Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joins us to talk about the youth movement against gun violence, Russian sanctions, and more. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh shares her thoughts on relief for high water bills and news that D.C. Public Schools is taking over an all girls charter school.
The political year 2012 promises everything from turbulent races for the U.S. Senate to primary showdowns for the D.C. Council. It also may bring rocky conclusions to federal investigations of several high-profile lawmakers in the region. Join us for a special preview of what to expect in 2012 in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Quentin Kidd Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Government, Christopher Newport University
- Nikita Stewart Reporter, The Washington Post
- Andrew A. Green Opinion Editor, The Baltimore Sun
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. A lot of people in the local news business may secretly be hoping that 2011 never ends. This is the year that brought us Sulaimania, the day a former mayoral candidate in the middle of a massive scandal testified before the D.C. Council decked out in sunglasses.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's the year a member of the Maryland Senate used the I'm-too-stupid-to-do-that excuse during a public corruption trial. It's the year that the owner of the Washington Redskins tried to sue a local newspaper into oblivion, and it's the year that Tom Sherwood finagled his way onto a movie project that may involve Spike Lee and Eddie Murphy. But we're forward-looking people here at The Politics Hour.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd even if Sherwood's gone Hollywood on us, we've still got plenty to look forward to in 2012, from races for the D.C. Council to knock-down, drag-out fights for the U.S. Senate. And, of course, joining us in studio is our resident analyst, Tom Sherwood. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. How much are you getting paid for this movie?
MR. TOM SHERWOODNot enough.
NNAMDIThat's what you said the last time we spoke about this.
SHERWOODNo. Here's -- the money I'm getting -- assuming I'm getting, and nothing has arrived in the mail yet or electronically. The money I'm getting, when I actually do retire, I'll buy -- I'll be able to buy a double-wide.
NNAMDIYou'll be able to buy a double-wide?
SHERWOODA double -- you don't even know what a double-wide is.
NNAMDII don't even know what a double-wide is.
SHERWOODThis is a cultural difference between you and me. Everyone in the listening audience who lives south of Washington at least knows what a double-wide is. It's a trailer.
NNAMDIOh, I see.
SHERWOODThere's a single trailer, and then there's a double-wide. I'm not -- I've got my eye on some double-wides.
NNAMDIAnd this, of course, is going to be a movie, if it ever gets made, about Marion Barry. And Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe wrote a book called "Dream City," about Marion Barry. Also joining us in studio as our guest analyst is Nikita Stewart. She's a reporter for The Washington Post who digs up a lot of stuff. Have you been able to dig up how much Sherwood is going to be paid for this movie?
MS. NIKITA STEWARTNo. I haven't. But as a child, I lived in a single trailer.
SHERWOODWell, then you know what we're talking about. You know what the luxury of a double-wide is.
STEWARTYes. I do.
NNAMDIWow. I didn't know you knew what a double-wide was. I thought Nikita and I were on the same page here, but, obviously, we're not.
SHERWOODWe're not talking about fat Americans, either. We're just talking about trailers.
NNAMDIOh, please. I'm not even going to pursue that. Also joining us from studios in Charlottesville, Va. is Quentin Kidd. He's a political science professor at Christopher Newport University. Quentin Kidd, I'm pretty sure you know what a double-wide is.
PROF. QUENTIN KIDDI've never lived in one, but I know what one is.
NNAMDIThank you very much all for educating me. Quentin Kidd, Virginia is so much fun because you get new elections to talk about every year. And Virginia is going to host one of the most high-profile races for the U.S. Senate in all of the country next year. It's a race that a lot of people have already narrowed to two people, Tim Kaine and George Allen. How do you see this race by both what's happened already and what's likely to happen in the coming months?
KIDDWell, I mean, it's going to be a knock-down, drag-out. It's -- I don't -- I would be surprised to see one of the two pull ahead of the other one more than a few points. And I think the polls are going to be all over the place within, you know, a few point range. And I think it's going to come right down to the end. There are some factors that might come into play in terms of the presidential election and what kind of mobilization the Obama campaign can create in Virginia and how that will affect Tim Kaine's votes. But it's...
KIDDIt's going to come down...
NNAMDIGeorge Allen has already tried to use Tim Kaine's relationship with the president against him. Kaine is not backing away from his close relationship at all. If anything, it seems that he's been trying to use it to his advantage. How do you see the president influencing this race?
KIDDWell, I think that's a smart move on Tim Kaine's part because the president's -- the presidential campaign -- the president's campaign has already made it clear that they're going to contest Virginia strongly. I mean, one of the two -- first two offices they opened was in Virginia, campaign offices they opened, and so Kaine would have made, I think, a very tactical -- a very strategic mistake, a tactical error, if he tried to distance himself from the president. If the president is going to go full board on Virginia, then Kaine has to do the same thing.
KIDDAnd so I think it was a smart move, but it was probably the only move that he really could make in that sense. They had a debate last week in the Capitol Building, part of the AP Day in Richmond. And I essentially think it was a draw. And it probably foretells what the campaign is going to be like. I mean, both sides are going to hit each other hard, but both sides are going to be able to take those hard hits and then return then. And I -- and that's the way that debate played out.
SHERWOODProf. Kidd, this is Tom Sherwood from Channel 4. I talked to someone who's working on the Kaine campaign. I just happened to run into this person. And apart from all the optimistic things he had to say, he just said that what we don't know is will there be a tsunami vote against Obama in Virginia. If Obama cannot -- if the economy doesn't improve well enough, if the Republicans, in fact, have a middle-of-the-road kind of candidate, not a moderate conservative, not a far-right candidate, that it was going to be very difficult for Obama to carry Virginia again.
SHERWOODAnd they think that could be something that Tim Kaine can't control.
KIDDI think that's what Republicans -- I think that's the best dream that Republicans have, is that their presidential candidate is so appealing to Republicans in Virginia and can -- and that it shifts the tide, shifts the momentum. But the polling -- I know we're a year out. The polling doesn't show that kind of shift. The latest public polling that's out shows Newt Gingrich with big numbers in Virginia, but a few months ago, those -- you know, Newt Gingrich didn't have those numbers.
KIDDBut what's really telling about that -- the latest polling that's out is that about 55 percent of Republican voters say that they're likely to vote for somebody else. And so I don't think Republican voters are settled on anyone. And, until they settle on somebody, we don't really know whether they're going to be really energized by that or not. If the...
SHERWOODThen what about -- oh, I'm sorry. Excuse me. What about the demographics of the state, in that the Northern Virginia changing demographics there, particularly there in the Hampton Roads area, some -- there's -- it seems to me that's fertile ground for the Democrats. It always has been in the statewide races but seems more so than ever.
KIDDWell -- and what's important about that is that -- to look at where the Obama campaign opened their first two offices. One was in Hampton Roads, and one was in Northern Virginia. In order for Obama to do well, he's got to re-energize young voters. He's got to really tap in again to the sort of progressive suburban voter that's out there, the people who've been really, you know, feeling on the ropes the last few years.
KIDDMake no mistake about it. It's a really tough climb for Obama, but I don't think that all of the chess pieces are in place yet. We don't know who the Republican nominee is going to be. And, I think, when we know that, we can get a better sense of how the state looks like it's going to play out because if the...
SHERWOODAnd Bob McDonnell, the governor, a potential vice president -- I mean, I realize it's a long list now but potential vice presidential candidate.
KIDDYeah. I mean, we hear him talk about it.
SHERWOODThat would really change the dynamic.
KIDDIt would dramatically change the dynamic. In fact, I think it would -- you know, if I were a betting person, I would probably shift my bet, you know, towards McDonnell and, you know, whoever the nominee was who selected him, the Republican nominee who selected him because I think Virginia -- the odds of Virginia going Democratic again, I think, would be really slim there. And I think that's why his name is on those lists.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking with Quentin Kidd. He is a political science professor at Christopher Newport University. He joins us from studios in Norfolk, Va. I said Charlottesville earlier. I don't where I got that from. Our resident analyst is Tom Sherwood. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. What are the formulas that you think that Tim Kaine and George Allen need to follow in order to win? What are the kind of coalitions they are trying to build or they need to try to build, in your view?
KIDDWell, there's about a third of voters in Virginia say that they're not aligned with the Republican or Democratic Party, but they're probably more conservative than progressive. And so George Allen has to appeal to enough of them to -- you know, to win their votes. And Tim Kaine has to do the same thing. And they're sort of staking out odd ground because Tim Kaine is really going after George Allen for fiscal -- being fiscally irresponsible. And that's, you know, typically a position that George Allen would take against Tim Kaine as a Democrat.
KIDDAnd so I think the reason that they're taking that -- the tact that they're taking is because they're both fighting for that very narrow -- and I think, at this point, it's probably a 5 or 6 or 8 percentage point group of voters there that are going to decide that race. I mean, I think it's really already really tight, and I think it's going to, you know -- it's going to be really tough to get that last 6, 7, 8 percent of the vote, either side, to get a majority of that.
KIDDThey're both very popular. They're both very well-known. They're both very well-liked. And so, you know, it's a great race. If you love politics, it's a great race.
SHERWOODWe're just a week or so away from the General Assembly opening with the Republicans controlling the state house and the tie in the Senate at 20-20. There's some concern on the Republican side, on McDonnell that, you know, the right-wing tilt of the legislature could make things difficult for that appealing into the middle ground voter you just described.
KIDDYeah, I think that's right. The lay of the land may shift here. I think a lot depends on a judge in Richmond who's going to rule, either this week or in the next 10 days, as to whether Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling can break tie votes on organizational matters and judgeships and the budget. There's some language in the Constitution that suggests that those matters -- votes on those matters have to be cast by elected members of the General Assembly.
KIDDIf that judge rules that Bill Bolling can't break those tie votes, then I think it -- then, in an odd way, that's probably good news for the Republicans because it would keep the General Assembly from shifting as far right as it could. But if the judge rules that it's a political question and that the judge isn't going to make a decision on it, or if the judge rules that the lieutenant governor can break those tie votes, then, I think, the door is open for some social legislation, the Parenthood amendment, for example, that was defeated in Mississippi this year.
KIDDThat sort of stuff then is going to suck the air out of the room in Richmond, or would run the risk of doing that, and that combined with Ken Cuccinelli's announcement already that he's going to run for governor...
NNAMDII was about to get into that 'cause Bill Bolling is, right now, in the middle of one of the biggest stories to follow -- two years from now in Virginia, the 2013 race for governor, he's already drawn a high-profile challenger. You mentioned his name already, Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli. What are your early thoughts about that match-up?
KIDDWell, he's aggressive. He's made no bones about going after what he wants. And he's doing it early. I mean, what's going on in Virginia right now is, you know, we're having -- you know, we're having a U.S. Senate race start before we had the elections this last fall. Now, we have a governor -- a 2013 governor's race starting before we've had the presidential election of 2012. So it's really a -- everything is fast paced.
KIDDI think Republicans run the risk of repeating 2001 when Mark Earley won the governor's race, and he ran against a moderate John Hager, who was lieutenant governor at the time. And Mark Earley was pretty soundly defeated by Mark Warner in the general election. And, I think, Ken Cuccinelli is even more right of Mark Earley, and he's much more aggressive than Mark Earley was.
KIDDAnd so the Republicans, I think, run a risk here of putting themselves too far right on the spectrum for even a right-of-center Virginia.
NNAMDIWell, we've been talking about only the Republicans because Ken Cuccinelli has been sucking up so much of the oxygen. Where do you think the Democratic nominee or the list of potential Democratic candidates can emerge from in this race?
KIDDThe -- Terry McAuliffe is the only person that's been running actively since he lost the Democratic nomination last time. And I would expect Terry McAuliffe would probably like to see a Ken Cuccinelli Republican because, I think, he would think it was a good contrast and might be an exciting race.
SHERWOODWhat's Terry McAuliffe been doing? I mean, he's not in the news much up here in Northern Virginia, at least that I've seen, but maybe I just missed it. Is he going all over the state campaigning already? What is he doing?
KIDDHe's engaged in some business interests in Virginia. He's really following, in a funny way, the sort of Mark Warner path. When Mark Warner first ran for U.S. Senate and lost, he realized that he lost because nobody knew him. And so when he wanted to run for governor, he spent the three or four years prior to that going around the state and meeting people and starting some business interests around the state. And Terry McAuliffe is essentially doing the same thing. I mean, he's literally traveling around the state and talking to people and meeting with people.
KIDDAnd he's made it pretty clear that he's -- wants to run, and so, you know, if -- I don't know why you would invest all that energy and then not do it. And I think he's got the ambition to do it. He's already tried it once, so I'm going to be really surprised if he doesn't run. And I don't hear any other names consistently on the Democratic side come up. You heard Tom Perriello's name come up a lot. Then it sort of died down. You heard Glenn Nye's name come up a lot.
KIDDThese are two members of Congress who were defeated in the midterms last year. But you don't hear other names consistently come up and stay up in the discussion stream.
NNAMDIWell, we've also got a slew of U.S. House races next year. Any districts that you think are going to be particularly interesting?
KIDDWe don't what the districts are going to be. You know, that's one of the great unsettled questions in Virginia right now is the general assembly hasn't agreed on the congressional districts yet. And they -- according to the Constitution of Virginia, they have until the end of this month to do so. The Constitution says they have to do it in this calendar year, but it doesn't look like anything is going to get done.
KIDDI think Republicans are hoping that if, in fact, Bill Bolling can break tie votes in the State Senate, that Republicans will be able to pass their version of redistricting. Democrats are hoping that if they -- if he can't, then either the courts will do it or there is some sort of compromise. What Democrats want is a second district that has a significant African-American voting population, and, right now, Virginia has one majority-minority district, the third, represented by Bobby Scott.
KIDDIt's a state with 20 percent African-American voters, and Democrats argue that one majority-minority district in a state with 20 African-American voters is not a fair balance. And so they want a second one, and they've drawn a district that Randy Forbes currently represents, the fourth congressional District, so that it has about 48 percent African-American voters. So it's not quite majority-minority, but its called majority influence.
SHERWOODWhat happens if...
KIDDAnd Republicans -- say that again?
SHERWOODI was going to say, what happens if the redistricting is not completed? Is there some penalty, some sanction, some problem or -- what happens? Or does nothing happen? They just do it in January.
KIDDI think nothing happens. You know, the Constitution says what it says. But Republicans say, look, if doesn't happen by the end of this month, we'll come back in early January and get it done it done really quickly, so there's no penalty. There's no enforcement mechanism. The Democrats, on the other hand, argue that because of that deadline, the court should do it. The court should draw the districts now and just get it done because it's clear that nothing's going to get done.
KIDDSo the Democrats are putting pressure on the courts to act because it's not going to make the 31st deadline, Dec. 31 deadline. Republicans are saying don't worry about it. We'll get it done in the first part of January. They're assuming Bill Bolling will be able to break ties, and part of that will be a redistricting package.
NNAMDIAnd, Quentin Kidd, I've been asked to ask this question to all of my guests today. I don't know whether it came from producer Michael Martinez, but it sounds like a Tom Sherwood kind of question. What is the political fad from 2011 that you expect will go out of style in 2012?
KIDDWell, it's one I hope goes out of style -- and it has nothing to do with Virginia politics specifically -- but I really hope dumb politicians go out of style in 2012. You know from...
NNAMDICare to name any?
KIDDWell, you know, I'm thinking about presidential candidates right now, from the Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan comment to Michele Bachmann's placing Lexington and Concord in New Hampshire, Rick Perry's numerous gaffes and misstatements. I'm ready in 2012 for smart politicians as opposed to dumb politicians.
SHERWOODAre you here for Newt Gingrich?
SHERWOODHe thinks he's smart. He knows a lot of stuff.
SHERWOODHe did know the difference between the historic preferences...
NNAMDIQuentin Kidd is maintaining a very diplomatic silence on that one.
KIDDHe would -- no, no. I mean, he -- you know, Newt Gingrich is more of a policy wonky, sort of -- he sort of talks off, you know, off the hip sometimes. But, I guess, I'm interested in politicians who try to bring us up to a -- bring us up in terms of our competency as a populous, as an electorate as opposed to bring us down.
NNAMDIGood luck with that.
SHERWOODWell, American politics has rarely done that, but maybe it'll be in 2012. In a few days, we'll be into 2012. (unintelligible).
NNAMDIKeep dreaming. Quentin Kidd is a political science professor at Christopher Newport University. Quentin Kidd, thank you so much for joining us.
KIDDThank you. Take care.
NNAMDIYou're listening, of course, to The Politics Hour. Our resident analyst is Tom Sherwood. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Our guest analyst in studio is Nikita Stewart, a reporter for The Washington Post. 2011 is going to be tough to top in the District of Columbia. Federal investigations will launch into both the mayor and the chairman of the city council. Federal agents showed up on the doorstep of one councilmember.
NNAMDIA former mayoral candidate is in the middle of a federal case while he was in a middle of a federal case while he refused to take off his sunglasses when he testified before the D.C. Council. As a matter of fact, let's take a minute to relive Sulaimania.
NNAMDILet the record show that Nikita Stewart was the reporter who got this Sulaimania story going. She was the one who identified that he had a job at the Health Department's Finance Office. What do you feel about this now that you brought it all upon us?
STEWARTYou know, it's one of those things where I just happened to be on the phone with someone. I was finishing up a story about Gray's missteps with hiring. You know, there was a -- you know, plenty of nepotism going on, and that's what I was writing about. And someone said, did you know Sulaimon Brown's working in the Health Department -- you know, Health Finance Department? And I was like, what? It's like, no, he isn't. And then I made a call. And it's like, yes, he is, and he's making $110,000.
NNAMDIAnd as they say...
STEWARTAnd that's how it all started.
NNAMDI...the rest is history. After all of this, what are your expectations for whether the District will return to normalcy in 2012? How difficult will that be, given that we're waiting for other shoes to drop, so to speak, from these investigations?
STEWARTRight. You know, it's interesting because the mayor, I think, in the past month has -- you know, he's improved. He's out there. He's, you know, getting his jobs initiative out there, you know, even though some people don't agree with it, and they don't think it's really working. But he's out there. He's prepared for the snow, but there's still this cloud. And 2012 is going to be worse than 2011 because, in 2011, we were just investigating things. In 2012, you're going to see action. You're going to see indictments.
STEWARTAnd the mayor has done so well with -- under the circumstances -- of governing the city with, you know, the investigation swirling around. How is he going to govern the city with indictments?
SHERWOODYou're talking about shoes dropping. Well, you have to remember this is a centipede. There are a lot of shoes to come.
SHERWOODNikita has -- now, did the City Paper -- I don't want Alan Suderman to call us. What did he write about Sulaimon early on? Didn't he do something earlier?
STEWARTHe wrote early on...
SHERWOODLet's just get it straight, so we don't -- Twitter did that.
STEWARTHe wrote early on that, you know, I think, it was when Sulaimon was a candidate, that Sulaimon had these issues, his legal troubles in the past.
STEWARTAnd after I reported that he was working, that was, like, the thing that stuck out. Like, oh, Sulaimon Brown has a job in the administration? And then Suderman -- he wrote some more stories about his legal troubles and...
SHERWOODI'm just trying to do damage control, so we don't have to hear him whine.
SHERWOODBut you -- this 2012 is going to be really extraordinary. And, I think, Nikita will agree 'cause she wrote it (unintelligible) this past year. This federal investigation of Mayor Gray's campaign has moved well beyond the allegations of whether Sulaimon was paid and Sulaimon got a job. I think in late summer, we were reporting, I think -- Nikita at the same time -- talked about so much cash coming into the campaign and poor controls on the cash. And the mayor's people were saying, well, you know, we were running full speed.
SHERWOODWe didn't have a lot of time. We were new at this. A lot of things were happening. Maybe there weren't all the controls that should have been, that there was no criminality here, but there's -- whenever you have a lot of cash in a campaign, there's warning flags flying. So 2012 is not going to be a pretty year, one lawyer said to me.
NNAMDIWhat sense do you have? Can Vince Gray break through some of the noise that's of those centipede shoes dropping this year and maybe articulate a clearer vision for the city in 2012?
SHERWOODI think he has a clearer vision. I think he gets credit for his summer jobs program. It had very few negative stories in 2011. I think he gets some credit for keeping Kaya Henderson on the job where she is -- and when's the last time you heard the Teachers' Union complaining and publicly grousing about things? I mean, the government is working. As someone said, the trash is being picked up. They are very optimistic about snow, but we'll see what the snow thing is 'cause, you know, no one knows what to do when it snows in the city, unfortunately.
SHERWOODBut I think the basics of running the government around the ninth grade civics class, it's all working. But it's all being done not under a cloud but under a wet blanket that's hanging over him. And it could snuff him out at any moment.
NNAMDINikita, is there some one issue that you think that Vince Gray can grab hold of and own in 2012 so that his administration can regain momentum, the momentum that it had first going into office?
STEWARTI really think it has to be jobs. It has to be because, you know, that's what's going on in the city. Under Fenty, we saw schools at least get fixed.
NNAMDISo he's not going to make his mark there?
STEWARTNo. He's not going to make his mark there. You know, he's trying to have a different agenda by focusing on charter schools. You know, but, still, when you say schools, you think Fenty. I think that the mayor has to have jobs as his agenda. But as, you know, one of his big initiatives, you know, was getting the Wal-Mart deal settled. And, you know, some people think that's bottom-feeding retail. That is -- you know, those are small jobs. Some of them are part-time jobs, but, as someone has said, they're jobs.
NNAMDIComing soon to a neighborhood near where Nikita lives.
SHERWOODOne thing he's going to make -- you know, the budget was a terrific mess. You know, Fenty spent a lot of the money of the reserves in his dying days or years, whatever it was, in office. Gray put through a budget for 2012, which we're just now getting into. But, you know, this fiscal year -- this is kind of wonky, but the fact is the 2011 report on where the city is, is going to show a significant budget surplus, which is going to stun people.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst, a reporter at NBC4 and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Nikita Stewart is our guest analyst. She's a reporter at The Washington Post. After a year or so in office, no one seems to have risen up as an individual thorn in the Gray administration side, either on the council or in the political scene generally. Do you have any expectations for whether such a person might take up that mantle in 2012? And if so, who would it be?
STEWARTYes. There is going to be -- there are going to be a few people who emerge. I actually have a story coming out about that, and I don't know if I want to share that information. But the folks are on the council, and they're doing it in small ways right now. You know, it's behind the scenes. It's quiet, but, believe me, by the end of next year, after the April elections are over, you're going to see some people break out. And they're going to start challenging Mayor Gray.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, would D.C. in D.C. be a clue?
SHERWOODYes. Yes, David Catania, you were saying.
SHERWOODWell, you know, 2014 is not that far away for terms of politics, and I don't want to pre-empt what Nikita is going to be reporting. But just moving forward as we go into 2012, many people now I talk to across the broad spectrum of the city say that Mayor Gray is not going to run for re-election. Either he's -- and he would just probably hit me if he were sitting here...
NNAMDIHe soured our whole experience?
SHERWOOD...but either because he won't be able to because of the new -- the wash -- of this investigation, or he simply is not going to be in a political position to run by the time he gets there. So David Catania, Muriel Bowser, some people outside of the council -- or there's some of this, you know, I think we can now rest assure that Adrian Fenty is not running again.
SHERWOODAnd, you know, people who ask and Tony Williams, there's continuing, like, reverberations that's he's going to run. And all you have to do is ask Diane, his wife, if that's going to happen.
SHERWOODAnd then we'll have another court case in town. So -- but I don't think that's going to happen.
NNAMDIHow about Jack Evans?
SHERWOODWell, Jack Evans would like to run citywide. Whether he will or not, I don't know. You know, the worst-case scenario for 2012, or is the best case, depending on your point of view, is that we could have special elections for the mayor, for the council chairman and for the Ward 5 seat.
NNAMDIBut, you know, when we had Jim Dinegar, the head of the Board of Trade on the broadcast, he mentioned that confidence in the city's economy continues to be strong. Is that at all surprising to you, Nikita, in the wake of the scandals we've had, and do you expect it to continue in 2012?
STEWARTThat is not surprising to me, and I expect it to continue because people view the government in a different way now. We have a new set of residents, or residents who have moved beyond, seeing the government as something that they're depending on for things other than their trash pick-up and making sure potholes are filled. You have fewer people who are invested in low-tech license plates, you know, contracts, jobs for me, my brother and my uncle. It's just a different attitude about government.
STEWARTAnd under Mayor Williams, you know, this city saw, like, lots of places around the country, saw a boom that we will not -- you know, it'll be another 20 years before we see something like that. But we're still having the residual that -- look at all of the restaurants. Look at, you know, people spend money in the city. The question is -- and I'll bring it back to jobs. How you do -- with all of the restaurants or whatnot, I know that there are jobs where, you know, you're not getting paid that much. But how do you get the unemployed residents in those jobs?
NNAMDIAnd that's going to be...
SHERWOODThe District government, which a lot of people have tried to laugh at before, went back before Tony Williams and Fenty and the current mayor, is still obviously important. It has a $10 billion a year budget. But the economists who've talked to people going back a decade ago -- with Bill Regardie of the late Regardie's magazine, he just said to me one day when we were standing -- I think it was in Wisconsin Avenue.
SHERWOODHe says, no matter what happens with the government, the economy of this region is going gangbusters, despite the recessions, despite the threats that the Republicans would cut back to the federal government to nothing or -- he said that, from Richmond to Baltimore is an extraordinary marketplace in American economy. And the District is ideally centered in the place economic, I think, Fortune magazine picked -- I think, it was Fortune that picked us as number one place to do business.
SHERWOODNow, they just didn't mean the District of Columbia. They meant the Washington region. So we are extraordinarily well-positioned financially into the business model, and then Gray has to do the thing to bring in the other people across the river, the 50 percent of young African-Americans who were not employed or -- those are the people we have to reach to bring into this economic boom.
NNAMDIAnd the reason the economy is booming and people are moving here, it's because Nikita Stewart and Tom Sherwood live here. Kwame Brown, the man who took Vince Gray's old job as council chair, had a rough 2011 also. Let's take his legal situation off the table for a minute. As the leader of the council, what do you think he can do to get his feet underneath them, so to speak, in 2012?
NNAMDICan't take the legal situation off the table, huh?
STEWARTNo, you can't. You really can't. You know, he's wounded, and it's been interesting because the other council members right now are timid because they're trying to figure out, OK, am I going to be next? Let me be careful about everything I say. Now, everything is being investigated. Everything is being questioned. But once they get over that...
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) wasn't timid. In the last couple of weeks, he called the chairman, what, an idiot.
SHERWOODSo maybe one person hasn't been timid, but go ahead. I'm sorry.
STEWARTYes, one person. But, you know, he's wounded, and if there is an indictment or something -- let me tell you -- they'll kick him when he's down. They will.
SHERWOODWell, the chairman is a very powerful person. The chairman appoints committee chairs and members of the committees. It's very -- so you'll only need to get six other people to agree with you to maintain some sense of control of the 13-member council. But he has...
NNAMDISo they -- other council members have to keep that in mind, regardless of the fact that, as Nikita says, he's badly wounded.
SHERWOODRight. Tim Craig of The Post wrote recently and other people have written about the -- kind of the animosities and the personnel personality clashes and -- that's going on in the council, and part of that is because people complain. You don't have a strong councilmember as chairman to lead the council where everyone can feel like they're going in the same direction, even -- they have a lot of different agendas.
SHERWOODBut, you know, whether it was Linda Cropp or going all the way back to John Wilson, there's just -- and even Gray himself, there's -- you got to have a sense that the chairman, even though he can't just tell people what to do, can reasonably lead these 13 people.
STEWARTBut -- and here's another thing: They don't have an enemy that they can all...
STEWARTRight. They don't have a Fenty that they can come together and fight against. You know, Gray is -- you know, he's been an ally to many of them. And so they don't have a bad guy to go after, so they have to go after each other.
NNAMDIWell, during all of those eras that Tom explained and during the Vincent Gray era four years or so, the council established a reputation as one of the more progressive legislatures in the country. They passed gay marriage, medical marijuana, health care reform, back taxes. Some people have said that this current council lacks the direction of the past council -- councils. Are there any issues coming down the pipe next year, 2012, that might kick-start this council again?
SHERWOODWell, let me -- the council...
NNAMDIUh oh. Here come the shoes dropping again.
SHERWOODNo, no. It's not that the council has not done anything. I mean, there's -- the council -- I mean, in fact, you've got to give the council credit for going along with a budget decision. But, I think, in 2012, again, when it's clear that the handcuffs of the budget recession has -- are going to be over and the handcuffs are going to come off, there's more money to spend, things are going to be done.
SHERWOODYou know, each councilmember has an agenda that he or she wants to get done. People are going to be positioned, as Nikita says, for the coming citywide elections. We're going to have an attorney general's race, which we haven't even mentioned, in 2014, and that's starting, whether Catania or somebody else runs for that. So I think the council will be -- if they have a little more money, maybe they won't have so much irritation among each other as they try to figure out what they want.
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned the council races that we have coming up next year. Marion Barry is up for re-election, Jack Evans, Yvette Alexander. What are the races you are most looking forward to watching and covering, Nikita?
NNAMDIBecause, why, it's got the name Kevin Chavous in it?
STEWARTIt has the name Kevin Chavous.
NNAMDI'Cause it's got the name Ron Moten in it?
STEWARTIt has some strong candidates, and it has some characters that we can have fun with and watch. But also, Ward 7 is also the home of Mayor Gray and Chairman Brown, and Alexander is their candidate. If she loses, it is an indictment on them, no pun intended.
NNAMDIIt's a blow on them.
SHERWOODOh, that was cold.
NNAMDIAny -- yeah, I like that. Any newcomers, Tom, that you're looking at waiting in the wings who could make a power move in 2012? Ron Moten turned a lot of heads this year when he declared his candidacy in Ward 7 as a Republican.
SHERWOODWell, you know, he started out. He's going to run in the Democratic primary, and I think somebody showed him the math. And he decided, well, I'll take the Republican route. I don't know. He says he's quite serious. And he's starting to wear coats and ties now, so I guess he is serious. But I don't know that that's the race I'd be watching.
NNAMDIA. Scott's not going to run for anything next year?
SHERWOODNo. Scott -- A. Scott Bolden...
NNAMDIA. Scott Bolden, that is.
SHERWOOD...realized he's apparently a very good attorney. I think he intends to stay one. I think, actually, the race...
STEWARTAnd he has plenty of work.
NNAMDIPlenty of work and clients.
SHERWOODI bet he does. I will say this: The races I really want to watch are the special elections that are not yet called.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, the attorney general's race is one you will be looking at.
SHERWOODWell that -- you know, 2014, I mean, that's the -- we're going to have an attorney general, for the first time in the history of the city, being elected by the voters.
SHERWOODAnd if we have it anything like New York, where Andrew Cuomo and other people can use that kind of job to shine bright lights on unethical behavior, I think it will be terrific.
NNAMDIAnd then, of course, there's this: What is the political fad from 2011 that you expect will go out of style in 2012, Nikita?
STEWARTI know that sounds crazy, but saying you're for ethics is going to be like saying you're for kids.
SHERWOODOh, yeah. No. Yeah, that was one that I really hate. You know, let's put children first. And everyone says that. I hate that one. But the one I really don't like is a lot of the newer people who are running and they say, I am not a politician. You know, I've done this on this show before. People will say, I am not a politician. And I always stop them right there and say, that is your first lie because, if you're running for office, you are a politician.
SHERWOODYou may be a good one or a bad one or a fresh one or an old one. But the fact is, you're a politician, so don't lie to me the very first time by saying you're not a politician.
STEWARTAnd I hope you're a politician.
SHERWOODAnd at the end of the day is another phrase I'd like not to hear ever again.
NNAMDIHow about let's put the children last? Do you think that (unintelligible) ?
SHERWOODI just think -- let's say -- let's just stipulate that we're -- if we're going to have a lot of legal stuff, let's just stipulate, we're all for the children's education.
NNAMDIThank you very much. Joining us now from studios of The Baltimore Sun is Andy Green. He is the editorial page editor of The Baltimore Sun. Andy Green, thank you for joining us.
MR. ANDREW A. GREENHi, Kojo.
NNAMDIA lot of politicians in Maryland have been in 2012 mode for a while now, Andy. Former state's attorney Glenn Ivey is going after Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Well, let me stay with that for a minute. Why is Donna Edwards vulnerable, and if so, how?
GREENWell, based on how much she objected to this redistricting map, you would think she must think she is. She fought awfully hard and very publicly against the Democratic governor and the Democratic powerbrokers in the state to try to get the map changed back more to her liking. Basically, what happened to her is she used to have a chunk of Montgomery County, and she got a disproportionate amount of her support financially and vote wise from that part of Montgomery.
GREENNow, that's gone. She's got parts of Prince George's she didn't have before, and her district runs over into Anne Arundel County, which has, obviously, a more conservative electorate than what she's been dealing with. And so, you know, she must be a little bit worried that she's not going to play as well there and...
SHERWOODExcuse me, Tom Sherwood here. Why would the Democratic Party leaders in the state so willing to almost sacrifice her? What did she do? Who did she irritate? What does she not do that would have given her a little more oomph in getting the district drawn more to her liking? Why is she so...
GREENNo. I don't know that they think of it as sacrificing here. I think they've set her up with the district that's plenty good. But she's -- you know, she's not part of the old boys network, I guess, literally. You know, she is a woman, of course. But she -- you know, she's only been in for a short time. She's got a very independent streak as evidenced by the fact that she was so outspoken about this. And so I think that, perhaps, has not caused them to do whatever they needed to do to protect her.
GREENBut the other thing is she is just one part of this puzzle. What they are really mostly interested in is setting up a sixth district heading to Western Maryland that Democrats could win, and that necessitated changes to the other districts. And, you know, they can't give everybody everything they want if they're going to for another seat out West.
NNAMDIIs Glenn Ivey definitely going to run against her? He's indicated he was pretty (unintelligible).
GREENOh, yeah, I'm pretty darn sure he is, yeah.
GREENAnd that will be fascinating because it's extremely rare that you see someone of that kind of stature in the Democratic Party go up against another elected Democrat in the state. That's a very rare thing, and that should be one heck of a primary election.
SHERWOODWould he have run whether or not the district was significantly changed or not? I mean, does he have any more advantage in the new district than he would have had in just the old district?
GREENI think he probably does because he's got a solid countywide voter base in Prince George's County, and he has run countywide before. So he is familiar to voters there that she is not. And, you know, he is certainly extremely, you know, outspoken on the left. And I think he can probably present himself to the voters in a more -- new more conservative parts of the district as, you know, whether you might consider him to be less liberal than Donna Edwards, and that I don't know. But he can certainly present himself that way.
NNAMDIState House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell gunning for Steny Hoyer's seat. What's likely to happen there?
GREENThe odds are still, of course, with Congressman Hoyer. He's got the name recognition. He's got the money and, of course, the ability to raise however much money he wants. And although the District is probably somewhat less favorable to him than the old one, there are still an awful lot of Democrats moving in to Southern Maryland that the seat is getting more and more reliably Democratic. In fact, it's projected to turn possibly into a majority minority district before this decade is up.
GREENSo that doesn't particularly go all that well for Republicans. Tony O'Donnell, however, is a talented guy. He's a good politician. He's well-spoken. He's able to articulate his positions very well. You know, I think he'll -- he's -- he'll pose a more serious challenge to Congressman Hoyer than he has seen in a while. But I would still put Tony's odds as a long shot.
SHERWOODIs 2012 going to have a lot of indictments of political people?
GREENYeah, I'm wondering.
SHERWOODI'm just wondering. You know, we were...
GREENYou know, I was hoping that I could answer the what fad is going to go out of style in 2012...
GREEN...as the political corruption trial, but I'm afraid that may not be the case. We just learned the other day that Tiffany Alston, a delegate from Prince George's County, is in trouble. Again, she had previously been accused of using campaign funds to help buy stuff for herself, including a wedding dress, and now she has been accused of using her state stipend, basically, for her office expenses in Annapolis to pay someone to work at her private law office.
SHERWOOD$100 an hour or something.
GREENYeah. No, it wasn't that much.
GREENIt was $100 a day. It's $100 a day.
SHERWOODOne hundred -- well, you know, we've been -- we TV people, you know, what's $100 an hour or a day, you know? It's all the same money.
GREENYeah, it is all the same, yeah. Maybe you...
NNAMDISince they only work one hour a day anyway.
GREENYeah, in TV, yeah. Anyway, so that's not looking good. And then we also just recently had the police chief in Anne Arundel County testifying before a grand jury that's looking into whether County Executive John Leopold was misusing county resources for his own personal benefit. So that's still hanging out there. So I can't totally guarantee that we've seen the end of it.
GREENAnd, of course, we're going to have to see what the general assembly does with Sen. Ulysses Currie, the Prince George's Democrat, former chairman of the Budget and Tax Committee who got off on charges of bribery related to his former employment for Shoppers Food Warehouse, but still...
SHERWOODI think he might object to the phrase got off.
SHERWOODI think he might say...
SHERWOODHe might say that he was found, you know, not guilty, found -- in fact -- then, of course, the Republicans, you know, did the robo-calls, and...
SHERWOODYou know, I just -- every time I worry about the corruption in the District of Columbia, I have to say, thank goodness for Maryland.
GREENYeah. Well, we always say, thank goodness for Illinois. You know, so, that's...
STEWARTAnd New Jersey.
SHERWOODTrue governor is four years.
NNAMDIAnd they say, thank goodness for Louisiana. Half the world...
NNAMDIHalf the world seems to be running against Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.
GREENYeah. This is going to be another great race. So you got Roscoe Bartlett, longtime incumbent, real personality out there. And he is in peril because the Democrats who run redistricting decided to gun for him in hopes of picking up the Democratic seat. So his district now includes a huge chunk of Montgomery County, obviously more liberal-leaning than what he had before.
NNAMDIEnter Duchy Trachtenberg, former county councilmember.
GREENYes, among others.
NNAMDIYes, among others.
GREENRight. Enter her. The District, however, was pretty much drawn with Rob Garagiola, state senator from Montgomery County, in mind. The portion of Montgomery that is in this new district overlaps significantly with his existing senate district, which is obviously helpful. According to my colleague Annie Linskey from our statehouse bureau, on the last day of the legislative session this year, other senators were making their tearful goodbyes to Sen. Garagiola as if he was, like, going to hop a bus for Washington right then and there.
GREENSo they think the fix is in to help get him elected to that seat. But then there's also this guy John Delaney, a wealthy businessman from Montgomery County, who is also looking at that race, could have the capacity to self-fund his campaign, which would be pretty interesting.
SHERWOODWe're just a few days away, just like in Virginia, from the Maryland legislature opening up. Gov. O'Malley's talked about same-sex marriage, but other -- what can we be -- what should those of us who don't look at it every hour could be watching...
SHERWOOD...in the legislature going forward?
GREENRight. Same-sex marriage is, I think, going to be the big issue this year. It came within a whisker of passing last year. This time, Gov. O'Malley has said he's sponsoring the bill. He's going to be out in front. They were in a position where they needed like a couple of more members of the House of Delegates to sign on to this. You would think he can probably make that happen if he wants to.
SHERWOODHe's channeling Andrew Cuomo for what he did in New York.
GREENYeah. I think he hopes he can channel Andrew Cuomo because I think he looked a little less impressive after Andrew Cuomo's initial legislative session up in New York, not just for gay marriage, but for other things, too.
SHERWOODBut is the economy easing up? I mean, I know in Virginia and the District the economy is getting better, at least the money issue.
GREENThat's a mixed bag here. Income tax receipts are going up at a pretty healthy clip, so that's a good thing. But the comptroller's office recently estimated sales taxes are going to be a little less than they had forecast. So the net effect is that revenues are slightly less good than we had previously thought, but, still -- you know, the basic problem remains about the same. There's about $1 billion gap between projected revenues and projected spending that they need to somehow close.
SHERWOODWhat's the political forecast for the controller?
GREENOh. Well, that's an interesting thing too. I mean, he is pretty clearly getting himself ready for running for governor.
GREENPeter Franchot, yeah. Peter Franchot.
SHERWOODRunning for what?
GREENFor -- run for governor. I think there's -- that's pretty much the assumption, is that he's taking a very serious look at that. So we'll, you know, see him trying to position himself, I expect, for that kind of run. And he's taking a pretty interesting path. You know, he's somebody who was thought of as a very liberal member of the House of Delegates, but as comptroller, he has been, you know, much more conservative.
GREENHe has, you know, tried to brand himself as a strong steward of the state's finances, and he's routinely the one who's objecting at the Board of Public Works to various spending ideas, most recently, famously, over the purchase of Steinway pianos at Bowie State. So he's...
SHERWOODDon't they have a deal on those pianos?
GREENThat's what we concluded when we looked into it, but, actually, they did get a pretty darn good deal. But that's neither here nor there as far as the politics go, I guess. Anyway, so he's clearly going to be trying to put himself out there. But there are -- there's a very crowded field that's going to be trying to jockey for early position for the 2014 elections. Atty. Gen. Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown among possibly other -- you know, Ken Ulman, the Howard County executive.
GREENThere are a lot of quality people out there who'll be interested in making a run. And on the Republican side, too, you've got David Craig, the Harford County executive, and John Leopold -- assuming these legal troubles don't amount to anything -- could also be potential candidates.
SHERWOODI was really surprised when Leopold -- that he's -- people are accusing him of sending the police to pick up campaign contributions. I thought...
SHERWOOD...not a good move.
GREENApparently -- yeah, apparently, that did actually happen. He has not denied it. He simply said it was a mistake and should be no harm, no foul. But let's see what the state prosecutor thinks about that.
SHERWOODOh, that's a foolish mistake.
NNAMDIA petition has successfully organized enough support to force a referendum on the DREAM Act immigration measure that the assembly passed this year. Their petitions have been challenged in court. Do you expect Maryland voters will be deciding on it next fall? And if so, how do you think that vote will go?
GREENThere have been some interesting questions raised by the ACLU and others about the way they gather the petition signatures. In particular, you know, it's been very difficult, traditionally, in Maryland, to petition something on to the ballot statewide. The organizers of the petition drive this time were able to do that, in part, because they figured out a clever way to use the Internet to help them gather signatures and get people to fill out the forms correctly. But there's some question about whether that might be a technical violation of the rules for petition gathering. We'll see. This is uncharted territory.
SHERWOODDon't you have to have a witness? 'Cause I'm thinking that, you know, there's a proposal in the District as to change the recall petition numbers from getting 10 percent of the voters to getting just 5 percent of the voters. And someone orchestrating an online campaign could -- to print out a form, get it witnessed and sent in could be a pretty strong thing. What's the worry about the petitions?
GREENWell, the concern is Maryland law says that the signer needs to fill in information -- name, address, et cetera -- on the petition sheet. And the argument is, well, in this case, the petitioner is not -- or the signer is not actually filling in that information. The database that this website connects to is the one that's filling in the information. Therefore, they're saying the signature should be invalidated. Now, it's also a little unclear whether even if they knock out all of the signatures that were collected this way, if that would be enough to keep it off the ballot.
SHERWOODWill it pass if it gets on the ballot?
GREENYou know, that's an open question. The polling I've seen on it is not totally conclusive. You know, it seems like the opponents of the act probably have some advantage there, but we haven't had a campaign yet. And there are also some interesting currents nationally on this question that could make a difference. You know, if you wind up with Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee, a guy who recently made waves by suggesting that we should perhaps be humane toward illegal immigrants...
NNAMDIOnly about 10 seconds left, Andy.
GREEN...then, you know, maybe that changes the dynamics. We'll have to see.
NNAMDIAndy Green is the editorial page editor of The Baltimore Sun. Andy, thank you for joining us. Happy 2012 to you.
GREENYou, too, Kojo.
NNAMDINikita Stewart is a reporter at The Washington Post. Nikita Stewart, thank you for joining us, and...
STEWARTThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd a Happy New Year to you.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst, a reporter at NBC4, a columnist for The Current Newspapers and the man who will be taking me to Hollywood in 2012. Happy New Year to you.
SHERWOODWell, let's just go into 2012. We'll check your bus ticket soon.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. Happy New Year. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Facing Calls For Dismissal, Prince George’s Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell Attends To Crisis Of Confidence
An investigation into Prince George's County Public Schools last fall found inflated graduation rates, too many excused absences and overly lax grading. How will the county fix its school's problems?
We check in with D.C.'s police chief to discuss his first year of policing the nation's capital.
80 degree days, windstorms, floods, droughts and bomb cyclones. We're all coping with a changing climate, but what happens when your livelihood depends on the weather?