Archive for September 2011
Anybody who has been reading my blog over the past year knows just how much I despise the Senatorial slates. In every district across Prince George’s County during the Democratic Primary last year, Senators chose to “anoint” their favored candidates down ballot. Our fine Senators put together “Official Ballots” mailed and passed out to voters, directing them to choose the Senators’ endorsed candidates for office. In many cases, little or no consideration was given regarding these candidates’ qualifications, platforms, experience, or record of service to the community.
The Official Ballots were proudly passed out by campaign volunteers out at the polls, who urged their fellow Democrats to choose their Senator’s “official” ballot of candidates when they went inside to vote. This tactic is often used in a General Election to help voters distinguish among Republican and Democratic candidates. However, in a Democratic stronghold such as Prince George’s County, where winning the Primary Election is tantamount to being elected to office, our Senators have decided that voters need to be told that there is an “official” ballot of candidates they need to vote for based on their Senator’s opinion, rather than asking constituents to do the research and determine their choice independently.
Why would Senators care so deeply about who wins races down ballot? Well, it’s simply a matter of control. Candidates who win are then not beholden to the voters, but to the Senators that helped them get elected. We end up with unqualified, inexperienced individuals who have no business representing us in Upper Marlboro or Annapolis. That’s part of the reason why we ended up with Delegate Tiffany Alston in office, who then (allegedly) made a very foolish decision to spend leftover campaign funds on her wedding. Some suspect Alston wasn’t really up to the responsibility of her elected office, but was solely elected based on her relationship to the Exum family (for those who don’t yet know, she married former District 7 Councilwoman Camille Exum’s Chief of Staff, and Camille’s dad, Nate Exum, supported Tiffany by putting her on his slate). In a field where there are many candidates looking to distinguish themselves from the field, it’s extremely helpful to be on a slate among other elected officials that voters may already trust and recognize. This often helps candidates like Tiffany get the extra lift they need to win.
This also hints at the real reason why District 8 Candidate Jerry Mathis was frustrated and attempted to put out his own “official” ballot. While I don’t justify how he did it (using an unregistered group who wasn’t authorized to print and distribute campaign materials), I certainly understand why he did it. I worked at two different District 9 polls on election day, and anyone who received literature from candidates who weren’t on the 27A Legislative Team’s Official Ballot were quickly scuttled aside by campaign volunteers from the 27A team, to let voters know that these other candidates were not on the “Official Ballot.” When Michael Jackson’s volunteers passed out an alternative “Official Ballot,” things got really ugly as campaign volunteers yelled out to potential voters that the Jackson “Official Ballot” was deceptive, or a flat-out lie. Is this really how Democrats want to influence democracy in the County?
In case you didn’t already know, here’s the formula you need to win office elected office in Prince George’s County,:
- Pucker up your own Senator to get their endorsement. That way you don’t have waste time raising money or spending your own money to run your campaign, because your Senator will help you and get their friends to write big checks to you.
- This Senator then helps you get key endorsements from SEIU, Teachers, and Public Safety unions.
- Send out 4-6 flyers with your smiling face, a picture of your family, key buzzwords, & list of endorsements
- Attend a few community picnics, shake hands, and appear concerned and engaged
- Get your face on the Official Ballot, mailed multiple times to all registered Democrats & distributed at polls
- Get elected, stay put, fly under the radar, and wait your turn to rise to the next higher office, as a professional politician
It seems that this is the way it has always been in Prince George’s County, but you as voters are empowered to change that in the future. You need to decide how important it is to elect honest, concerned, and caring representatives who are connected to you, instead of those who are just politically connected, union-backed, and bought and paid for by these groups. You also need to realize that it’s important to vote, period. When only 20% or less of you show up to the polls to vote, I’m not sure we’re deserving of representation at all, or maybe in the end, we really just end up getting what we deserve. You’ve already seen how that turns out.
Only a very small percentage of the electorate will bother to vote on September 20, or realize that the outcome affects their District’s planning, zoning, and development for the next 11 years. Why didn’t I mention jobs, education, foreclosures, and other hot issues being mentioned on the campaign trail? Because despite what the candidates may say, they have very little influence over their issues. In regard to jobs and foreclosures, they can suggest and tweak policy, but they need their colleagues’ support to move it forward, or the state’s money to get it done (and we all know there’s not much state money up for grabs these days). They can’t change one thing about the School Board’s budget. They can only question and control total resources. Those things, while important, have not changed a thing about the way PGPCS does business, as you have probably figured out.
If you’re Candidate Derrick Leon Davis and will represent County Executive Baker’s crucial fifth vote on initiatives that he wants to push through Council, you do become very valuable when you’re elected. I understand there are lots of fans of our County Executive, and I can understand why. He has done a good job of publicizing himself and the County in the media, and that does count for something since we have been the black sheep of the region for many years. However, in order to get the results he really wants, Mr. Baker needs five votes on Council, and Davis is a sure bet. So yes, Davis’ vote will count alot toward the future of the entire county if he wins. That’s what is really at stake here.
I’m not “sold” on everything Mr. Baker has for sale. After Davis is elected, Baker’s top priority will be approval of his $50 million economic development fund. I don’t disagree that we need better economic development around our metro stations, and we need more quality employment opportunities to keep our residents working here in the county. I am sure everyone could agree on this goal. However, I’m not certain that offering money alone is the answer. Businesses (and their employees) don’t want to be here because they read our homicide headlines every day, and they know that our public schools are at the bottom of the barrel in Maryland. Those problems aren’t going away, and detracts from our ability to be a marketable location for any organization, including the federal government.
If there’s a candidate for District 6 that has a real plan out there for dealing with crime and education first, and a proven track record of being able to successfully negotiate, rather than stall, solutions regarding these issues, then I would love to hear their proposals.
I’ve stood by silently observing the debate on my blog regarding the District 6 race. I’m glad people are getting engaged in the process, but I apologize for being just a bit cynical about the final outcome. I will not get involved in endorsing a candidate because: (1) It’s inappropriate for me to weigh in, given I don’t live in District 6; and (2) I don’t believe anything will change the outcome of this race.
As I stated a few weeks ago, the stars are finally aligned for Derrick Leon Davis. In his third campaign for Council, he will finally hit the jackpot, potentially serving District 6 for 11 years (by finishing the next three years of Johnson’s term, then running for two more terms before he is required by law to step down). The County Executive has his back, the unions are pouring money and volunteers into his campaign, and because he’s able to put his face out there and separate himself clearly from the pack of 14 chasing after him, he should be able to easily gather the votes to win the race. I’m not sure whether many of the 6,000 who voted for Leslie Johnson the last time around will get behind Davis, but many of them only showed up to vote on races higher on the ticket, and chose Johnson based on name recognition. Those votes may not be there to get in a special election.
I did take note of the Washington Post’s reversal on their endorsement this time around. Just last year, they endorsed Mark Polk but with his poor showing at the polls, they went with their second choice, Derrick Leon Davis, this year. They stated that his strong showing at the polls showed his ability to connect with voters. I disagree, because anyone who knows Prince George’s County recognizes that getting enough money to achieve name recognition from signs and mailers is often enough to convince the electorate. That’s why Leslie Johnson won the last time around. Davis only collected $1,766 from 8 voters in District 6, which represents pocket change compared with the $45,000 he raised from politically-connected friends and associates.
When I worked on a local District 9 race last year, we collected more donations while knocking on doors in District 9 than Davis collected from a county where he has claimed to live most of his life. One of the reasons our own Councilman Franklin was so successful is not only because of his own money and contributions from slates, but the dozens of smaller contributions from supporters throughout his district. Davis simply hasn’t demonstrated that, and the Post didn’t do their homework in figuring that out. The Post then spent the rest of the editorial talking about why Davis, as a Baker ally, is critical to getting things done in Prince George’s County. In other words, Davis doesn’t have a mind or agenda of his own, but is willing to get in line with whatever the County Executive wants to move forward. There’s nothing in the editorial to suggest he has answers for the planning and development concerns of District 6.
Unfortunately for Mark Polk, not only was he undermined by the Washington Post, but he also received the endorsement of the Coalition for Change, which is the kiss of death for any serious political contender. In 2010, they did not endorse any winners among the contested races. While Sandy Pruitt is certainly a lightning rod because of her criticism of county politics, she’s never been able to transform her advocacy into real change for the county. Arthur Turner, the only other legitimately well-known candidate in the field, has ardent supporters, but also seems to “rub alot of people the wrong way.” While that’s a problem, the bigger issue (as all candidates in this county face) is that he simply hasn’t puckered up to the right people to get the financial backing and political support to win. Read an excellent summary of a recent District 6 debate for more background on other players in this race from “PGC Blog.”