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Progressive Politicking

Democratic candidates in Montgomery County are usually eager for a chance to win an endorsement from Progressive Maryland, a liberal advocacy group with a loyal network of supporters in the county.

But the three Capitol Hill staffers running for the House of Delegates in District 20 -- Aaron Klein, Lucinda Lessley and Heather Mizeur -- are skittish about Progressive Maryland's endorsement process this year, since the group's executive director, Tom Hucker, is also running for the seat representing Takoma Park and parts of Silver Spring.

Earlier this month, some District 20 delegate candidates received a 66-question survey asking them for their positions on dozens of issues. The survey also sought names of their campaign treasurers, whether they accept contributions from political action committees and whether they would be willing to help Progressive Maryland raise money.

Tomorrow is the deadline for returning the survey. But Klein, Mizeur and Lessley say they probably won't respond.

"Who is going to look at this questionnaire? I think there are a host of questions out there," Klein said. "Progressive Maryland as an organization should seriously consider the situation and the potential conflicts."

Mizeur, an aide to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), said she "found some of the questions a little bit strange."

Because Hucker plans to run, Klein, Lessley and Jamin "Jamie" Raskin -- a candidate for state Senate from District 20 -- all said they think Progressive Maryland should refrain from endorsing making endorsements in the District 20 races this year.

"They should sit this race out," said Lessley, an aide to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)

In an interview, Hucker said he plans to take a leave of absence from Progressive Maryland once the campaign heats up. But he said he sees no reason why Progressive Maryland shouldn't make an endorsement.

"All kinds of organizations endorse," Hucker said. "It's more like a confluence than a conflict. I've been lobbying for working families for years, and everyone in this race has other jobs."

But some of Hucker's opponents question whether Progressive Maryland is acting as a front for his campaign.

The suspicion is fueled by the fact that District 20 is the only race in the county where candidates received the survey. And, initially, the survey was sent only to Mizeur and Klein, the two candidates whom Democratic activists consider to be Hucker's strongest competition.

Tim Craig

By Phyllis Jordan  |  March 30, 2006; 6:29 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Well, looks like People's Republik of Maryland takes another step leftward. Yep, first government control of Wal-Mart, then government control of utility rates (Hey gang, I know! Let's limit what utilities can charge us! Who cares what the cost of oil is, they're fatcats, they can afford it. Just don't let 'em build no nukes, refineries or explore any more off the coast! Remember Kalifornia!) Oh yeah, Liberal Progressive Socialists of Maryland really looking out for "working families." Hucker should bring in Barbra to campaign for him. Of course, he'd have to air condition the County. ("Babs" don't like no heat 'n' humaditty.) Maryland, my ex-Maryland!

Ed Trottier
Moneta, VA

Posted by: Ed Trottier | March 30, 2006 9:24 AM | Report abuse

A point on controlling utility rates: With the caps that are in place TODAY, the local utility companies - that is Pepco AND BG&E's parent Constellation Energy Group - are both making substantial profits. It begs the question on why the massive upcoming increases.

Posted by: corbett | March 30, 2006 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Ed, we're better off without you, good riddance. If Virgina didn't have NoVA it would be another broke red state. I digress. To address some of your "points:"

* Making WalMart pay the state or having it provide more healthcare to its employees is only fair since one of WalMart's business pratices is to push the healthcare needs of its employees onto the state in the form of medicare. This law means they will be paying their fair share.

* The energy industry is perpetuating this situation by refusing to build a national grid so people have more choices where to purchase energy from. They are purposefully stifiling compeitition. If they can't play by the rules, they should be regulated.

* If you believe Republicans and business interests are looking out for "working families," you must be trapped in talking point Republicanville. Have you seen the Bush tax cuts or the massive national debt? Who are those benefiting, working families? Or better yet, don't look into it and pretend that good things are happening for the working class while their jobs are vanishing overseas.

Enjoy VA, it's for haters :).

Posted by: Mr. K | March 30, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

After what Hucker did last time, campaigning against the one true Progressive in the race, Linda Schade, and spreading lies about her because he was afriad she might win, I wouldn't vote for him under any condition. They should rename their organization, Sometimes Progressive Maryland.

Posted by: Perry | March 30, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Good point.

Posted by: Progressive | March 30, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Just another example of the shenanigans Hucker has trotted out in a desperate attempt to come out on top in the D20 race. Using Progressive Maryland as a leg-up in this race is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to the stuff he's has pulled over the last few months. He's a big skeeze, and clearly lacks the ethics and responsibility to hold public office.

Let's elect a real progressive come September.

Posted by: high school dem | March 30, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

We all knew Hucker was shady the second he walked into our Young Dems meeting. Glad to see the trend is catching on. Let's make sure he doesn't have the chance to pull any more of this crap next year in office. Holler at Klein, Mizeur, and Raskin!

Posted by: agreed | March 30, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm looking for Tom Hucker's ethics. If found, please call 1800 TOM-IS-FAKE...

I met Tom Hucker briefly a few weeks ago. After exchanging a few words with him, I realized that he had little to offer compared to the other candidates that are running this fall.

Posted by: Young Democrat | March 30, 2006 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Tom Hucker is one of the most dedicated and effective progressive community organizers I have ever met. Over the past 10 years, Tom has turned what was once a community club, Progressive Montgomery, into an incredible, powerful organization - Progressive Maryland.

High school dem:
What shenanigans are you talking about? Plenty of community organizations endorse field and/or endorse their own candidates or ones they are affiliated. In the recent appointment of a D18 legislator by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee last October, several community organizations openly supported and endorsed candidates who had worked for them. Equality Maryland, MD's awesome gay-rights lobby, and the MD Sierra Club wrote letters of support endorsing Jeff Waldstreicher. Waldstreicher had worked extensively for each organization for years. MCGEO, the MC gov't employees union, endorsed Adam Luecking. Were the organizations violating any ethical codes? Of course not! They were participating in the political process in the simplest, most democratic way: supporting the candidate that they know will defend their interests. Should Progressive Maryland, unlike Equality MD, Sierra Club, and MCGEO, be chastised for supporting Hucker? No! Progressive Maryland works hard for MD's working families. So does Hucker. They should be applauded for taking the fight a step further and beginning to run their own candidates.
Plus, if you think Progressive MD should sit this one out, shouldn't the same hold true for Mizeur, Klein and Lessley? Kerry, Mizeur's longtime employer - endorsed her. Sarbanes, Klein's boss, endorsed him, and I'm sure Cummings will endorse Lessley. Should they sit this one out? No, they too have a right to weigh in on this race, just like you and me.

What stuff has he pulled in the past months. Oh right - he was responsible for the veto overrides of Ehrlich's bills that raised MD's minimum wage and increased access to healthcare. What a skeeze!

Every time I meet Hucker and hear of the wonderful work he is doing I'm completely impressed. Ethics and responsibility are probably the two words I'd use to describe him if I was asked - why do you think he lacks these?

I'm glad you came to our (Blair) Young Dems meeting when Hucker spoke, but how did he possibly come off as shady? Hucker, Mizeur and Klein have all spoken to us at Young Dems, and frankly, they were all terrific.

Tom's got plenty to offer D20, and Maryland. If he's not a real progressive, I don't know who is.

We've got a ton of great candidates in D20, and the great thing about democracy, as Terry Lierman likes to say, is that the best ones will win. So let's get a real debate going - and stop posting ridiculous comments on this blog.

Posted by: YOUNG DEM | March 30, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

D20, and working people all around Maryland, would be fortunate to have Tom Hucker in the legislature. Under Tom's leadership, Progressive Maryland is leading the fight for campaign finance reform. Progressive Maryland is the reason that Maryland's minimum wage was just increased. Progressive Maryland played a key role in closing corporate tax loopholes.

None of these fights have lined Tom's pockets with money. He does this stuff because he believes in justice.

It's easy to anonymously post an unwarranted attack. But I know Tom. If I was picking someone to fight for working people in my legislature, he'd be the guy.

Posted by: Steve Hill | March 30, 2006 8:29 PM | Report abuse

YOUNG DEM - The issue here is not that Progressive Maryland is considering endorsing Hucker (OK, let's be real, it's going to happen). The issue is how it's being done. The fact that Lessely didn't even receive a survey until she asked for one, or that no districts outside of 20 were included in the questionaire is not kosher.

I'm not questioning Tom's work on Progressive Maryland. I'm questioning his approach to this campaign and the adjustments he's going to need to make to become an effective candidate.

And of course Progressive Maryland is going to shower Hucker with compliments, he's their executive director.

Posted by: misunderstood | March 30, 2006 8:42 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Lessley didn't even get a survey means Progressive Maryland wasn't considering endorsing her. That's their decision to make - completely legitimate. The fact that they did distribute surveys to the candidates shows that PM's Board of Directors is not just handing the endorsement to Hucker, they are giving all of the major candidates in the race a chance to fill out the survey.

What's wrong with Hucker's approach to this campaign? Why isn't he an effective candidate now? All of your accusations are esoteric, and very unfounded.

Also, I'm not with Progressive Maryland.

Posted by: YOUNG DEM | March 30, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Progressive Maryland is eating their own and Bob Erhlich and Michael Steele are loving every minute of it. If you want Ehrlich to be reelected, send $25 to Progressive Maryland, they'll make sure to use it against Democrats.

Posted by: RegressiveMaryland | March 31, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I think the real point to be made here is that Lucinda Lessley didn't get a copy of the survey until after she requested it. Nobody here is discouraging Hucker from getting in the race. Love or hate him, Hucker's in it. What I have a problem with is, as a voter, seeing him use Progressive Maryland to further his candidacy. The most transparent, ethical thing to do would be to keep Progressive MD out of a race where its Executive director is seeking a seat. Its not complicated, just the right thing to do.

Posted by: the real issue | March 31, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

What's wrong with Progressive Maryland endorsing their Executive Director? I see no problem with that.

Tom's a great candidate and I think the Progressive Maryland board should most definitely endorse him. He and Sean (the Deputy Director) live and breathe progressive politics. They've basically dedicated their waking lives to progressive political organizing as opposed to kissing up to the centrist halls of incumbent authority (no disrespect to the Capital Hill staffers).

Without their tireless work (and the work of all the canvassers), Progressive Maryland (a relatively new advocacy group, 5 years old, formerly Progressive Montgomery) would not have become the political powerhouse it is today (minimum wage increase, walmart bill, closing corporate tax loopholes, living wage bill that passed but was vetoed).

I think the real debate is whether Tom would be more useful to the progressive movement as a Maryland Delegate or as the Director of Progressive Maryland, but that's mainly his choice to make.

Posted by: Former Canvasser for Progressive Maryland | March 31, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, Progressive Maryland needs to sit this out. This is ridiculous, why are we even debating it?

Progressive Maryland is being sketchy, and so is Tom. End of story.

Posted by: ummm | April 1, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Nothing sketchy about endorsing the best candidate. It'd be "sketchy" for them not to. This isn't about being nice to the other candidates. It's about putting the best people in office so that working people can win things like affordable education, healthcare, and decent wages. People's lives and livelihoods are at stake.

If you disagree with their endorsement, don't vote for whoever they endorse.

Posted by: Former Canvasser for Progressive Maryland | April 1, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I think Hucker would be doing himself a favor if Progressive Maryland DIDN'T endorse in District 20. Getting the endorsement isn't going to help him; his opponents will just use it as an issue to criticize him. And who is going to be persuaded to vote for him by the endorsement? That's the whole point of it all, anyhow. We can argue all day about what is the "right thing"; seems to me not having the endorsement is the "smart thing"

Posted by: Pepe le Moco | April 1, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone even bothered to look at Progressive Maryland's "strange" questions? Its easy, they're on its website. It reads to me just like any other grassroots organization's endorsement form. In fact, its better because they ask candidates not just what policies they will support, but how they will work to build the progressive movement in the state. Who else does that?

Who is going to see it? Well, everyone. That's what a good political organization does - asks candidates questions and puts their answers out there for people to see. Again, see their website.

This entire issues stinks to me of the other candidates trying to undercut Tom Hucker's candidacy before it has even begun. Tom Hucker and Progressive Maryland have fought tirelessly for working people in the state of Maryland for almost a decade now. To question Tom Hucker's motivations or credibility as an advocate for progressive politics in the state is not just laughable, its abhorrent!

Klein, Lessley and Mizeur are the ones who have shown their true colors here! Trying to paint an honest organization and an honest man as doing something that is somehow unethical is beyond belief!

Seems to me that they are scared of Tom Hucker. They should be. He's the one to beat!

Posted by: EEINNA | April 3, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Tom Hucker will make a great state legislator. Anyone who has worked with him knows that. I and lots of other people have found Tom to be a good, smart advocate.

There is no arguing with his and Progressive Maryland's record of success.

Posted by: Joe in Houston TX | April 3, 2006 11:58 PM | Report abuse

This morning the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill that would set up a voluntary system of public financing for state legislative candidates, an historic step which would not have been possible without Tom Hucker and Progressive Maryland making the case the our current campaign finance system concentrates great power in the hands of a few corporate donors. And if the bill goes no further in the legislature this year, it is because there aren't enough Tom Hucker's in the General Assembly.

Posted by: James Browning | April 4, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh, yes this is why the right always wins. Because we on the left spend all of our time scratching each others eyes out instead of focusing on the real enemies of working families. It is true that much is at stake, perhaps the focus should be on that.

Posted by: perspective please | April 4, 2006 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Hi all:

Nothing like a good debate. I'm the Political Director of Progressive Maryland and would like to just weigh in on one false statement that has been repeated in Tim Craig's article and in this blog.

The falsehood is that Lucinda Lessley was not sent a questionnaire. All known candidates (including some who have filed and some who haven't) were sent a common e-mail inviting them to fill out the PM questionnaire. We have the original e-mail and Lucinda's correct e-mail address is in the field along with others. We have received no "bounce" notice.

It is certainly possible that her isp or the spam settings on her computer blocked the message. It is possible she simply did not read her e-mail. In any event, when she contacted our office that she had not received an e-mail invite to fill out the questionnaire, we promptly sent her another.

I personally think that that each of those candidates mentioned in the Post article needs to examine the methods by which they criticize others. Not one picked up the phone to call and inquire about the facts, reasons, process, safeguards or any other concerns before going to the Washington Post.

If they were truly concerned, I believe they would have contacted Progressive Maryland to at least have a discussion. Unfortunately, they did not and because of this, falsehoods have been repeated over and over.

The interview and endorsement processes of an organization always reveal things about candidates that would not otherwise be known. Even though these candidates have elected not to fill out Progressive Maryland questionnaires, we all now know more about them.

Posted by: Craig Simpson | April 5, 2006 6:58 AM | Report abuse

I just happened upon this blog. Tim Craig was not wrong. It is true that not all known candidates, even those who haden't filed yet, had gotten a questionnaire. I have gone to all of the debates and made no secret that I am running. I never got anything in my Email or in the regular mail from Progressive Maryland. If they didn't know my Email, they could have called me on the telephone and asked. Tom found my telephone number last year when I told him that I would probably run. Also the deadline to file is July 3. It seems pretty underhanded that a group would send out questions to candidates months before the deadline to file as a candidate.

Diane Nixon
Candidate for Maryland House of Delegates
District 20

Posted by: Diane Nixon | July 2, 2006 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Is Jamie Raskin in this race? He seems like a really good candidate to me.

Posted by: Peter | August 23, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Back in the 1980s, when I was a full time organizer, I Tom Hucker...when he had hair!

He has worked full time for progressive nonprofits for almost 20 years.

He will be an AWESOME delegate.

Dave West
Silver Spring

Posted by: Mr.West | August 25, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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