2018 | Politics

Politics Roundup: Raskin, Trone Line Up Behind Pelosi in Partisan Infighting Over Next House Speaker

Plus: Montgomery delegation has new leadership; gerrymandering order stayed; ‘Aruna Miller’ is correct answer on Indian game show

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The two Democrats who will represent most of Montgomery County in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years have lined up behind long-time Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California in the infighting over whether Pelosi should be the next House speaker.

Both Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park and Rep.-elect David Trone of Potomac in recent days have publicly stated their support for Pelosi assuming the House’s top position. With the Democrats having won a House majority in the Nov. 6 election, Pelosi is seeking to regain a post she previously held from 2006 to 2010. However, a number of current and incoming House Democrats are contending it is time for the 78-year old Pelosi, who has been either speaker or House minority leader for the past 15 years, to step aside and make way for new leadership.

While Pelosi is expected to be nominated for speaker by a majority of the members of the House Democratic Caucus in a meeting scheduled for Nov. 28, the bigger question is what will happen when the 116th Congress is seated in early January. At that time, Pelosi needs a majority of the full 435-member House—218 votes—to become speaker. And, with no Republicans expected to vote for her, she cannot afford to lose more than a few of the 233 House Democrats whose election earlier this month has been confirmed.

Raskin, first elected in 2016 to represent the 8th District, was considered close to Pelosi during his first term, and was among a handful of House members who accompanied her on a trip to the Middle East and Afghanistan last spring. Raskin is currently seeking a post in the House leadership that Pelosi created two years ago for members who have served five or fewer terms.

This past week, he joined 13 other Democrats in a letter arguing against an “extraordinary” change in House Democratic Caucus rules that is being pushed by Pelosi opponents. The change is designed to make it more difficult for her to be nominated at the Nov. 28 caucus meeting by raising the number of votes required.

“We should stand by the rules which have served us well rather than alter our long-standing rules and court strategic mischief and endless ballots,” Raskin and the others wrote, while adding, “Although we all support Nancy Pelosi for speaker, and indeed know of no opponents who have declared against her, we are all strong supporters of an open process and would embrace vigorous debate and contest within our caucus.”

Trone—who during the recent campaign praised Pelosi’s past leadership while repeatedly sidestepping questions about whether he would vote for her for speaker—announced his position via Twitter late last week, three days after winning his first term in the 6th District. Pelosi made an appearance at Trone’s Potomac campaign headquarters 10 days before the Nov. 6 election.

Saying that Pelosi deserved much of the credit for the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, Trone—alluding to Pelosi’s Baltimore upbringing—added: “As a Maryland native, Mrs. Pelosi has always been sensitive to the needs of our state, and I believe she will be invaluable to the nation, the state and the party over the next two years.”

Unlike some House Democrats—who represent districts that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016—Raskin and Trone have little to risk politically by being seen as Pelosi allies. Both hold Democratic-dominated seats anchored in Montgomery County, which voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump by nearly 4-1 two years ago.

Rep. John Sarbanes of Towson—whose sprawling 3rd District includes about one-tenth of the overall Montgomery County electorate in the county’s northeastern section—publicly expressed support for Pelosi’s bid for speaker at a reception late last week, calling her the “general you keep and need in the fight against Donald Trump.”

—Louis Peck

Zucker, Lee, Korman rise to leadership positions in legislature

The 32 members of the Montgomery County delegation in the Maryland General Assembly, all Democrats, last week unanimously elected state Sen. Craig Zucker of Brookeville as the Senate delegation’s new chair. Zucker succeeds Sen. Nancy King of Montgomery Village. Sen. Susan Lee of Bethesda was elected as the Senate delegation’s vice chair. Del. Marc Korman of Bethesda was elected as the House delegation’s new chair, with Del. Al Carr of Kensington taking over as vice chair.

—Dan Schere

Redistricting order temporarily stayed

A panel of three federal judges voted Friday to stay an order that Maryland must redraw the 6th Congressional District before the 2020 election, the Maryland Daily Record reported. That same panel had ruled Nov. 7 that Maryland must redraw its congressional districts, following a lawsuit brought by several Republican voters who lived in what was previously the 6th District prior to the redistricting that occurred in 2011 after the last census. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has appealed the federal court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

The voters who filed the original lawsuit have alleged the current map unfairly targets Republicans by shifting voters from the more conservative western Maryland out of the 6th district and incorporating more voters from heavily Democratic Montgomery. Republican Roscoe Bartlett represented the district from 1992 until 2012, when he was defeated by Democrat John Delaney of Potomac following the 2011 redistricting. Delaney was re-elected in 2014 and 2016, and Democrat David Trone was elected Nov. 6 to represent the 6th District  after Delaney chose to pursue a presidential bid instead of running for re-election.

—Dan Schere

Attorney Alexander Bush elected new chair of MoCo Republican Central Committee

Alexander Bush of Kensington, an attorney at a Rockville-based law firm, last week was elected to chair the 48-member Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, succeeding Mark Uncapher of Bethesda.

Bush’s elevation, by acclamation, was in contrast to the GOP committee election of a year ago, when Uncapher narrowly ousted the prior chair, Dick Jurgena of Darnestown, in an acrimonious contest in which both personality conflicts and differences over strategy came into play.

Uncapher, who earlier served as chair from 2008 to 2013, was ineligible to run again after failing to win one of eight at-large GOP committee seats to which he sought election during the June primary. However, under committee bylaws, his term as head of the committee did not expire until after this month’s general election.

Uncapher, an attorney and trade association executive, also has been secretary of the state Republican Party since 2016, and plans to seek re-election to that post next month. His decision last fall to pursue the chairmanship of the county Republican Central Committee came as GOP Gov. Larry Hogan was ramping up to seek a second term.

Hogan captured nearly 45 percent of the vote in Montgomery County earlier this month—the best showing for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in the county in more than 50 years. But, for the fourth consecutive election, local Republicans failed in their effort to break into the all-Democratic County Council and state legislative delegation.

Bush—whose term as chair runs until November 2019—will be tasked with working toward reversing that trend in the county, where Democrats currently enjoy a 3-1 registration advantage over Republicans. Party sources said a key priority for the local GOP is to take fuller advantage of technology to improve its outreach among county voters.

“It is vital that we improve communication among Republican organizations in the county. We will focus our time and energy on the real—external—goals,” Bush—in an apparent allusion to the recent infighting within the committee—said in a press release.

Bush, described in the release as a “life-long conservative activist,” has only been a Montgomery County resident since 2016. But “this is long enough to learn what needs to be done,” said Bush, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the GOP central committee last year before winning election as a representative from Chevy Chase-based District 18 last June.

Before moving here, Bush was a precinct chair for the Baltimore County Republican Party in 2014, and hosted a talk show, Baltimore Barristers, on CBS Radio in 2015-2016.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, several other GOP committee officers were elected, also without opposition. Sharon Cohen of Potomac, a retired congressional lobbyist, becomes first vice chair, while Lori Jaffe of Bethesda was chosen as secretary. They are part of an increased presence by women on the Republican central committee; about 30 percent of the new members are female, nearly double that of the makeup of the previous committee.

Re-elected as second vice chair was Jeff Brown, who first won that slot a year ago as part of a slate organized by Uncapher. Don Irvine remains treasurer—a post to which he also was first elected in 2017. Both Brown and Irvine are Gaithersburg residents representing District 19 on the panel. Irvine is chairman of Washington-based Accuracy In Media, an advocacy group founded nearly 50 years ago to combat what it views as liberal bias in the media.

Louis Peck

Aruna Miller gets shout out on India’s version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?

Outgoing state Del. Aruna Miller of Darnestown may have lost in the June 26 Democratic primary in the District 6 congressional race, but it appears her name recognition exceeds beyond Maryland.

On Nov. 11, Miller posted on Facebook that her name was featured as the correct answer to a multiple-choice question on India’s version of the TV game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, which is known as Kaun Banega Crorepati. The question asked which Indian-American politician was originally named Nimrata Randhawa. Besides Miller, the other possible answers listed were Nimi McConigley, Kamala Harris and Nikki Haley.

“My 15 seconds of fame. India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, hosted by Bollywood-megastar-Amitabh Bachchan, recognizes the girl from Maryland. Go figure,” Miller wrote.

 —Dan Schere

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect that Rep. John Sarbanes announced last week he plans to support Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s bid to be the next House speaker.