a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

"Politics Potluck" – neighbors for democracy and fun

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 5th, 2006

The Maryland September 12 primary is a particularly overwhelming election in my town, with eighteen(!) Democratic Senate candidates, seven state assembly district candidates, thirteen Democratic county council at large candidates, and scores of other races as well.

Some of my neighbors (Suzanna, Peter, Jim, and Jane) and my wife and I decided we’d weren’t going to risk wondering “who’s that?” in the ballot booth, and would get our neighbors’ help in figuring out the upcoming election. So we flyered our immediate neighborhood with an announcement for a “Politics Potluck”, to be held Labor Day afternoon on a cul-de-sac near our house. Neighbors were invited to bring dishes and their political knowledge — takes on issues, candidates, and controversies — to share with everyone else.

Unfortunately, it drizzled. Fortunately, that didn’t stop us. We just strung a bunch of tarps from trees, bushes, and a basketball goal, and proceeded as planned.

I think it was a big success. A couple of us spoke about races and/or issues, but the main thing was that there was a lot of discussion, both in small groups and then as a whole, with people clarifying points about candidates, recounting telling anecdotes, and generally participating in a pretty good discussion. I’ve come away feeling like I have a much better handle on the Senate race and county council races in particular, and I think other people learned a lot as well. I also met quite a few neighbors I hadn’t really met before — I can be a terrible stay-at-home.

Names emerging from the fog of county politics for me were Duchy Trachtenberg (quoted to the effect “you can’t build your way out of traffic problems”) and Mark Elrich; in the delegate race, Lucinda Lessley got mentions by several people besides me, and one issue about Heather Mizeur got cleared up, at least to my satisfaction: her move to a new house was not done expecting to lose a council seat as a result.* Mfume and Cardin both had defenders and detractors. I’d gladly vote for either one over Steele.

While it’s not comprehensive by any means, here are some good resources to consult in getting to know Democratic District 20 and Montgomery County candidates:

Good news and op-ed articles:

This resource list may be updated periodically over the next week.


* Here’s a Gazette article about it. UPDATE, 9/6 (thanks Chris!): Commenter “Jeff” tells Mizeur’s side at MoCoPolitics. Scroll down to the 5:48pm comment, or find “Heather desperately wanted to finish her term“:

…Nor was there anyone—including other members of the Council—who thought it would bar her from finishing her term.  It was the city attorney who reviewed the charter and found that Heather had to relenquish her seat.  So she gave up the title, but not the work. Those of us who were there watched Heather bend over backwards to finish every shred of Council business on her plate. She trained her replacement, continued to work on a number of issues with the County, and never once missed a meeting…even after she had been stripped of her title.

** The Gazette assured readers that while “the biographical information was edited for Gazette style, The Gazette did not edit or alter the candidate’s responses to our questions for anything other than obscenity or libel.” 🙂
UPDATE, EDIT, 9/5: Reorganized resource list news items by theme, added links (thanks Suzanna, Jim); added brief descriptions of my own posts.
UPDATE, 9/5: Welcome, PEN list! Your comments and resource suggestions are very welcome, use the [#] comment[s] link below.
UPDATE, 9/6: Links to additional Senate candidates and debate controversy added.
UPDATE, 9/8: ICC scorecard added, although it’s old. Thanks to PEN list commenter Greg Smith for pointing out that the ACT survey ignores the ICC issue — a weakness, since the ICC may well drain away funds needed for the Purple Line.

3 Responses to “"Politics Potluck" – neighbors for democracy and fun”

  1. Jim Epstein Says:

    Thomas – Thanks for posting this blog. The evening was very informative.
    I realized there were two other quick points that I did not include last night. As you know I focused on traffic and development issues and commented that challengers always have the advantage of putting things in black and white while the reality faced by incumbents is much more complex. Just one example: worsening traffic is often sighted by challengers as the reason why the incumbents have done a bad job. In reality a significant portion of the increased traffic comes from the significant growth in the Counties to our north many of whom commute into or through Mont. Co. to get to their jobs in DC, VA, Bethesda, SS, etc.
    Also on the subject of traffic I neglected to note that Ike Leggett had been on the County Council for 16 years and Chaired the Transportation and Environment Committee for some significant portion of that but does not mention any transportation related achievements on his list of achievements. As I mentioned, I only looked at the Co. Exec. race strictly from the perspective of traffic and development so my perspective on this race is admittedly much narrower than the race and your decision warrants.

  2. Robert Lanza Says:

    Thomas: Thanks for posting the block party event. I enjoyed meeting my neighbors and discussing the primary election.
    I did want to point out again that there are more than two candidates in the U.S. Senate race. The media, including our “public” television stations, have been hosting so-called “debates” but inviting only Cardin and Mfume, which I think is (a) illegal and (b) misinformative and a disservice to the voters. I encourage prospective voters to look at other candidates before deciding on “Cardin vs. Mfume.” Some of the eighteen (!!) candidates are clearly unqualified, but more than a few have qualfications and interesting things to say about the issues (e.g., the Iraq War, the USA Patriot Act, paper ballots, national health care) that differ from what Cardin and Mfume have to say. My view is that the media and the pollsters should not hold their thumb on the scale by deciding which candidates we do and don’t hear from. If voters consistently voted for the candidate they want to win, rather than the candidate the media and pollsters predict is going to win, we would be electing a very different set of candidates.
    Robert Lanza

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Robert, that’s a good point. I play into the same mindset by just listing Cardin and Mfume links. I don’t want to do 16 more links, but I’ll either do a similar “best of the rest” cut, or try to find some better way of looking at it, and widen the field in my own post a little here. (If you have some suggestions, I’d be glad to see them.)
    Jim, those are also good points — though I don’t know how much traffic in MoCo is from out-of-county. Are there data on that somewhere, and do you see either Silverman, Leggett, or anyone else running for county office even just acknowledging the “thru-traffic” problem, much less addressing it somehow? (I think Lessley does at the state delegate level.)

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