA activist before joining the board in 2008....
He ran as a reformer in 2008, calling for greater transparency in budget decisions and changes to the middle school curriculum. At the time, he said the school board was too cozy with the superintendent and needed to be more independent. Two terms later, he defended keeping Starr as superintendent."
(Superintendent Starr resigned last February, partly due to "the board members who lost faith in Starr cited concerns with his approach to closing the school system’s achievement gap", so says this Washington Post article)

Also from the Just Up the Pike post : "Dixon...was principal at Paint Branch High School ....before retiring three years ago....Since then, she's been an outspoken critic of the school system and proponent of big ideas....In January 2015, she published an open letter blasting Starr, calling him ineffective and saying he only cared about "protecting the MCPS brand." "
Finally, Just Up the Pike describes why Johnson is a really interesting candidate:  "Johnson argues he can provide a new perspective to a board where members are often shut down for going against the grain. At 27, he's by far the youngest candidate, and describes himself as proof that schools can close the achievement gap. A former teacher and student member of the board, he grew up in a single-parent household in Takoma Park before attending Georgetown, Harvard, and the London School of Economics. He talks about the "intersectionality" of schools and factors outside the classroom, pointing out that students can't learn if their families can't afford health care or stable, decent housing. He wants more "wraparound services" like health centers at schools, while increasing minority student access to the county's largely segregated magnet programs. He hopes his existing relationships with county council members can smooth the often adversarial relationship the board has with other county agencies."

Bethesda Magazine adds two more articles (one) and (two)
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