It’s “Your Turn” to share your views about the stories Washingtonians are talking about ––from a rollback on federal health care subsidies to the name change of a Virginia high school named after a Confederate general.
One of Maryland’s most powerful Republicans is hit with a scathing indictment. A D.C. power player and prolific campaign donor is the target of a federal raid. And Virginians cast their ballots in the presidential primary. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Rob Garagiola Democratic Candidate, U.S. House of Representatives (Maryland, 6th District); Member, Maryland Senate (D-District 15, Montgomery County)
- Andrew Macdonald Co-founder, Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan; Former Vice Mayor, City of Alexandria
Politics Hour Extra
Andrew Macdonald announced his candidacy for mayor of Alexandria as an Independent. After leaving the democratic party, Macdonald said he feels a need to figure out a way to bring Alexandrians together because there’s “has been a very divisive sort of atmosphere” in the city:
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 an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Welcome, Tom.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon. Great day.
NNAMDIYou, too, can join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850 or by sending email to email@example.com, a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply going to our website, kojoshow.org, and joining the conversation there. Tom, inquiring minds want to know, who is Jeffrey Thompson? The FBI raided his offices on 15th Street Northwest, this week.
NNAMDIHe's a man who has a -- went to his home. He has an accounting firm, and he also apparently has the largest contract with the District of Columbia worth over $320 million. And, for years, he has been making fairly large contributions in a variety of ways to what seems to be the majority of our council members...
SHERWOODWell, he -- since...
SHERWOODSince Mayor Williams, Tony Williams, he's had the contract to do the Medicaid services, D.C. Chartered Health, I think, it's called. And he -- it's $320 million a year or so. He also has an accounting firm that has done business with the city. And there's the national firm. It's a minority firm from the best -- biggest in the country, I believe.
SHERWOODAll those things are that. But what we really want to know is, what does the U.S. attorney think about Jeff Thompson and his fundraising for Vince Gray's 2010 campaign? The Washington Post's Nikita Stewart and others have reported that this probe is focusing on the collection of money, perhaps cash. In some cases, checks that were contributed by people, it's unclear that they, in fact, gave the money. I called someone in California this week who gave $2,000, according to the check, to the mayor's campaign or to Vince Gray's campaign, and the person declined comment.
SHERWOODAnd I'm thinking, well, that's not a very enthusiastic endorser. And then I said, well, do you, by chance, know Jeff Thompson? And the man very gently said, I believe I've said I'm not -- I don't have any comment.
NNAMDII have to go now.
SHERWOODSo this is just one, you know, $2,000 check out of tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars that maybe Jeff Thompson had a role with. We just don't quite know yet. But I think the prosecutors are stepping up. The raid -- the bottom line for this story is the raid on his home, the raid on his offices is a significant serious step up. Somebody said, oh, this is a PR gambit.
SHERWOODThe U.S. Attorney's Office did this to, like, shake the tree and make others fall out. That's not what the U.S. attorney does. They don't make a raid for public relations purposes. Sorry. This is a serious step up in the campaign.
NNAMDIAnd WAMU 88.5's Patrick Madden reporting that, apparently, a lot of similar contributions were made to the last campaign of at-large Councilmember Vincent Orange from places as far away as Georgia, contributions of $1,000 by money order. Now, there is nothing inherently illegal or dishonest about making a contribution by money order, but the fact...
NNAMDIThey're unusual. And the fact that they came from so far away from, in some cases, people who didn't seem to have the financial ability to make that kind of contribution...
SHERWOODYou know, if I called my brother who lives in Georgia, and I said, hey, Ed, would you send $1,000 to Vince Orange or to any candidate here, I mean, if -- I know what he would say...
SHERWOOD...but -- I mean, but if -- you know, that would be one thing.
NNAMDIWho is this calling?
SHERWOODThere's some insinuation here that perhaps someone in another state sent $1,000 but maybe if was reimbursed in some way or got the money advanced to them for some consulting purpose or whatever and then just -- I don't -- it's very murky. It's very unusual. But Jeff Thompson has been a prolific -- as I said in my column this week, a prolific fundraiser for many candidates, for -- well, many incumbents in the council.
NNAMDIHe has not been speaking himself ever since this.
SHERWOODHe has declined comment. His -- he did hire Brendan Sullivan, I believe, the...
NNAMDIYes. Who defended Oliver North, I seem to...
NNAMDI...who represented Oliver North.
SHERWOODIt's not a potted plant, I think, is one of his famous sayings.
SHERWOODBut -- and someone -- a lawyer, very prominent lawyer said you don't hire Brendan Sullivan just to clear up a matter.
NNAMDIWe will have to see how exactly murky this matter is and whether or not it will be cleared up over time. A report in The Washington Post this week talked about the income gap in the District of Columbia, one of the nation's worst. The beef I have with it, of course, is that -- well, here's this paragraph. According to the analysis, the top 5 percent of households in the District average $473,000 a year, far above the $292,000 averaged by their counterparts in other large cities.
NNAMDIThe inequality remains large farther down the income scale, and then, all of a sudden, we go from percentages to fractions. The city's top fifth of all households pulled in $259,000 on average. In contrast, the bottom fifth had an average income of $9,100, close to the norm for low earners in big cities. As bad as that is, you make it worse when -- if mixed metaphors are appropriate, then mixed comparisons...
NNAMDI...are not, either. Why would you go from the top 5 percent and then suddenly go to the top fifth rather than saying, well, that's the top 20 percent, the top fifth?
SHERWOODRight. Well, you know, apart from bad editing maybe, you know, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, which is an advocacy group for better social spending and more balanced social spending, they would say and -- put out this report. And it says what many people -- I think, the -- some of the economic partnership in town and others would agree this is a city of very well-to-do people. We have the extremes. We have a very small middle class in the middle, actually.
SHERWOODAnd this survey shows that -- that this Washington has a gap, and I think the fear here is that with so many people on the well-to-do end, so much money, they either can control the politics of the city or they can be less concerned about the people who need the help.
NNAMDIThis has never been a city built along the lines of most industrial cities. It's a government town.
SHERWOODWell, it was some -- 100 years ago. I mean, there -- yes, the waterfront was very industrial. New York Avenue was industrial when other places...
NNAMDIIt certainly was.
SHERWOODWe actually made things here.
NNAMDIBut we don't do that anymore. And so this is a town where a large number of people are highly educated and make a great deal of money. And most of the others fall into the service industry and don't.
SHERWOODAnd it means that the job training -- Mayor Gray, I think, has responded to the Fiscal Policy Institute saying that there must be job training that addresses the need to the business world, so the people coming out of high school, that some, they may be advanced education but not necessarily, get trained to do -- or trained to do the jobs that exist in this city. And that's a real problem.
SHERWOODSome people want Mayor Gray, if he gets out from all the scandal stuff, to essentially blow up the Employment Services Department and the world of job training, like Fenty did with schools, change the structure completely, even if you irritate a lot of people, and get it to be more effective.
NNAMDIYou want to discuss the fact that this past Saturday, two members of the D.C. Council managed to become delegates to the Democratic convention in Charlotte.
SHERWOODHave they finished counting that?
NNAMDII don't know. But they finished counting enough so that we know that Jack Evans of Ward 2 and Marion Barry of Ward 8 are going to be among the delegates chosen, the 15 or so.
SHERWOODWell, you know, Jack Evans was here at the show, and he said...
NNAMDIHe sure was.
SHERWOOD...he was running. He was -- he wanted to go. He says that he can provide great leadership at the convention. And he went. What was bad is that -- on Saturday, as I was Twittering and all that stuff, trying to find out who won, there was no -- the results weren't ready. Then they moved from where they were at UDC, or wherever it was, to a church and then somewhere else. I just lost interest in -- I just suggested everyone and the Democrats should just stay home in the Democratic Party.
SHERWOODJust don't go to Charlotte. You've embarrassed yourself with a very poorly run election. But -- yes, Barry and Jack Evans will be representatives.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst, an NBC 4 reporter, and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Joining us now by telephone is Rob Garagiola. He is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democratic from Montgomery County and the Senate majority leader. He's also a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland's 6th District. Sen. Garagiola, thank you for joining us.
SEN. ROB GARAGIOLAThank you, Kojo. Appreciate the opportunity to be on the air with you.
NNAMDIYou've got your hands full today, which is why you couldn't join us in the studio. You've got lots of votes to make in Annapolis, but you've also got your hands full on the campaign trail where you are running for the Democratic nomination in a district that was basically carved up to become more winnable for Democrats. Why did you throw your hat into the ring for this? And why are you the Democrat with the best chance to win?
GARAGIOLAWell, I threw my hat into this for a number of reasons. I think that we have a Congress now where there's hyper-partisanship, and they're not focusing on the issues that the American people care about -- jobs, the economy, health care, education. We've got a lot of pressing problems. And I'm very concerned, as a father of three children, about, you know, what kind of future we're going to have for them.
GARAGIOLAAnd as I've traveled the district, which is a district that spans from Potomac, Md., all the way out to Garrett County, I hear the same concerns from many others as well. And I feel that my background as a state senator for the last 10 years and bringing people together from both parties and building coalitions is just what we need in Congress to move our country forward again.
SHERWOODMr. Garagiola, it's Tom Sherwood from Channel 4 News. I was just going to ask you -- give us an example of every -- I've heard so many candidates around the country who want to go to Congress and work together, and then the knives come out. What's a good example of your working together to pull different people together?
GARAGIOLAWell, I've done it on renewable energy legislation. We've got great programs here in Maryland dealing, in particular, with solar energy. And I've pulled together environmental advocates, but I've also pulled together business leaders, Democrats, Republicans. And we've really been at the forefront as a state on solar energy, renewable energy, which is a clean form of energy. People can heat their water with solar energy. They can provide electricity for their homes and businesses with solar energy.
GARAGIOLAAnd the great thing is is we've seen 2,000 jobs created here in Maryland in this industry because some of the things that we've done legislatively in Annapolis. And estimates are that we can see as many as 5,000 jobs over the next couple years...
SHERWOODHave you ever worked with your opponent, John Delaney?
GARAGIOLAI'm sorry. What was the question?
SHERWOODHave you ever worked with your opponent, John Delaney?
GARAGIOLAI have not worked with him before. He's a relative newcomer to the political scene, but I have, obviously, engaged with him a little bit over the last several months as he's become a candidate as well.
NNAMDIWell, he's a relative newcomer, as you described it, and he is making a virtue out of that. We're a national climate now where some people think that political experience is actually a negative, that being an insider, so to speak, is a negative. If you win this primary, you'll be running against Roscoe Bartlett trying to take his place, and he's been on Capitol Hill for a while. And John Delaney is saying that he's running against a career politician who has learned how to shake the special interest money tree.
NNAMDIHow you would make the case for running against Roscoe Bartlett since you have both been around for a while, so to speak?
GARAGIOLAWell, I would say this: You know, I've certainly proven myself as a legislator who can put together coalitions to move the state forward, and I'm very proud of some of the things that I've done as a state senator. Let's not forget it's a citizen legislature. So we're in session 90 days a year. And I have a day job. I'm a business attorney in Rockville, representing clients on business issues, employment issues. So it's -- you know, to say I'm a career politician, I think, is a bit of a stretch. I've worked very hard representing my constituents as a state senator.
GARAGIOLAAnd as I've toured the 6th Congressional District and areas like Cumberland and Hagerstown and Frederick and parts of Montgomery County, I'm getting a very good response from a lot of people, not just Democrats, but also independents and Republicans. I think I'm very well positioned based on my experience, my background, to be a very effective member of Congress. And I think that's what people are looking for, to look at someone who can be an effective advocate for them
NNAMDIRob Garagiola is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County and the Senate majority leader. He's a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland's 6th District. He joins us by telephone. You can, too. Call us at 800-433-8850. Here is Ryan in Gaithersburg, Md. Ryan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Ryan, are you there? Ryan, I could have sworn you were there. However, you don't seem to be. Let's try Martha in Hagerstown, Md. Martha, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GARAGIOLAHello, Martha. How are you doing?
MARTHAGood. How are you? Senator, I was just wondering, it's so important that we take the steam back from the Republicans in the fall. And I know these campaigns attack John Delaney for questionable business practices, and you've been attacked for questionable ethics and failing to report something around $200,000 in lobbying. And, given all this, I'm not sure either one of you can beat Roscoe Bartlett in the fall. I mean, how is he going to be beaten with all these questionable business practices and failing to report $200,000 in lobbying income?
GARAGIOLAWell, I would say it's unfortunate that, you know, in politics, some of the smears that have been going on and -- during this primary campaign. I'm expecting, you know, once I win the primary, you know, much of the same from the Republicans and Roscoe Bartlett as well, assuming he's going to win his primary. It's unfortunate, but, you know, I've got a proud record to stand on. I've built coalitions on a number of issues.
GARAGIOLAI've demonstrated as a state senator that I can get things done and have -- and will do the same as a member of Congress. So we're going to run on the issues. There's a lot of important issues before us as a country, and that's what I'm going to be (unintelligible).
NNAMDIWell, when Martha talks about not reporting lobbying income, I guess that what she's referring to is your opponent, John Delaney, has tried to call particular attention to you work for the firm Greenberg Traurig, which was not listed in your campaign biography. He's essentially accused you of trying to hide your experience as a lobbyist. He says you failed to put that work on state financial disclosure forms. How would you respond?
GARAGIOLAYeah, I appreciate the opportunity to answer that. You know, when I worked at Greenberg Traurig, I had advocated for rural hospitals on the Hill, for community health centers, which provide health care for low-income individuals and eliminate a therapy cap on Medicare beneficiaries so they can get therapy services. I'm proud of the work that I did there. Not hiding anything, it's on my biography now. What occurred with the financial disclosure forms in the Maryland general assembly was there were six years that I didn't include employment, and the seventh year, going forward, I did.
GARAGIOLAAnd the forms had changed at that point in time, and it was merely an omission of the first six years where the question appeared to indicate that you needed to be an owner or a part owner of the particular business. Well, I was not a partner of Greenberg Traurig for the three years, 2001, 2002, 2003. But I also admitted on those forms -- and, again, it was an inadvertent mistake -- that my wife was employed with the Frederick County Public Schools.
GARAGIOLAI also admitted on those forms in 2003, '04 and '05 that I was working as a business attorney at Stein Sperling in Rockville. So there was nothing about hiding the ball. When the question was changed in 2007, I lifted the employment. When I talked to the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, he indicated that the instructions were confusing and that they were making changes to it. So what was an inadvertent mistake, my opponent issued a press release indicating that I was flagrantly lying, blatantly lying.
GARAGIOLAI think he said the word lie seven times, lying to the voters of Maryland. There's nothing being hidden by this. When I first ran in 2002, I talked about my work at Greenberg Traurig. It's on my bio right now. So it's really more about my opponent trying to make a bigger issue out of an inadvertent omission. It's being cleared up. We amended the forms. Nothing not disclosed. And I actually, you know, resent that he is making an issue of transparency when I provided 10 years of my tax returns to the media. I've got thousands of votes that people can look at.
GARAGIOLAWe've asked him to provide his tax returns. We've asked him to file his congressional financial disclosure. It took him three months to do that. I'm glad he's finally done that, you know, within a couple weeks before early voting begins in Maryland, so people at least know, you know, his financials. But it took three months for him to do that. So I've been very transparent. He's making an issue out of an inadvertent omission and trying to, you know, make it sound like I was hiding something or that I was lying or that I was, you know, doing something covert.
NNAMDIIt is my understanding that your opponent has released a broad summary of his tax returns. Are you saying that he has released his full tax returns?
GARAGIOLAWell, what I did is I released 10 years' worth of tax returns. He indicated like -- I think it was a rolling average of income and charitable contributions and, I think, average taxes paid. But, you know, that's not the same thing. I mean, you know, its one thing to provide summaries. You know, this -- we heard this debate in the presidential contest with Republicans. And even Mitt Romney provided his taxes after Newt Gingrich made an issue of it. I think that, you know, let's let the voters know where we're making our money. I mean, the point is, I'm not hiding anything. He is.
NNAMDIMartha, thank you for your call. Here's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODWell, speaking -- President Clinton has endorsed Mr. Delaney. I'm surprised by that. But do you -- you don't have any reaction to that? Then we're going to get to some of the state issues and this national issue.
GARAGIOLAWell, I mean, yeah, you know, I would say this. I'm batting 1,000 right now in endorsements from the teachers, the firefighters, the police, AFL-CIO, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Human Rights Campaign. Every organization out there that's actually issued an endorsement has endorsed me because they know what I bring to the table as far as what I've done, and they know what I bring to the table as far as what kind of member of Congress I'll be.
GARAGIOLAWhat I've seen reported is that John Delaney, I guess, was a money-bundler for Hilary Clinton when she was running for president, I think, helped raise $800,000. You know, I had not actively sought President Clinton's support -- obviously would love to get his support. But, you know, for whatever reason, the president -- former president sought to get behind John Delaney.
SHERWOODLook, you -- this district was gerrymandered, many say, just to get rid of Roscoe Bartlett, if the Democrats could. And how does it work that if you -- state Democrats changed the boundaries of the congressional districts to get a Democrat elected, replace a Republican, and then you go to Capitol Hill, and you're going to work hand in hand with the Republicans. It would -- and, given the bitterness up there on Capitol Hill, it seems like the whole 6th Congressional District stems from bitterness. Let's get rid of Roscoe.
GARAGIOLAWell, I would say this, you know, if more districts were like the 6th District, I think we'd have a lot less partisanship because the 6th District is a district that a Republican can win or a Democrat can win, and that's a rarity. I think that if we had more districts like that, you'd have more people in the middle, which is where I am, leading this country in Congress. Instead, what we have is we have a lot of safe Democratic districts and a lot of safe Republican districts.
GARAGIOLAAnd the primary ends up being the election. So it's the fringes in both parties that get elected, and I think that's part of the reason we have the hyper-partisanship.
SHERWOODOther than being a Republican, what -- summarize, if you could very briefly, why...
SHERWOOD...you would oppose Roscoe, other than the fact that he's a Republican. And I apologize for calling him Roscoe. He's too old for me to be doing that.
GARAGIOLAWell, you know, he -- Congressman Bartlett, you know, has voted to reduce Medicare funding. He has voted against Pell Grants for higher education. I mean, things -- you know, I was listening earlier in the hour. You were talking about the income disparity in Washington, D.C. Well, some of the very votes he's taken has led to that across the country.
GARAGIOLAAnd if we want to help people move up in mobility -- economic mobility, you know, providing means for education should be a priority as opposed to voting to cut Pell Grants to students who are trying to get a higher education and advance themselves.
SHERWOODAre there any debates coming up I should tell people about, that might want to come see the candidates? Or I'm not aware of any right off the top of my head.
GARAGIOLAYeah, I don't have them in front of me. We've had a debate in Frederick already, and there are a number of Democratic and Republican primary debates over the next three-and-a-half weeks. I just -- I apologize. I don't have any of them in front of me right now. But there are debates coming up in Montgomery County, in Washington County, Allegany County...
SHERWOODWould they be on your website maybe?
GARAGIOLAIf they're not on the website, we'll get them up on the website.
NNAMDISen. Garagiola, we have a number of listeners who would like to speak with you, so I will start by going back to Ryan in Gaithersburg. Ryan, you're back on the air. Go ahead, please.
RYANI'm here. Thanks, Kojo, for taking my call. I wanted to ask -- I've been receiving a deal of mail from Mr. Garagiola about -- kind of a negative attack against John Delaney. First of all, I've received a research telephone call from Delaney saying that I heard Mr. Garagiola say that he -- Rockville but that he's not actually even a resident of this district in which -- that he -- represent. I don't know if that's true. And I was wondering why or what the validity is of some of the information that was contained in his mailings that were circulated about how -- John Delaney is and why...
NNAMDII'm fascinated by this, Ryan. When you received the mail that said that Sen. Garagiola is not a resident of the district, did it indicate where he is a resident of?
GARAGIOLANo, it did not. It's -- actually, that was not contained in the mail. But then a research phone call called that said they were doing research for the campaign.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to have the senator respond.
GARAGIOLASure. I mean, that's fascinating. I live in Germantown, which is well within the congressional district, about 10 miles south of Frederick, pretty central to the district to source population. So the fact is -- and that's the problem with some of the tactics that are occurring. You know, we're sticking to the facts. We're sticking to the issues. I live in the district. John Delaney does not live in the district. He's outside of the congressional district, but I live within the district. You know, any...
NNAMDIWhere does he live?
NNAMDIWhere does he live?
NNAMDIHe lives in Potomac. And parts of Potomac are in the district, and parts of the Potomac are in Congressman Van Hollen's district. So, while John Delaney may be seeking the votes of the constituents of the 6th District, he won't be able to vote for himself because he'll be in -- he's in Congressman Van Hollen's district.
NNAMDIOn -- thank you very much for your call.
SHERWOODThat's the most -- that's the...
NNAMDII suspect we'll be hearing responses for that...
SHERWOODMaybe we should call Mr. Delaney while we're talking here.
NNAMDIOr Mr. Delaney's people should call us. The number is 800-433-8850. Wanted to circle back to former President Clinton's endorsement of Mr. Delaney for a second because Bill Clinton is also popular with Wall Street. This is the president who broke down the wall between traditional banking and investment banking. How do you think, if you were elected, the next Congress should be approaching its relationship with the financial sector?
GARAGIOLAWell, you know, I think that we've -- you know, this Congress, you know, bailed out the big banks. The problem that I've seen is they really haven't done a lot for Main Street, for small businesses. And I would say, every step of the way, when President Obama has put forward legislation to try to, you know, help middle-class America, Republican Congress has prevented that from moving forward. And I think, unfortunately, they prevented it more for ideological partisan reasons than for, you know, looking for solutions to move this economy forward again and get people back to work.
NNAMDIWould you raise taxes on investments and capital gains?
GARAGIOLAYou know, I think, as a first step, what we need to do is the Bush tax cuts for those making above $250,000, we need to roll those back. And I think that's going to go a long way towards reducing some of the deficit that's being talked about in Congress as well.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here is Alex in Rockville, Md. Alex, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALEXHi, Rob. I have a question regarding green energy and what your plan would be for green energy if you're elected.
GARAGIOLAAlex, great question, I appreciate the opportunity. Right now, there's a tax credit for renewable energy at the federal level, and it's set to expire in about three or four years. I think we should reauthorize that immediately to give certainty to those that want to make investments in that industry. Number two, in Maryland, we have what's called a renewable portfolio standard. And what that means is utilities, like Pepco and BG&E, when they purchase their energy, they have to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy.
GARAGIOLAAnd what that's done is that's helped to create a market for geothermal energy, solar water heating energy, solar energy, wind energy, biomass. Federal government and the Congress, they've been debating whether to do a renewable portfolio standard at the federal level. And, unfortunately, they haven't been able to move forward on it. I think that's the second thing we need to do.
GARAGIOLAAnd some of the arguments that I would make as a member of Congress is it's -- we've not done just, you know, these types of legislation purely for environmental reasons, which I do support the environmental reasons for doing this legislation. But many pit environmental community against the business community, and what I'd like to demonstrate and show to my colleagues in Congress as a member is that you can have both. We've done it here in Maryland. We've done great things for the environment.
GARAGIOLAWe are a leader among states on some of the things that we've done for renewable energy, and we've also got a lot of growth in the green tech sector. And it's something we can see for this country, green jobs that come from these industries.
NNAMDIAlex, thank you very much for your call. Tom?
SHERWOODMr. Garagiola, you were going to be here in the studio. You couldn't be. Tell us what we're missing in Annapolis today.
GARAGIOLAWell, we have a number of...
SHERWOODWhat are you voting on that I'm missing?
GARAGIOLAYeah, there's legislation, a number of bills that have come up, some local bills dealing with specific counties. We had legislation that is moving forward that deals with second-hand smoke and the effects on children. It's probably about 30 or 40 bills in the Senate today, and in the House as well.
NNAMDIThere's a good chance that if you're on the ballot in the fall, you'll be on a ballot that includes a referendum on Maryland's new same-sex marriage law, which you supported. What concerns do you have about a referendum on same-sex marriage and how it's going to effect the elections in Maryland in November? And what concerns do you have about the new law standing up to a statewide vote?
GARAGIOLAWell, I would say -- and, in fact, I was actually the lead sponsor of the legislation last year, and then Gov. O'Malley decided to take an even stronger leading role that he played last year. And I was pleased to have him get, you know, 100 percent behind this legislation and move it through the general assembly. I don't look at is so much from a political context. I look at it more from a civil rights context, and I'm very proud that we moved it forward. I assume that it will be on the -- you know, will be on the ballot for referendum.
GARAGIOLAPolling does seem to indicate that a majority of Marylanders do support this. And I'm happy to go and talk about this issue because, to me, it is a civil rights issue. It doesn't get into religious marriage whatsoever. It keeps a separation of church and state. I think we just need to make sure the public is educated about that fact, and I think the citizens will support it overall.
SHERWOODWhat about the DREAM Act, the effort to overturn the DREAM Act?
GARAGIOLAYou know, it's been a real shame, some of the rhetoric that we've heard on that as well, because, you know, I remember in 2004, we had Republican State Sen. Alex Mooney voting for that version of the DREAM Act in the Maryland legislature. He's now the Republican Party chairman for the state of Maryland. And for some reason, you know, immigration has become a hyper-partisan issue. What this issue is about is children who, you know, didn't come here on their own, and many of them were brought here at a very young age, you know, by their parents.
GARAGIOLAAnd if we, you know, said, go back to your home country, that would be a foreign land to them because they've grown up in our communities, and they've gone to school with our children. What this legislation says is, look, if you have a child who's been going to school here in Maryland for a number of years, and they or their parents can demonstrate that they pay taxes, they register for the Selective Service, they get a certain grade point average, then they can get in-state tuition for community college.
GARAGIOLAThey're not displacing any Maryland students because community colleges have rolling admissions. And if they complete...
SHERWOODAnd, in fact -- I'm sorry. Excuse me. We're about to run out of time for you. But...
SHERWOOD...what about the casino in Prince George's County at National Harbor? Would you be supporting that? There's some effort to stop that in the legislature.
GARAGIOLAYeah, there's a lot of discussion on it. And I think that National Harbor -- if we're going to do something like that -- is actually a pretty good location. It's, you know, becoming more of a conference destination. And I think, you know, having something like that would fit nicely there. So, you know, I would be supportive of that, but there's a lot more discussion still to be had.
NNAMDISen. Garagiola, thank you so much for joining us.
GARAGIOLAAbsolutely. Thank you.
NNAMDIRob Garagiola is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County and the Senate majority leader. He's also a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland's 6th District. He joined us by telephone. This is The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, before we move on to our next guest, care to comment on the indictment against Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold?
SHERWOODWell, you know, some of that stuff is embarrassing if true, you know, making his police escort wait or take him to places where he was having sex. I'm not sure what the law is on that. He could just be visiting a constituent, but that seemed odd about sending them officers out to monitor and protect his campaign signs. If that's true...
SHERWOOD...that seems really an odd thing to do. I am just so pleased that somebody in a different county has such a horrible case against him, instead of being here in the District. Is that fair to say?
NNAMDISpeaking of instead of being here in the District, The Washington Post report that the Washington Redskins are exploring the possibility of holding training camp in Richmond, Va.
SHERWOODYeah. But this is not moving the training camp to Richmond permanently. This is just to -- you know, they used to be up in Maryland somewhere -- I forgot the name of the town -- for the three weeks or so prior to the beginning of the season, where you get away from everybody, fans and families, and you focus on the season. They've talked about this before in previous years, that the Skins might want to go down to Richmond and have this on a three-week intense, like, training camp down there.
SHERWOODBut this is not the same story as Mayor Gray's effort to bring the whole training camp, facility, Hall of Fame, new hotel and all that kind of stuff to Capitol Hill, which is subject of a lot of debate at this moment.
NNAMDIWell, it looks like the Redskins are also going to get caught up in the bounty hits scandal that has gotten the New Orleans and their defensive coordinator (unintelligible).
SHERWOODI'm surprised -- anyone surprised, you know, so they pay each other. People paid bonuses for whacking people and then to saying it is a violent sport, it's just another sign how violent it is.
NNAMDIWell, joining us in studio now is Andrew Macdonald. He is a former vice mayor of Alexandria, Va. He's also the founder of the group Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan. Andrew Macdonald, thank you for joining us.
MR. ANDREW MACDONALDThank you for inviting me.
NNAMDIPeople in Alexandria know you as a lot of things. They've known you as a vice mayor. Lately, they've known you as one of the major opponents of the city's waterfront plan. But, through most of it, they've known you as a Democrat. That might not be the case anymore. It's my understanding that you recently left, decided to walk away from the Democratic Committee. Why?
MACDONALDWell, I did so for a variety of reasons, and, I guess, the waterfront debate is sort of -- sort of was the impetuous for this. But it really is a much larger slate of questions, of issues, that Alexandrians are facing now, from the west end where the BRAC project is, to (unintelligible) and public housing, affordable housing. There's just a general feeling in Alexandria, and I certainly feel that way, that the current democratic majority on council effectively dismissed a great deal of public input and involvement in a number of very critical issues.
MACDONALDSo, for me, it was really a symbolic gesture as much as anything. I just -- I didn't feel that I could stick with the Democratic Party, even though I certainly support a lot of the basic democratic issues.
NNAMDIWell, did you leave, or were you forced out? It is my understanding that before you got the email questioning your loyalty, you had already appeared before a group of Republicans and indicated to them that you would seek their support if you were running as an independent. Didn't that send a signal to the Democratic committee that you were thinking of leaving anyway?
MACDONALDAbsolutely, Kojo. I mean, I've been considering this for, you know, well over a year, I guess. And I had thought, well, perhaps I could -- you know, if I were to run again -- and I haven't fully decided that. But if I were to run again, I could rejoin the party, and I could perhaps change it from the inside. But I just felt that -- I feel that that's not the case, that the political structure in Alexandria needs some real shake-up. So, for me, this is the -- a statement. So, yeah, I don't see it as being forced out. It's really a conscious decision.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you'd like to join the conversation with Andrew Macdonald. 800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments for him. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODThis is a prelude to running for mayor. Is that right? I mean, that's all the media stuff. And you just said it directly, yes?
MACDONALDYes. Well, I haven't. I haven't, but I am willing to say it here today. Yes, I will be -- I am -- I'm going to challenge Mayor Bill Euille in the upcoming November race.
SHERWOODAnd this is -- that's why you want to run as an independent, not as a Democrat. You're going to run as an independent.
MACDONALDI will run as an independent. Yeah, I mean, I think, many years ago, Congressman Jim Moran ran as an independent, actually, against, I think it was Mayor Beatley at the time. And -- but I'm doing it for reasons, yes, and I think it's -- I think we need to try to figure out a way to bring Alexandrians together. It's been a very divisive sort of atmosphere in Alexandria. And, unfortunately, I just don't see, you know, working within the party at the moment, the way they do it.
NNAMDIIf you -- go ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODI don't want to get into the -- all the nitty-gritty of the waterfront details, but...
NNAMDIWell, I was going to stick with the running against Bill Euille for a while, so let me...
SHERWOODWell, that's part of the issue, but...
NNAMDI...pursue then, if you run against Bill Euille as an independent candidate, does that give you a better chance than if you ran against him as a Democrat? Is that why you're choosing to run as -- one of the reasons why you're choosing to run as an independent? Why would it be more beneficial for you to run against him as an independent than as a Democrat?
MACDONALDWell, I guess, I mean, I've always done fairly well. I've always had a pretty difficult time within the sort of the confines of the Democratic Party because -- in part, because they have, I feel, unfortunately, tried to shut down a lot of public conversation over the years. And so there's no doubt about it. I've always felt that what we need in Alexandria is a more sort of nonpartisan perspective. And so I -- actually, I think it's probably more difficult for me to do it this way, but I think it's the right thing for me to do.
MACDONALDI feel then I can reach out to -- as I did, to the Republicans. I can reach out to independents. I can reach out to Democrats and say hey, I think we can form a government that really works toward creating a great Alexandria community.
NNAMDIWhat do you think about Andrew Macdonald running as an independent for mayor of Alexandria? He's told you he is going to be running. Call us, 800-433-8850.
SHERWOODThe mayor is pushing the waterfront redevelopment. You've made a name for yourself opposing it. It has gone on for so long. I can't count how many years. Could you succinctly say -- what do you want the waterfront to be if not the development scheme that the -- Euille has now endorsed? Is it going to be as so poorly used now as it is? What do you want -- what would it be if you can just snap your fingers?
MACDONALDWell, I mean, I guess, I think, you know, like a lot of these complicated issues, it's very difficult to say precisely. I think the fundamental problem has been -- and as a friend of mine who's on our committee, former Amb. Bob Pringle said, you know, it's sort of short-term growth and long-term mediocrity. And what we're looking for in the waterfront, I think, as a community, is to come up with a plan that ties much more cohesively to who we are as an historic town. So it's not -- I don't think it's -- I can say...
MACDONALDAbsolutely. Less development, more historic amenities, more public space that allow, you know, the average citizen to get down to the waterfront, see the river. I mean, as a kid, I saw how polluted the Potomac was. And now it's such an extraordinary resource. Tourism -- tourists come to spend money in Alexandria not because of hotels, per se, but they come because they want to learn more about the history of the nation. And that's -- I think that's something we should build upon.
SHERWOODSo the city can make money with this kind of reduced footprint that you're talking about as opposed to bringing in more hotels and other major buildings?
MACDONALDYeah, I believe so. And I think this is sort of the West End issues, too, with all the new development proposals there, is that what seems to have happened in the city is we have a city government that's gotten a little too cozy with developers. And instead of really examining a variety of alternatives and looking at both their economic and public benefits, the city has effectively shut down discourse instead of opening it up. And it's simply not analytical enough.
SHERWOODSo, to be clear, would you basically scrap the work that's been done and start over? Or where -- how do you alter -- I mean, there's been a lot of work in putting this plan together.
MACDONALDI wouldn't scrap what we've done. I think there's a lot of -- I think what the process has shown is there's a lot of incredibly intelligent and thoughtful and committed Alexandria citizens, both on the business side and on the non-business side, who have brought ideas to bear. And, unfortunately, we just need to examine them a little more. So I definitely would utilize what we've done, but I think we can come up with a much better plan.
SHERWOODAnd one quick -- on the last subject, if -- would a casino at National Harbor across the river from Alexandria be more business for you? How do you see that affecting Alexandria?
MACDONALDWell, I think people have always been concerned about gambling coming to National Harbor. And I -- personally, I'm opposed to it, but I don't know how it would affect things. I think -- I mean, what seems to have happened with National Harbor is that there was this fear that National Harbor would be a threat to Alexandria when, in fact, a lot of people who visit National Harbor, which is sort of a destination out of context, end up coming to Old Town. So I...
SHERWOODThere's a water taxi back and forth.
MACDONALDThere's a water taxi. We've tried to take advantage of that, and a lot of people that visit National Harbor do come to Alexandria, which is great. And the water taxi is, I think, is a wonderful thing.
NNAMDIDo a lot of Alexandrians go to National Harbor?
MACDONALDYou know, I really don't know that, Kojo. I know that people do go. I mean, I was involved many years ago...
NNAMDIIt's not exactly a destination for Alexandrians?
MACDONALDWell -- no -- but I think people do go, to some degree.
MACDONALDBut I think they -- there seem to be a lot of flow coming from National Harbor to Alexandria.
SHERWOODIt just seems that the waterfront development on Prince George's County side and the District, the Southwest Waterfront where I live and the Anacostia area, and the big fight over the Anacostia by the -- where the RFK is, that waterfront development is seen as a new way to bring residents in and business and revenue. It sounds like you want to hold back that tide.
MACDONALDWell, I wouldn't look at it that way. I think we agree completely that it's an extraordinary way to expand tourism and economic -- you know, the engine of the town. The question has been -- and what we did is, by looking around the country and other cities, the most important thing that seems to happen with successful waterfronts is that you have effective community involvement from the start, and you develop a waterfront plan that is unique to who you are. Well, Alexandria is a unique place, and that's simply what we're asking the plan to be.
NNAMDIAndrew Macdonald is our guest. He's a former vice mayor of Alexandria, Va. and a founder of the group Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Waterfront development follows Tom Sherwood wherever he goes to live. Here is Wayne in Alexandria, Va. Wayne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
WAYNEYes. I would like to -- as a 32-year resident of the city, I would like to strongly encourage the candidacy, and endorse the candidacy, of Andrew Macdonald's run against the current mayor. I am a lifelong Democrat. I never in my life thought I would say to a current mayor and this -- the current city counselor that there's not one of those people I would vote for again in November for a whole plethora of reasons. But, basically, I think Andrew articulates the thoughts of many, many, many long-term residents who happen to...
NNAMDIYou mean in general or on the waterfront plan in particular, where four Democrats...
NNAMDIThe council members approved the measure 5-to-2 along party lines.
WAYNEYeah. And I would be with the Republicans on this. I never thought I'd hear myself say that. But this rush to get this in the works, I think, is kind of appalling. The majority of the people in the historic district are against it because it would impact them. The additional hotels down at the waterfront turn this waterfront into another version of Ocean City -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- the only difference being we can see land on the other side of the river.
NNAMDII do have to remind our listeners that we had a conversation about the waterfront plan a few months ago on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I got a date for that so that you can find it on our website in our archives. But, Dwayne, thank you very much for your call. We move to what might be a different take on this discussion. Dak Hardwick is the chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. Dak Hardwick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MR. DAK HARDWICKKojo, thanks so much for having me on today. I wanted to make sure I...
NNAMDIWell, Dak, allow me to inform our listeners. Dak was not a planned guest on the show. He called in on the show, but thank you very much for calling.
HARDWICKNo problem. I wanted to make sure, and I had a different voice than Mr. Macdonald today about the particular incident regarding his resignation from the Alexandria Democratic Committee. I can confirm today for your listeners that Andrew has, in fact, resigned from the committee. He informed myself and our secretary today, but it was more of his appearance as a -- as an ADC member, we have to remember that Mr. Macdonald renewed his membership with the Alexandria Democratic Committee in December of last year.
HARDWICKAnd then, as a part of some of the candidates that I have for city council, Mr. Macdonald was also part of an email list that I keep for people interested in running for mayor or city council. He was also part of that list. And so his appearance before the Alexandria Republican City Committee was obviously a surprise to myself and many of my members.
NNAMDIAnd so you essentially called on him to leave?
HARDWICKI asked him to, you know, recommit to the committee or actually to -- I think my exact words were to state his intentions to the ADC. I think it's important to note, Kojo, that you don't have to be a member of the Democratic Committee in Alexandria to run as a Democrat, but those members that are members of the Alexandria Democratic Committee do, you know, believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and its -- and it's at all levels: national, state and local. And so just to ask -- you know, my intention was to ask Mr. Macdonald just to, you know, state his intentions regarding the organization.
NNAMDIOK. Dak Hardwick, thank you very much for joining us and for clearing that up. It's my understanding, Andrew Macdonald, that your party affiliation has never exactly been carved in stone, that you ran as an independent for the council once -- you lost -- then you switched to the Democratic Party in a race after that and won. When voters look at you, what should they see as your core values? And how do you think your shifting around on party affiliation reflects upon that?
MACDONALDWell, I guess I don't consider myself sort of a -- maybe a -- I don't know if there's such a thing as a typical politician. But, you know, I grew up in Alexandria. And before I ever got involved, for many, many years, I was involved in local issues. And the first time I ran, I thought, well, you know, I really care about the city. I think I will run. And I ran as an independent, and that wasn't successful. But I did fairly well, but I thought, you know, I do actually agree in many respects with the -- with many Democratic core values on many issues. So I thought, well, I will join the party, and I did so.
MACDONALDAnd though -- I'm not saying it was always easy, but I joined the party. And I ran twice, and, with their help and with the help of -- specifically of Democrats and of Alexandrians in particular, I was effective. I guess I would say this, is that I've always been an issue candidate. I've always been deeply concerned about issues. And I'm concerned about good dialogue, good community participation, which I think we now seem to have lost, so...
SHERWOODBut you also -- you couldn't have -- excuse me for interrupting you.
SHERWOODI've just read your resignation letter -- two paragraphs -- but you couldn't beat Mayor Euille in the Democratic primary 'cause, I mean, it seems to it's very practical for you to get votes. You couldn't beat Mayor Euille as a Democrat, so you had to move on in order to run.
MACDONALDWell, there's no doubt about it. I think that it would be more difficult, and, I think, given the sort of the current climate that we have seen, that I felt that it wouldn't be even more difficult.
SHERWOODI mean, it's a principled thing to do. You want to win, and you can't, you know...
SHERWOODYou can't beat, so you decide to run as an independent.
NNAMDIYou mentioned being an issue candidate. If you were to run against Bill Euille -- well, now that you're running against Bill Euille as an independent candidate, are there other issues beside the waterfront that you would make a part of this campaign?
MACDONALDOh, absolutely. I think that -- and I wrote a little editorial about this the other day about sort of the two cities that we seem -- are becoming or we're very quickly becoming, and it -- well, we've always been a really wealthy community. But we've always done a -- I think, a fairly good job of trying to weave in and take care of people that aren't so successful. And I think what's happening in Alexandria now is, well, one of the things that we're having an enormous amounts of new development.
MACDONALDIt's going to push out a lot of the -- not just the poorest, but people that are, you know, professionals who can't even afford to live in Alexandria. So I think that's an issue for me. I've always been a very strong environmentalist, very concerned about the environment and what we do about that. But I think a lot of it is really trying to develop a process by which citizens, such as the West End and BRAC and other things, can have a much more direct involvement in decision making. I think we've really lost the skill, and I think it's become a very one-sided debate.
SHERWOODAnd as an independent, if you were the mayor and you are an independent, then you -- can you work with the Democrats? And do they -- do you guys elect Republicans (word?) ?
MACDONALDWell, we have -- there's two Republicans on city council.
MACDONALDAnd I'll -- and in past years, I think there were a lot of very good moderate Republicans. I think it's good to have all sorts of people on a city council. I mean, a lot of it is nonpartisan. It is about local issues.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have, except that we have Catherine in Alexandria, who's asked, "Why did Andrew leave office after a couple of months the last time he got elected? Will he do it again?" The answer, I guess, he will tell you is no. But...
MACDONALDIt was a very different time, and I will certainly not leave if elected.
MACDONALDAndrew Macdonald, thank you very much for joining us. Andrew Macdonald is a former vice mayor of Alexandria, Va. and founder of the group Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan. He announced today he is running for mayor of Alexandria. Good luck to you.
MACDONALDThank you very much, Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst, an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, always a pleasure.
SHERWOODGood weekend, everyone.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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