GOP Senate Gossip

I don’t actively seek it out, but when it comes to my attention, I say, the more the merrier. Blogger Ryan Miner has some Republican whispers and rumors to report about former lieutenant governor candidate Mary Kane of Potomac.

A close source recently relayed to me that Mary Kane, the former Maryland Secretary of State under Gov. Bob Ehrlich, is considering a bid to replace Barbara Mikulski in the United States Senate. Mikulski announced in March that she will not seek reelection in 2016, leaving the door wide open for multiple Democrats and Republicans to mount credible campaigns to replace the longest-serving female member of Congress.

Kane, who lives in Potomac, Maryland with her husband, John, (who is the former Chair of the Maryland Republican Party) is widely known and respected among Maryland Republican circles. In 2010, Kane was the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, serving as Bob Ehrlich’s running mate in his second unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.
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Should Kane run, she will, in my opinion, rise to the top of the Republican field almost instantaneously. She has universal name recognition among Maryland Republicans; she is incredibly intelligent; she is a well-respected attorney; and, she has the capability to raise money.

I’ll keep an eye out to see what if anything becomes of this rumor.

The Coveted Deez Nuts Endorsements

This is really big, folks. Independent candidate and Internet sensation Deez Nuts has announced his endorsement in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, and they could be a real game changer.

A joke presidential candidate with national buzz is backing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

Independent presidential candidate Deez Nuts announced he is supporting Sanders’ bid for the Democratic nomination.

“Just gonna throw this one out there,” Deez Nuts said on his campaign’s Facebook page. “This is not for the general election. My endorsement for the Democratic nomination goes to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.”

He added in another post moments later that he endorses Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the Republican nomination.

Check out the Deez Nuts for President 2016 Facebook page here. 21 state affiliates as of this writing and 12,732 likes.

More Clinton Weirdness From The Post

First, spend a couple of months obsessing about a story with no narrative center.

Second, start quoting Democratic elected officials saying Hillary Clinton could be in trouble if it turns out there’s an actual story - which there isn’t.

Yarmuth said the controversy is happening early enough in the campaign, that as long as Clinton is being truthful and did not use her personal e-mail server for classified materials, the issue can “boil over.”

“But, I still think there is a chance this could upend her campaign,” Yarmuth cautioned.
In her Tuesday news conference, Clinton said the only people talking about the e-mail controversy are the media — which is not letting up.
“I think if she intentionally misled or lied to the American people and did something that was clearly against rules, and knowingly did it against rules, if that is the ultimate conclusion, then I think she has disqualified herself,” Yarmuth said.

So if we lived in a parallel universe where the facts were different then they are now, we could very well be looking at a different outcome. That’s very deep. And nonsensical.

Third, write up a column speculating about who might run for President if the non-story succeeds in knocking Hillary Clinton out of the race. Be sure to include the obligatory reference to a billionaire, Bruce Wayne candidate - who doesn’t actually exist, either.

2. Billionaire outsider: The Howard Schultz bubble appears to have burst. But someone with a profile like the Starbucks chief executive — very rich, liberal, never before involved in politics — could be very appealing for voters looking for something totally different. The remarkable success of Donald Trump on the Republican side suggests that people are desperately in search of anti-politicians. Why does that person need to be rich, too? To pose a real threat to Clinton, you would need someone with the ability to write a $50 million check to his/her campaign to fund efforts to qualify for early state ballots, pay staff and run TV ads.

There’s your Post/Politico Washington establishment nonsense boiled down to one deranged paragraph. Send up the bat signal! Maybe Bruce Wayne will respond. Whoever he is. The pining for a centrist, wealthy Third Way cardboard cutout is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Somebody needs to tell Chris Cillizza that the Post society set no longer dictates who wins elections. Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee are dead, and Bob Woodward hasn’t written anything good since the 1970s.

Three of the people who actually live and breathe and exist aren’t running: Al Gore, John Kerry, and Elizabeth Warren. Joe Biden, who might yet run, is ranked #3. Why? Because Chris Cillizza is allergic to reality based stories. Fantasies are way cooler.

Let’s call this recipe “Fact Free Political Cooking for the Media.”

Jeb Bush: Black Hands Matter

Apparently $100 million in super PAC funding doesn’t buy what it used to. And Photoshop is never your friend. Jeb Bush discovered both of  these things today when his group Right to Rise went to work.

Yesterday, Right To Rise announced they were sending a mailer to 86,000 Iowa households touting Bush’s candidacy.

A closer examination, however, shows that the flier features Jeb’s head photoshopped onto a black man’s body. In the flier, one of Jeb’s hands clearly belongs to a black man.

An inadvertently excellent question. Why, Jeb? WHY?

More Charm City Endorsements For Van Hollen

Elijah Cummings may be thinking about getting into the Senate race, but he’d better hurry - Chris Van Hollen may have all the Baltimore endorsements locked up by the time Cummings makes up his mind.

Three prominent Baltimoreans, including the longest-serving member of the City Council, are endorsing Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s bid for Senate, the latest indication the Democrat from Montgomery County is making inroads into the state’s largest city.

City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs and longtime Democratic power broker Rick O. Berndt are supporting Van Hollen’s effort to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, his campaign said Friday.
Van Hollen and his opponent in the Democratic primary, Rep. Donna F. Edwards of Prince George’s County, represent congressional districts based in suburban Washington and are less well known in the Baltimore region. No candidate from the area has emerged, though speculation continues to swirl about whether Rep. Elijah E. Cummings will enter the race.

“We’re going to be making a major push in Baltimore,” Van Hollen said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Friday. “I’ve always believed that a strong Baltimore is essential to the health of the state, and the state needs for Baltimore to succeed.”

Trump Goes After O’Malley

I can’t think of anything better for Martin O’Malley’s primary campaign prospects than for Donald Trump to attack him. Today comes word that Trump obliged the former Maryland governor.

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley apologized “like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby” for his remark that “all lives matter,” Donald Trump said in an excerpt of a new interview aired Friday on Fox News.

In an interview with Jeanine Pirro for her program “Justice” set to air Saturday night, Trump said that the former Maryland governor did not need to say he was sorry.

“And then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby. And that’s the problem with our country,” Trump said, according to a clip aired on “Fox and Friends.”

O’Malley wisely chose not to engage with the Trumpster.

In response to Trump’s remarks, O’Malley’s campaign said it had no interest in “engaging in a race to the bottom.”

“Governor O’Malley stands with those who have the guts to stand up to Donald Trump’s hate speech,” O’Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement provided to POLITICO that included a link to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow praising the governor for meeting with employees of Trump’s Las Vegas hotel seeking to form a union earlier this week.

“It speaks volumes about the Republican Party today that this is their front-runner. Unlike the rest of the Republican field, we’re not interested in engaging in a race to the bottom with Mr. Trump,” Smith said.

I’m sure the fact that O’Malley met with employees of Trump’s Las Vegas hotel who are trying to unionize had absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s comments. Purely a coincidence.

MCBOE At War With Pretty Much Everyone

Today’s Bethesda Magazine brings us the story of the Montgomery County Board of Education being at war with . . . well, pretty much everyone, over the construction of a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school. On the one side, you have the Board and the MCPS bureaucracy, and on the other, a list including County Councilmembers Marc Elrich and Craig Rice, Planning Board chair Casey Anderson, the Planning Department’s staff, and residents near the proposed school.

MCPS says the new school is sorely needed to address overcrowding at Westland Middle School, the only existing middle school in the B-CC High School cluster. Building the school would also allow sixth graders currently attending area elementary schools to move on to middle schools.

But residents near the Kensington park, where a site selection committee twice recommended the school be built, have fought the project. After one neighborhood group’s legal challenge of the site selection failed, a different group of neighbors have complained in the last few months that the four-story school design isn’t safe and shouldn’t be built on the relatively small 13-acre park site.

MCPS officials have also sparred with Montgomery County Planning Department staff over the design of the school, which will be built on a hilly site that will require multiple retaining walls. Planners expressed concerns about the location of an entranceway to the site and whether too many trees will be taken down to make way for the project.

In July, Planning Board Commissioner Casey Anderson and council Education Committee Chairman Craig Rice wrote in a letter to the BOE that “the final design is disappointing” and the design process “didn’t serve the public or our respective agencies very well.”

Board President Pat O’Neill fired right back on Monday, accusing Anderson of having skipped a meeting with Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers - in April.

Board President Patricia O’Neill shot back Monday with a letter to Anderson and Rice in which she questioned why Anderson didn’t show up to an April meeting arranged by MCPS Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers to discuss the issue.

“I understand from Mr. Bowers that he worked with all parties to establish a time to meet on April 28, 2014, but when it came time to meet, Mr. Anderson did not attend the meeting,” O’Neill wrote. “This was an important meeting on an important project, and in retrospect it would have been good for Mr. Anderson to have attended this meeting, as Mr. Bowers had requested.”

Ooooookay. Sort of a “and you’re a big jerky jerk, so there” kind of response. A side note: as anyone familiar with the county’s development process can tell you, when the Planning Department staff opposes your site plan, it’s gotta be pretty damn bad. They approve just about ANYTHING.

Predictably, MCPS officials claimed to have no idea what the problem is. Pause. OK, I’ll just leave that right there.

Andrew Zuckerman, MCPS chief operating officer, told the board Thursday that he was “mystified” by some of the complaints from other agencies and “some of the email chatter that you’ve heard.”

And of course the “we’re way too far down the road to stop now” argument. Always a favorite.

James Song, MCPS director of facilities management, said Montgomery Parks has never formally presented North Chevy Chase Park as an option for the school site and that starting the feasibility study and design phase over would take three years.

MCPS has also spent $2.5 million on architecture and design work for the Rock Creek Hills Park site that could not be recouped, Song said.
The earliest the school system would be able to open a B-CC Cluster middle school on a different site would be the 2021-2022 school year, board member Phil Kauffman said.

Both of these claims are highly doubtful. Moving a school from one location to another does not take three years. And the architectural and design work can be utilized at another site as well. And just a reminder: I previously reported that Walter Johnson HS is looking for an expansion, the design work was just commissioned this year, and MCPS is rushing to get the work done to include it in this year’s CIP. So I call bullshit on the “we can’t do anything for six years” argument.

And of course there’s the predictable NIMBY cow patty being flung around.

Rafe Peterson, a PTA representative for Rosemary Hills Elementary School, criticized neighbors arguing against the design.

“The voices of the NIMBY’s should not [drown] out the thousands of parents that support this school,” Peterson wrote. “There is no deal that can be cut that would make them happy and no way to appease them other than to move to another location. In any event, when you actually count their numbers they are a small minority. Our Cluster overwhelmingly supports this school.”

Bottom line is this: the fact that this is about the BCC cluster, and the earlier story was about WJ, is not an accident. It’s become almost comical the lengths to which MCPS and the Board will go to keep up the firewall between the Bethesda/Potomac clusters and the Downcounty and Northeast Consortiums. The ultimate nightmare scenario can be summed up in three word: countywide boundary redraw. Commence freakout now.

In this regard, take a look at this list of middle schools, with current student population and capacity. There’s over 4,000 empty seats in existing middle schools, and MCPS wants to build a four story middle school with an expansion capacity of 1200 students when Westland, the sole existing BCC middle school, is only 157 students over capacity. And this new school, with potentially the third largest capacity in the county, will be on a 13 acre site in a park. Only five of 38 middle schools are on a smaller site. Not one of them has a capacity anywhere near the 1200 that the proposed new school will have.

One last point: when Pat O’Neill says this:

O’Neill pointed out that the school system already redid the site selection process once and that Rock Creek Hills Park was the choice of a group of residents, parents and county officials.

don’t buy the snake oil. I was a member of the Downcounty Comsortium base area committee back in 2003. A bunch of us suggested all kinds of things to MCPS at the outset, including but not limited to expansion of the consortium to include BCC and Walter Johnson. We were told in no uncertain teems that we were there to consider only one thing: base areas. Period. The outcome was predetermined.

Similarly, I would bet a dollar that the “site selection process” for this new school was similarly unipolar. Support Rock Creeek Park Hills, period. I would be very surprised if any other specific sites were even considered. It’s the MCPS way.

The Old “Opposition Research” Defense

Earlier this week, hackers released a ton of data from the Ashley Madison website, whose tag line is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Since then it’s been a veritable moral purity free for all, with various bits of data being released through the week.

One interesting little bit of data is that there were 22 email addresses culled from the data. I’m sure someone in Rockville is going to be interested in that group of addresses. And over 10,000 .mil addresses, signifying military emails. Really brilliant thinking there, fellas.

I don’t really care who’s cheating and who’s not. Moral superiority is not at all my thing. But I have to highlight one particular political guy’s nimble response to being found out as having an Ashley Madison account.

From the Hill:

Louisiana GOP Executive Director Jason Doré said Thursday that his name was among those released as part of the Ashley Madison data dump earlier this week because he used the site for “opposition research.”

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Doré told that an account had been created using his name and former personal credit card information as part of work done by his law firm, Doré Jeansonne.
He did not reveal on whose behalf he had accessed the site.

“As the state’s leading opposition research firm, our law office routinely searches public records, online databases and websites of all types to provide clients with comprehensive reports,” Doré told the publication via text message. “Our utilization of this site was for standard opposition research. Unfortunately, it ended up being a waste of money and time.” 

“Honey, really, I swear, it was ‘opposition research.'” At the very least, give the guy credit for quick thinking. It may have been bullshit, but man, it was clever bullshit. As a veteran of the oppo wars, I salute Doré for living up to his profession and being fast on his feet. 

Drones Are Gonna Kill Us

It use to be that drones were a problem that the U.S. was inflicting on other countries, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Not anymore.

The Washington Post reports today what the FAA and U.S. airlines don’t want you to know: near miss incidents with “rogue drones” - privately owned small craft entering violating the law by entering restricted airspace or flying above 400 feet - have tripled in 2014, and we’re only halfway through the year. Just this past Sunday alone, there were twelve reported incidents.

Pilots have reported a surge in close calls with drones: nearly 700 incidents so far this year, according to FAA statistics, about triple the number recorded for all of 2014. The agency has acknowledged growing concern about the problem and its inability to do much to tame it.

So far, the FAA has kept basic details of most of this year’s incidents under wraps, declining to release reports that are ordinarily public records and that would spotlight where and when the close calls occurred.
The Washington Post obtained several hundred of the rogue-drone reports from a government official who objected to the FAA’s secrecy. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports obtained by The Post.
The documents show that remote-control planes are penetrating some of the most guarded airspace in the country.

Drones are increasing in sales dramatically, yet there are no real consequences when they are used in ways that can be life-threatening to airline passengers and crew, as well as military aircraft.

Small drones have become hugely popular with consumers who fly them for recreation. Many models come equipped with sophisticated video cameras yet retail for less than $500 and can be flown with little or no training.

The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that hobbyists will buy 700,000 of the aircraft in the United States this year.

An earlier Post article last week catalogued other ways drones have become dangerous.

Rogue drone operators are rapidly becoming a national nuisance, invading sensitive airspace and private property — with the regulators of the nation’s skies largely powerless to stop them.

In recent days, drones have smuggled drugs into an Ohio prison, smashed against a Cincinnati skyscraper, impeded efforts to fight wildfires in California and nearly collided with three airliners over New York City.

Earlier this summer, a runaway two-pound drone struck a woman at a gay pride parade in Seattle, knocking her unconscious. In Albuquerque, a drone buzzed into a crowd at an outdoor festival, injuring a bystander. In Tampa, a drone reportedly stalked a woman outside a downtown bar before crashing into her car.

Until there is better technology to keep drones from being abused like this, they should be banned. Cool video is one thing, but threatening airline safety, interfering with firefighting efforts, and harassing and endangering people is entirely another. It’s clear that it’s going to take a major plane crash or other disaster to get federal action on this problem. Which is both terrifying and emblematic of the haplessness of the federal government right now.