It's health plan open enrollment season for many employees, including federal workers.The editors of the Consumer Checkbook's annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees join us to discuss what you need to know to make smart choices for 2016.
A photo from a teenage drinking party trips up Maryland’s attorney general. D.C. lawmakers debate decriminalizing marijuana. And Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates meet for their final debate of the campaign. 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
- Michael Pope Northern Virginia reporter, WAMU; political reporter, Connection Newspapers; author, "Shotgun Justice: One Prosecutor's Crusade Against Crime and Corruption in Alexandria and Arlington"
- John Bell Democratic Candidate, Virginia House of Delegates (87th, District)
- Jolene Ivey Democratic Candidate, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland; Member, Maryland House of Delegates (D-47th District); Founder of Mocha Moms, a support group for stay-at-home mothers of color
Maryland Del. Jolene Ivey, Doug Gansler’s running mate on his gubernatorial ticket, responded to controversy that arose after a photo surfaced of Gansler at a underage drinking party. Ivey said constituents care more about issues like education and health care more than the “beach week” party. “The issues right now are — certainly none of them are fun…I’m sure the other side is trying to throw dirt every time we’re making progress,” Ivey said.
Play The Politics Hour Trivia Quiz
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with Jolene Ivey. She is a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland and a delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates. We'll also be talking shortly with John Bell.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe is a Democratic candidate for delegate in the 87th District in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A few weeks ago we spoke with his opponent, incumbent Republican David Ramadan. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, there's another guy in studio with us.
MR. TOM SHERWOODIt's much too crowded in here.
NNAMDIWho is this individual who joins us here?
SHERWOODHe's not very well dressed either. (laugh)
NNAMDIHe apparently works for WAMU 88.5.
SHERWOODThat explains it.
NNAMDIOh, it's Michael Pope. That's who it is.
MR. MICHAEL POPEIt's great to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIGood to have you here, Michael Pope is a reporter for WAMU 88.5 and the Connection Newspapers. Well, speaking of another reporter in the room, there are a couple of reporters -- at least one reporter, an editor who -- for the time being anyway -- are out of the business because of mistakes made in reporting on Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Longtime Richmond journalist Bob Lewis has been fired from his job at the Associated Press, along with his editor Dena Potter, who was also fired.
NNAMDIAnd an Atlanta-based editor Norman Gomlak who was fired because they published an erroneous report about Terry McAuliffe and his involvement in a business that he was in fact involved in, but they made a reference to him because they saw TM in a report. And it turned out not to be him who was in that.
NNAMDIBut there's been a lot of surprise at these firings, and a lot of support coming from well-known elected officials like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, all saying that they are surprised the Bob Lewis was fired. They've known him and worked with him for a long time. And they did not see his mistake as being that egregious. What do you feel, Tom?
SHERWOODIt was a pretty bad mistake. This is an intense race for governor. And someone tells you, oh, the initials TM in this legal case refer to Terry McAuliffe, and you don't ask Terry McAuliffe -- I don't know why Terry McAuliffe's people didn't respond or weren't asked. Whether he should be fired or not…
NNAMDIThey went to press before he responded.
SHERWOOD…I’m not gonna take position on that, but I would say this was an extraordinary -- for a veteran of his stature, 28 years. I was just stunned that this was said without checking with Terry McAuliffe or getting a response from them, even to fuzz it up. And we, as reporters -- if I could just tell people all the things that I hear and that people say are true, without me checking them, we could have a really good reality show or fake reality show.
NNAMDIWell, he actually tells them all to me, but he just never mentions them on the air. (laugh)
SHERWOODThat's right. Well, I think, first of all, it's sad for any career to end like that, but I do think it was an egregious mistake in the mist of a very significant campaign for governor out of the state-wide offices.
POPEThe guy is a legend in the business, though. It's important to remember. So I wouldn't be so quick to say his career is over, really, at this point, because it's quite likely…
SHERWOODOh, I mean, I know what his career will be. I wouldn't say it's over, but I just think it -- there's no doubt it was an egregious mistake.
POPEYeah, you know, people in this business live with this constant fear looming over our heads. I know that I personally have had many sleepless nights, you know. I know that I have a big, important story that's going to air on WAMU the next morning, and I've got this fear, what if I got something wrong? What if I got something big wrong? So I know personally I've had lots of sleepless nights. And so I feel for Bob Lewis because, you know, he saw the TM in the court document and, you know, he may have had sources -- I don't really know what the situation was with that. But I wouldn't be too quick to say his career is over though, because I'm sure that we will see him again.
NNAMDIWas the egregiousness of the mistake possibly amplified because it appeared that the source of the original tip may have been the Cuccinelli campaign? Because the Washington Post said it got a tip from the Cuccinelli campaign about this, but did not choose to do the story or follow up on it. Could that be a part of what happened here?
SHERWOODWell, only the part -- well, if someone from one campaign tells you something about another campaign, as a reporter that's a very common thing. It's very common to receive all kinds of water-under-the-bridge things that happened and people saying through -- but that doesn’t absolve you from making sure that's right. It's not the source of the information. It's whether the information is true. The same goes if somebody else, you know, a candidate tells you something that's favorable about him or her, you don't just say, okay. Well, he said it. It must be true.
SHERWOODThat's why we have to check these things out. And it is, I agree with you. There are many sleepless nights when you do a really good story and you think, well, I think I've got this right. And it's like anybody. It's a tough thing to do. But this was a very high profile error.
NNAMDIDebate last night between the gubernatorial candidates, Michael Pope, Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli. Remark, at will.
POPELots of sharp elbows, not a lot of news. That's what I got out of it. I mean, lots of the same stuff we've heard over and over again. You know one thing that always strikes me about Ken Cuccinelli is he is the master of the one-liner, the zinger. And he got that one off about the puppies last night, that everyone's talking about now. Actually, he didn't have as many of them last night as he had in the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate. I had a notebook full of funny one-liners from Ken Cuccinelli. And then when it was all over with I thought, okay, I've got all these soundbites from Cuccinelli. What am I going to use from McAuliffe?
POPEAnd he McAuliffe doesn’t speak that way, or at least he hasn't in this campaign. So that's sort of distinction. And perhaps that's on purpose because, you know, McAuliffe has this history of being light and breezy and he doesn't want to come across as, you know, someone that doesn't have depth.
POPEAnd so, you know, it's possible that he's trying to have that sort of image on the campaign trail.
NNAMDIHe also has a lead in the polls. And apparently last night that's what he was simply trying to protect.
SHERWOODYes. He's trying to show that he has more gravitas than the huckster, used-car salesman that his critics say that he comes off as. You know the problem for the Cuccinelli campaign is that this was the last statewide appearance before the election and there was no big needle mover. And the media loves to watch these things, not so much for the news that are imparted to the people listening, but to see if the gaffe, to see if there's some new statement or some new movement, because we've heard most of it throughout the year. So a neutral debate thing, I mean, that goes to McAuliffe, who is ahead in the polls.
SHERWOODAnd Larry Sabato, this week, who has been handicapping the race, tweeted out that he now sees all three Democrats winning the at-large races, the governor, lieutenant governor, the attorney general. With attorney general being the closest of the three, I believe.
POPEThat would be big news if the Democrat wins the attorney general race. That hasn't happened since 1985.
NNAMDISpeaking of Democrats, we have one such in studio. John Bell is a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. He's running to represent the Commonwealth's 87th District. John Bell, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. JOHN BELLThanks, Kojo. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here with you all today. And look forward to some great discussion.
NNAMDIYou'll regret those comments. 800-433-8850. If you have questions or comments for John Bell, give us a call at 800-433-8850. You are campaigning in a district that's legitimately up for grabs. It's currently represented by a Republican. It was won by Barack Obama in last year's presidential election, however. So when you say that moderate has become a dirty word in Richmond, as you have said, and that you want to bring it back, what does that mean to you in terms of what you plan to stand for in the General Assembly, if you get elected?
BELLSure. I think that the moderate really means working for commonsense, everyday solutions, doing what's best for your district, not following a rigid ideology. You know my background -- I’m a retired Air Force officer. I was a finance officer in the military for almost 26 years. And while the job certainly was about managing money and balancing budgets, it was also about working with all stakeholders to identify priorities and missions and work together to get things done. And not just at the Richmond level, but also in Washington.
BELLWe've obviously all experienced the direct effects of when that doesn't happen. So a moderate district -- you know people in my district, they want people serving them, that are going to work on making their everyday lives better on their quality of life issues, making their commutes better, making sure their children have good schools, creating jobs close to home. These are everyday core issues and that's what people want and that's what I mean by moderate.
SHERWOODJust for people who may not know, give us a sense of the district of where you're running. Just give people an idea, in Loudoun County or does it slop over into any other counties? Just tell us where this district is.
NNAMDINot the same district as you were running in the last time.
BELLThat's right. Yeah, I ran in 2009 in the 13th District. I live in the same house, but it was changed in the 2011 redistricting. And the district is now, it's mainly a Loudoun County district, almost 90 percent Loudoun County. It starts around Sterling, Route 28, Route 7, goes along the Dulles Airport area on 28 on the Loudoun side. And then encompasses the area of South Riding, where I live, all the way over to 66th. And then it heads west from there. Along 66 and Route 50, all the way to Haymarket. So there's two Haymarket precincts, 20 Loudoun County precincts. It's a rapid growth area.
SHERWOODAbout 80 percent traffic jams, isn't it?
BELL(laugh) I would agree with that. Congestion and commuting times is a big deal. And it's an issue that is discussed with me every day at the doors and on the phones. I coach at Freedom High School, I'm the boys' tennis coach there. I've done that as a volunteer for the last six years. And I see parents at our matches struggling to get there to watch their children play. And it's not because they don't want to be there, it's because they're stuck in traffic trying to get home.
POPEWhen your opponent was on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," Kojo asked him if he was a Tea Party conservative, and he said he didn't know what that meant and he would describe himself as a mainstream conservative. Would you agreement with his own assessment of himself, that he's a mainstream conservative? Or would you take issue with that?
BELLIf I were him I'd probably want to say that, too, given today's comment. But he's a Tea Party Republican. So I would definitely take issue with that. I mean he's voted 97 percent Republican since he's been in the House. He's--
SHERWOODWe're talking about Mr. Ramadan.
BELLThat's correct. And he's the only Loudoun County delegate who voted against the compromised transportation bill. So I think that distinguished himself from other Republicans. You know, he basically chose -- his own statement said his vote was a matter of principle. It was ideology and Tea Party principles.
POPEWell, let me ask about that because when he was on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," they talked about that transportation package. And he said part of his opposition to that is that it would raise taxes. And it would raise taxes disproportionately on people in northern Virginia. What's your response to that?
BELLWell, my response is people want to get out of traffic. And people want to get home with their families. And the bottom line was we needed to solve this problem. So if we -- he didn't offer an alternative solution, and in his statement he also suggested going to the general fund, which, frankly, the general fund is -- the meat has been taken off the bone. There was no place else to go. People want to get out of traffic. And, you know, this was a solution that we needed. There's parts of this bill that I don't like. You know, it was a compromised bill and I think a good compromise involves some things that you don't like.
POPEWhat parts you don't like?
BELLI don't like the hybrid tax. You know, I think it actually takes us in the wrong direction. You know, most states, most communities encourage people to buy energy and environmentally friendly vehicles and we're penalizing people with an extra fee on that. So I don’t like that. But I do like the fact that it earmarks $650 million from northern Virginia, so the money can't just be taxed and go to other parts of the Commonwealth. It's going to stay in northern Virginia for solutions here. And, again, it's rapid growth area. People are stuck in traffic. We need to get them out.
NNAMDIOur guest is John Bell. He's a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, running to represent the Commonwealth's 87th District. Tom?
SHERWOODDescribe yourself, if Mr. Ramadan, in your view, is a Tea Party Republican, what are you?
BELLI'm a moderate Democrat. I'm pretty much in the middle. You know my background as a finance officer was managing large sums of money. So--
SHERWOODYou know the military doesn't have the best reputation for managing money. I mean, I'm an Army brat, so…
BELL(laugh) You were never in my organization.
SHERWOODYou saved the taxpayers money?
BELLMy last year, when I was in Europe, we actually had needs of $1.4 billion and we only had $1.2 billion. So I was able to find efficiencies and save $200 million.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. I apologize for interrupting you. But back -- you're a moderate. How do you fit with Terry McAuliffe?
BELLI like quite a bit of what Terry says. I think we're very compatible. Terry's business friendly. I consider myself business friendly, as well. His ideas on many things like education I agree with. One of the things that Terry has advocated all year is we need to modernize SOLs. I agree.
BELLSOLs, the Standards of Learning for students to...
SHERWOODOkay. Because a lot of people don't know what those things are. It means other things to other people.
BELL(laugh) Well, the standardized testing that students are going through each year, and frankly, we have a great deal of tests on students. There's very little flexibility. If a student can't speak English, they're forced to take the test, which makes no sense and skews results. If a student, for instance, as a military person who's moved 11 times during my career, if a military family moves in and a child arrives here late in the year and maybe has been taught in a totally different school district, they're still forced to take the test.
BELLSo I think we can do better than what we have right on the SOLs. I agree with Terry completely on that. I also agree with Terry in growing a green economy. I think that's a place where we can develop a tremendous amount of jobs and use our great educational resources here in the Commonwealth to grow that.
SHERWOODLoudoun County tried to have a -- one side of the county would be developed, the other side would be more green, but the whole county's being developed.
BELLI think right now it's being developed all over. You know, I prefer more of a clustered smart growth, so we don't have sprawl. And right now it's a desirable place to live so people are, you know, moving there. And they are going there because we have good schools and a good high quality of life.
NNAMDIWhat kind of leadership would you like to see from Terry McAuliffe on the issue of gun rights? He's gone to great length, even on this show, to remind voters that he is a gun owner, and all of the political energy in Virginia seems to be moving in the direction of rolling back gun restrictions. The one gun a month limit was lifted. You can bring a gun into a bar or a restaurant now. What kind of leadership would you offer and what kind of leadership would you expect from Terry McAuliffe on the gun rights issue?
BELLWell, this is an issue in my race, as well. I'll say, as a veteran who's served in a combat zone with a gun on my hip, that I have firsthand experience with weapons. I believe we need some commonsense measures to try to prevent gun violence. I support the Second Amendment, but I don't think having universal background checks that work and closing the gun show loophole take away from that. I think it prevents people who are mentally ill or perhaps have a bad criminal record from having an easy way of buying an assault weapon. So I support those measures. I'll say that my opponent, David Ramadan, has gone on video to the...
NNAMDIA matter of fact, you used that video in your campaign material, but apparently you were asked to take the video down at some point because it was owned by someone else.
BELLThe video was on YouTube. It was a public video. And the owner of the video asked YouTube to take it down. And they have temporarily done it while they look into it, but...
SHERWOODWhat did the video say?
BELLThe video was very clear. David Ramadan said on the video he wanted no gun safety restrictions whatsoever, wanted to repeal all existing laws. And I think that's very dangerous. And he supported guns in bars, guns in churches, guns at sporting events. I think that, you know, even in the wild, wild West you couldn't have a gun in a saloon. You checked it at the door. So I think, frankly, from my experience, this is a bad way to go.
POPEFollowing up on the gun control issue, so on universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, those were considered, earlier this year in the General Assembly, and one might imagine that the dynamics probably would have been favorable to that issue considering the news events that happened around that time, the shooting in Connecticut. And yet, it was unsuccessful. So if you were to be successful in your race, and you're there in the House of Delegates and there's all this opposition to closing the gun show loophole, how are you going to persuade people on the other side of that issue that they need to do this? I mean, it seems like the politics of this are kind of intractable. How are you going to be successful at this?
SHERWOODAnd can I just add, the statistics are 68 Republicans and 32 Democrats.
BELLYeah, well, I mean, that's really why it failed. You've got a great number of people who are in the majority now, 68, who don't want any gun reform. Many of them have received funding from the NRA and other gun groups. I think that this dynamic is going to change because the vast majority of Americans and Virginians want some commonsense measures on this subject.
POPERight. But the dynamics of the numbers in the House of Delegates aren't going to change all that much. So how are you going to -- how is possible that your side is going to get the votes to win this argument?
BELLWell, you know, I think that the numbers will change. Let me first say that. I'm not going to say we're going to take a majority, but I do think the numbers are going to change. But I also think every day it seems like there's more and more tragedies and a greater need for making some commonsense measures. I think we need to work together, both sides. And this is an area where we can work together. Frankly, some of the groups that are advocating against these measures -- I would love for them to come and be part of the solution. How can we make universal background checks work without infringing the right for a law-abiding citizen to own a gun?
BELLBecause no one's looking to take that away. I'm certainly not. I think we can work together on these things. And I also think, frankly, closing the gun show loophole makes sense for Virginia, not just from preventing dangerous elements from buying guns, but also making sure that these guns aren't bought for crime elements in New Jersey and New York, where they can come here and buy them easier. So these are things that I think we can work together on for the good of everyone. There are common ground stances on these.
NNAMDIJohn Bell, don your headphones. We're about to go to the phones to talk with Berry, in Ashburn, Va. Berry (sp?), you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BERRYHi. Yes, my name is Berry and I live in David Ramadan's district, in Ashburn, Va. It's my understanding that David Ramadan is one of those rigid Cuccinelli-like ideologues with respect to women's health issues. So first of all, John Bell, please correct me if I'm wrong, and then second, if he could please address his position on the right of government to regulate women's health.
BELLYeah, David's record -- he said that one of his top priorities in Richmond -- he sent a letter out to the whole district in 2011 -- was taking away women's reproductive rights. So he is definitely in lockstep with Ken Cuccinelli, voted to have the transvaginal ultrasound requirement, supported the closure of women's clinics. So he has taken this stance. Supported personhood legislation, which would outlaw birth control. I am very much in the pro-choice camp. I believe that government should not be involved in personal private reproductive decisions. And that's something that I will fight to defend.
BELLAnd I also believe that some of the measures disenfranchise some of the poorest and most underprivileged women. Many of them go to the women's clinics that are being attacked for their annual checkups and screenings. And I think that plays a very important role in Virginia. And I would fight the closure of these clinics as well.
NNAMDISince you've got your headphones on we'll move on to Joe, in Richmond, Va. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Joe. Are you there?
JOEYes, sir. I'm here.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.
JOEYeah, I'd like to know what legislation you would like to introduce to get rid of these backdoor bribes that McDonnell took and obviously Cuccinelli have taken, despite the fact that they claim that they're not -- there was no quid pro quo going on. And, you know, what's your plans on taking care of that issue?
BELLWell, let me first thank Berry for the last question. And, Joe, thank you for this one, as well. I support ethics reform and I think it's something we badly need. And it's an embarrassment, I think, to all of us in Virginia with what's happened this year. You know, my position on this is that you are in public service, you should be above reproach. And in this case there's certainly much doubt here. I support legislation that would put a nominal ban on gifts, perhaps $100 I think is a good number that's been discussed that I agree on. I think this should apply to all family members. And I also believe that gift reporting should be soon. Right now it's reported the 31st of December. So a large gift could be received early in the year and then you could go a whole year without knowing about it. So I believe gifts should be reported on a monthly basis.
BELLYeah. And I also I think that this should again be something where you're serving for the public good, not to enrich yourself. And, again, there's a serious question that's been raised on this.
POPEOn that issue of gifts, I wanted to ask you about these documents, the personal financial disclosure forms. Every elected official has to file these, but they're very difficult to get. They're not online and nobody is actually in charge of reviewing them. The way these documents work is you give them to the clerk or, you know, whoever is legally required to receive them, but there is no oversight of them. I'll give you a good example of this, I was collecting the personal financial disclosures forms in Fairfax County for the Fairfax County school board members. And the folks at the school system actually redacted information from the personal financial disclosure forms.
POPEThese are forms that are meant to disclose information to the public. And there was information redacted from them. And so I'm interested to know if you would support anything in Richmond that might either make these documents more available, perhaps online, or create some sort of oversight of them, someone actually to look at them and see if they're filled out correctly or not?
BELLWell, you can go on VPAP, the Virginia Public Access Project, where you can get election contributions and you can get personal financial disclosures there. So they are listed there, but I would also agree with you that we need a separate commission. Because right now one of the other problems with ethics violations or gift violations, there's really not teeth in the legislation. And that needs to be part of the solution as well, that I would support. So there are some real penalties when these violations and ethical problems with gifts occur.
BELLYou know, this has been an issue in my race, as well. Delegate Ramadan failed to report a large gift from the Taiwanese government this year, $7,800. He initially said it wasn't a gift, even though the code is very clear and all of his colleagues reported it as a gift. And after coming under fire he decided then to report it.
POPESo just to make sure I understand what you just said. So you would support some sort of commission or actual oversight over these documents, in terms of someone making sure that they're filled out correctly?
BELLWell, not just that. But to also investigate when there are ethics violations or if there are ethical problems. Absolutely. And some real penalties to put teeth into when the violations occur.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, you get the final question.
SHERWOODWell, actually, I've already moved on to something else.
NNAMDIWell, in that case, thank you very much, John Bell.
NNAMDIOh, you mean moved on to another issue?
SHERWOODYes, but it's okay.
POPEWell, then I'd like to ask you about the Bi-County Parkway.
NNAMDII told you we shouldn't have had him in here.
POPECuccinelli is opposed, Ramadan, your opponent, David Ramadan says it's time for a fresh start. What's your opinion on the Bi-County Parkway?
BELLYeah, I think we need to step back from the Bi-County Parkway, as well. Bottom line is residents are concerned. A lot of stakeholders have good reason to protest it. I think we need to get all the stakeholders together and determine what's the best path. Right now I don't believe that the Bi-County Parkway, as proposed -- and there's been several different proposals -- is the best path. And there's some key questions, frankly, that just haven't been directly answered. You know concerns are over whether it's going to be a toll road. Concerns are over, what's the plan for the roads through the Battlefield? Are those going to be taken away before the Parkway would be done?
BELLWhat rural areas would it go through? How many entrances and exits, which would create more sprawl if there's many, which is something I oppose.
POPESo you and Ramadan have the same position on that?
BELLWe're largely the same on that one. You know, I think what we...
SHERWOODThere's the news of the day. (laugh)
NNAMDIYou just made Michael Pope's story for him. John Bell, thank you so much for joining us.
BELLIt was my pleasure. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIJohn Bell is a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. He's running to represent the Commonwealth's 87th District. Shortly in the broadcast we'll be joined by Jolene Ivey. She's a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. She's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She represents the state's 47th District. In the meantime, Tom Sherwood, the District of Columbia seems to be rapidly moving about the business of decriminalizing marijuana. Ten of thirteen council members having signed on to a bill to make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable by a fine of no more than $100.
NNAMDIThe author of the bill and the office of the attorney general said they could agree on an even smaller token fine of $25. And now Mayor Vincent Gray has signed on with some additions to the bill that people should -- there'd be stiffer penalties if people are caught smoking on the sidewalks or smoking in the vicinity of schools, that kind of thing. But it looks like this is going to happen.
SHERWOODWell, the biggest news this week was when I asked the Mayor at the press conference this week what his view of decriminalization or legalization, he says, I'm still smoking on it. (laugh)
NNAMDIHe did not.
SHERWOODYes, he did. And everybody laughed. And I thought, oh, you know, that's going to make television and it did in the Mark Segraves story that he did for us. But, you know, the fact is the city isn't moving -- most of the council members are supporting decriminalization, which means you'll get a fine for small amounts of marijuana, as opposed to legalization, which would allow it to be sold openly and taxed and all of that, which David Grosso, the at-large council member supports. But I think there's just not enough of them ready to go forward beyond decriminalization.
SHERWOODAnd it's a very serious issue in town. There are about 5,000 arrests in the District of Columbia every year for mere possession of marijuana. And I'm talking about small amounts, not dealers. And ACLU's, Art Spencer told me, 9 out of 10 of those are African American males, mostly African American males and some women. And he says it's just unfairly enforced and it's ruining lives before lives can even get started.
NNAMDISeventeen states have also eliminated jail time for possession in favor of civil fines up to $1,000. If this bill passes, the District would rank behind only Alaska, which has no fine, as the most forgiving. You know, Michael Pope, for a long time the Commonwealth of Virginia was thought of as a tobacco state. Do you think you will ever live long enough to see the legislature in the Commonwealth of Virginia legalize marijuana?
POPEWell, that's a trick question. (laugh) It's going to take some time. Certainly it's not going to happen this year. It's not going to happen in the next five years, but there is a sort of tidal change that's happening in society right now, in terms of people are viewing this differently. Although, you know, it's been about three months since D.C. has had medical marijuana. And the restrictions on that are such that you really don't see a lot of people signing up to be on the registry.
SHERWOODI think 59 people are (unintelligible) trip wires.
BELLFifty-nine people, right, exactly. So you're talking about everybody that lives in D.C., that has cancer, HIV, or glaucoma, they could sign up for this thing, and yet only 59 of them do. So that may be an indication the restrictions are too tight. Some people have argued that they should expand that list of ailments to things like post-traumatic stress disorder, digestive ailments, migraine headaches, and then some people have gone so far as to say, why do you have this list at all? Why not let the doctors decide?
SHERWOODWell, and also this would be -- these businesses will essentially be out of business if the city legalizes small amounts of marijuana for personal use. There's some discussion about whether you can have your own plants. And we were all just trying decide how big do these plants grow? I thought they would grow about six feet and then somebody tweeted me and said, no, no, they can go up to ten feet or so. So I don't know. Three plants could be quite a bit. But if the city moves forward and if the Congress doesn't interfere -- you know, a lot of people thought the Congress would interfere with the city's same-sex law, it did not.
SHERWOODThe city could, in fact, be right on the cutting edge of allowing people to have small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio now is Jolene Ivey. She's a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. She's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates who represents the state's 47th District. Jolene Ivey, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
MS. JOLENE IVEYThank you, Kojo. I've been looking forward to it.
NNAMDIBecause the first time you appeared on this broadcast in 2002 you appeared as the founder of an organization known as Mocha Moms. Since then you have been a really regular guest on "Tell Me More," the broadcast that often follows this during the course of the week, as a part of a panel discussing parenting. So I find it particularly ironic that the time you are running for the highest office for which you have ever run, you have become embroiled in a scandal having to do with parenting. I was thinking the other day that if this was the Gansler campaign and there was scandal about parenting and they were looking for somebody like the person on "Scandal" to handle this campaign, they would say, who is a professional parent who can handle this?
NNAMDIAnd that would be Jolene Ivey, but in that case, you'd be working in the background. Now, you are right up front as the running mate of Doug Gansler. How ironic is it that you find yourself in this situation? And what advice would you give to your own candidate?
SHERWOODWhat advice have you given him?
IVEYYou know, we have to all admit that Doug Gansler has already said that he -- what he did was wrong, he did the wrong thing, he should have handled it differently. And, you know, how many of us parents haven't done something that we regretted as parents? We are not perfect. None of us is perfect. And that's one thing that we talk about on Michel Martin's show, is the challenges of being a parent.
NNAMDIWell, one of the things I have not mentioned, for those of our audience who have been living on a another planet for the past couple of days, is exactly what we're talking about here, the gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler was forced to answer a lot of questions yesterday to explain why he didn't do more to break up a party earlier this summer where he was photographed and where it was pretty clear that underage drinking was taking place. Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODAnd this is not the only thing, I mean Doug Gansler -- everyone knew he was going to run for governor. He spent a long time getting to the point. Just before he announced -- I mean, I thought his press conference yesterday was painful. I mean, he generally is a very forceful, strong advocate and he just seemed to be stumbling over his words, with long pauses in between them. And, as you said, we're all parents. Well, many of us are parents. And we've all had this difficulty, but he's also the attorney general of the state. He is a candidate -- he was an official candidate for governor when this party occurred.
SHERWOODHe said he was reading a text. That is the most awkward way of reading a text I've ever seen. And so you weren't at the party, but what does this mean to the campaign going forward? You had the issue about whether he turned his lights on and speeds too much as attorney general, whether he got a ticket, and now this party. And even Barbara Mikulski came out and simply sabotaged his opening bid for governor. Just before he announced she came out in an unusual way, announced that she was for Anthony Brown. It just seems like it's been a very rough period of time. Address the whole period of the last few weeks.
SHERWOODIn one sentence.
NNAMDITen words or less.
POPEThat's one heck of a question.
SHERWOODThat's a lot of stuff in one point.
IVEYYeah, and you all have said an awful lot. Does anybody want to let me say anything?
IVEYI didn't think so. But I will speak anyway. I'm really glad to be here first of all. Thank you so much, Kojo, for having me on. I'm actually very excited to be a part of this ticket. And it's been an exciting time for me. I think it's an exciting time for Maryland. And when I've been traveling around the state, these are not the issues that people bring up. They really aren't.
SHERWOODYes, but I just did. And I know that you would -- but just address -- this has been a whirlwind of three or four or five issues that have hit him. Some people think it's orchestrated by opponents. And I don't -- but I want your view of how you assess the overall picture in a serious way.
NNAMDIAnd how you see the campaign moving forward from here.
SHERWOODWell, this is addressed first -- before we move forward.
IVEYWell, you know, the issues right now are certainly -- none of them are fun. But if you take each of them separately, they're things that I'm sure the other side is trying to throw dirt every time we're making progress. So let's just move on from there. Really, the...
SHERWOODYou said the other side is throwing dirt. You mean, the campaign?
IVEYLet me say that what we want to do is talk about issues. And that's not what we're getting from the other side. We have not heard but one issue from the other side which was pre-K, which, by the way, came after Doug Gansler already announced his support for expanding pre-K. So while Doug Gansler has spent the summer going around the state talking to people about his ideas for how to bring our state forward and talking about some of the challenges, you know, one thing, as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, we talk about education issues.
IVEYAnd every time someone sits before us and starts beating their chest about, we have the number one school system in the nation, those of us from Prince George's and Baltimore City, we roll our eyes because you can't sugarcoat it. Sure, we have some fantastic schools in Maryland. Absolutely, we have a lot to be proud of.
SHERWOODBut before -- I know...
IVEYI'm going to finish my sentence. However...
SHERWOODI know, but the problem -- I said I need to ask -- I would like to talk about the issues that matter. And I know you're going to. But you've said that the other side has been throwing dirt from the other side. Now, who is the other side? Are you talking about your opponent's campaign or just people who aren't for you?
IVEYYou know what?
NNAMDIWell, allow me to interrupt for a second and explain to our listening audience exactly what's going on here. What's going on here is that we have a campaign that is trying to get its message out.
NNAMDIAnd that message is being interrupted by first one and now two incidents that have made the news. Jolene Ivey, as the lieutenant governor, wants to move beyond those issues. Tom Sherwood wants to have some explanation of those issues. So allow me to try to come in between by saying, okay, we have a campaign that's going to be going on for a while. This issue is going to be with us for a little while, but it is entirely possible that you can get past it. What do you have to do in order to get past it by addressing these issues?
IVEYI think we have...
NNAMDIYou do have to address them.
IVEYWe've already done -- it's...
SHERWOODIf you say someone's throwing dirt, I want to know who the person is or the group that's throwing dirt.
IVEYIt's already been done. What we have done is, number one, Doug Gansler's already apologized. He's already said, I made a mistake. And I think that's the first thing anybody has to do, is acknowledge you have a problem. Now, what we're having a problem with in this state is the achievement gap. But nobody wants to acknowledge we have that problem.
IVEYWe still want to have sugarcoating from the other side saying, oh, we're the number one schools in the country. Well, no, we might be as far as how much money we spend on our schools. But as far as the results we're getting, all of our children are not learning at the same rate. And that's what we need to address.
SHERWOODAnd schools in even Montgomery County, very serious issue there, the school, they're counting for the test and all of that. But when someone says to me on a program the other side's -- they're throwing dirt from the other side, I don't know what that means. And I'm not going to assume.
IVEYYou know what? I guess what it means is I should have used a different phrase, so we could move on, Tom. So let's give it a shot.
IVEYYou know what else we need here in Maryland in education? We need better school buildings. A lot of our schools need to be replaced.
IVEYThey're old. And they need to be modernized. Now, we did a lot in the General Assembly to help Baltimore City move forward with great schools being built. And we need to do that for other areas of the state as well, so that's another thing I'm looking forward to working on.
SHERWOODYou -- you're a -- I want to let Michael get in a moment, but I'm just going to go push this for one more time. You're the mother of five boys.
IVEYFive beautiful boys.
SHERWOODWell, all parents -- anyway, three of whom, I think, were born at home, right?
IVEYThat's right, last three.
SHERWOODLast three at home, very -- and you're a warm and loving parent, all the things that could be said. What is your view about teenage drinking?
IVEYTeenage drinking is something that we oppose and that certainly Glenn and I have talked to our kids about. I can't tell you that my teenagers have never had a drink. I would love to be able to say that was true, but I can tell you that we have certainly talked to them about it and talked to them about the dangers of drinking.
NNAMDIAllow me to go to the phones because there is at least one caller who wants to either address or, in the case of Casey, maybe not address this issue. Casey, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CASEYYou know, this is such a troubling issue that we're even talking about this. You know, as a business owner, as a voter, one of the things that I want to address -- I really -- it doesn't bother me that this is what Mr. Gansler has done. What bothers me is that we have a candidate like Anthony Brown that doesn't support HBCUs. We have candidates out there that are running for Senate delegates and things of that nature that are throwing their support behind someone like Anthony Brown.
CASEYAs a business owner, I've seen a 46 percent increase across the board in taxes. I'm watching my schools plummet out of control. And I really question anyone, any senator, delegate, council person or county executive or union person that supports people -- we've seen the highest tax increases in 70 years in this state under the Brown (unintelligible).
NNAMDIWell, are you -- do you have a question, Casey? Or are you planning on making an...
CASEYI'm making -- I'm making a statement, saying that this gentleman is focusing on the wrong issue. Gentlemen, go forward. Let's move forward. Let's move forward.
NNAMDIThe issue -- you know, the primary is June 24, 1914. (sic) This is October.
NNAMDI2014. Did I say 19?
NNAMDII'm an old guy.
POPEThat was a good campaign, too.
NNAMDISo there's going to be a lot of time, and there's going to be a lot of issues that get brought out in this campaign. I must say that the issue that we're dealing with today still is the alcohol issue. We will get to other issues. We do have time in this broadcast.
SHERWOODWe'll get to whether or not -- this is the early days. Early days of campaigns, you can set a standard from which it's very difficult to change. And so you didn't run through the state -- I mean, you have a very good reputation in the state legislature.
SHERWOODYou have a good -- all the right things. I can say a lot of positive things, but you're running with a gentleman who now says he was a prosecutor for 21 years, he's been aggressive and doing a lot in Montgomery County and is attorney general, and only now that he runs for governor are these things brought up. But people do care if -- the state police are saying that he's a reckless driver and misuses his authority with flashing lights. The people do care if he goes to a teenage party, appears to be taking pictures and not...
IVEYHe was not taking pictures.
SHERWOODI just said appears. He says he was reading the...
IVEYHe's old like me. You have to bring your arm really far out to be able to read...
SHERWOODWell, that's the most awkward thing since Rose Mary -- Rose, whatever her name was, and Nixon tried to turn off the tape machine.
POPERose Mary Woods.
SHERWOODRose Mary Woods and her 18-minute gap. But that -- but I think, on the day that you were announcing, you both went quickly to your cars and didn't address that. It sends a message that you don't have both of your feet on the ground, and that's not the Doug Gansler I know. That's why I keep asking about it.
IVEYWell, I guess you're just going to keep asking about it.
IVEYBut we're trying to move forward and talk about the issues. And if someone would please ask Anthony Brown about some of the issues, I would really appreciate it.
SHERWOODWell, this moment -- well, at this moment, his personality has become an issue -- not me personally, but it has become an issue in the campaign.
IVEYOh, no, no, no. I really think that we need to focus on the actual issues that people care about. And people care about jobs. They care about education. They care about healthcare. And as a matter of fact, speaking of healthcare, that is something that Anthony Brown, on his own website, it says that he is spearheading efforts to implement President Obama's healthcare reform law.
IVEYIn that way, he is the chairman of the Healthcare Reform Coordinating Council, which happens to be the key committee to make sure that this bill is being implemented correctly. Now let me tell you something. Doug Gansler and I are strong supporters of our president, and we are strong supporters of Obamacare, which I think is a great term 'cause it means Obama cares.
IVEYBut what you have to be aware of, if you haven't been paying attention, Tom, is that in Maryland, it's not been going well. It's really been a disappointment. And it is my understanding that, while Anthony Brown was chairing this committee, he was really more of a figurehead. He didn't really take his task seriously.
IVEYHe didn't dive deep into the issues to make sure the hard questions got asked and answered. And now this is the result. So it's really been distressing. This is a state where we have strong support for the law. And we should have been a model for the rest of the nation. Instead, we've got egg on our face.
POPEAll right. I have an issues question. So I was interested in asking you about a development proposal on the golf course for the University of Maryland. There's a developer, Brian Gibbons, who is interested in having a 50-acre development there that would be essentially an academic village. It's...
IVEYIt'd be a big-box store.
POPE...raised lots of concerns among people that live around there...
IVEYMm hmm. Right.
POPE...which means it's probably smart politics to oppose it, which I understand you do. However, is it smart growth? The university president has said that he doesn't expect the golf course to be around 20 years from now because of development pressures. So...
SHERWOODBut that's a great golf course.
IVEYBut that -- yeah, it would be very unfortunate because all the other major universities have golf courses like that. And it would be something that would really be a detriment to the university to not have it. So what we need to do is focus our attention on Route 1. And that's what Doug Gansler was saying at our press conference. We had a press conference on Tuesday.
IVEYWe stood with the community with the Save Our Golf Course advocates, with members of the College Park Council, and we stood together and said, this is ridiculous. It's bad for the environment. It's bad for smart growth because what we need to be doing is making Route 1 a gateway, not cutting it off and adding a road that's going to divert resources away from fixing up Route 1 and taking away such a gem that's a wonderful part of our community.
IVEYSo it was not a political move. This was a consistent move that Doug Gansler has had when he -- all along, he's been supportive of the environment and of smart growth. And that proposal is decidedly not smart growth. Now, the great news was that just the next day on Wednesday, the developer withdrew the plan.
IVEYHe said that it was really not going well, that there was too much political opposition to it -- and I'm sure that was us since it was just the day before that we opposed it -- and that he wants to refocus his attention on Route 1, which is fantastic. And all the advocates are rallying around that, pulling our energy together. There are meetings scheduled right now to do that, to put the energy in that way. So it was certainly a victory for Doug Gansler and a victory for the community.
NNAMDIHere's Ryan in Bethesda, Md. Ryan, your turn.
RYANHi, Kojo. I just wanted to say that, as a resident, I know that Doug Gansler, I'm pretty sure, is from Montgomery County. And I think that this is probably a smear campaign that has happened to him, and it's very unfortunate of the timing that this has been released. I don't know that -- did he host a party that was, underage drinking was permitted?
RYANDid -- of course not. So was he expected to arrest every person that was there? Was he expected to collect IDs? Where is -- where does -- how is it that he was supposed to be responsible for something that he was not responsible for?
IVEYYou know, although he certainly regrets that he didn't intervene, you know, anybody looking back would say, gee, I wish I'd done that differently. But at the time...
RYANWell, it's just that...
IVEYI mean, really, he's just a parent. He's running in. His kid wasn't answering the text. And so he ran in to say something to his kid and ran out.
RYANDo you -- yeah. Do you arrest your son? Do you arrest your son's friends? 'Cause it reminds me of the question...
IVEYFortunately, his son was not drinking.
RYANIt reminds me of the question of, hey, do you still masturbate in the shower? You know, I mean, is there a correct answer to this?
RYANIs there -- you know, so basically he's kind of found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he's left holding the bag. And he probably should have been a little more vehement about his position on that.
IVEYIf only his son had answered the text, we wouldn't be here today. Wouldn't that be great?
SHERWOODWell, and also this is in Delaware where he doesn't have any police authorities to arrest anybody. So that's not the issue. I think, again, as a political reporter who looks at this, is the issue of how he has handled this rapid-fire, whether it's a smear campaign or not -- many people believe it's a smear campaign.
SHERWOODThat's why I was trying to get the candidate for lieutenant governor to tell me what she means when I say throwing dirt from the other side. If you mean the other side, just meaning general opponents, or do you believe it's the Anthony Brown campaign? Or do you just think it's obvious on its face? And then that'd be the last question if you answer that one on this scandal.
IVEYI'd say it was obvious on its face, choice number three. Thank you.
NNAMDIIs this going to be a dirty campaign?
IVEYI would like to think not. It doesn't look good right now. It looks like every time we get any kind of momentum, then they find something else real, imagined, two years old, six months old, whatever, to drag out.
NNAMDIBut the campaign -- your campaign is just really beginning here.
IVEYBecause we're trying to focus on issues. So as long as we continue to stay the course, tell the voters what we want to do, and, you know, it's...
NNAMDIWell, I'll tell you, I think by next June, this issue will be long gone. Of course, I'm wrong about a lot of things, but I think...
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) No, it'll come back in, you know, negative campaign ads towards the end of the campaign. So we've got...
SHERWOOD...time to do all these issues. And I think all of the issues are important, whether it's development around the University of Maryland, whether it's the construction of highways in Maryland, just as serious as in Virginia and some places. But images of people, like images of you -- you have a very good image. I'm going to say it again 'cause I'm trying to butter you up.
IVEYKeep saying it, Tom. Keep saying it. I like it.
NNAMDIStop buttering her up.
SHERWOODBut images count. And you know that. You were in television in Baltimore. You're on the radio. You've been on the radio. You know that images count. And people can get an image of something that may be inaccurate.
NNAMDILet me go to Yvonne in Bowie, Md. who has another kind of issue to discuss. Yvonne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YVONNEThank you, Kojo. Mrs. Ivey, I applaud your efforts as an African-American mom of five boys because, like you, I also am African-American. And I can relate, having raised two sons as well. I'm sure, basically, that you're too familiar with and very distressed by the statistics regarding incarceration in Maryland. And I would like you to address the topic of reentry initiatives perhaps that your team is proposing.
IVEYAbsolutely. Thanks so much for bringing that up. It's really important. It's something that Doug Gansler raised on Monday at the Democratic Party breakfast in Prince George's County. He talked about reentry. And something that he's been focusing on, one thing that we did as a state, back in the last session, was remove the box that you check to say that, you know, you've had a felony on your record.
IVEYWe removed that from state job applications. But, so far, it's 'course still there for private employers. And it really would help so much if we could get private employers to at least consider people who have a record. Let them come to the interview. You can ask them those questions once they're there. But just give them a chance. You know, if people can't get a job, if they can't get a place to live, what's going to happen to them?
IVEYThey're going to reoffend. And so Doug Gansler's been looking at programs around the country that have brought down that rate of recidivism and wants to do a lot to implement them here.
NNAMDIWe're almost out of time, so if Anthony Brown is running to continue the vision laid out for the state by the man he's worked for the past seven years, Gov. Martin O'Malley, where would you say that your ticket's vision differs from the vision of the current administration? What do you think the state should be doing differently? You have about a minute and a half.
IVEYWell, Doug Gansler's been talking a lot about the need to bring jobs back to Maryland. And there's several different things that need to be done. Business taxes really have gotten to hit people pretty hard. One thing that needs to be looked at is when you -- when small businesses are paying their taxes, it's linked to their personal income tax.
IVEYIf you could decouple that perhaps, or maybe there would be some business tax credits that would go to the kind of businesses you're trying to grow here in Maryland -- but we need to do things to even things out, so we don't lose jobs to Virginia, frankly. And I'm with him on that because we need jobs here. If people have a good job, then you can protect your family.
IVEYYou know, you need a good job. And Doug Gansler wants to make sure that you can -- you have a job, you have a good school to send your kid to, that you have healthcare, so protecting Maryland's families is what we're all about. And I'm really happy to be a part of that with him.
NNAMDIJolene Ivey, she's a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. She's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She represents the state's 47th district. Thank you so much for joining us. We expect we'll be seeing a lot more of you between now and June 2014.
IVEYThanks and happy 15th anniversary, Kojo. I brought you a gift. I'll give it to you when we go off.
NNAMDIThank you very much for bringing that. Tom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current newspapers. Tom, always a pleasure.
SHERWOODYes. Have a good weekend.
NNAMDIMichael Pope is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5 and The Connection newspapers. See you in about five minutes in the newsroom.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo learns about our region's very first "Living Building" in Prince George's County, and finds out how the District's own plans for supergreen affordable homes and sustainable buildings could impact residents and the environment.
On Food Wednesday, we explore the new ways recipes are being presented, with everything from GIFs to scientific method.
Tired of driving in circles around the Verizon Center looking for a parking spot? D.C. thinks they may have the solution: "surge" pricing systems at meters.