Updated Monday, Sept. 13: This will be a very quick update while I gather my thoughts. Beautiful weekend despite the rain; the Folk Festival got better as the day wore on, I think. (easy for me to say, I didn't get there till after 3 p.m. I will be posting some pictures, video and maybe even a faux NPR piece complete with sound effects. But first I need to get out as much election information as I can.)
To wit, I'm glad I -- and my suffering kids -- walked back home to Poplar Avenue from the Festival, or I wouldn't have run into well-known Green activist-puppeteer-parental adviser to the Piney Branch Young Activist Club (YA) Nadine Bloch. She was handing out information on the Board of Education candidates, about whom it might be said: "Never has so little been known by so many of so few." Nadine's concise little leaflet listed three candidates endorsed by local folks -- specifically Young Activist supporters. The incumbents don't support replacing the polystyrene lunch trays at PBES with plastic ones that can be washed. Nadine also said that Progressive Neighbors, which has endorsed the incumbos, did not follow its own endorsement policy. The YA Facebook page and website has more and I'll get more up later. Prog Neighbors is here My apologies to Mike Tabor for not getting that link up sooner, but I was busy with the Stoughton/Hixson piece. Mike had some good observations about Sheila Hixson which I may be able to relate later today (can't overpromise). I also should send him an email about Nadine's charge along w/ some other info I promised him -- not relating to the primary.
As for the post below, I'll try to add some campaign finance stats and other stuff over on the Politics page. Please check back during the day or become a "follower" so you get regular updates. If you don't whom to vote for, this may be the web site for you. (You can always "un-follow" later if it becomes too much for you.)
[If anyone can tell me how to conclusively eliminate the text background above, lemme know. Blogger isn't that great.]
Lastly, the whole foofaraw over the Voice Q&A's may be a foofaraw with no real foof. Eric told me he didn't even know Sheila Hixson hadn't turned in her answers to the Voice's questions until he started to post them online. The guy had too much to get done by deadline. In any case, the Q&A's that were submitted to the Voice have now been posted on that publication's web site. Of the six candidates, Robert Estrada and Hixson didn't return theirs, which raises the question of why Hixson campaign manager Michael Vaughan would tell me he was going to send it on. Perhaps Vaughan found out later that Voice editor Eric Bond had finally said Hixson never turned hers in. [added Monday: Or maybe Vaughan didn't know himself it hadn't been turned in. Who knows? It is odd, though.]
Chris Stoughton's Q&A is posted at the Voice link above (along w/ Board of Ed questions and answers) and at the Takoma20912 Politics page.
No, say the pundits. The "team" -- Del. Tom Hucker, Sen. Jamie Raskin, and Delegates Heather Mizeur and Sheila Hixson -- is a sure bet to return to Annapolis and do great things for the District, according to the Conventional Wisdom. Here's Maryland Politics Watch's take on the race, after publishing a summary of the latest campaign finance reports: "All the incumbents will be reelected. Period."
The CW is probably right, but that doesn't mean there is not, technically speaking at least, a race. Nor does it mean voters should be left in the dark about the people running.
But that's pretty much what the local media have done, paying scant attention to the challengers. Yes, the Post and the Gazette have printed their voters' guides (I'd link to the Post's but I can't find it on their web site), but locally, one candidate in particular has been frustrated by the lack of attention, perceiving that the deck is stacked heavily against him.
That candidate would be Chris Stoughton, a 33-year-old policy analyst who arrived late to the race but has been doing everything he can to get his name and ideas to the electorate. In a few short months, he has knocked on 7,000 doors to argue that he should be given a chance to represent the voters of one of the most liberal districts in the state.
In doing so, however, he's stepping on a few toes, including those of Hixson, who began serving in Annapolis two years before Stoughton was even born.
More on Stoughton's campaign pitch in a moment [updated Mon: or not]. But first, an object lesson in how difficult it is to break into politics, especially when you are going up against well-funded, well-known, well-organized incumbents.
Full disclosure here: Stoughton knocked on my door over the weekend and we spoke in my living room for about half an hour. I was impressed with what he had to say and took one of his signs, which is now in my front yard. At first, I thought I'd give Hixson a pass at the polls, but now I'm not so sure. I plan to vote for Stoughton but don't know which of the three incumbents to leave by the wayside. Maybe I'll do what Hucker was (reportedly) suggesting last time and just vote for one person -- Stoughton -- thus maximizing the power of that one vote. [Update: Hucker says in an e-mail, "I'm not sure who you're talking to, but I didn't tell anyone to bullet vote in 2006, and I haven't ever. I might still have old lit urging people to vote for three; in any case I know that was part of the verbal rap we trained our volunteers to use at the polls in 2006." ]
But enough about me. Let's turn to ...
The mystery of the missing Q&A's
That would stand for Questions and Answers, the most common device for figuring out whom to vote for -- aside from asking your spouse or that one kooky neighbor who actually follows this stuff. In the case of District 20, readers of the Takoma Voice would be forgiven for wondering if there's even a race in District 20.
That's because the Voice's September "Election Issue" contained not one word about District 20. That's right, ni siquiera una palabra acerca de la carrera de Distrito 20. Excuse my Spanish, I'm using Google Translate.
Why? Eric Bond, the perpetually overworked and underpaid Takoma Voice editor and publisher, says
Stoughton has. Here is his Q&A, which he says he hustled to finish before the Voice's deadline.
It's not hard to be sympathetic to Bond, whose newspaper always seems on the verge of folding. A couple of Takoma Park citizens, Voice columnist Howard Kohn and activist and former mayoral candidate Seth Grimes, put together a group called Friends of the Voice last year to help Bond with various debts. The list of contributors to the Voice's continued existence reads like a Who's Who of movers and shakers in Takoma Park --Kohn is on the list, naturally, as is Grimes. But there's also Takoma Park City Council member Dan Robinson (Ward 3), Josh Wright (Ward 1), Reuben Snipper (Ward 5), and Mayor Bruce Williams (along with former mayors Kathy Porter and Ed Sharp).
Other Voice funders include At-Large County Council members and Takoma residents George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, District 5 council member Valerie Ervin, and, at the state level, District 20 lawmakers Raskin, Hucker and Mizeur (but not Hixson).
We have asked Hixson's campaign twice now for her Voice Q&A but have received no response from Michael Vaughan. Here's hoping we'll get something by email, or that Bond will either post the remaining questions and answers or at least get them to someone who will post them. The election -- there really is one -- is just a few days away.
Update, 6:30 pm Friday: Got some answers to our own questions (as distinguished from Patch's questions and answers and the Voice's, which don't exist) from Hixson spokesman Michael Vaughan. They are posted below. In addition, the Patch web sites have posted "Six questions for Sheila Hixson.""Six questions for Sheila Hixson" Nothing on Stoughton, though. [Updated Monday: Stoughton's is up there Readers can navigate to the Patch sites for themselves to find Elrich and whoever else they got to turn around a Q&A in less than a week.]
Still true: Still haven't gotten the Voice Q&A from Vaughan but it doesn't appear likely I will anytime soon: Takoma Voice editor Eric Bond told me that "Sheila did not return a questionnaire, so she is not represented. "If she gets one to me, I will make sure to post it.") The Voice Q&A's are posted at at http://www.takoma.com/tpssnews/2010/09
Takoma20912 Q&A with Hixson campaign
Takoma 20912: Under "endorsements," you list the Takoma/Silver Spring Voice. I saw no endorsement in the latest edition of the paper. Where did that information come from?
Vaughan: That was my fault. I sent my web guy a list of recent endorsments and put the Takoma Voice instead of the Gazette. It has since been corrected.
Takoma 20912: Second, as I understand it both Del. Hixson and Chris Stoughton filled out Q&A forms for the Voice; they didn't make it into the print edition but might be posted online. Could I get a copy of Del. Hixson's?
Vaughan: I will send that to you later today.
Takoma20912: Del. Hixson has said she is not in favor of an increase in the tax on beer or liquor. Does she intend to maintain that stance if re-elected, especially given the state's budget woes?
Vaughan: Delegate Hixson is intimately aware of the financial conditions in the State of Maryland although in relative terms Maryland is in much better shape than most other states. She has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that "everything is on the table" when we look at the possible revenue streams for the state. You may infer from that statement that everything is on the table.
Takoma20912: Fourth, does the fact that she has received thousands in campaign contributions from the liquor and/or beer industry have any influence on her position on an increase in alcohol taxes?
Vaughan: Delegate Hixson has received money from many individuals and organizations over her career. She has never traded vote for money and she never will. She has been extremely accessible and everybody get's a fair hearing.
I would refer you to the recent email sent out by Senator Raskin on behalf of the District 20 team on how he regards Delegate Hixson and her importance to getting a progressive agenda moving forward in Annapolis. You can see a copy of the letter here. www.sheilahixson.org/senatorRaskinLetter/.
Takoma20912: Fifth, what is her position on mail delivery of wine (an issue championed by Jamie Raskin)?
Vaughan: Delegate Hixson has not made up her mind finally on this issue but she is always open to reviewing her positions. As I said above "everything is on the table". There will be a complete review of Maryland Tax policy (which would include the issue of wine by mail order) when the new session starts in January.
This post will be amended and emended till it becomes distended--editor