County Employee Union Passes Over Three Incumbent State Legislators in Latest Endorsements
MCGEO president cites differences over future of county liquor system in outlining decisions
Gino Renne, center, along with UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO members at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville earlier this month
Another large local union unveiled its endorsements for the Maryland General Assembly late Wednesday—and while it is supporting most of the incumbents seeking another term in the Montgomery County’s legislative delegation, it pointedly passed over three current state legislators running for re-election.
UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO—which represents a majority of the county government’s 9,000-member workforce—declined to endorse state Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Rockville and Dels. Kathleen Dumais and Kirill Reznik of Germantown. In a telephone interview late Wednesday, MCGEO’s president, Gino Renne, acknowledged the three legislators’ positions in the ongoing debate over privatizing the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC)—whose approximately 350 workers are represented by MCGEO—had played a key role in the decision.
“They have not earned our support or endorsement,” Renne declared. Alluding to Dumais’ and Reznik’s sponsorship of a 2016 bill that would have authorized a referendum on whether to allow private alcoholic beverage distributors to compete with the DLC, Renne added: “In my opinion, Kirill Reznik and Kathleen Dumais have been hostile toward our union in terms of their position on the liquor control bill.”
The legislation—whose chief sponsor, Del. Bill Frick of Bethesda, is now a candidate for the Democratic nomination for county executive—failed to advance in the 2016 session of the General Assembly and has not been reintroduced since.
MCGEO did endorse 19 other Montgomery County incumbent legislators—five state senators and 14 members of the House of Delegates—whose names will appear on the June 26 primary ballot. In addition, the union announced its backing Wednesday for five non-incumbent candidates who are vying for open delegate seats in districts where the incumbents are retiring or leaving to seek other office.
Included in this group are political consultant Hamza Khan of Bethesda in District 15; Samir Paul, another Bethesda resident who is a teacher at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, in District 16; attorney Julian Haffner of Gaithersburg in District 17; and Emily Shetty of Kensington, currently vice chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, and former congressional aide Jared Solomon of Chevy Chase in District 18.
MCGEO had previously endorsed three other non-incumbent candidates for delegate: Marlin Jenkins of Silver Spring, a labor attorney with the American Federation of Government Employees, in District 19; Lorig Charkoudian of Takoma Park, director of a statewide group that promotes community mediation, in District 20; and Gabriel Acevero of Montgomery Village, a member of MCGEO’s organizing staff, in District 39.
Renne contended that, for MCGEO, the liquor control issue went beyond the prospect of “350 families that would be devastated by privatizing that operation” to encompass the question of how to make up the more than $30 million in net revenue that the DLC contributes annually to county government operations.
‘They’re very callous in responding to that by suggesting ‘Well, the county can just make it up somewhere else’,” Renne charged, in comments aimed at Dumais and Reznik. “That’s not reality. The projections suggest we’re going to be in a deficit situation for at least the next two to three years, and that’s after significant tax increases.”
Dumais has had a bumpy relationship with MCGEO that predates the 2016 debate over liquor control legislation. Dumais was not endorsed by MCGEO four years ago; she took public issue at that time when she also was not endorsed by the Maryland/D.C. council of the AFL-CIO—to which MCGEO has close ties.
That dustup came a year after Dumais attended the county Democratic Party’s 2013 spring ball, which was boycotted by MCGEO and other unions in protest over the county Democratic organization’s position in favor of doing away with so-called “effects bargaining.” Before that event, Dumais wrote a sharply worded letter to her state legislative colleagues, decrying labor’s boycott tactics and its picketing of the event as “a clear case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.”
MCGEO also did not endorse Kagan in 2014, instead backing then-Del. Luiz Simmons in a bitter Democratic primary between the two for the seat long held by former state Sen. Jennie Forehand. Kagan faces no primary opposition this year, and is a strong favorite to be re-elected in November over a late-filing Republican opponent.
Unlike Dumais and Reznik, Kagan was not a sponsor of the 2016 legislation authored by Frick. But Renne acknowledged that differences between Kagan and his union go back to the 1990s when, during an earlier stint in the House of Delegates, Kagan supported an abortive plan by then-County Executive Doug Duncan to privatize the county-owned liquor stores.
“It goes back to that, and she hasn’t taken any steps whatsoever to redeem herself with the labor movement,” Renne declared. “Kagan, when it comes to labor … is very aloof and doesn’t make any attempts whatsoever to be supportive of initiatives critical not just to union members but working families in general.”
Kagan could not immediately be reached for comment.
While passing over Kagan, MCGEO did give its endorsements to two legislators who were among co-sponsors of the 2016 legislation to open the way to privatization of the county’s liquor system: Sens. Brian Feldman of Potomac and Nancy King of Montgomery Village.
“In terms of Nancy King, we’ve had very candid conversations about her position. I believe that she has since evolved on that issue. The same with Brian Feldman,” Renne said. “They’ve evolved on that issue because they better understand and appreciate the totality of the negative impact of doing that.
“But, more importantly, they have individually and collectively played significant roles in supporting our issues and other important labor initiatives in Annapolis,” he added.
King, currently the chair of the Montgomery County Senate delegation, is reported to be in the running for a powerful post in Annapolis next year: chairmanship of the Budget and Taxation Committee. The current committee chair, Sen. Edward Kasemeyer of Howard County, is retiring, and the current vice chair, District 18 Sen. Richard Madaleno of Kensington, is leaving the legislature to pursue the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
King has no Democratic primary opponent on June 26, while Feldman is strongly favored to win renomination over businessman Hongjun Xin of Potomac.
In addition to Feldman and King, MCGEO on Wednesday endorsed three other incumbent Democratic senators from Montgomery County districts: District 14 Sen. Craig Zucker of Brookeville, District 16 Sen. Susan Lee of Bethesda and District 20 Sen. Will Smith of Silver Spring. All three are running unopposed in the primary.
MCGEO had previously endorsed Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, who is running for Madaleno’s Senate seat in a hotly contested, three-way primary against activist Dana Beyer of Chevy Chase and business owner Michelle Carhart of North Bethesda. It also previously announced its support of Del. Ben Kramer of Derwood, running unopposed in the Democratic primary for the seat of state Sen. Roger Manno. The latter is seeking the open District 6 congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. John Delaney.
A complete rundown of MCGEO’s endorsements for the House of Delegates in the county’s eight legislative districts follows. There are three delegate seats in each district, and incumbents in all of them face primaries on June 26:
—District 14: Incumbent Dels. Anne Kaiser of Silver Spring, Eric Luedtke of Burtonsville, and Pamela Queen of Olney.
—District 15: Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo of Boyds and Khan. With the decision not to endorse Dumais for renomination, Renne said MCGEO would “probably leave it at that” and not endorse a third candidate in Democratic primary, in which Fraser-Hidalgo, Dumais and seven non-incumbent candidates are competing. One of the non-incumbents, Kevin Mack of North Bethesda—now Delaney’s district director—has garnered the backing of two other large county unions: the Montgomery County Education Association and SEIU Local 500.
“We took a look at Mack, but our intel tells us that he’s teamed up with Aruna [Miller] and is actively campaigning against Manno. And so an endorsement of him would be counterproductive for us,” Renne said. Miller, a two-term District 15 delegate from Darnestown, is seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed Delaney—pitting her against Manno, who has MCGEO’s endorsement in that race, Potomac businessman David Trone and five other contenders.
—District 16: Dels. Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman, both of Bethesda, and Paul.
—District 17: Dels. Kumar Barve and Jim Gilchrist, both of Rockville, and Haffner.
—District 18: Del. Al Carr of Kensington, Shetty and Solomon.
—District 19: Dels. Bonnie Cullison of Aspen Hill and Maricé Morales of Silver Spring, and Jenkins.
—District 20: Dels. David Moon of Takoma Park and Jheanelle Wilkins of Silver Spring, and Charkoudian.
—District 39: Del. Shane Robinson of Montgomery Village and Acevero. MCGEO has opted, at least for now, not to endorse a third candidate in a Democratic primary that includes five non-incumbents as well as Robinson and Reznik.