Unlike the 2016 presidential race, where it seems that a dozen people have announced their intent to run, it’s been incredibly quiet in Rockville. The elections for Rockville City Council are coming up on November 3, 2015–that’s five months away–and usually by this time several people have announced their interest. Brigitta Mullican, president of Rockville Sister City, announced in February she is running for a council seat and former city councilman Mark Pierzchala stated in March he is not running, otherwise, nothing is certain. The rumored candidates at this time are:
- Beryl Feinberg (on council)
- Richard Gottfried (president of Twinbrook Citizens Association)
- Brigitta Millican (confirmed)
- Virginia Onley (on council)
- Julie Palakovich Carr (on council)
- Zina Pizano
No word on council members Tom Moore or Bridget Newton, although as incumbents, they have a significant advantage over newcomers and don’t need to announce right away. Summer is typically very quiet, but the election season will pick up in mid-August as candidates form their teams and begin raising money in anticipation of the September 4 deadline for getting on the ballot. This election will be more important than usual because the terms expand from two to four years. We’ll want to have an especially good council because we’ll be living with them for twice as long.
If you’re interested in running for office, pick up your candidate information election packet soon. You’ll have to submit signatures from 100 Rockville residents who are registered voters along with appointing a treasurer and filing a financial disclosure form. The process takes longer than you expect, especially to get those signatures. The most efficient way is to obtain the current list of registered voters from the City Clerk’s office or the County Board of Elections and only go to the homes of registered voters. At this point, you don’t need to ask for their support or an endorsement–you just want their signature to get on the ballot and offer voters a choice. Do not gather signatures at Metro, grocery stores, or city events. You’re wasting your time because many won’t be registered voters or don’t live in the City of Rockville, and their signatures will be disqualified. And just in case, get an extra ten signatures to be sure you have some wiggle room (I’ve had signatures tossed because a person’s married name was different from their registered name–double-check to be sure names match and they’re legible).
If you stayed up until 11:00 pm last night to watch the election returns for Rockville, you know that Bridget Newton was elected Mayor and Julie Palakovich Carr, Virginia Onley, Tom Moore, and Beryl L. Feinberg were elected to City Council. Congratulations to each of them and I wish them all much success and wisdom as they lead Rockville during the next two years.
Although Mark Pierzchala was not elected Mayor, he created Team Rockville, “to ensure that voters would have diverse choices for their next Mayor and Council” and that Rockville would have “elected officials with experience and knowledge about the issues facing the City.” Most importantly, it would “lead the City in a transparent, respectful, and inclusive manner.” With four Team Rockville candidates elected, these values will be carried into the Council chambers and hopefully create a less divisive and argumentative atmosphere than we’ve had under Phyllis Marcuccio.
So where does that leave Bridget Newton, our new Mayor? Continue reading →
Voting started at 7 am this cold fall morning in Rockville and I had a chance to visit several polling places to see how things are going. So far this morning, King Farm, Swim Center, and Senior Center have voters coming in at 1-2 persons per minute, which is busy for a polling place. Campaign volunteers were ready and eager to advise incoming voters, and volunteers for Team Rockville are outnumbering those for the “West End Slate.” The Swim Center traditionally has the highest turnout and candidates Tom Moore, Virginia Only, Julie Palakovich Carr, and Don Hadley were out front greeting voters (and swimmers) along with Delegate Luis Simmons, who will announce his run for State Senate in a couple weeks. At Twinbrook, Newton’s supporters were campaigning within the polling place and the “West End Slate” supporters at Elwood Smith are encouraging “bullet voting” while at King Farm they are recommending two write-in candidates. Otherwise, nothing unexpected is happening but the next big wave of voters arrives after 5 pm.
By now, readers of my blog are well aware that I’m endorsing Continue reading →
The second campaign finance reports for the Rockville Mayor and Council elections for the period October 1-27, 2013 were recently submitted and they reveal that Zip Code 20850 (includes Fallsgrove, West End, New Mark Commons, East Rockville, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, King Farm) still dominates the contributions and even increased their giving by 5 percent compared to September. The other Rockville Zip Codes fell far in the distance at 10 percent for 20854 (Horizon Hill, Fallsmead, Potomac Woods); 6 percent for 20851 (Twinbrook); and 5 percent for 20852 (Hungerford, Montrose, North Farm). For the entire election season, 20850 is tops at 63 percent, contributions outside the city come in at 21 percent, and the other three Zips stand at about 5 percent. Again, that roughly mimics the voting records for those regions and perhaps how much they Continue reading →
In an effort to discourage the shenanigans that are occurring in the current Mayor and Council election, I’ve filed an official complaint with the City’s Board of Supervisors of Elections (BOSE) this week. Last weekend, a couple people were distributing a flyer door-to-door in the King Farm neighborhood that called for the election of Bridget Newton, Don Hadley, and Claire Marcuccio Whitaker to the Rockville Mayor and Council for various reasons. That’s not a problem except it was anonymous, a tactic I find cowardly because the source is secret and isn’t accountable for their statements, but in Rockville, it’s also illegal. The City Code states that, “Every person who publishes or distributes or causes to be published or distributed any pamphlet, circular, card … relating to or concerning any candidate … shall include the name and address of the person, treasurer, or campaign committee responsible for the literature.” That’s why you always see Continue reading →
The first campaign finance reports for the Rockville Mayor and Council elections for the period ending September30, 2013 were recently submitted and they reveal that Zip Code 20850 (includes Fallsgrove, West End, New Mark Commons, East Rockville, Lincoln Park, College Gardens, King Farm) provides more than 60 percent of the funds, with other Rockville Zip Codes 20851 (Twinbrook), 20852 (Hungerford, Montrose, North Farm), and 20854 (Horizon Hill, Fallsmead, Potomac Woods) falling far in the distance with an average of 5 percent. That roughly mimics the voting records for those regions and perhaps how much they feel engaged with the larger Rockville community. For individual campaigns, the breakdown varies considerably and can signal how much a candidate has engaged with or is subject to influence by a particular neighborhood.
New candidates often have to rely on support from themselves, family, or friends and that’s the pattern seen with Hadley, Palakovich Carr, and Whittaker. Feinberg, on the other hand, has been able to obtain more than 95 percent of her supporters within Rockville, an impressive achievement for an experienced candidate and extraordinary for a newcomer. The mayoral candidates of Newton and Pierzchala, both current councilmembers, are relying heavily on residents within 20850 and from outsiders–donors outside of Rockville exceed 25 percent for both candidates. Feinberg and Palakovich Carr have gathered the broadest representation of supporters across Rockville’s four zip codes.
The number of donors seems to fall in three groups. Newtown and Pierzchala lead with about 80 supporters each, Feinberg and Palakovich Carr in the second batch with about Continue reading →
President Barack Obama visited Rockville today, the latest in a series of US Presidents who have visited our fair city. Obama gave a speech regarding the federal government shutdown at M. Luis Construction at 14811 Southlawn Lane (next to Rockville Fuel and Feed, so technically it’s just outside). This site was selected because it’s a woman and minority owned business affected by the shutdown. Attendance was by invitation only, which included plenty of local elected officials, such as State Senator Jennie Forehand, County Executive Ike Leggett, County Councilmember Hans Riemer, and City Councilmembers Mark Pierzchala, Bridget Newton, and Tom Moore (who provided the photos–thanks!).
The election season is upon us and with it come a series of Forums hosted by various community groups around the city. Voters are welcome to attend any of the Forums, as well as meet the candidates and pick up their literature. Each Forum is different so attending one doesn’t mean you’ve seen them all. The hosting community groups are independent and nonpartisan, do not endorse candidates, choose the moderator and format, and determine the questions.
Rockville Channel 11, the City’s cable television station, will air three of the Forums live in October on cable on Rockville Channel 11 or online at www.rockvillemd.gov/rockville11. They will also make them available on the City’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/cityofrockville.
- Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. – Rockville Community Coalition at the Social Hall at Civic Center Park, 603 Edmonston Dr. (televised by Rockville Channel 11)
- Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m. – King Farm at the Saddle Ridge Community Center
- Thursday, Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. – Twinbrook Citizens Association at Twinbrook Community Recreation Center, 12920 Twinbrook Pkwy. (televised by Rockville Channel 11)
- Tuesday, Oct. 15 – West End Citizens Association, time and location tbd.
- Thursday, Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. – Chamber of Commerce at Montgomery County Media, 7548 Standish Place. Mayoral debate at 6 p.m.; Council debate at 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m. – League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, Maryland at Thomas Farm Community Recreation Center, 700 Fallsgrove Dr. (televised by Rockville Channel 11)
- Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 1:00 p.m. – Senior Forum at the Senior Center in the Woodley Gardens neighborhood.
This is the best information I have available and is subject to change. Please confirm with the hosting organization for last minute changes (the televised Forums are confirmed because of the equipment required; the others are less certain). If you are aware of changes or corrections, you’re welcome to post them in the comments below.
City of Rockville elections are held every two years, at which time the mayor and four council seats are up for election. There are two candidates running for Mayor and six candidates running for four Council seats. The November 5 ballot will also include three advisory questions on changes to the election cycle, council seats, and council terms.
Candidates for Mayor:
- Bridget Newton
- Mark Pierzchala
Candidates for Council:
- Beryl L. Feinberg
- Don Hadley
- Tom Moore
- Virginia Onley
- Julie Palakovich Carr
- Claire Marcuccio Whitaker
Although the signatures still need to be certified, Claire Whitaker and Don Hadley submitted their petitions for candidacy for Rockville City Council by the filing deadline last Friday, September 6. Let’s assume their petitions are certified, the ballot on November 5 would look like:
- Bridget Newton
- Mark Pierzchala
- Beryl L. Feinberg
- Don Hadley
- Tom Moore
- Virginia Onley
- Julie Palakovich Carr
- Claire Whitaker
That’s eight candidates, which is one or two persons fewer than previous years (there were 11 candidates on the ballot in 2011, although one withdrew before the election but his name remained). Given how late in the game the last two candidates entered the race, it does cause me to pause whether the City Council should be increased from 5 to 7 persons, a question that also comes on November’s ballot.
I’ll be exploring various aspects of the election in the next two months, but one that’s quite obvious is that four of the eight candidates are from the West End neighborhood, indeed two live so close to each other they could hit each other’s homes with a baseball. The map shows the location of each candidate’s homes (click the map to enlarge: mayoral candidates in blue, council candidates in red). It also means that four of the five seats on the City Council could be captured by the West End, which has been one of the most politically vocal and active neighborhoods in Rockville. But it’s also been one of the city’s most divided neighborhoods with strong feelings on both sides (perhaps you heard about the rancor at their last election), so it’s unclear how these West End candidates represent this neighborhood.
After Mark Pierzchala, Tom Moore, Virginia Onley, Julie Palakovich Carr, and Beryl Feinberg announced in March their intentions to run as a slate (Team Rockville) for Rockville’s City Council, it’s been exceedingly quiet. Bridget Newton’s announcement last month raised the temperatures a bit, but not as much as I hoped. Phyllis Marcuccio and John Hall gave her mild endorsements and she wasn’t able to assemble a full slate to compete. Nevertheless, with Marcuccio’s departure as Mayor, the absence of an incumbent will make the contest between the two Council members for the Mayor’s seat much more interesting.
Strangely, the four Council seats are unopposed with Moore, Onley, Palakovich Carr, and Feinberg as the only candidates (four seats, four candidates). This Friday, September 6 is the last day for residents to submit their petitions for candidacy so that situation could easily change. I’ve heard that Richard Gottfried (a previous candidate), Claire Whitaker (Phyllis Marcuccio’s sister), and Don Hadley (planning commissioner) are circulating petitions, so perhaps we will once again have the usual 9 to 11 candidates on the ballot.
No matter who runs, I hope it’s a much cleaner, issue-focused, and transparent election than the last time. The campaign between Phyllis Marcuccio and Piotr Gajewski was both heated and close, which unfortunately brought out poor decisions and bad behavior from both camps. The City’s Board of Supervisors of Elections (BSE) spent more than a year after the election reviewing complaints, determining penalties, patching holes in the financial report forms, figuring out the voter rolls, and revising the election code. Their recommendations, though, weren’t heard by Mayor and Council until February 11, 2013–just six months ago and nearly 22 months after the election. Ugh. Lots of hard feelings remain in the community, and I am concerned that that the shenanigans will return. I hope not. The 2011 campaign left an especially bad taste and I don’t want to experience it again. I witnessed illegal and unethical behavior during that campaign and went through the official process of filing a complaint with the BSE, but it was never answered despite repeated requests. This year I won’t wait for the BSE (or Patch, Gazette, or Sentinel) and plan to throw a flag and raise an eyebrow more publicly to stop underhandedness and bad behavior in its tracks. So I’ll start with some transparency right from the start: I am supporting Team Rockville and working closely with Mark Pierzchala on his campaign for Mayor. Of course, that will bias my opinions but everyone has biases–at least you know what mine are from the start. And if you have opinions or thoughts, you’re welcome to share them in the comments (I won’t edit or censor them unless they really get out of hand). The more people talk about the issues facing the community, the better it will become.
Just a reminder, Election Day is Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Put it on your calendar (me too! I accidentally wrote November 6).