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One of the keys to Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich’s reelection prospects, in the view of some political analysts, is maintaining his strong union support in this June’s Democratic primary.
So Wednesday brought Elrich some good news: Three important unions and an immigrant rights political action committee endorsed his bid for a second term.
CASA in Action, 32BJ SEIU, SEIU Local 500 and 1199SEIU announced their support for Elrich at a rally in Bethesda. Collectively, officials said, the organizations represent more than 60,000 education support personnel, property services workers, health care workers and immigrants in Maryland’s largest and most diverse county.
The organizations cited Elrich’s support for minimum wage increases, provisions helpful to public-facing county workers and his handling of the pandemic. They also credited him with helping rally other county executives in the state behind the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and collective bargaining rights for community college instructors.
Elrich spent 12 years on the county council before becoming executive in 2018 and has long enjoyed the support of labor organizations.
SEIU Local 500 President Pia Morrison called him “a longtime champion of working families and progressive values.”
“During his first term in office, County Executive Elrich fought tirelessly for residents often left behind by unfair policies,” she added. “His steadfast leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has led to Montgomery County having the highest percentage of vaccinated residents in the country among large jurisdictions.”
The endorsement rally was held outside a Bethesda office building where the janitorial staff benefited from legislation Elrich signed last summer, the advocates said.
“Marc Elrich has gone above and beyond to help our members, to help our community, by fighting on the ground with us to make real, tangible differences in the lives of low-wage immigrant workers and people of color who are often taken advantage of by big corporations,” said Jaime Contreras, a top official with 32BJ SEIU.
Elrich has three Democratic challengers in the June 28 primary — businessman and philanthropist David Blair, who finished just 77 votes behind Elrich in the 2018 primary, and council members Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer.
Hucker, the most recent entrant into the race, is hoping to pull together a mix of labor and business endorsements in his bid to wrestle the Democratic nomination from Elrich.
A balanced ticket chronologically
Jerome Segal, the “Bread and Roses” socialist and retired college lecturer and the most recent candidate to enter the Democratic primary for governor, announced Thursday that Justin Dispenza, a town councilmember from the Eastern Shore town of Galena, will be his running mate.
The newly-formed ticket pairs the oldest Democratic candidate for governor, who is 78, with the youngest Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Dispenza is 31.
Segal, the founder of the now-defunct Bread and Roses Party, said Dispenza had been a party member.
“Because of the centrality of ideas to the campaign, I decided to recruit from among the Bread and Roses membership, and am delighted to have found in Justin a running mate fully committed to the deep cultural transformation that we advocate,” he said.
Segal also emphasized the “affinity” between older political activists and the younger generation.
“We are ages apart,” he said of Dispenza. “I’m a child of the counter-culture of the 1960’s, but there is an affinity between my generation and millennials. We saw that in the Bernie Sanders campaigns.”
Galena, in Kent County, is one of the smallest towns in Maryland, with a population of 654.
Before settling in Galena and running for public office, Dispenza studied at Indiana University and in Canterbury, England, majoring in media production with a theatre minor. After graduation, he lived for 3 ½ years in China, made environmental documentaries across Asia, and became involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement when he returned to the U.S.
Dispenza, Segal said, “is leading the charge on Galena’s efforts to become a more environmentally sustainable town.”
Dispenza said he’s “delighted to dive into state politics.”
“Through grass-roots organizing I came to see that truly progressive voices are needed within government as well as outside it,” he said. “After watching the fire that…Bernie Sanders lit with young voters, I believe we can build an exciting statewide conversation around a platform, similar in some ways and more ambitious in others. What I lack in years on earth, I make up for in passion and perspective.”
Pippy seeking reelection after all
Del. Jesse T. Pippy (R-Frederick), who filed to run for the 4th District state Senate seat last year and then withdrew from that race three months later, saying he needed some time to regroup and catch his breath, filed Wednesday to run for a second term in the House.
Pippy was seen early on as the leading contender to replace Sen. Michael J. Hough (R), who is running for Frederick County executive this year. But nature abhors a vacuum, and when Pippy withdrew from the Senate race, former Del. William Folden, who represented nearby District 3B for four years but now lives in District 4, and Stephen Barrett, who runs building contracting and recycling businesses, filed to compete in the GOP primary.
Five Republicans are currently running for the three House seats in District 4: Pippy; Del. Barrie S. Ciliberti, who turns 86 this summer; Heath S. Barnes, burgess of Woodsboro and chair of the Maryland Log Cabin Republican chapter; April Fleming Miller, an optometrist and former member of the Frederick County Board of Education; and William Valentine, a retired police officer. No Democrats have filed for the seat.
News from the 4th congressional district
Del. Jazz M. Lewis (D-Prince George’s), one of four candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in the open 4th congressional district, released a multi-pronged Black agenda this week — the first major policy proposal of his campaign.
“I am fortunate to have been raised in Prince George’s County, the most prosperous predominantly Black county in the nation,” Lewis said in an email to supporters.
“Growing up, the first scientists, doctors, lawyers, and educators I saw were people who looked like me,” Lewis wrote. “But racial inequality — be that in housing, education, jobs, or our justice system — is holding back our economy and limiting the realization of the American Dream.”
Lewis’ platform has five broad planks: economic equity, ending health care disparities, environmental justice, criminal justice, and housing justice, and several proposals within each category. The economic equity section is by far the longest. It includes proposals to up the presence of federal government institutions in Prince George’s, like the proposed new FBI headquarters; win more federal funding for jobs programs, a higher minimum wage and more worker protections; provide more COVID relief and programs to boost minority-owned businesses; and mandate paid family medical leave for all workers.
Other noteworthy proposals include a single-payer health care system; expanded access to mental health services; more funding to electrify the transportation system; police reform proposals; gun control; and multiple remedies to protect tenants and landlords who have struggled during the pandemic.
“Too often, gridlock on Capitol Hill does not address these challenges head-on, allowing them to grow into more significant problems,” Lewis said. “If our nation is to meet its promise, we need a bold plan grounded in equity to move our district, state, and country forward and ensure ALL of our families can thrive.”
With U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) giving up the seat to run for attorney general, Lewis is running in the Democratic primary against former Del. Angela Angel, former Rep. Donna F. Edwards, and former Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
Edwards announced Wednesday that she has been endorsed by four former colleagues: Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). Several of them said it’s time Maryland sent a woman to Congress again.
Endorsements from out-of-state members of Congress may not carry much weight in the 4th District, but all four women have niches that Edwards would like to associate herself with: DeGette was a manager in the last impeachment trial of President Trump; McCollum is a high-ranking appropriator; Moore is a former welfare mother whose from-the-bootstraps story and outspokenness have made her a progressive icon; and Pingree was the head of Common Cause, the political reform organization, before being elected to Congress.
“I’m thrilled to have the support of such powerhouse women in the U.S. House,” Edwards said.