Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
The federal government shuts down, but D.C. government remains open. A wave of new laws, including a set of new gun restrictions, goes into effect in Maryland. And a third party candidate continues to rattle the major party candidates in Virginia’s race for governor. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Douglas Gansler Democratic Candidate for Governor of Maryland; Maryland Attorney General (D)
- Paul Zukerberg Attorney, Zukerberg Law Center, Pllc
Play The News Quiz
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers, and like a lot of reporters had a very busy day yesterday covering the craziness that was going on on Capitol Hill. What we know now is that the car that caused all of those problems was registered to Merriam Kerry, 34, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn. We also know that there was an infant in the car. Beyond that we don't know very much except for the fact that Merriam Kerry was apparently shot to death by law enforcement officers, Tom.
MR. TOM SHERWOODYes. And NBC, I think, has reported now today that one of the reasons -- if you can have a reason for someone who might be mentally unstable -- is that she felt that Obama was stalking her. And the details of which I don't know more than that at this moment, but that's what NBC is reporting. On the one hand it's, you know, clearly this woman was distressed in ways that we don’t even know yet. But on the other hand, you know, the police, Secret Service responded. The Capitol Hill Police responded. The D.C. Police responded. The FBI responded.
MR. TOM SHERWOODBut there will still be an after-action question of how she got from the White House to the Congress down Pennsylvania Avenue, and how she escaped what looked like to be a nice roadblock put up by the Secret Service, and she somehow wiggled out of it. So we'll, you know, there'll be a lot of after-action questions, but it ended, unfortunately, with the tragedy of her being killed, but the baby was not harmed.
NNAMDIAnd that's all we know at this point. And of course people will be trying to catch up with the background to that story. Tom mentioned a possible mental illness. I think most people have assumed that that was the case in some way or another. I'm sure we'll find out a great deal more during the course of next few days. The other big news story in the District over -- well, there were many of them this week starting with the government shutdown, but having to do with the District's first charter school, the Options Public Charter School, and the suit filed by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan.
NNAMDIMy guess, Tom, is that the problem began when the leaders of the non-profit charter school formed for-profit enterprises to contract services to the non-profit that they were also running.
SHERWOODI think it's called self dealing, but I'm not a lawyer. But I think the -- apart from this specific charter school, there has been some concern that there has been an explosion of growth in charter schools in the District of Columbia. But there has not been an explosion of oversight. And some, the Charter School Board has, you know, taken some out of business that have not performed well or have not had the teachers or the proper facilities to run the charter schools, but this is one of the worst incidences of a charter taking several million dollars that was intended for disabled students, handicapped and disabled students and lavishing money on themselves. And so a lot of details are still to come on that.
SHERWOODI should say the charter school, of course, is defending itself -- some of the leaders of it -- and said they've separated the for-profit businesses from the non-profit and all of that, but it's come a little bit late.
NNAMDIAnd no criminal charges have been filed as yet in this case. We have been informed that the U.S. attorney is looking at this case. So that's another one that we'll be following fairly closely.
SHERWOODCan I say one more thing about it? Because, you know, the initial story in the Washington Post and today mentioned J.C. Hayward, the longtime anchor at Channel 9. And I think her attorney is saying that yes, her name has been associated with the school because she's a longtime supporter of it. But there's no indication that there's any charges pending against her or any kind of actions that she might have taken.
NNAMDIShe was, until she resigned, according to reports, the chair of the board of the school.
SHERWOODRight. And so they use her name to help promote the school, but, again, there's no suggestion she, at this point, did anything wrong.
NNAMDIBut as you know, there are people who have been opposed to charter school movements for a very long time. And one of their main arguments is that they see it as the privatization or the beginnings of privatization of the public school system, putting it in the hands of for-profit enterprises. Do you think their arguments will be fueled because this was the first charter school that was established in the District of Columbia?
SHERWOODWell, I don't think the mismanagement of charter schools is going to be that big of an issue, but there is a concern that charter schools are not handcuffed by the rules. In the public schools, if you live in the neighborhood and you go to the school, no matter how disruptive you may be, charter schools, if you act up, like private schools, they can dismiss you so easily. And they can pick and choose -- cherry pick would be the phrase -- the students who come to their schools. Which leaves the public school system struggling to deal with all the other students.
NNAMDIOnto the other business at hand. Some of the other candidates for governor of Maryland have been up and running for months. The candidate who joins us in the studio now, waited out the summer in order to make his announcement. And since then we've had the Navy Yard shootings. We've had the shutdown. We've had the incidents that occurred on Capitol Hill yesterday. We've had the rollout of healthcare.
SHERWOODHe's miscalculated, even on the weather. He thought it'd be a nice fall, cool temperatures and now we've had almost record heat. So I don't know what happened here.
NNAMDIAs a result of all of this he has now forced to join us here in studio…
SHERWOODIt's cool in here.
NNAMDI…so that you would know who he is. Doug Gansler is a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. He's currently the state's attorney general. Doug Gansler, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. DOUGLAS GANSLERThanks for having me, Kojo. And I would note that none of things you just mentioned happened in the great State of Maryland.
NNAMDIYes. I know they didn't happen in the great State of Maryland.
SHERWOODBut the weather's warm in Maryland.
NNAMDINews media around here were preoccupied with them. Now, that you are in this race, what do you want people to know about what your campaign is all about and why you are different from the other candidates seeking the nomination?
GANSLERWell, it wasn't as if we waited a long time. We announced last week, which was nine months to the day before the Democratic primary, more than a year until the election. I mean, one of the things I do want people to recognize is that I have a job, and I'm going to be running on my own record. And so I think, you know, you sort of take a step back, why am I government in the first place? Why have I been doing public service for the past 22 years as a United States Attorney in the District of Columbia under Eric Holder? And then a states attorney for eight years in Montgomery County and now as Attorney General for seven years, it's to give voice to the voiceless.
GANSLERAnd to see difficult problems and resolve those problems on behalf of the people and to protect people, family and children. But, you know, I think there's a lot of differences amongst us, but what I'm going to be running on are really five different issues. One is the economy. I mean the job situation in Maryland, we're getting our clocks cleaned by Virginia across the way. And, frankly, the District of Columbia's doing far better than we are in Maryland on the jobs front.
GANSLERThe second issue is education. We have the number two minority achievement gap in the United States in Maryland. And I think that's the moral stain of where we are. I think education is the civil rights issue of today and we need to address that. The third is we live in the most congested area, in terms of transportation, in the country. We need to actually stop talking about transportation projects and getting them put into place.
GANSLERAnd then the fourth and fifth are things that I have been working on as attorney general. One is public safety. Having been a prosecutor now for 21 years. And the last is the environment and clean up the Chesapeake Bay and recognizing that the environment, the rivers and the air is something we leave to our children and our grandchildren.
SHERWOODMy gosh, there's so many questions. I'll just start with a blatantly political one. What does our campaign say about Lt. Gov. Brown, who wants to be Me Too O'Malley that, you know, you fight the eight years of O'Malley. I've been his sidekick. And all the Democratic establishment saying, well, let Anthony Brown continue the good work of O'Malley.
NNAMDIOur own Matt Bush has reported that Lt. Brown is basically running on the mantle of Gov. Martin O'Malley's time in office.
SHERWOODSomeone called it, Me Too O'Malley. So…
GANSLERWell, we might have to adopt that on our bumper stickers. But he, yeah, he's in a tough spot. Look, no lieutenant governor has ever won in the State of Maryland. They almost never win anywhere. And as you know, Attorneys General do. And we were talking before the show about Virginia and Pennsylvania. The governor there was the attorney general and so forth. And it's a very difficult thing to do because they have to either decide they're going to go all in with the governor or really chart their own path.
GANSLERAnd at this point the lieutenant governor's gone completely all in with the governor. And a matter of fact, if you look at his web page, you look at what he has there, it's the endorsements from the established old-school machine politicians who want to preserve the status quo. And we're running on ideas.
SHERWOODI think that's an important -- Chris Gordon who works -- of course NBC 4 covers mostly the Maryland stuff. He was telling me that the establishment Democrats have, in fact, lined up with the lieutenant governor and the wants to know whether this forces you to run as an outsider or are you still on a campaign to run as an outsider regardless? Did all of these endorsements, including the last one from Barbara Mikulski, just harden your will to run as an outsider?
GANSLERWell, I don’t know if it's running as an outsider or an insider. I mean I, you know, when I ran for states attorney in 1998 the entire establishment and machine was against me. They wanted to preserve what was going on in the courthouse, the good old boy network there and we prevailed because the people get to decide who's actually going to win these races. And the same thing happened with attorney general. They said nobody from suburban Maryland could become attorney general. Certainly not anyone from Montgomery County, where no one had one a statewide office since 1919. And the establishment was fully behind the person I ran against and we prevailed there.
GANSLERYou know, it's a great country we live in and they don't get to handpick who the next governor's going to be.
SHERWOODWhat the harder question is, some people say you're just too abrasive, which of course, journalists, we find that attractive in ourselves. But some people say your personality is such that you can be difficult to work with.
GANSLERWell, I've never had that actually manifest itself. I don't think that I’m abrasive. Maybe a little bit on the lacrosse field and that's because I'm getting old and frustrated that I'm not as good as I once was. But in terms of the political arena, I don't -- I get along with everybody. I mean, I was elected to the President of the National Association of Attorneys General by all 50 Attorneys General in the country, and did so unanimously. And I've been able to get legislation passed every year that I've tried to get passed in Annapolis and had a lot of success getting along with people.
GANSLERI think the abrasiveness, what they're really saying is that I'm honest, and have candor. I speak, you know, I don't--
GANSLERAnd opinions. And, you know, that's my job. I'm there to represent the people of Maryland. We've brought over $2 billion back to the constituents of Maryland since I've been attorney general. We've brought in $1.5 billion to folks that would otherwise have been thrown out of their homes and foreclosed upon. And I think that's actually -- I would think that's leadership and taking positions. And, you know, they thought I was abrasive when I came out for marriage equality three years before anybody else did. They said you can't do that.
SHERWOODI did notice -- I went to the Maryland Board of Elections website today, and Brown and his running mate Ulman are the only ones listed as candidates.
SHERWOODSo maybe they need to update.
GANSLERWell, they filed. There was this big thing where the unions were trying to lock everybody else out, the machine unions, actually had to file and, you know, I actually have a job. So I have a day-to-day operation. We came out yesterday with our new program that we designed with Facebook to have schools be able to directly report cyber-bullying to Facebook. And these are things -- so I want to continue doing my job. I'm not, you know, really that concerned about that political arena. We are in very, very good shape in this race. We feel like we're far ahead in almost every category that we need to be. And so, you know, I can do my job at the same time.
NNAMDIWhat do you make of the job that Gov. O'Malley has done as governor? Are there situations where you feel you would have made different decisions, better decisions on critical issues, whether they involve public safety, transportation or, well, taxes?
GANSLERWell, the governor's done a good job. And I'm not running against the governor. I'm running against the lieutenant governor. And so the lieutenant governor so far is running on what the governor's done, really hasn't developed his own -- well, he never developed his own record, hasn't developed his own vision for the state, at this point. But maybe he will down the road. I did see that I was the first state-wide elected official to come out on behalf of the minimum wage, that we actually raise the minimum wage to $10. Then he followed suit recently.
GANSLERHe has a tracker, this guy that comes around with a video tape and puts it in my face and my wife's face at every event we go to. So he has to hear what we're doing. And so he's learning some ideas from us. And my guess is that he'll jump on my expanded pre-K in Maryland from half day to full day.
NNAMDII don't think that's the purpose of the tracker, but go ahead.
GANSLERYeah, well, they play differently than we do. And…
SHERWOODYou don't have a tracker following him?
GANSLERNo. I don't have a tracker following him and if I, you know, if I was that kind of politician you should, you know, take me out back and beat me up.
NNAMDIThe tracker's for slip-ups, but go ahead.
GANSLERYeah, they do. They do illegal wiretaps, they have trackers, they put out fake polls, they do all kinds of stuff. And, you know, I guess that’s politics today. I would like to think we shouldn't -- that we should be running on record and that we should be running on the vision for the state. So that's what I’m going to continue to do. But in terms of the governor, you know, the taxes has been rough, 40 consecutive tax increases. I think that there is a breaking point for people. The most recent being the gas tax, which I think is regressive and hurts poor people and working people.
GANSLERSo, you know, I don't really want to look backwards, but certainly looking forwards I think we need to attract jobs and fix our economy.
NNAMDIPlease put on your headphones because we have a lot of people who'd like to talk to you. The first of which is William, in Annapolis, Md. William, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
WILLIAMOh, hi. Thanks for taking my call. I saw where the attorney general has called for new ethics rules in Maryland, but I also read yesterday a story where his office is criticized for not being open. Why isn't he following his own proposal?
GANSLERWell, I didn't see the story yesterday about our office not being open. I don't know what that means. We're certainly open.
NNAMDIDo you care to be more specific about that, William?
WILLIAMI don't have the specific story in front of me, but…
NNAMDIWell, if you're going to say that his office is not open, you have to give us some…
NNAMDI…specific manner in which the office is not open so that he can respond to it, but to ask him to respond to the allegation that he's not being open without offering any specificity is like kind of asking when did you stop beating your wife.
SHERWOODMaybe we can expand that -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
GANSLERWell, I was going to say, you know, one of the things we have done, and I think, you know, we have these ideas forums and we went around talking about domestic violence, we talked about HPCUs and we've talked about the minority achievement cap. We've talked about converting chicken litter to energy and so forth. One of the forums we did was on how we need to make our government more transparent and more accessible and more open, which will do a lot of things helpful.
GANSLERBut one of the things we have done in our office is we have had two complete -- we've had two audits that were completely clean. And I think we're the only government agency that has had two consecutive clean audits. So we're pretty open. In fact, we are in charge of the Freedom of Information Act requests for all government agencies and we've actually expanded that out a great deal since I've been there.
NNAMDIOn to Jessica, in Severn, Md. Jessica, your turn.
JESSICAHi. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the gas tax, you know, to raise revenue to fix some of our transportation problems here in Maryland.
GANSLERWell, I actually just mentioned that. I mean, that was the 40th of the tax increases. And I think the gas tax is particularly regressive. In rural areas, and, you know, Severna Park (sic) where you're from isn't as rural, but, you know, people that have to drive a long distance or what have you or people that are going to work that are making minimum wage and have to now pay an additional 23 cents a gallon on top of already high gas prices and already high taxes, I think is a regressive tax.
GANSLERThe reason why they did it was they emptied the transportation trust fund to use that money for other reasons. And then they said, oh, my God, we have no money in the transportation trust fund. Let's tax poor people and fill that up, as opposed to really managing the government more effectively and efficiently, not driving all our businesses out of Maryland and increasing our tax base so we can have money to help with transportation projects. We have the number one most congested area for transportation in the whole United States.
GANSLERAnd we've talked a lot about, you know, different projects. It took 50 years to get the ICC completed. But we actually have to put these transportation projects in. One of the things I'm talking about doing, because I think it's important, is to have high-speed rail from Baltimore City to D.C. And that'll help our region as well because of all the people that are sitting on 270 every day coming from Gaithersburg and Germantown or out in Prince George's County coming into the city and up from Southern Maryland.
GANSLERThey're just sitting in traffic, where Baltimore's losing people and more people would move to downtown if they could get to D.C. in 12, 15 minutes.
SHERWOODWould you try to roll back the 23 cent gas tax increase?
GANSLERYou know, like I said, I'm not going to sort of pick and choose which of the taxes we would roll back. I mean, the biggest -- the one that's getting the most attention is the rain tax and the implementation of that. As a lady came -- I was at Little Italy for a festival. A lady came running up from behind the booth and she said -- she gave me a hug. This was a woman I had never seen before. She said I'm voting for you for governor. I said great. She said do you want to know why? I said sure. She said because they're taxing the rain.
GANSLERAnd, you know, it's kind of amazing what they're taxing. But I think we have to kind of really do a comprehensive deal. I think we have to raise the minimum wage. We have to lower our corporate tax from 8.25 to 6 percent to match Virginia's. West Virginia's about to go down to 6.5 percent. You know, if two products are very similar on the shelf and one costs $8.25, like our tax rate of 8.25, and the other cost $6, like the Virginia's tax rate is $6 (sic) people are going to keep taking the $6 product and leave the 8.25 sitting there.
NNAMDIOur guest is Doug Gansler. He is Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. He's currently the state's attorney general. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Doug Gansler, one of the strictest gun laws in the nation just went into effect in Maryland on Tuesday. It bans assault rifles. It bans high-capacity magazines, makes Maryland one of only six states that require handgun purchasers to get fingerprinted to take gun safety courses, according to the report by our own Jacob Fenston.
NNAMDIGun owners in the state don't seem to be happy. And that allows me to go to Peter, in Cheverly, Md. Peter, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PETERHi. Yeah, my question for the attorney general is would he protect our Second Amendment rights if he's elected governor?
GANSLERYes. Obviously, that's my job, and we just did. As a matter of fact the new gun law that Kojo was just referring to, we are the lawyers for the legislature. We're the lawyers for the governor. So we have an obligation to defend the laws. And the gun law that went into effect on October 1st was challenged on its Constitutionality and we defended that and we prevailed. See, the Second Amendment is an interesting amendment in a lot of ways because for over 200 years it was deemed to be a collective right.
GANSLERAnd then in the Heller case, from right here in D.C., the Supreme Court changed that, but when they did, they changed it to say, well, no, the Second Amendment is now going to be an individual right. But they limited that individual right for the Second Amendment to three circumstances, having a handgun in your home and to be used only for self defense. They may expand that one day, but right now that is the law of the land in terms of what is the Second Amendment at this point. So different people agree or disagree with the gun law that the governor pushed and the legislature adopted, but in terms of the Constitutionality of it, it's clearly constitutional.
NNAMDIWhat is your concern, Peter?
PETERMy main concern is, basically, when he's elected -- if he's elected governor how he will be, basically, work on gun issues. Like how will he -- will he work to, basically, like, slow it down, to increase it? How would he -- what kind of initiatives would he put forward and everything?
GANSLERYeah, there's three different groups of people we want to keep guns away from. One, we talked about on the top of the show, people with mental health problems. Two, are folks that are involved in domestic violence disputes. And I helped push through a law that did that, kept guns out of the hands of them. And then three, are people with criminal records or felonies. And so when this gun law came up in Maryland, I testified on what I thought was the most important component of it, which was to get rid of the straw purchases.
GANSLERKojo just mentioned that there's only six states that require fingerprinting. And I think licenses are important as well. Because what happens is over 300 people that die on the streets of Baltimore every day and the people that are actually shot by guns, most of those are purchased by straw purchases, where I say to Tom, Tom, I'll give you $500, go in and buy the gun because I can't because I'm a felon. He goes in, buys the gun, gives me the gun, I give him the $500 and we part ways. If Tom had to have a license to buy that gun, then what happens with that gun would now be on him.
GANSLERSo that was the part of the bill that I thought was critical and important in Maryland to actually save lives.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Pete. I noticed that I hadn't even given out the phone number, but the lines are filled anyway. It's 800-433-8850. If you can't get through you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHERWOODOn the gun issue, it's a national issue and it's being played out in the various states, but the city people in the District of Columbia, and maybe you'll say the same thing in Maryland, is that you can pass whatever kind of gun laws you want about restricting access to guns, within the Second Amendment rights of course, but across the Potomac River is the State of Virginia, where it's much easier to get guns. And, you know, the governor and the mayor or New York City and other places have all complained that Virginia is a wholesale market for guns for all across the Eastern Seaboard.
GANSLERYeah, and there's not…
SHERWOODSo how do you address that?
GANSLERWell, there's not a lot we can do about Virginia's laws. And they're trying to -- they're grappling with their own election right now. But in terms of going over to Virginia and then having them illegally in Maryland, there are things we can do in terms of on the enforcement side. You know, the gun issue is interesting because it's so polarizing. And it doesn't seem to me that it ought to be. I mean, most people -- not everybody, but most people feel that if you want to have a handgun to protect your family inside your house and you store it safely, you ought to be able to do that.
GANSLERAnd if you're a hunter you can have your hunting rifles and so forth. But those same most people don't think you should be able to walk down the middle of Connecticut Avenue, loaded up and draped with AK47s. And so it's not one of these deals where if you say, you know, we're going to have this restrictive law, therefore you're going to take away all my guns. It's just not the case. Though that seems to be the public reaction quite often.
SHERWOODYeah, the fear is that these are incremental steps to taking guns away and making them illegal.
GANSLERBut they're not. I mean, we're all comfortable in society right now with the notion that you can't go into a store and buy a grenade or you can't go into a car store and buy a tank and drive it down the street. There is certainly middle ground and I think that's what we're trying to find.
SHERWOODAnd the Supreme Court has in fact ruled, eliminating the District's outride ban.
GANSLERRight. And in the Heller case, which you refer to…
SHERWOODIn the Heller case.
GANSLER…it said you just can't have an outright ban because it's going to be an individual right, but they did very much limit what that right is. And I do believe they may expand that someday, but right now that's where we exist.
NNAMDIYou spent a decent amount of time this week talking about education issues. You called for using proceeds from the states gambling program to pay for preschool for children from disadvantaged families. First, I got an email from a listener who wanted to stay anonymous. "Do you think Maryland is too dependent on gambling revenue," this listener asks.
GANSLERWell, I think we're too dependent on gambling revenue in the sense that we're sort of mortgaging our economic vitality and future solely upon the backs of gambling and federal employees. And as we see the federal shutdown this week we see the effect of that. And then, you know, gambling is cyclical and there's a saturation point. So I think we ought to be focusing our economic future on bringing jobs back to Maryland and, in particular, bringing back cyber -- bringing cyber security life sciences to Maryland, which is, you know, we're the only state in the country with Johns Hopkins, the number one hospital in the country.
SHERWOODAnd NIH, we're the only state that has that. The only state that has the NSA. And the only state that has Cyber Command. So we ought to be bringing those back instead of relying solely on gambling. In terms of -- go ahead.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. I was just going to say, what did you think of Rick Perry trying to come steal your jobs? The governor of Texas.
GANSLERYeah, well, that was chutzpah. I mean, you know, to come here and sort of grandstand on our state. You know, if it had been Bob McDonnell of Virginia or Tom Corbett -- both of whom were Attorneys General by the way -- from Pennsylvania -- coming in and doing it, it would have made more sense. But it's not as if some business hasn't thought, well, you know, maybe I'll just got 2,000 miles away and put my company in the middle of an oil field in Texas. You know, it just was -- but it was offensive.
GANSLERBut, you know, look, we've been an anti-business state in both perception and reality. And we need to attract jobs because we're losing them. We only have three -- this is the most wealthy state per capita in the country, yet we have three Fortune 500 companies left in Maryland. And, you know, Virginia's about to put a billion dollars into a rainy-day fund. And every year our legislature confronts billion dollar deficits because we don't welcome jobs and our tax base continues to decrease. In Baltimore City, for example, there's a 46 percent unemployment rate for adults in Baltimore City. We can't sustain that.
NNAMDIBefore I ask you to go back to your thoughts on education, allow me to stay with gambling for a minute with Lydia, in Gaithersburg, Md. Lydia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LYDIAHello. Yes, my question is, you know, about gambling, like you're starting to talk about already, for Mr. Gansler. Do you, you know, looking back at what happened, you know, last year in Maryland, did you support Maryland's expansion of table games and do you think just all this was the right decision for the state?
GANSLERWell, I stayed out of the whole gambling issue on both sides because I regulate them. You know, that said, I think it was a very different issue when they started putting gambling into Maryland when they did. Originally it was going to be a target state, we're the only one that's going to have gambling. Now every state that's surrounding us has it and we were losing a lot of money so they did put it in. The question is what are you going to do with the money that is brought in?
GANSLERAnd this goes back to the previous caller's question about education. When they expanded to table gaming, which you just asked about, the original bill was that they would take the money from the table gaming and put it into expanding pre-K from half a day to a full day. Because the reason why -- I mean there are people in Maryland and I’m running against one of them, who will go out and say, we've got the number one schools in the country here in Maryland. And that's true based on some funding formulas from some magazine. But the reality is we have the number two achievement gap in the country.
GANSLERAnd that means we don't have equal access to education for all of our students. And so one of the reasons why that is is because when children show up in Kindergarten, they're already very far behind and they never catch up. We can resolve that, help work on that, by many ways, but one of which is to take the half day pre-K programs we have and make them full day. That's what the bill was supposed to do. Take that table game money and be able to expand it from pre-K for half day to a full day. At the very last minute they pulled that out. And now it's not dedicated for education. It can be used for anything. And I think that's a problem.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Lydia. Tom?
SHERWOODWhen is the next campaign report out? When do you have to report how much money you've raised?
GANSLERYou would be shocked, but it's only once a year in Maryland.
SHERWOODAnd it's in January?
GANSLERIt's January, yes.
SHERWOODThat's an outrage. But the word is you're up to like $7 million. You were at five and is it true you're at seven? Can you tell us?
GANSLERWell, the last report, which is what we actually new, my opponent $1.6 million and we had $5.2 million. His money was from corporations and special interest. Mine was from real people for the most part. We will see this January where we are in terms of money. Now, you know, we have a campaign staff. I've announced I'm running. We have bumper stickers and we're starting to spend some money. So, you know, we've had a lot of events. We have an enormous amount of support, particularly in minority community, the African American community, Latino community, Asian American and we've had events…
SHERWOODI missed the number.
GANSLERWell, I don't -- I have no idea. I actually have no idea.
SHERWOODYou don’t know how much -- you're not paying attention to your fundraising?
SHERWOODI thought you had to spend a lot of time fundraising, modern candidates?
GANSLERNo. You know, because I have a job and because I have to campaign, we're not spending a lot of time on fundraising. Fortunately, we have an enormous amount of support in the state so people are willing to help us out. And, you know, we have one big event every year, one in Baltimore and one in Montgomery County. We'll have those in December. And those are typically where we raise most of our money. The one in Montgomery County, we'll have Steve Bullock, who's the governor of Montana who just was the attorney general.
SHERWOODWhen are you going to name your lieutenant governor running mate? You said you would do it in October. This is October.
GANSLERIt's early October, just so you know.
SHERWOODIt is, yeah.
GANSLERI know you have -- I wanted to make sure you're looking at the calendar. No. We'll probably do it in the next couple weeks.
SHERWOODAnd is it still the same criteria? What is the criteria for you lieutenant governor?
GANSLERI want someone who shares my passion for the state, who's in government for the right reasons. They want to give voice to the voiceless. They want to help folks that need the help of government. They have passion, they have energy, they have a record and they have a vision and they've been...
NNAMDIThat describes Tom Sherwood, but he's not available.
GANSLERHe's not available and…
GANSLERWish he were.
SHERWOODNor will I be.
GANSLERIt's a rough business. You don't want to do it.
SHERWOODWell, the lieutenant governor's planning to get a lot of support from Prince George's County. You're potentially reaching into Prince George's County. Some people want to know -- one person had said the other day, well, you're just going to write off Prince George's County. And I suspect that's not true.
SHERWOODWell, I have a lot of support in Prince George's County. People in Prince George's County know me, they trust me, they were here when we had the sniper's case and all this other involvement we've had. I'm the only candidate in the Democratic field that actually grew up in Maryland. So I've, you know, been going to Prince George's County my whole life. We have an enormous organization there. When I ran for attorney general I won 60 percent of the vote or 57 percent of the vote in Prince George's County. The same day that Ben Cardin, who's a very popular, wonderful senator, won 19 percent. So, you know, I go to church almost every Sunday over in Prince George's County. (technical) down the road (technical)
NNAMDI…whether you grew up in Maryland or not?
GANSLERI think so. I think people, I mean, look, you know, Bethesda used to have, you know, Giffers and Lowens and now it's got like 212 restaurants.
SHERWOODThe Mitchells in New York -- I mean in Baltimore.
GANSLERRight. And I think there's a certain pride that comes with Maryland, having grown up here. I don't think it means -- it disqualifies you if you haven't, but I do think, you know, having grown up here and having a family and having, you know, I've lived here with my wife for 21 years and raising my children here, I think is important to people.
NNAMDIOn to Les, in Upper Marlboro, Md. Les, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LESYes. I wanted to ask about Senate bill 245 and House bill 103. This was approved in May 2 on the 13th, this last session. This is to provide pilot programs for solar energies for public schools. Now, according to the IAC Public School Construction and also the Board of Public Works, thus far nothing has taken place. And I was wondering if elected, would you get behind this initiative? And, honestly, I'm sure you're aware of how power purchase agreements work for investors to pay for this. So I just wanted some feedback on that.
GANSLERYeah, I don't know -- I'm not a legislator, so I don't the particular bill that you're referring to, but to use the question I think -- the answer is yes. I mean I think we have to continue to develop alternative energy. Solar power is an incredibly important component of that. You know, solar power now, as you know, since you asked the question, is about 17 to 21 percent efficient. If we had spent the amount of money we spent on some of these wars overseas on research and development for solar power we wouldn't be talking about coal power or oil coming in from the Mideast. So we do need to continue to enhance our alternative energy.
GANSLERWe have a mandate in Maryland to buy 10 percent and then ultimately 20 percent (technical) 'cause farmers are barely making a living, and we need to support farmers. So the notion is to get a power plant to come to Maryland that will convert half a billion pounds of chicken manure and therefore remove the nitrogen and phosphorous from going into the water. We could almost satisfy our whip, which is our reduction that we have to do in Maryland for phosphorous and nitrogen just by doing this alone. So that's critical.
GANSLERNow, in terms of the environmental effect, there's different technology. Anaerobic digestion is one of them. That's more localized. And then incineration is another. But any incineration that were to occur down the road would have to be compliant with the strictest air control in the country, which is the Maryland Clean Air Act. Ironically, Maryland has right now the worst air pollution, the most cancer-related deaths from air pollution and air quality than any other state in the country. We need to continue to work on that as well.
NNAMDITom, last question.
SHERWOODA Twitter friend has said, "Please remind Doug Gansler that both the lieutenant governor and Heather Mizeur, another candidate for governor, also have jobs and so don't sound so great that you have a job." But we haven't mentioned Heather Mizeur. I mean, what role do you see her playing in this campaign? She's from Montgomery County, I believe.
GANSLERI just think it's great that you have Twitter friends. Yeah...
SHERWOODSeven thousand, five hundred.
GANSLERMazel tov. Yeah. So in terms of Heather, Heather's great. You know, I applaud her for getting out there and running. I think she does have a job. I believe she works on the Hill. I think she's a lobbyist for the federal government or something of that nature. The lieutenant governor, there is actually no statutorily described role there. But in terms of Heather's impact, you know, it's interesting.
GANSLERI think she's added to the discussion and added to the dialogue. She's running. She wants to be the first openly gay governor in Maryland. Obviously that's an issue that I'm very concerned with having been so far out on marriage equality and then writing the opinion that recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages here in Maryland. So, you know, I think she's a great refreshing breath of air for the race. And, you know, will she have an impact? I guess the voters will determine that down the road.
NNAMDIDoug Gansler, thank you for joining us.
GANSLERThank you for having me.
NNAMDIDoug Gansler's a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. He's currently the state's attorney general. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current newspapers, who will now explain to you how come the District of Columbia government, which whose budget has to be approved by Congress, is nevertheless operating at full capacity. Why no shutdown in this city, Tom?
SHERWOODWell, in the previous federal shutdowns, there was either a law passed in the Congress to exempt the city, or the city has had to shut down just as the federal agencies have. But one of the side benefits of the city being financially in one of the best shapes in the country, when it comes to cities in states, is that the city has money.
SHERWOODIt has money saved, hundreds of millions of dollars saved, that have already been appropriated through the Congress congressional process, and so the mayor decided that, look, in addition to the fact we should be able to spend our own money, 7 million -- 7 billion out of the 11 billion is locally raised money.
SHERWOODHe said we're just not going to shut down. Council agreed with him. And the mayor sent a one-sentence letter to the Office of Management and Budget, which he has to redo to say -- what is your status for the shutdown? He says, all 33,000 employees are essential. We're not closing. And they can do this because the city has money in the bank, cost the city about $100 million every two weeks to make the payroll.
SHERWOODThey've got enough to go 2 1/2, 3 weeks, might find some more money. So it's kind of good to be around the city. I remind people that the parking ticket writers are still writing tickets and that, you know, you have to pay...
NNAMDIThey could have been furloughed.
SHERWOODSo anyway, so it's been good for the city. The mayor's gotten a lot of positive response to it. And the Council has supported him.
NNAMDIThat's the easy one. In 10 seconds or less, therefore explain, how is it that even in the perception of most Democrats, or especially in the perception of most Democrats, Republicans are responsible for the government shutdown? Yet people who turned on their television sets on Tuesday evening saw D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was our guest on Wednesday, railing against Democrats in the House of Representatives?
SHERWOODThat's because the National Democratic Party and the Obama Administration have taken the position that they're not going to let the Republicans piecemeal the government shutdown and provide -- oh, let the National Parks stay open, oh, let the District government have its money, oh -- they did agree to pay the military.
SHERWOODBut so Republicans who are trying to wiggle out of this corner they're in, in terms of getting the shutdown over, were going to even let the city have spending authority till December the 15th. And the Democrats are saying, look, Republicans, we're going to have a full budget deal to get the government back up, or we're not. We're not going to piecemeal.
NNAMDISo why was Eleanor Holmes Norton upset?
SHERWOODWell, 'cause she's defending the city. The mayor himself says, look, I think that the Congress should give us this authority to spend all the money we have. But he understands the politics from the national perspective for National Democrats and Obama Administration.
NNAMDIThat's why Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst, even though he did take more than 10 seconds to do that.
SHERWOODWell, you asked two questions, so I got 20.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio now is Paul Zukerberg. He's an attorney based in Washington, D.C. He's a former Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. Paul Zukerberg, thank you for joining us.
MR. PAUL ZUKERBERGThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.
NNAMDIMost D.C. voters know you as the marijuana activist who made waves in the special at-large election earlier this year. But this past week, you filed a lawsuit against the D.C. Council over its moves to push back the city's first election for attorney general. A few years ago, we voters decided in a referendum to make attorney general an elected position. And for the first election for this job to be next year, 2014. The Council has moved to push that back to 2018. You say that the Council is not legally allowed to do that. How come?
ZUKERBERGAnd it's not just me, Kojo. The Council's own lawyer, the attorney for the D.C. Council, told them that it was against the law and they couldn't do it. And the Council went ahead and did it anyway...
SHERWOODWhat is against the law about it? This is the legislature. It has overturned any number of things that the people had voted for.
ZUKERBERGWell, the people voted to amend the charter. The D.C. charter is the constitution of the District of Columbia, and it says when elections will be held and what offices they will be on the ballot. And voters amended that charter in 2010. Overwhelmingly, 76 percent voted to have an elected attorney general, and that is what we were supposed to have in 2014. The Council at 10 p.m., without any hearing, seven council members, a bare majority, voted to take the elected attorney general off the ballot. It's a power grab, and they can't do it.
NNAMDIIs that what happened, Tom, when the voters voted for term limits and they disappeared?
SHERWOODThe Council overturned the term limits. How is this legally different?
ZUKERBERGWell, it may not be legally different. And there's a real question whether anyone who is term limited can run. But in this case, the argument against letting the Council do that is much stronger because this is an amendment to the charter itself. The voters who have the ultimate power voted that they wanted to reform their government. They wanted to fight corruption, and they wanted an independent elected attorney general.
SHERWOODFor those of us who aren't lawyers, where is -- you have filed suit in which court?
ZUKERBERGI am in D.C. Superior Court.
SHERWOODAnd which judge?
ZUKERBERGWell, it's been assigned to Judge Brian Holeman.
SHERWOODAnd is there a hearing?
ZUKERBERGWe are going to move. There is a hearing, and it's set for January. But that's going to be too late. So we are in the process now -- I'm in the process now of moving for a preliminary injunction, emergency preliminary relief so we can get a prompt answer and allow this election to go forward.
NNAMDIYou know, Jack Evans, the council member representing Ward 2 and mayoral candidate, tells City Paper this week, look, lawsuits take a lot of time. There's not much of a chance that this lawsuit would prevent delaying the election in spring 2014. What would you say to that?
ZUKERBERGWell, I'm not going to let any of the mayoral candidates, Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser -- they're both running for mayor. They both voted to take attorney general off the ballot. I'm not going to let them delay this. I'm going to move for preliminary relief. I'm going to move for an injunction. And I will get a hearing in enough time to have the judge decide it.
SHERWOODSoon? And Muriel Bowser is a candidate for mayor. Where was she on this?
ZUKERBERGShe -- both Bowser and Evans voted to take the elected attorney general off the ballot...
SHERWOODAnd so Tommy Wells is candidate for mayor.
ZUKERBERGTommy Wells, he voted to keep it on, so it was 7-to-6. It was seven people -- I call them the...
SHERWOODWhy do you think they do it? Do they not want another power center to challenge them or to -- I mean, they are saying that the city has not had enough time to get ready for the run to have candidates in place to decide whether people, you know, attorney general, assistant attorneys general can run. They gave a lot of excuses or reasons. What do you think the real reason is, if there is one?
ZUKERBERGWell, it's a power grab. All tyrants say that they're postponing election because the people aren't ready. I think the D.C. voters are ready for voting rights, and this is a crucial piece of our campaign to get full voting rights to become the 51st state, to have the institutions in place to be able to take over when we are the 51st state.
SHERWOODCan you -- assuming that you're not successful in D.C. in the Superior Court, is there another legal avenue?
ZUKERBERGI can go to federal court, but, you know, I want it to go to Superior Court because it is our court. And I want it to get a ruling from our court. I don't think we have to run to the Feds every time the Council tries to do something illegal.
SHERWOODAnd is our Superior Court -- it's up and running, right? It's not subject to the shutdown. It's on federal funding over there.
ZUKERBERGWell, it's partially -- marriages are on hold, but divorces are going forward.
SHERWOODIf that's not an American position...
ZUKERBERGThey know what's essential at Superior Court.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Were you one of those who voted for an elected attorney general for the District of Columbia? What do you think about the Council voting to put this off until 2018? It was supposed to take place in 2014. 800-433-8850. Paul Zukerberg, you also disagree with the Council's attempts to modify the powers of the attorney general's office. Is it simply a matter of the Council trying to change the powers of the office from what they were when voters weighed in on it? Or do you disagree with what they want to make the office as well?
ZUKERBERGWe want, we voted for, and we need a strong independent attorney general, an elected attorney general. Thirty-eight states have elected attorney generals. You just had Doug Gansler on the phone. You heard about all the great things he's done up in Maryland.
NNAMDIHe says he's done.
ZUKERBERGSaid he's done up in Maryland. But if you have an elected attorney general, you have the juice to make changes. You have the juice to keep a lid on the Council and keep a lid on the mayor and to fight corruption because you have your independent base. Under the system we have now, the attorney general is basically the personal lawyer of the executive who could be hired and fired by the mayor at any time.
ZUKERBERGAnd the voters said that's not working. We need someone independent. And by a 3-to-1 majority, 76 percent, including myself, voted to have an independent elected attorney general in 2014, not whenever the Council wanted.
SHERWOODI think it might have been less political if they had delayed it just two years instead of four.
ZUKERBERGThey can't delay it. The charter, the constitution...
SHERWOODApart from your legal argument, can we ask about marijuana while he's here?
NNAMDIJust one more.
NNAMDIIn an ideal world, what do you think should be the powers of this office?
ZUKERBERGIt has to be the full powers of an attorney general, just like the 38 states, because when we are, we need to set the institution, make it a strong institution, so when we have statehood, the attorney general is going to have to take over the prosecution of local crimes. And so we need a strong attorney general. We need an independent attorney general.
NNAMDIProsecutes local crimes, also represents the agencies of the government?
ZUKERBERGOh, of course.
NNAMDIEverything that the attorney general now does?
ZUKERBERGEverything that the attorney general does now, the elected attorney general -- so not only can't they call off the election. They can't make it into a figurehead or take away the powers of what have been traditionally been the attorney general.
NNAMDIWould you run for this office?
ZUKERBERGPeople have asked me that. You know, at this point in my career, I was hoping to transition -- once marijuana's decriminalized and my marijuana practice is over, I was hoping to transition into something that doesn't involve as much courtroom work and doesn't involve as much administrative responsibilities. I think...
SHERWOODI don't know what that answer is. Is that a yes or a no?
ZUKERBERGI think that once it's on the ballot for sure, you're going to see a lot of good people running for that office. And one thing about D.C., we're never going to run out of lawyers.
SHERWOODOkay. Well, but you didn't answer the question, Mr. Zukerberg. If -- will you even consider running -- are you considering running for this office if it's on the ballot next year?
NNAMDII can answer that. For the time being, no.
SHERWOODNo, I don't think that's the answer.
ZUKERBERGI haven't made any decision, and I haven't...
SHERWOODHave you entertained it in your mind?
ZUKERBERGI've thought about it, but, again, I'm not sure I want to take on the day-to-day responsibilities of it. I've been a trial lawyer for 28 years.
NNAMDIOkay, Tom, marijuana.
SHERWOODMarijuana. You know, you were kind of a lone voice on this. But, you know, Councilmember Wells and David Grosso and couple of other council members have said, okay, let's do something about marijuana. Your basic complaint has been that the misdemeanor arrest for marijuana possession have disproportionately gone against African-American youth in this city. Quick, give me some stats on what the problem is.
ZUKERBERGYeah. We're arresting almost 6,000 young people, mostly young people, over 90 percent people of color for possession of marijuana. We're giving these people permanent criminal records which affects housing, employment, education, could send them to jail. We're arresting three times as -- over twice as many people for marijuana as we're graduating from high school. And we lead the nation in marijuana arrests per capita, and it's not working.
ZUKERBERGWe're giving people criminal records. We're ruining their lives. And it's going to change. We're going to have a hearing.
SHERWOODThere are two things about this. There are some people who want to decriminalize marijuana possession so that if you are arrested, you get something like a parking ticket or a moving violation ticket for a car. There are others who want to legalize marijuana, not decriminalize, legalize small amounts of marijuana that you can either grow or possess. Where are you on that?
ZUKERBERGI'm firmly in the decriminalization camp. I think that's the right answer for D.C. Eighteen states have decriminalized marijuana. The Feds have not objected to the decriminalization in any of the 18 states. I am afraid legalization may be too much too soon. I'm afraid the Feds might step in and -- like with medical marijuana, it could be 10 years.
ZUKERBERGSo we need to promptly decriminalize. Marijuana would still be illegal. You still wouldn't be able to smoke it in public. But you wouldn't be arrested and prosecuted either. There'd be a hundred dollar fine, and I think that's a middle road and a great compromise.
NNAMDIHere's Jared in Washington, D.C. Jared, you're on the air as Paul Zukerberg dons his headphones. But you can now go ahead.
JAREDMy question is, people who keep complaining about Speaker Boehner and his delay of Obamacare, how's that any different than the Council with the delay of the attorney general?
ZUKERBERGIt's the same thing. We're living in a world of tiny tyrants right now. We have people in the Congress. They've shut down the government, and we don't even know who they are. I never heard of their names. They're little tyrants, and they've shut down the government. And on the Council as well, there's little tiny tyrants -- seven tyrants on the Council who just said, we're going to call off the election.
ZUKERBERGSo I think it's part and parcel of the same movement. And I think, just as our president is standing up and saying he's not going to negotiate with a gun to his head, we're not going to cancel this election. This election has to go forward no matter what the tiny tyrants say.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to those tiny or large tyrants who say that the city is ill-prepared to hold the election next year?
ZUKERBERGEvery tyrant says that. Every tyrant says the people aren't ready to vote. I think the people are ready to vote. If we could vote for mayor, if we could vote for the Council, we can vote for attorney general.
SHERWOODYou know, I have to say, as a reporter, there is no understanding of how the people aren't ready. You know, it's just an artifice.
NNAMDIPaul Zukerberg is an attorney based in Washington, D.C. He's a former Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. By the way, as you know, I don't have an accent, and Tom Sherwood doesn't have an accent. Tom Sherwood doesn't get his accent from the south. I don't get my accent from even further south. We're curious. Where do you not get your accent from? I was thinking either Brooklyn or the Bronx.
ZUKERBERGYou're not even close -- Jersey. I'm born and raised in New Jersey.
SHERWOODJersey man. And Jersey knows about tiny tyrants.
ZUKERBERGAnd we know about the tyrants.
NNAMDII should have got the Jersey. Paul Zukerberg, thank you so much for joining us.
ZUKERBERGThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom. It's been great.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, have a good weekend.
SHERWOODOkay, on behalf of all tiny tyrants.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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