Just Shut The %#€ Up, Pal

So Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, is accused of knowingly poisoning the primarily African-American residents of Flint with lead-tainted water delivered by city managers appointed by Snyder. The issue came up in the Democratix debate tonight. Snyder should have been so embarrassed that he said nothing, because there’s nothing he can say to frame the issue in any positive way. But Snyder, in typical GOP fashion, decided to go for it. Bad move.

It’s a crisis because you intentionally exposed people to water laced with massive quantities of lead, you idiot. Just shut up.

Debate Quick Takes

Clinton did a good job pinning down Sanders on guns and health care, as well as pointing out Sanders’ opposition to many Obama initiatives. Sanders scored some good points on Clinton’s connections to big money. O’Malley had a hard time getting a chance to speak but was very good on the few occasions he did.

Verdict: Sanders’ points will earn him prose from those who already support him. I don’t think he did a lot to persuade anyone who wasn’t already on his side. Clinton hit Sanders in way that will help persuade winnable voters. Advantage: Clinton on points. No knockout blows.

Roll Call Assesses The CD8 Race

Bright and early this 100th morning before the primary, Roll Call has an assessment of the CD8 race. If you didn’t know better, you’d think there were only two candidates running. Even if you believe that Jamie Raskin or Kathleen Matthews is likely to win (which you should believe at this point), I suspect you’d also want to know what impact the other five candidates might have on the two frontrunners. You won’t get any such analysis from the Roll Call piece.

What you will get is a pretty good take on the approaches of Matthews and Raskin. At this moment, it’s hard to argue that Raskin doesn’t have the better voter outreach (a point the author completely misses), but as he does note, Matthews is gearing up while Raskin is slowing down – at least his own personal campaign activity – because from now until April 11 (three days before early voting starts and fifteen days before the primary) Raskin will be in Annapolis for 8-10 hours a day, four days per week (and more as session draws to a close in late March and early April).

How will this play out?

For about four days a week, from now until April 11, a major obstacle will be out of Democrat Kathleen Matthews’ way as she runs for her party’s nomination in Maryland’s 8th District, a primary contest that could well decide the successor to outgoing Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

That is because state Sen. Jamie Raskin – the Democrat who polling and Maryland Democratic operatives say is her chief rival among six others running for this open seat – will be spending more and more time in Annapolis during the 90-day legislative session that ends only two weeks before election day.

“I was obviously aware from the beginning of the race that I’d be going back to Annapolis,” Raskin, the Maryland Senate’s Democratic whip, said in an interview with Roll Call. “I will not be able to knock on as many doors as before, but I’m spending every free minute in the evening and on the weekends out campaigning.”

During the legislative session, Raskin said he has “turned down a lot of smaller bills” this session to focus on his campaign and on issues of larger policy consequence, particularly one that would prevent terror suspects from purchasing firearms in Maryland and another that would require the use of ignition interlock devices in all cases of drunk driving.

With her opponent partially off the field, Matthews said she plans to spend every free minute of her own free time connecting with voters — and then some. On Saturday, she re-launched a door-to-door operation, starting in voter-rich Bethesda, with just 101 days until primary day. The district, which Van Hollen is vacating to run for an open Senate seat, runs from Montgomery County’s border with D.C. north to the Pennsylvania line.

How well will the early Raskin organization hold up while its candidate is off in Annapolis for three months? How diligent and effective will Matthews be in her winter campaign? Raskin has touted his “grassroots” connections and organization from the outset, and there’s no question that he’s reached a lot of voters. Matthews has to prove that she’s up to the task of countering that outreach, if not voter for voter, then at least sufficiently for her to bring her financial advantages to bear in direct mail and particularly television ads.

What role will money play in the end? Matthews already has a $200,000 advantage in cash on hand, and that’s likely to grow. While money might not be able to buy you love, it can help reach a lot of voters in a short time, particularly in a congressional race in a presidential election year.

Finally, there’s another duel playing out that doesn’t always get noticed in the contrast of the two leading candidates: Annapolis versus Washington. Roll Call highlights the contrasts.

“I’m an effective progressive legislator with a decades worth of proven experience,” [Raskin] said. “Nobody has to guess what I stand for.”

In his view, that “proven” record is why he has earned the endorsements of prominent county leaders and many of his fellow state legislators. No one from the state’s congressional delegation has endorsed anyone in the race.* Matthews, meanwhile, has secured support from national groups, including EMILY’s List, as well as a number of federal lawmakers. In her campaign’s fundraising report, which will be released at the end of the month, Matthews said she has received contributions from California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“The endorsements that Jamie has are not the people who have experience in this Congress,” she said. “There are certainly prominent Maryland politicians behind him, but to get endorsements from people who know how to be effective in this Congress says something.”

Raskin said his time in Annapolis over the next several weeks will say something, too.

“This is another way to reinforce my policy values and commitments with my constituents and the broader public,” he said. “They know that I am an intensely effective legislator who gets the job done.”

* This is incorrect. CD3 Congressman john Sarbanes has endorsed Raskin, his former Harvard Law School classmate.

None of these debates are unique to CD8 – what makes this so interesting is that there are so many interesting duels all unfolding in one congressional race. In 100 days, we’ll know the answers, but I’m looking forward to seeing the different fault lines play out from now until April 26.

Those Voters Aren’t Going To Reach Themselves

100 days. Sound the trumpets.

Take a Xanax, then a deep breath (you can reverse the order if you like), then back to work.

Don’t hate me because I looked at the calendar, but that’s where we are on this gray January Sunday morning. Now get on out there and knock some doors, candidates and loyal staff and volunteers.

G’wan, git. Time’s ‘a wastin’.

Trump Or Cruz: Who’d You Rather Face? 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the GOP nominee is going to be either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz (or as the Post recently referred to them, syphillis or gonorrhea). So from the perspective of Democrats, who’d make the more favorable opponent? I vote for Trump. Ted Cruz may be unpleasant but he knows what it’s like to be a candidate, how it feels to be the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism. Trump doesn’t – at some point, he’s likely to simply lose his shit under the glare of the lights of a national campaign.

Dave Asche has a different view. Despite his being wrong, he’s a really good guy. Here’s his take on why Cruz is the opponent of choice.
I was talking with a friend the other night about a laundry list of issues before it eventually, of course, turned into a conversation about the current race for the White House. Of all the different topics we discussed about the election, one in particular stuck in my mind. And it is the question of whether Democrats would rather face Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the general election.

 The first answer to pop in many people’s heads, is likely Trump. All Hillary (or Bernie) would have to do is play all of the offensive comments he has made about women, African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, and POW’s, to name a few, on a loop throughout the summer and fall. But even with all of that in mind, I am coming around to the opinion that Trump would present a unique danger to the Democratic nominee and Cruz would be the easier opponent.

 Bear with me here. Donald Trump has almost unanimous name recognition. I realize Hillary Clinton is well known too, but if you were to ask the average American voter if they have heard of Trump or Clinton, my guess is Trump wins out. For better or worse, name recognition is major factor in winning elections.

 Second, Trump has an ingenious way of knowing how to probe for weakness in his opponents, and applying the pressure if and when the story starts to get legs. In the early part of the campaign, Trump hammered Jeb Bush for being weak, “low energy,” and simply not up to the job of being president. Primary voters started buying into the argument and, well, we have all seen Jeb’s poll numbers lately. He responded to Hillary’s charge of sexism by linking her to Bill Clinton’s well documented foibles and completely turned the story around on her. And he turned what most of us thought was a ridiculous issue about Ted Cruz’s eligibility, and put Cruz on the defensive for weeks. And he managed to reign in Cruz’s momentum in Iowa in the process.

 He knows how to get stories into the media, and thus, into the mainstream. He has very effective skills as an offensive puncher and a counterpuncher. Just imagine the effectiveness he will have attacking Hillary over sticking up for her husband during his affairs, Benghazi, and her email server at the State Department.

 Third, and perhaps most important, is while Trump is a billionaire CEO, it will be very hard to paint him as the 2016 version of Mitt Romney. Trump is not campaigning as the rich oligarch who bashes the poor or calls for privatizing entitlement programs. Yes, he is proposing massive tax cuts on the wealthy. He is a Republican afterall. But during this campaign he has railed against proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare. He even went as far as to say he and other rich people around the country should sacrifice their benefits so they go to working people.

 Trump has also been an opponent of free trade agreements. When he talks about how bad these agreements have been for the country and how they ship blue collar jobs overseas, Trump sounds more like Bernie Sanders than he does a rich conservative. His rantings against illegal immigration are tied to the same theme. That illegal immigrants are flocking across the border and taking good jobs away from hard working Americans. He is tapping into the populist, blue collar anger better than anybody in the GOP field right now and it is resonating with people. Does he sound like George Wallace while doing it? Yes. But to many people, it doesn’t matter.

 Ted Cruz on the other hand is the face of everything that is wrong with Washington. He led the government shutdown in 2013 and has been a lead GOP obstructionist on just about every piece of legislation making its way through Congress. The American people are tired of gridlock, and Ted Cruz is the best guy to link to it.

 In June of 2015 when the Supreme Court decided same sex marriage was legal, he called it one of the darkest days in American History. He is far to the right on other issues such as women’s health, taxes, regulations, guns, and to top it all off, he is a proud denier of the science behind climate change. An issue more and more Americans are seeing as a major problem.

 And while Trump is far from likeable, he can come off as affable and charming at times. Ted Cruz does not. He isn’t even liked by his colleagues in the Senate.

 Cruz has also shown he can be rattled when attacked. Aside from his response to Trump on the birther issue, in the last debate, Cruz was thrown off message and on the defensive when he was directly challenged. It was apparent as soon as Trump backhanded him on his New York values comments. His response to Marco Rubio’s opposition research on his immigration record come off as him being annoyed and again, on defense. The same goes for his answer to the questions about the undisclosed loans from his 2012 Senate campaign. Attacks on Cruz are far more effective than they are on Trump.

 None of this is to suggest I think Trump would definitely beat Clinton or Sanders in the general election. But if people really sit down and think about it, they should come to the realization that facing Trump would not be the cakewalk they have been led to believe it would be.

 Ted Cruz is the opponent the Democratic nominee should most want to face off against in November.

More Charm City Numbers

And some of them are really, really big numbers. The Sun has a rundown of some of the data unofficially trickling out.

The big headline is in the mayoral race. Mayoral candidate David Warnock has loaned his campaign $950,000, but what shouldn’t be lost is that he also raised $360,000, a strong number in and of itself.

District 14 incumbent Mary Pat Clarke, facing three challengers, raised $50,000.

The Sun also reported on the numbers for Brian Hammock, which I reported last night, noting some additional contributions behind the ones I saw.

Hammock’s money includes a $3,000 transfer from state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat; a $3,000 contribution from developer Mark Sapperstein; a $2,000 contribution from former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “O’ Say Can You See” federal political action committee; and a $1,000 contribution from lobbyist Sean Malone, among others. Henry challenged Conway unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2014.

That last sentence is key. Joan Carter Conway is someone with a long, long memory. You don’t challenge her without the awareness cthat she is unlikely to forgive or to forget. I am sure that she is bound and determined to pay Bill Henry back for his 2014 challenge, with a healthy dollop of interest on top. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Hammock.

The First Campaign Finance Report Is In

No, not for Congress – those aren’t due until January 31. But the Baltimore City reports are due next Tuesday, January 20, and someone had some numbers he just couldn’t keep to himself over the three day weekend.

Our first report has been filed, by City Council candidate Brian Hammock, running in District 4.


Hammock’s bio can be found here. A former O’Malley staffer and campaign aide, Hammock is a VP for CSX Transportation and was previously an attorney for Venable, one of Baltimore’s most prestigious law firms.

Hammock is running against incumbent Bill Henry, as well as fellow challenger Francesco Legaluppi.

Hammock’s campaign finance report, filed yesterday, establishes him as a top tier candidate in the April primary. In addition to containing a long list of well known O’Malley and other figures in Maryland politics, including former Attorney General Joe Curran, former Communications Director Rick Abbruzzese, former Chief Legislative Officer Joe Bryce, former Democratic Party ED Quincey Gamble, lobbyist Sean Malone, current Party ED Pat Murray, former Senate staffer and lobbyist Tim Perry, former Senator and lobbyist John Pica, and former Party ED David Sloan (that makes 3!).

As impressive as that list is, the more significant thing about it is the numbers. Hammock raised $120,863, spent less than $20,000, and has over $100,000 cash on hand. That’s some impressive fundraising right there – no wonder he filed five days before the deadline. I have to wonder if Hammock won’t potentially outraise some well-known mayoral candidates with that number.

I’ll try to keep up with as many of the reports as I can, as they’re filed. Stay tuned for more fun.