D.C. Council Member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) joins Kojo and Tom Sherwood to chat about her upcoming fight for re-election.
D.C.’s mayoral candidates fight for votes in the final days before the April 1 Democratic primary. Virginia lawmakers return to Richmond for an overtime session. And Maryland scrambles to enroll residents through its health exchange with a critical federal deadline looming. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Douglas Gansler Democratic Candidate for Governor of Maryland; Maryland Attorney General (D)
- Mike DeBonis Reporter, The Washington Post
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Watch A Featured Clip
While some Maryland candidates are preparing for a Democratic primary election in June, other lawmakers and voters are more focused on another battle: whether to give more tax credits to popular television series “House of Cards.”
The Netflix drama, which follows politician Frank Underwood as he navigates the dark side of politics in Washington, D.C., has received more than $26 million for filming its first two seasons in Maryland. But the show, starring Kevin Spacey, has said it won’t film a third season in the state unless it gets more.
Maryland typically gives about $7.5 million each year to crews that film in state. The state’s Senate has approved a bill that would increase the show’s credits to $18.5 million, but the House has yet to vote.
Attorney General Douglas Gansler (D) said he supports offering film credits to woo crews to the state, “but it’s a question of bounds.”
“How much is too much?” he asked the panel on Kojo Nnamdi’s Friday Politics Hour.
One thing is certain: Gansler said he won’t be seizing film crew equipment or sets if the show decides to leave the state, as some other Maryland lawmakers threatened this week.
For the panel’s full discussion about “House of Cards,” watch the video below.
– Erica R. Hendry
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, welcome.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDIOur guest analyst today, Tom, covers D.C. politics. And our first guest is an integral part of Maryland politics. So I was reluctant as to whether or not we should include our guest analyst in the first part of the discussion because I wasn't sure whether he'd be able to navigate his way through Maryland politics. Turns out, he had a hard time navigating his way through D.C. He went to the wrong location for the station. What's wrong with Mike DeBonis?
SHERWOODWell, you know, you've settled into these fancy, expensive new studios. And Mike is just a man of the people. And he just went to the old studio, thinking that's where you were. He didn't know you had stepped up in the world.
NNAMDIBut for six months we've been promoting this new location, talking about it all the time. Could it be he never listens to us?
SHERWOODYou think reporters listen to your promotion?
NNAMDIHe really never listens to us at all.
SHERWOODAnd it's good to have somebody else from the District of Columbia, the Post, who -- we can all rag on Maryland, you know, because they do that to us all the time. So…
MR. MIKE DEBONISWell, Kojo, I will say I believe I was on the last "Politics Hour" at the old studio.
NNAMDIMike DeBonis, ladies and gentlemen, introducing himself. He is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter at The Washington Post. And he went over to our Brandywine Street location, one that we left over six months ago, before he finally made it here at the last minute.
DEBONISThanks for finally having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIThanks for finally showing up. But because of your presence here and because of the importance of this issue, I will begin with a Washington, D.C. issue that is not technically a political issue, but will probably at some point boil down to a discussion about the efficiency of Child and Family Services. I'm talking about the disappearance of eight-year-old Relisha Rudd.
NNAMDIPolice Chief Cathy Lanier saying yesterday that the search for this missing child has turned into a recovery mission, signaling that the law enforcement authorities do not believe she will be found alive. The chief saying at an afternoon news conference that she was last seen with a man who police say abducted her March 1st.
NNAMDIAnd that the following day, Kahlil Malik Tatum bought a box of black 42-gallon contractor trash bags and was seen spending time in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington. Tom Sherwood, I cannot tell you how sad this story makes, it seems, everybody in Washington.
SHERWOODAny person who has anything to do with a child can only be feeling really terrible about this. And of course there's all -- there are hearings today and there'll be more hearings about what happened, what did the Child and Family Services Division do or not do, what could they have done. But the sad thing is we still don't know where she is and whether she's alive. And we don't know, in fact, that the Child and Family Services or the D.C. Police or the Amber Alert System, all of that, worked or didn't work. But we still don't know where she is.
NNAMDIAnd I guess that's the bottom line and why we don't want to make this into some kind of political dispute at this time. Care to comment, Mike DeBonis?
DEBONISYeah, absolutely. I think that we're not at that point where the finger pointing begins. There are questions that are being asked, but it really hasn't injected itself into the political sphere and it shouldn't yet, especially with Police Chief Cathy Lanier yesterday saying, yes, they're in this recovery operation as they call it, but she said we still hold hope that Relisha will be found alive. And certainly that's what we all hope, too. But this is a sad story that hasn't gotten any happier yet.
SHERWOODAnd it reminds people of the Banita Jacks case of 2009.
SHERWOODWhen the four dead children were found in a small home in Northeast Washington or near Northeast Washington. The question -- and you go to the Child and Family Services Agency and you see what kind of caseload that the people have, what kind of management is it and I think a lot of those questions will be following up, regardless of how this tragedy turns out.
NNAMDIOkay. Then let's pivot to Maryland because the Washington Redskins are technically located -- they play their games in Prince George's County. So this is in a way a Maryland story also. The owner of the team has decided that he wants to create a foundation. The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. He says it was the result of four months of research into what Native Americans thought of the Redskins' nickname and logo.
NNAMDIHe visited 26 Indian Reservations in 20 states. He said he will be performing these charitable functions, if you will, for a number of Native American tribes. His critics say just another publicity stunt. Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODWell, I think -- well, we'll see how much money he puts up. It's not a publicity stunt, I would think, because he's going to put real money up and he's probably going to do real good, but that is not going to paper over the issue of the appropriateness of the team's name. It's just not -- it's, in some ways, people will think it's fairly callous that he thinks he can throw money at Native Americans and think that the name will stick.
NNAMDIDeBonis, you don't think this will make the controversy just go away?
DEBONISNo. I mean, the thing that just strikes me about this is the implicit recognition that the Redskins is an offensive term, by calling it the Original Americans Foundation. If you think the Redskins…
SHERWOODThe Redskins Original…
DEBONISIf you think Washington Redskins is fine and dandy, just call it the Washington Redskins Foundation and give money to Native American tribes. I think that this idea that, you know, every week for the last few weeks they've been sending out these quotes from supporters who say, "Oh, well, I'm Native American and I support the Redskins." You know, they realize that wasn't enough.
DEBONISI think -- so they've moved on to the next step, which is, you know, investing this money in communities that need it. But they're going to realize soon enough that this isn't enough. And what's the next step after that?
SHERWOODSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, I think it was, this week said that this is not enough. That the name itself -- and he predicted the name would be changed. And maybe the Washington football owners will -- are figuring out a way to gradually get to the point. Maybe they're evolving on this. Maybe they're not.
DEBONISI'll say Washington Post columnist Jason Reid said this week that he believes the name will be changed within three years.
SHERWOODOh, maybe that was it and not Harry. Maybe I got them mixed up with Harry Reid. I better be careful there.
NNAMDIThat's another prediction. There have been many of those. Now, onto the business at hand. Our guest is Doug Gansler. He's a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. He's currently the state's attorney general. Doug Gansler joins us in studio. Welcome.
ATTORNEY GENERAL DOUGLAS GANSLERIt's good to be here. Thank you.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Doug Gansler call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. We're barreling toward the finish of a Democratic primary here in the District. But you and the other Democratic candidates in Maryland will be going at it until June.
NNAMDIYou've been running officially since the fall. But some people have said that it's hard at times to understand what the message of your campaign is. Here's what I say, the message of your campaign is not a simple message. Apparently it cannot be characterized in three or four words or in a small phrase. You have a variety of proposals that you're offering. People find it difficult to categorize them as easily liberal or conservative. How do you characterize your message?
GANSLERWell, let me start by saying the message I think of today is that we have four days left for people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. And I think the message that's going to be there, in terms of the politics of it, but juxtaposed with the reality is that my opponent, the lieutenant governor, was in charge of this Affordable Care rollout.
GANSLERAs you know, I chaired President Obama's campaign. I went to the Supreme Court of the United States to get the Affordable Care Act upheld constitutionally. And the problem is there's been $250 million of real money that's been wasted on this website. And the bigger problem is they're real people that, you know, need chemotherapy, need heart transplants, their children need to get healthcare and they have not had the access to healthcare.
GANSLERThere's only been a handful of people that have been able to sign up. So I think -- I say that because I think that does sort of show a difference of leadership styles. I think, to the extent people wonder, sort of, what is the message of my campaign. It's that I have a record of 22-years in public service, of getting -- of seeing something that's not fair, fighting to get it fixed and actually getting it done.
GANSLERAnd whether it was -- you know, when you were talking about the case earlier on the show right here, you know, I was an assistant United States attorney here in the District of Columbia with Eric Holder from 1992 to 1996. And there were so many tragic and sad cases that I personally prosecuted, mostly in the homicide division and elsewhere, but I've developed this record of seeing problems, fighting to get them fixed and getting it done.
SHERWOODIs your contention that Anthony Brown, as the Governor O'Malley's point person on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, is that he botched the job or he just didn't get involved enough? I mean what is the specific complaint about his role? Was he just a figurehead and other people were actually doing the work?
GANSLERWell, he, himself -- look, the guy -- he was the -- he's been the lieutenant governor for eight years. The two things that he has purportedly been in charge of, the two things that he says he's in charge of, were the BRAC rollout and the Affordable Care Act rollout. You know, years ahead, he was saying, you know, "We're -- this is my thing. I'm going to be the leader. I'm going to do the rollout. We'll get hundreds of thousands of people."
SHERWOODAnd can I -- on that point, I went back and looked at some of the records. And Barbara Mikulski, who's part of the Democratic state establishment, just days before, I think, you announced for governor officially, she came out and endorsed Anthony Brown. Something she doesn't normally do in campaigns. And she specifically cited his good work as doing the healthcare stuff.
GANSLERWell, interestingly, she…
SHERWOODBut she hasn't said much since.
GANSLERNo. Interestingly -- and he -- you haven't noticed in his television ads talking about how he's in charge of the rollout either. But interestingly, Senator Mikulski, when she did that -- and I ran Senator Mikulski's campaign in Montgomery County in 1992. So I'm a fan of hers. But she did say at that endorsement, "We have nothing to worry about here regarding our healthcare rollout because Anthony Brown's in charge." That was the quote that she gave.
SHERWOODIs that going to show up in one of your campaign ads?
GANSLERWell, what's more likely to show up is even this week he's saying it was a success. It's been a big success in the rollout. He's been telling people in the media that. And the problem is that there's been $251 million spent on a website. And we're 46th in the country in terms of actual people being able to sign up. And what they've been doing instead, because you cannot get on the computer to sign up, they're actually doing it by hand. And then funneling them to Care First.
SHERWOODCan I ask what I think is my overarching question on the whole campaign? Is that you're running for governor, not so much against Anthony Brown, but you're running against the entire Democratic establishment over the O'Malley eight years in office. O'Malley is running or trying to establish a campaign to run for president. He would be terribly embarrassed if his anointed successor as governor, Anthony Brown, lost to you. So it seems to me you've got the whole state establishment against you. How do you overcome that?
GANSLERWell, I don't -- I think you said it in your question, which is the anointed part. I don't believe that people want to someone to be anointed as the next governor. I don't think they believe in coronations. This is a democracy. And I'm not actually running against anything. I'm running for governor.
SHERWOODBut you know the O'Malley -- the whole orchestration…
GANSLERYeah, well, look, no question.
SHERWOOD…of that side is for him. And he's a safe…
GANSLERThere's no question.
SHERWOOD…strong, you know, likeable, pleasant guy. You're sometimes not so pleasant.
GANSLERI think I'm very pleasant. I've always been pleasant. I'm the nicest guy I know. And my mother would concur in that assessment. But, you know…
SHERWOODThat's one vote.
GANSLERYeah, exactly. But, no. Look, let me say this, you're absolutely right. All the special interests, all the status quo, all the entrenched politicians, all the powerful interests, the plaintiffs' lawyers and groups like that are with -- the lieutenant governor is an extension of eight more years. And, you know, I am running on my record, my vision for the state, which, you know, includes cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, getting jobs back to Maryland.
GANSLERWe're getting crushed by the District of Columbia and Virginia, in terms of our jobs. We've lost over 7,000 small businesses in the last eight years. Seventy-six percent more people are unemployed than there were eight years ago. We have a billion dollar deficit every year in Annapolis. And so I think people recognize that we have true problems. And the other piece that has really resonated is the fact that we have the number two minority achievement gap in the while United States in our education system.
GANSLERAnd nobody seems to be concerned with that. So I think people want to change. They know, particularly, you know, in the area where I've been the state's attorney for eight years, assistant United States attorney for six years, now attorney general for eight years, they understand our record. They know I get things done. They know I see problems and I get them fixed. So I think it's going to be a stark contrast between the two of us.
DEBONISI -- Mr. Gansler, I want to…
NNAMDITom, is he allowed to ask questions on this…
SHERWOODI'd like to hear…
DEBONISYou know, Kojo, I'd like to remind you, I covered Maryland politics for about five minutes.
GANSLERAnd D.C. used to be a part of Maryland. So it's okay.
SHERWOODAnd it never will be again.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Mike DeBonis.
DEBONISMay once again.
DEBONISBut, Mr. Attorney General, let me -- just to drill down on what Tom said in terms of the whole democratic establishment being behind you. I mean, is this a function of, you know, I come...
DEBONIS...I cover a one-party city. But Maryland is also generally recognized as a one-party state.
DEBONISIs there a machine in Maryland that makes it hard -- that -- that is -- at odds with what's best for the state in terms of the democrat party there?
GANSLERWell, I don't know if it's what's best. I mean, in this case, clearly the special interests are driving this. I mean, if you look, you know, my opponent's campaign finance report, it's all special interest money, all corporate money. There's, of course, tens of thousands of dollars from Jeffrey Thompson on there, as well. But there -- it's that's kind of money that's driving their campaign and making it difficult for the people.
GANSLERHowever, as Tom remembers and Kojo certainly does, when I ran for state's attorney in 1998 in Montgomery County, the entire establishment and machine was against me. They wanted to keep the good old boy network there. And we prevailed and we were able to make a seismic changed in the state's attorney office. Same thing happened when I ran for attorney general eight years ago.
GANSLERNobody from Montgomery County, Md. is allowed to be -- have any statewide office. As a matter of fact, no one from Montgomery County had ever won a statewide office since 1919. And the entire establishment was against us and we were able prevail. So, look, we have a lot of support from the people. We're going out knocking on doors. We feel like we're in very, very good shape in this campaign. And you know, the voters will get to decide.
NNAMDIBut to what extent can original ideas help you to prevail in a Democratic primary? Because, despite the fact that you're the first statewide official to openly support same-sex marriage in Maryland, despite the fact that you have attacked companies for environmental violations, of breaking consumer protection laws, your opponents are suggesting that some of your views seem to align more with Republicans.
NNAMDIAnd I suspect they're talking about the fact that you promote a cut in the corporate income tax as a way to attract jobs. This is the Democratic primary. And so people expect ideas that hue to the prevailing orthodoxy. You don't.
GANSLERWell, I think I do. And then the lieutenant governor actually copies all my ideas because they send a tracker around. For example, I was the first candidate and first statewide official to come out expanding pre-K from half day to full day. And then he followed that. I was the first statewide candidate and gubernatorial candidate to come out for raising the minimum wage, which are traditionally both Democratic ideas, for example.
GANSLERI came out in favor of shielding statutes because re-entry is a huge issue in our state. And now other people are coming on board with that. And, of course domestic violence, as well. I've been an advocate and leader there. And my lieutenant governor is actually saying that we passed when, of course, I did, some of the stuff on domestic violence.
NNAMDIBut when people hear cuts in corporate income tax rate…
NNAMDI…that's not a policy that they associate generally with Democrats in Maryland.
GANSLERBut they should because President Obama, Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen are all calling for reductions in corporate taxes, not to help companies, but to bring jobs back. Bring jobs back, in their case, the United States. In my case, back to Maryland. Look, we have four Fortune 500 companies left in Maryland. You know, we've lost these 7,000 plus jobs. We're losing people all the time.
GANSLERWe have 46 percent of the adult men in Baltimore City are unemployed. So clearly what's going on now is not working. We're now 43rd in the country in manufacturing, 40th in terms of tech transfer. So we need new ideas. We need to promote life sciences. We need to promote cyber security. We need to bring the jobs back to Maryland in order to increase our job base so that we can have the money to spend on our Democratic ideals.
SHERWOODIncome disparity is a huge issue across the country, but in your state, too. Let me ask you about the polls, which there's a disparity. You've got a double-digit lag in the polls, but you look at the polls of the Baltimore Sun poll, the Post Newspaper poll, and you see that a lot of voters are undecided. 40 percent or more of the voters aren't ready to pick a candidate yet. You've got, what, six -- how many weeks to June 24th?
GANSLERThree months, yeah.
SHERWOODThree --is it three months? Oh, I can't wait that long.
NNAMDIOh, come on, Tom. We know you're not (unintelligible).
SHERWOODBut that's a lot of -- that's fertile field of people to appeal to.
GANSLERYeah, and, look, the poll was taken four months out before, you know, really any money had been spent or any of the people had been focused. Most people in Maryland don't know that we have a primary on June 24th.
SHERWOODA lot of people in the District don't know we have a primary Tuesday.
GANSLERExactly. But, you know, we've always had it in September. So it's moved up to June and people aren't aware of that. That poll was taken four months out. And it showed, yes, 40 percent undecided, but another 30 percent very soft on support for both sides. So it's really…
SHERWOODWilling to switch.
GANSLERYeah, so 70 percent of the people hadn't even registered that there's a race and who's running. So, you know, I think as people begin to focus on the race, they're going to look at our record, the fact that I've been doing this for 22 years, fighting for people and getting things done. And compare it with the record of the lieutenant governor, which, you know, the Affordable Care Act and the BRAC rollout are the only two things that he's been in charge of. And they're going to find that he's ineffective.
DEBONISWell, let me just say, because I do, like Tom, I view all of this through the lens of D.C. politics. And when we were chatting on the way in, I thought you made an interesting comment. You said you had sort of looked at the mayor's race and you said you were sort of intrigued that Jack Evans, somebody you know, wasn't doing better in that race. And it sort of struck me because it seems like the two of you are in sort of similar situations. You have long records, you've spent a lot of time, devoted a lot of your lives to the city. And just as of yet, have not been able to connect with voters.
DEBONISAnd you've got this person who's sort of being seen as somebody with…
SHERWOODThe anointed one.
DEBONIS…a thinner record, somebody who's more of a cipher really, in the case of D.C. Muriel Bowser and the case of Maryland Anthony Brown, who's seemingly ahead of you in the polls. And that seems to be frustrating to you. Can you sort of explain how, you know, your feelings toward somebody like Anthony Brown?
GANSLERWell, it's not really frustrating to me in the sense that that poll, you know, was taken, again, four months out. And the race hadn't started. And to Tom's earlier point, you know, about the special interests and the establishment and so forth, you know, that's going to be the case. That the establishment candidate, the candidate that's been propped up by the special interests is going to be ahead at the beginning.
GANSLERBut we -- look, this week alone, I've knocked on doors every day. I've been I Eastport knocking on doors. I've been in Annapolis. I was in Baltimore City. Today, I'll be knocking on doors in Hartford County, Md., up in Bel Air. And I go to see real people how are actually going to vote. And they know that if you're working hard to win the election you're going to work hard for them.
GANSLERAnd they know my record. And so, you know, I'm less concerned about some arbitrary poll, which is basically name recognition at that point, than the actual people who are going to vote and what they feel the vision of Maryland is and what we need to do going forward in the future. There's a reason why no lieutenant governor's ever won in Maryland or really anywhere in the country and attorneys general do win. And it's because when people start to focus they look at the record of the candidates and the vision that they present.
NNAMDIDoug Gansler is our guest. He's a Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland. He's currently the state's attorney general. If you have questions or comments for him, shoot us an email to email@example.com. Gentlemen, please don your headphones because we're about to hear from Kathleen in Annapolis, Md. Kathleen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHLEENHi. Thank you very much for taking my call. I have a brief background that relates to my question. My question is, what is Mr. Gansler's specific plan to fix the healthcare rollout issue? And, just briefly, the context of that is, I am an attorney. I'm computer savvy. I attempted since January to enroll on the website. I finally had to call and literally sat for two hours on the phone, having someone hand-put my application in.
KATHLEENMy application was then forwarded to Annapolis. It is still not approved. And I was told, because of their error, I will not have healthcare coverage as of the first of April, when I need healthcare coverage and my current plan ends. And I have children and we want solutions, sir. And I want to hear solutions from you.
GANSLERYeah, and that's a common story and it's all too often told. And it's actually tragic. And, you know, you're going to hear -- the smoke and mirrors are going to come out over the next few days about, you know, all these millions of people or thousands of people, whatever they're going to say have actually been enrolled in Maryland. And the fact of the matter is most of those were Medicaid folks that have been transferred over.
GANSLERThe other lion's share of people were like yourself, who could not get in on the website, so actually had to call somebody, had them -- their application hand-filled out and then funneled over to Care First, which undermines the whole Affordable Care Act, which I've been a supporter of. I ran President Obama's campaign in Maryland. I upheld the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court of the United States, leading the states on that.
GANSLERAnd it's a tragedy because people like yourself need healthcare. So what I did -- well, first of all, we wouldn't have got in this mess in the first place had I been in charge because, for example, when we went after the major national banks, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and so forth, we were able to get $1.5 billion, when I was in charge of that, into the state of Maryland alone, to keep tens of thousands of people in their homes.
GANSLERWhat I did on the healthcare exchange, as I said, you know, five, six weeks ago I said, look, you guys are gonna -- you're not going to accept the political ramifications of admitting that this $251 million of taxpayer money has gone down the drain. Why don't you let people sign up on the federal exchange, which is working, and that would funnel people into Maryland? And so -- and they wouldn't do that. Now, they're saying, well, let's try Connecticut.
GANSLERBut to me it's like them choose. Let the people choose and that way you actually would have gotten enrolled. Unfortunately, we have four days left. Between now and November they'll either fix the Maryland website, they'll choose Connecticut or choose the federal website, which is what they should have done in the first place. And by the time I'm governor we'll have the whole thing fixed.
NNAMDIKathleen, thank you very much for your call. Elly (sp?) , in Rockville, Md., wants to address the issue of the Affordable Care Act, also. Elly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELLYHi. Thanks for having me on the air. I appreciate it. And this will also address the last caller's issue, with respect to dealing with Mr. Gansler. We had a similar situation signing up. And we are one of the families that actually was able to save about $500 per month, with the same company, which was Care First, Blue Cross Blue Shield, by switching over to the exchange and signing up for the Affordable Care Act. However…
NNAMDI(unintelligible) to the federal exchange.
ELLYThrough the state of Maryland.
NNAMDIOh, through the -- okay. I'm sorry.
ELLYAnd now we were able to get on after several challenges and sign up. But then we had some problems and we could not get through to Care First for approximately 10 to 12 days. And so we contacted Mr. Gansler's office. And within two to three days we got the name of somebody at Care First that we could actually speak to. And within 10 days after that we actually had cards saying that we were indeed registered and that we had an account.
ELLYBecause prior to that there was no acknowledgment that we had any accounts. So he was -- his office was incredibly effective in helping us. And I'm very grateful. And I think this sets -- just -- I wanted to share the story because I think he has done a good job in terms of addressing the needs of constituents. And I'm sure he'll do a great job.
NNAMDIWhat have you been doing in terms of what she is talking about, Doug Gansler?
GANSLERYeah, well, I mean, on the broader sense we've obviously -- we've returned over $2 billion to consumers over the last eight years in our office. And we have something called a Health -- HEAU -- Health -- it's basically a healthcare unit that helps mediate claims for people, which is what I assume that Elly called, a Health Education Advocacy Unit, that works to bridge the problems between healthcare companies and people.
GANSLERAnd so a few people have figured out that, you know, we can actually try and bridge that gap. What we typically do through the Health Exchange Advocacy Unit is when somebody's denied coverage by their health insurance company we fight for them and get them that coverage or come to some mediation with the insurance company. We've been trying to kind of go around and help as many people as we can.
GANSLERIt's not the right -- it's not the best way to do it, because what should happen is somebody should be able to go on the website and be able to have all those choices listed before them and choose which program works best for them and their needs. But given the debacle under Anthony Brown at this point, we can (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIBut if you become governor you're going to inherit all of the issues involved with this rollout. What will you do about that? What do you think are the most important things that have to happen for the situation to be fixed?
GANSLERWell, see the problem with this is now it gives the Republicans and others an ability to say, "Oh, the Affordable Care Act is a terrible thing." When this has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. This is the ability to sign up. It's like going on Amazon.com and being able to select actually which book you want to read. You know, select that book, make your payment and then, you know, maybe later when the book comes it's not exactly what you thought it was going to be, you don't like the print, what have you. We're not even at that point.
GANSLERThis is all about the signing-up component. So when I'm governor in January, when we take over -- and hopefully, we'll get it all started up before that -- if the Maryland exchange is not fixed by the next sign-up date, which begins November 1st, then certainly we will strongly urge -- I mean, if I'm governor it will happen -- people, allowing them to sign up for the federal exchange, which does work.
GANSLERAnd that just -- by the way, it's just a mechanism by which through the federal website, still gets you into the Maryland exchange. So you have the same end result and the Affordable Care Act is not undermined.
SHERWOODDo you think there's any -- apart from any inability, just managerially, to get this done, do you think there's been any criminality possibly involved with the money, something -- illegal wrongdoing in these contracts?
GANSLERWell, I don't know that there's…
SHERWOODFailure to perform is -- can be a crime…
SHERWOOD…more so than just…
GANSLERWell, it's not a crime. Sometimes what looks criminal often isn't. But I think -- we're not aware of any actual criminal conduct at this point. Obviously, the system by which they pick their contractors, going to companies in North Dakota and the Ukraine, when we're a state that has the highest amount of degrees in -- advanced degrees in the country. We have the Cyber Command Center. We have NSA in our state and going to North Dakota through a non…
SHERWOODAnd you're trying to be a lead tech state.
GANSLERRight. And you're going through a non-bid, non-competitive arrangement where somebody in North Dakota gets the case, gets the contract. Doesn't seem right. Whether there's actual criminal conduct in terms of people going to jail, you know, I doubt it. What we will do through our office is we will try and go after some of those companies through breach of contract and try and recoup some of the money that the lieutenant governor and his people have lost.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Elaine, in Baltimore. "Attorney General Gansler claims to be fighting what's unfair. Really? What about housing? There are people who have been kicked out of their homes with no means to fight back. Maryland has the highest foreclosure rate in the tri-state area. The too big to fail banks paid a fine that all, but one A.G. signed. What happened to the money that was supposed to go to help?"
GANSLERActually, he ended up signing. He was from Oklahoma. But all 50 states did. And at the time I was president elect and then during the course of the legal settlement that we had with the five major banks, the national banks in the country, I was the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, elected by my peers, all 50 A.G.s unanimously. And we were able to get the biggest state and federal agreement in the history of the United States.
GANSLERAnd to this minute -- and unfortunately, Elaine's right. Maryland has been disproportionately hit. We are the sixth highest hit state in the country in terms of foreclosures. But I was able to get -- at the time was an anticipated $960 million. But because I rolled up my sleeves and I went and met with the national banks, met with the CEOs. And we got the money and we've gotten over $1.5 billion to tens of thousands -- directly to tens of thousands of families in Maryland, which has kept them in their homes.
SHERWOODLet's go back to raw politics.
GANSLERYou always do.
SHERWOODWell, it's called "The Politics Hour."
SHERWOODNot healthcare 101.
SHERWOODJolene Ivey is your running mate. She's from Prince George's County. Anthony Brown is seen as having a strong base of support in Prince George's County, particularly among African American voters there, and others in the county that he's served. What has Jolene Ivey done to help broaden your appeal there and elsewhere around the state, compared to Ken Ulman, who is the running mate from Howard County for Mr. Brown?
GANSLERWell, Jolene is wonderful. And she -- I don't know what the perception is in Prince George's County. We're very optimistic that we're going to win Prince George's County in the election.
SHERWOODOh, you're going to win Prince George's County?
GANSLERI believe that's the case.
SHERWOODIn the primary?
GANSLERWhich I did last time in the primary, when I got 60 percent of the vote in the Democrat primary last time.
SHERWOODPardon me while I tweet that.
GANSLERYeah, put that down there. No, no. And a lot of it is because of Jolene and how wonderful she is. Look, she's the chair of the Prince George's County delegation, thought of enough by her peers to elect her to that. She has, you know, her husband, Glen Ivey, who is the state's attorney there, has been very helpful. But Jolene has raised five boys in Prince George's County. She started a national non-profit called Mocha Moms, which is about women of color and parenting issues.
GANSLERAnd when she's elected she'll be our party's first African America female lieutenant governor in the United States history, which is, you know, historic, but it's only important because of what she's done, in the content of her character, to help people in Prince Georgia's County. And the woman -- the fact that she's a woman I think is important. And Ken Ulman, by the way, is -- you mentioned him -- is a very competent, good person, who has run Howard County well.
GANSLERAnd he provided, you know, $3.5 million to the bankrolls of the lieutenant governor. So he's been helpful.
SHERWOODRight. You've said Ken Ulman would be a better governor than Anthony Brown, haven't you?
GANSLERI don't think anyone would take the other side of that.
NNAMDIHere is Ann, in Bethesda, Md. Ann, your turn.
ANNHi. How are you all today?
ANNI am -- well, I'm glad to hear that. I am calling because I have a question about education inequity. A hot issue in Maryland right now is school start time. And as a disclosure I should admit that I'm on the executive board of the national non-profit Start School Later. So clearly I have a position on this. But I would like to know what a position is -- what would you do as a governor when education reform seems to have a lot to say about start time, teen success, overall lifetime income improvement and so on.
NNAMDIWhat would you do…
SHERWOODIn the state?
NNAMDI…about education equity…
NNAMDI…in general and school start time in particular?
SHERWOODAnd the state shifting the cost to the counties and the education costs.
GANSLERRight. Yeah, no. It's a huge issue and it's a huge issue in this election because my opponent will actually say we have the number one schools in the country, which they got their hand caught in the cookie jar for not allowing everyone to take the test. So it ended up we're about eighth. But what the reality is is we do have the number two minority achievement gap. So today in the ninth-graders in Baltimore City for example, when they show up to school, 94 percent of them won't graduate from college.
GANSLERHalf won't graduate from high school. And of the half that do, 80 percent will need remedial math and 70 percent will need remedial English. That's just not fair. It shouldn't matter what color your skin is or what zip code you live in whether you have access to a quality education. So Ann's dead right. There's education inequity in Maryland, which, for such a progressive state, which has one of the highest per capita incomes in the country, should not exist.
GANSLERAnd so, you know, I started the first civil rights department in the state's history in the attorney general's office. And we actually did a report on bridging the minority achievement gap in higher education. We need to do the same in K through 12. That's why I came out for extending pre-K from half day to full day. That's why I'm calling to make sure we pay our skilled teachers more and not just have people, you know, when you can go to any school in Maryland or any school anywhere, really, and say to the teachers and the kids, who are the great teachers, who are the bad teachers, and you're going to get the same answers.
GANSLERWe shouldn’t allow to have the bad teachers there. We should reward handsomely the good teachers. In terms of the start time, that's something we should look into.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly in this conversation. Tom Sherwood usually has a last minute question to ask. I'll have him ask it now.
SHERWOODI refuse to ask one.
DEBONISI've got one. I have...
NNAMDIDefer to Mike DeBonis.
DEBONISWe're talking about education policy. I have a much lower stakes issue but one that's seemingly taking up a lot of oxygen in Annapolis this week, which is this whole question of "House of Cards." And should the State of Maryland be offering these big incentives to these film producers to film in the state? We've even got a legislator talking about seizing the property of the film crews if they threaten to leave. What do you say about this issue?
GANSLERWell, I love the show "House of Cards." And I watched both seasons. But, you know, I think that we ought -- that it's a good thing to have film credits to try and woo businesses, including the filmmaking industry, to Maryland. The question is one of balance. How much is too much? And I think you have to sort of look at the "House of Cards" piece within the context of the other films that are being made in Maryland. I think any time that we can showcase Maryland is a great thing. And "House of Cards" clearly does that. But there's a, you know, there's a limit to the price which we're willing to pay.
DEBONISSo as attorney general, as the state's top law enforcement officer, will you be seizing any property of filmmakers in the coming weeks if things don't go the right way?
GANSLERI personally won't be doing that. No. And I think that…
GANSLEREspecially seeing what Kevin Spacey's able to do and how many people he's able to get killed, you won't see me out there.
SHERWOODAren't the tax breaks good if it generates enough economics to overcome the tax break itself? Isn't that the point?
GANSLERWell, and that's exactly the point. But then it -- you have to -- the devil's in the details, and we need to obviously review our entire economics status in Maryland because this -- we can't sustain. We've -- they've raised over 40 straight taxes, for example, in the last eight years. And people are just leaving our state, and people have had enough. So we need somebody with new vision and to look at what we ought to be doing with our tax structure but also our job structure (unintelligible)...
SHERWOODThat sounds like a summary statement to me.
NNAMDIShows pretending to be located in Washington while they're doing all their shooting in Maryland. I'm not sure I'm for that at this point. Doug Gansler's a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. He's currently the state's attorney general. Doug Gansler, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.
GANSLERThank you, Kojo. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIThis is the Politics Hour with our resident analyst Tom Sherwood. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Our guest analyst today is Mike DeBonis. He's a reporter at The Washington Post. And we're going to be talking D.C. politics in general and the upcoming primary on April 1 in particular. So if you have any questions or comments about that, you can start calling right now at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIMike DeBonis, all of the latest polls seem to show that the frontrunners in the mayoral Democratic primary are the incumbent Vincent Gray and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser. You have been writing about the tactics and strategy or the situation, frankly, that would cause one or the other to win. How can -- we'll start with Muriel Bowser. How can she win?
DEBONISBasically, her path to victory is to accumulate, aggregate, coalesce all of the anti-Vince Gray sentiment in the city behind her. And what the polls have shown, both by my media outlet and Tom's media outlet, is that she's showing some momentum and some ability to do that. She has been successful in executing on a plan that she has, which is to present herself as the only viable candidate who can beat Vince Gray.
DEBONISNow, Jack Evans, Tommy Wells, Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal all very much dispute that. They say, well, I have the ability to beat Vince Gray. I am the -- you know, don't just assume that because she says this, it's true. But at this point, you know, it's a self-perpetuating cycle. The polls, people will read these polls, and they will think, what is the most important thing to me? And there are a lot of voters out there who the most important thing to them is not having Vince Gray as mayor.
SHERWOODThe -- I would say, in our poll, the white vote went from 18 percent for Muriel Bowser in a month to 36 percent. And part of that, I believe, is The Washington Post editorial endorsements, which Mike has nothing to do with, but there has been very strong pounding the pavement for her on those editorial pages. And I think that's helped her significantly 'cause if the basic issue is at two-thirds in our poll don't want Vince Gray to be mayor, they have to go somewhere. And so that's what's happening.
SHERWOODVince Gray is just stuck at around the high 20s, maybe low 30s, if you apportion out the vote. But he has got to get his people to the polls. I asked him this week, do you have the get out the vote machine that you need? He said, yes, we've got 700 volunteers. We've got union endorsements, although unions need to prove that they can get their people out -- those who live in the city, not the suburbs. And so it's really tough for the mayor. Seems like he's not growing, so he really has to get every vote possible.
NNAMDIYou mention in your column in The Current Newspaper that The Washington Post endorsement of Muriel Bowser and her corresponding rise in the poll seem to indicate that, for those who feel that the inference of The Washington Post editorial page, has faded. That may be incorrect. It may not have faded as much as they think. Of course, the editorial in The Current Newspapers, the word pretzel comes to mind.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the -- my nice little newspaper, which I write the column for and have no other role in it, you know, they endorsed the Mayor Vincent Gray because, as everyone has said, whatever points you can challenge about the city, the city is doing quite well on any number of issues, economic, crime, et cetera, housing, all those things. It has a lot of problems. But, yes, it's doing well, so they endorse Gray. And then after Jeffrey Thompson stood up in court and specifically said...
NNAMDIThey backed off.
SHERWOODThe -- you know, Gray came and asked him for $400,000 in get out the vote money, they pulled back. And they pulled back the endorsement. Now, again, Mayor Gray has denied any wrongdoing. He has said, over and over again, that he did nothing wrong. But he hasn't said what he did in 2010. He just said he did nothing wrong, and that is just weighing on him in many parts of the city.
NNAMDIWell, the latest editorial seems to say we like both Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser. So here's what we're going to say. If you think Gray is going to win anyway, you can go ahead and vote for Jack Evans. But if you really want to defeat Gray, then you should vote for Muriel Bowser.
SHERWOODWell, strategic voting works that way. But that's, you know, Bowser wants people to think she's the only person who can beat Gray. Whether that's true or not, mathematically, it appears to be looking more and more like that. But I wouldn't say it...
NNAMDITom mentioned what he thinks Gray would have to do to win. What do you think he'd have to do to win?
DEBONISI mean, he's absolutely right. It's turnout, and it's really turnout in one part of the city. You know, four years ago, throughout Vince Gray's career, we've heard one city. We're talking now about a half a city and actually more like a third of a city. Everything that Vince Gray has done in the last two to three weeks has been about his base. It's been about a Marion Barry mayoral endorsement. It's been about radio ads on African-American radio stations. It's been about announcing a $300 million hospital in Ward 8. It's been about cutting ribbons on playgrounds in Ward 5 and Ward 8.
SHERWOODClassic incumbent activities.
DEBONISClassic incumbent activities, classic campaign activities focused on his base. This weekend, what he has planned, he's going to be in caravans in Wards 5, 7, and 8 in his base with Marion Barry waving, you know, driving around, you know, letting his flag fly.
SHERWOODThat's the way -- before you got here, that's the way campaigns were done.
SHERWOODThey were all motorcades.
DEBONISThis is old school.
SHERWOODThis is old school.
DEBONISThis is an old school campaign. And it's going to be knock and drag to the very end. And the question is, is it going to be effective? And the polls show that, you know, Gray does have this motivated, dedicated base in a way that Muriel Bowser doesn't.
SHERWOODBut when he ran -- when Gray won in 2010, he got -- in Ward 7 and 8, he got 25,000 votes compared to, like, 4,800 for Fenty. So he can build up his base. But this is clearly for him a base election. He must get his base to the polls.
NNAMDIDon your headphones because Oscar in Washington, D.C., I think, has some choice words for one of our panelists. Oscar, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
OSCARYes. Well, "A," I'm one of those voters who really looked at all the candidates and finally made a decision on who I'm going to vote for. But I'm quite disturbed, and I'm disturbed because I got displeased that The Washington Post and Mike DeBonis and most of the articles have injected race.
OSCARWhen Vincent Gray started this campaign his first time around, 2010, under the banner one city, he did not use the race card at all. Over the -- in this election, The Washington Post has moved heaven and Earth to make race an issue. Why is that? Seems to be the most important thing that you all, in your -- most of your articles seem to be concerned with, and not the experience of the candidate.
NNAMDIWell, let me ask you, Oscar, before Mike DeBonis or Tom Sherwood responds, do you think race is an issue at all in -- wait a minute, in this campaign in particular or in D.C. politics in general?
OSCARIn D.C. politics in general, yes. I think that, in this case, the mayor had to sort of -- I mean, he was basically couldn't run a campaign on the issues of experience and where the city is. The Post keeps hitting him with the race issue.
OSCARAnd they speak as with a forked tongue because, as soon as you -- black candidate use race, they come down on that person as trying to use race. But The Post has been upfront. I was kind of concern about the article the other day when they had Alice Rivlin. I mean, it's all designed in a casual way to make race an inflamed -- a certain constituent in this city to just come out and vote against a specific candidate.
NNAMDIWell, allow me before, again, Mike DeBonis was (word?), Alice Rivlin was, I think, conferred because she was a very strong supporter of Vince Gray in the early stages. She said, at this point that she is still uncertain about how she intends to vote because she felt that Mayor Gray has done a good job voting -- a good job running the city. The fact that Alice Rivlin is white and Vincent Gray is black, I am not sure means that race was the essential part of that article or that conversation. But DeBonis can speak for himself.
DEBONISI understand that criticism. And I hear it a lot. And there are a lot of people who believe that, you know, that there is too much focus on race. The fact remains that in virtually every election we've had since 2006, race has been the most meaningful division in the elections. You can look at all the various demographic groups. Whether it's geography, whether it's gender, whether it's age, length of residency, we see the most stark divisions along the lines of race, and the fact remains, as I mentioned before, that Vince Gray is now pursuing a half-city strategy.
DEBONISAnd Muriel Bowser's doing quite the opposite. You know, I think it's hard to say that, in the way that she's targeting the city, she's sought to appeal across demographic lines in a way that Vince Gray now is not doing. I think that there are absolutely legitimate critiques of the way the campaigns have been covered. But to suggest that race should be ignored or should be papered over, I don't buy in to that. I think that it's totally legitimate to look at the way that these candidates are conducting their campaigns, who they're trying to talk to, and what they're trying to say.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, Jack Evans is the most experience legislator in this city. Why is it that Jack Evans has failed to get the kind of traction in the polling data that, given his experience, some may argue he deserve?
SHERWOODWell, I'll go back to The Post editorial page who summed it -- which summed it up pretty well, is that Jack has a lot of substance in his record as a long-serving councilmember, but he has not projected in a campaign what he would do in the future. Jack himself will say that he's a very good legislator. He's -- he can cite all the things he's done or not done.
SHERWOODAnd -- but he's not the best candidate in the world. He just -- and so I think that's one of his issues. But I want to go back to the race issue. Race is a part of every aspect of American life. And it's also true in these politics of our city. You know, Muriel Bowser represents a ward that is pretty well divided between a park and white and black voters, so she has a multiracial coalition.
SHERWOODIf she wins on Tuesday, she may break the pattern that Mike just talked about and might -- if she wins, of course, Ward 4, her home base, which is a mix of African-Americans and whites. So it's not all about race. But I would just say to Oscar that it is about race in many respects. And Mayor Gray demonstrably, by looking at his schedule, by what he's doing, is appealing to his base, which is in the African-American communities of Washington.
DEBONISAnd I want to say just one more thing about Oscar's absolutely right about Vince Gray as a person and his record as being someone who can cross racial lines, who's assembled...
SHERWOODAnd has tried to do so.
DEBONIS...who's assembled a cabinet that includes very well-qualified white officials, very well-qualified black and Hispanic and across racial lines and going back, as he often mentions, to his days at George Washington University, breaking the color line there. And that -- it's not about Vince Gray's life. It's about this campaign.
SHERWOODAnd it's not even about this campaign. It's about the 2010 campaign. There are people -- Mayor Gray may be doing a great job now, but if this were a track meet, 100-yard dash, he's doing great. But the problem is, did he cheat at the start line? That's what we need to know.
NNAMDIAnd the U.S. attorney is definitely playing a role in this race, a role that some people, including some attorneys who are definitely not black, have indicated that they think might be unethical, that, in fact, he has accused the mayor of a number of things in a middle of an election city. He is not indicting him, and so apparently, according to them, his purpose was to influence public opinion.
SHERWOODWell, you know, but people say the prosecutors should step back and let the race -- the campaign go on and then get back into it. But, you know, that would be the U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen interfering with an election by withholding information he has. He has not named Mayor Gray. He's named candidate A.
SHERWOODThe judge made the Jeffrey Thompson name Gray in the courtroom. But the prosecutor had put out a statement to me when I asked him about this. And his office said, look, we would be along this road much faster if the people who were involved would actually talk to us. And they didn't talk to us till recently, and that's when we acted.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Larry in Shepherd Park who says, "So much attention has been paid to the mayoral contest that I have scarcely heard anything about the at-large candidates or any of the other races being decided Tuesday. Can you suggest any references where I can get information to help me decide whom to vote for?" You can go to our website, kojoshow.org. You will find information there about all the races. But there have been some particularly noteworthy events occurring in some of these races.
NNAMDIIn particular, in Ward 1, where Councilmember Jim Graham has accused his opponent, Brianne Nadeau, of committing fraud, getting improper help for getting at-home purchase assistance program loan by invoking her status as an ANC commissioner at that point and influencing him. Do you think that will influence the race at all?
DEBONISIt's hard to say. Jim Graham is acting like he's scared, that he -- this is a four-term councilmember, first elected in 1998. He's acting as though he's in for the fight of his life. And there hasn't been any reliable polling data on this. So we don't know how much trouble he's in. But he's done his internal polls. He's told me that he feels very confident, but he's not acting that way.
SHERWOODWell, and, you know, whether not Brianne Nadeau improperly named her public office when she was trying to get a home loan is one thing or another. But Jim Graham -- people complained that he put this complaint about her on his official stationary as a councilmember. So you -- but I would think, you know, Jim Graham has a very strong base among Latino and Hispanic voters. Certainly some of the older African-American voters on Sherman Avenue and other places are still strongly for Jim Graham.
SHERWOODThe ethics issues -- Jim Graham has been cited for ethics violations but not criminally charged, as some people think he should have been. But he's -- so he's appealing to a base he's built up for these four terms. And (unintelligible)...
DEBONISAnd then -- and it's also about -- but it's also about sowing doubt in people's minds about Brianne Nadeau who's running this campaign basically on the ethics issue to, you know, try and get a few of her supporters to think twice about voting for her based on this now at this point.
SHERWOODThere's always about a third or more of -- that's Ward 1 who would vote against him, and we don't know -- there are a lot of new voters this time around. We don't know whether they're going to be motivated to go to the polls and vote. A lot of the new voters may register because they registered their driver's license of car here. That doesn't mean they're going to vote. And I just can't tell whether Brianne Nadeau has done enough to get those anti-Graham votes out.
NNAMDIAnd in the at-large race that Larry is concerned about, Anita Bonds, the incumbent, is pulling far away from everyone. But The Washington City Paper has endorsed Mr. Bennett-Fleming in this race saying that he's shown a great deal of energy during the course of the last few weeks or so in this campaign. What are his chances, Mike DeBonis?
DEBONISYou know, at this way, we pulled on this race ourselves. We showed Anita Bonds, the incumbent, with about a third of the electorate supporting her -- a lot of undecided voters. This is a low-interest race. This is down ballot, and a lot of people aren't tuned in.
NNAMDIThirty seconds left.
DEBONISAnd Nate Bennett-Fleming has about half her support. The question is, can he be like a Muriel Bowser and accumulate people who don't like Anita Bonds behind him? And that's going to be tough.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) and Ward 6 to watch the race between Charles Allen and Darrel Thompson, very interesting campaign there.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Our guest analyst today, Mike DeBonis, he's a reporter at The Washington Post. Mike, always a pleasure.
NNAMDITom, good to see you.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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