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GOP Candidates in MoCo Boycott Election Debate

Republican candidates competing in this month's special election for Montgomery County Council could agree on one thing last night. All three objected to the format of a debate held at Kennedy High School and decided to walk out before it started.

Organizers from the Sierra Club and Action Committee for Transit (ACT) had planned two separate debates, dividing the candidates by party. Only a handful of Republicans showed up to watch their candidates, while more than 50 arrived to fill the cafeteria for the Democrats.

The dispute played out in the high school hallway, with the Republicans angrily demanding to be included in the larger debate. Republican Lou August, a non-profit executive, said it was "inherently unfair" to prevent the GOP candidates from getting their message out to a wider audience. His Republican rivals - Robin Ficker and Andrew Padula - agreed.

Ben Ross of ACT, who helped organize the event, told them there was no point in having candidates debate across party lines when they would not be running against each other in the April 21 primary contests. He also said organizers wanted to encourage a "real exchange of views" that would have been difficult with a total of 9 candidates - six Democrats and three Republicans.


Republicans Lou August, Andrew Padula and Robin Ficker shake on it.

By Ann Marimow  |  April 1, 2009; 11:21 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow , Montgomery County  
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Imagine, if the entire United States Senate was Republican, or, if every United States Senator was a Democat. It would be disatrous for the county.

That's what we have in Montgomery County. One party rule like they have in Cuba.

Outnumbered 2-1, the only way a Republican can win is with cross-over votes.

This is how the game is played. Shut Republicans out of bipartisan forums before the primary, so Republicans can't appeal for cross-over votes. Nor can they attack the other side. After the primary, there are NO forums or debates so the democratic candidate can moon walk to victory based on the party machine.

What's shocking. . .is that not 1 Democratic candidate stood up for what's right, and said, WAIT. Let them speak! We are not afraid of their ideas. Shame on the Democratic candidates, quiet as mouses, and not standing up for Democracy!

The best solutions are always a concensus of opinion arrived at by the back-and-forth of opposing ideologies. Often, the only chance Republicans have to influence the debate, is during the campaign season. We're still 33% of the population.

Democrat candidates, demonstated no strenght of character and are clearly guided by self-interest, and not standing up for the integrity of the election process.

Mark D. Fennel
Republican Nominee for the District #4 Council Seat in 2006 and the 2008 Special Election. Since moved to Damascus

Posted by: mfennel1 | April 1, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"That's what we have in Montgomery County. One party rule like they have in Cuba."

Gee, if this was true, Mark is going off to the re-education camp.
Have fun.

Posted by: edlharris | April 1, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Well. . .let's see here Ed.

Eight out of eight current Council Members are Democrats.

The County Executive is a Democrat.

All the Montgomery County State Representatives are Democrats.

All the Montgomery County State Senators are Democrats.

Please do. . .give me a name or a position, that's filled by a Republican, where party affiliation is required.


Posted by: mfennel1 | April 1, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Ann, you spun this one incorrectly. We were invited to "a forum," a month ago. There was a phone call the day before saying the forum would be segregated by party, unlike the other forums at Channel 21 and Paint Branch. It looks like the Democratic candidates feel they aren't looking so good by comparison, given their tax-increasing history. So they want to deprive the voters of an informed choice.


What are Mr. Kramer and Ms. Navarro afraid of? Their own leadership against Question B on property tax relief which PASSED in District 4?

There is ideological unanimity on the council now. There shouldn't be the same in the campaign too. We already have 8 council members who have voted to exceed the charter property tax limit by 400% We don't need a 9th to give us a big property tax increase in 2010 so the council can have money to spread around like Christmas goodies. One vote can now make a difference. I plan to vote against the 2010 property tax increase unless there is an emergency like Lake Needwood Dam bursting.

I also support the creation of a permanent council committee on Waste and Duplication and giving first-time homeowners a property tax credit to get our economy moving again.

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | April 1, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Mark - Too bad you couldn't have a "I paid for that microphone" moment. Why don't you pay for the microphone and then set up your own rules? The organizations that sponsored the debate are not government entities or even affiliated with the Democratic Party. Get another organization to sponsor the debate. There is room - small but there - for the right Republican to win in MoCo. Howie Denis is the most recent. Newt Steers, Jim Gleason, Gil Gude also come to mind. Wasn't Robin Ficker once in the HoD? Meanwhile, you choose to snooze and lose.

Posted by: ajlerner1 | April 1, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Mark, your position and that of the Republicans is more sour grapes. If Republican ideas were popular then perhaps more than 5 people would have shown up. You truly have some nerve to complain that the only way for Republicans to get elected in Montgomery County is for cross over voters and then you are shocked that Democrats won't play ball. I'm sure Republicans with their history of integrity and sense of fair play would have graciously agreed to let the Democrats influence their voters. Instead of complaining how unfair it is, why not find a way to establish additional forums and opportunities to speak to the public.

Posted by: dkinmd | April 1, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. ajlerner,

Yes, Robin was once a Democrat, he's also been registered as an Independent. I always vote a split-ticket. I support Robin.

I assume when you referred to the "right Republican," you didn't mean conservative, but a registered republican, who is really on the Democrat side (ha, ha)

Your post is not overly unreasonable; however, you stated the sponsoring organizations are affiliated with the Democratic Party. Seems like you havn't worked in Washington, D.C. for 14 years like I have. MOST "non-profit" organizations have clear partisan leanings & they game the system.

Noone is snoozing here, my friend. I just hope voters take a hard look at all the candidates and think critically.

For example, when I ran, I was a populist candidate & slow growth, despite the "R" next to my name.


Posted by: mfennel1 | April 1, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm flattered by all you guys addressing me. And I'm not even running. I must have really hit a nerve with "progressive" sensibilites.

Obviously, my argument makes sense, or why so many counter arguments?

You state, "Democrats won't play ball." Hey, I thought this forum was sponsored by non-partisan organizations (ha, ha, ha)

Yes, I must have hit a nerve.

No sour grapes. Good suggestions, I will look to sponsor additional forums.
However, seperating the forums was a last minute curve ball thrown to participants and smacks of political pressure.

Now, sorry folks, need to get back to my day job.


Posted by: mfennel1 | April 1, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

One party rule certainly isn't the desired outcome in a democracy, but then you have to also realize that it IS a democracy and that the voters of Montgomery county have chosen to be represented by Democrats.

Considering Montgomery County is consistently rated as one of the best places to live, as one of the wealthiest counties, as having one of the top public school systems in the nation, I find it hard to argue with the choices the voters have made.

As a relatively new resident of District 4 (but a life-long Marylander and local news junkie), I find this all quite interesting.

Frankly, the Republicans running aren't doing themselves any favors by walking out on occasions to talk to voters. Even if the room emptied out before they had their opportunity, the Gazette (which I read religiously every week) would have covered the event. Instead of reading about the varying positions these candidates have, I'll be reading about a temper tantrum by the Republicans and the details of the positions of the Democrats. I don't think anyone needs a political analyst to see which will come off better to voters.

Posted by: | April 1, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I assume when you referred to the "right Republican," you didn't mean conservative, but a registered republican, who is really on the Democrat side (ha, ha)

No the joke is on you my Mark, you honestly think that the Citizens of Montgomery County want So-Called CONSERVATISM Whatever that means by the way. Montgomery County Residents are too smart to fall your Politics unless you get some sensible Ideas you will not win there. But you can always move South with the Rednecks, they love your wacky ,Contradictory Ideas.

Posted by: aunkmaa1 | April 1, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Mr Fennel, All,

I was as surprised as any of the Republicans and the Green, to find that there were only six places set at the table.

After Audubon Naturalist went so far as to have all candidates present, as did the Paint Branch HS PTSA, I suppose I was somewhat shocked to see that this was a segregated "do".

I can't speak for any of the other candidates, but you will note that I'm all over the local blogspace complaining about this. I didn't say anything at the time because I was a guest, not an organizer.

Frankly I welcome the cross-pollination, as it were, when all parties are debating in front of all voters.

That being said, I suspect it will be very interesting at tonight's debate sponsored by the Young Democrats. That's one that I would expect to be Democrats-Only.

Posted by: thardman | April 1, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm listening to the complaints about this, and I have to agree with an earlier poster: it does sound like sour grapes.

Consider this: Would it have been smart to have had John McCain, once he pretty much wrapped up the nomination, to join in at an extra podium during the ongoing Democratic debates? Makes little sense, doesn't it?

The same goes for this situation. There are primaries this month, followed by the special election in May. It makes more sense for the various general election candidates to debate each other after they've wrapped up their party nominations, does it?

So what am I missing?

Posted by: | April 1, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that the Democrats told their flunkie Ben Ross to change the rules because they realize they don't enjoy debating Robin Ficker. Now they are trying to dress up Ben Kramer to look like Robin, but it is not a fit. Kramer is too wishy-washy. I'm so glad that I voted for the Ficker amendment with my neighbors.

Posted by: littleaudrey | April 1, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

More business as usual in the communist county of montgomery. CUT SPENDING AND STOP RAISING MY TAXES!

Posted by: shrshot | April 1, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

scorbet1976: What you're missing is that the marketplace of ideas gets really inbred without fresh ideas being brought in from both sides.

For too long, Montgomery politics have been a scene where the Democrats and Republicans and the Independents don't even know what the other is thinking, or at least the Democrats haven't been getting any exposure to ideas from outside the party machine. A real Democracy can't continue to function that way, any more than you can expect a lot of healthy offspring to result from generations of inbreeding.

Frankly, if I hear a good idea from a Republican, I'll adopt it if it's better than any of my own, or anything I've heard from any Democrats. For example, the Ficker Amendment was an excellent idea and most voters agreed and it is now law.

For example, Mr Padula is outspoken against Gangs, even moreso than myself, as I didn't know that was even possible. All of the voters, from both parties, should know that there is distaste and outrage at gangsters and street criminals on both sides of the aisle. It's not just a Democrat or Republican issue. It affects everyone, so everyone should have an opportunity to hear that there are people who think we need more dedicated gang officers and who know that the type, size, and funding of our current "programs" are simply inadequate to the task.

Oh, BTW, I am a candidate:

Posted by: thardman | April 1, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, Tom, but I don't buy the argument that because all council members are Democrats that it leads to a lack of ideas. The Democratic Party in Montgomery County has a breadth of views that is certainly not homogenous. Considering your statement about ideas of candidates of other parties and your status as a Democratic candidate, I’m at something of a loss because of this contradiction. Maybe you’re suggesting you’re a different kind of Democrat? And if that is the case, what does it say about the potential working relationship you are angling for with your future council peers?

I do want to address what appears to be what you’ve adopted as your signature issue: gangs. With the Wheaton Westfield a healthy 15 minute walk from my home and, as I’ve said a reader of the Gazette, I’m well aware of the gang activity in our District. But your suggestion that you’re open to adopting good ideas from Republicans or whomever, and using this as the issue to show such a position, you re-enforce the perception that Republicans (because that is where you say the idea comes from) are tougher on crime than Democrats. It sounds as though you’re suggesting that the Democrats running or the Democrats on the council aren’t dedicated to this issue. I find that pretty hard to believe.

Posted by: | April 1, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse


Ah, Gangs isn't my signature issue, it's one facet of my whole "quality of life in District 4" issue. There's plenty of annoyances over here that aren't specifically and only Gangs. But that's a huge problem that has been left to fester, as it were, like a wound that's given only a little antibiotic treatment. All that happens is that the original infection develops resistance and becomes MRSA or "flesh eating strep". Or gangrene leading to amputation, if you don't catch it soon enough. But I digress.

Look, I never said that because the County Council was all Democrats that somehow they had acquired Poverty of Thought. Re-read and you'll see that I suggested that if everyone was thinking only what the Party Machine (MoCo Edition) hands out, _that_ would lead to Poverty of Thought.

There is in fact a huge spread of thought within the Democrat Party, and in fact quite a lot of Republicans are not Scripture-thumping Shower Nuts secretly hoarding ammunition and waiting for the End Times to descend.

And if there's such a huge spread of thought within the Democrats, then surely the County Council could -- and in fact _should_ -- welcome dissent. Otherwise it's not a collection of individuals, but a sort of giant rubber stamp walking around on 18 legs. We here in Montgomery do not need a County Council that is effectively indistinguishable from a slightly different model of the Stepford Wives. (If you don't get that reference I don't know where you've been hiding.)

Dissent is essential.


Posted by: thardman | April 1, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse


Let me give you a strange little clue. Since he came of age to vote while working for the Civil Conservation Corp and being darned happy to have that much work, my Dad has been a staunch Democrat. But that didn't stop him from joining the Navy as fast as he could after Pearl Harbor. And the fact that he was a Democrat didn't keep him from reviling Communism, The most important lesson I learned from him, and I assure you when it came to patriotism and respect for America I learned all I know mostly from him, was that Democracy isn't perfect and that it thrives on "loyal opposition" and free expression from all voices of dissent. A rubberstamp isn't dissent. It's unhealthy for Democracy.

But to continue: My dad was what you call a Conservative Democrat. He was not at all opposed to being Progressive, as the Roosevelt camp defined Progressive. He was all for it. Things like the CCC and the agricultural programs that fought the Dust Bowl, and the pro-union laws enacted in the early days of Roosevelt's first time, those were incredibly Progressive and they personally and directly benefited my dad and millions more. Yet that was Progressive, but by today's standards, hardly Liberal.

So, in a different way in a different age, I intend to be a Conservative Democrat, in the terms used by the Democrat apparat. But in terms of the national spectrum of politics, I'm going to be a Progressive Centrist, much like Bill Clinton or President Obama. I'll be reaching across the aisle, as they say, not to the Shower Nuts, but to the sensible businessmen who want their customers to have lower taxes so they can afford to buy more products or services.


Posted by: thardman | April 1, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

continued and finishing...

I intend to be very original, and innovative as possible, but I am also going to think through to the consequences of whatever I support, and I'll be doing my best to support things that are small, immediate, effective, and inexpensive, rather than adopting grand and grandiose visions that are fraught with massive peril for unintended consequences, and lock us into paying for decades for programs that start breaking down in five years. Etc etc.

I'm hardly a right-winger. But I won't dismiss right-wingers out of hand. I'm open. Flexible. I believe that from the conflict of thesis and antithesis comes synthesis, and you can have a change of magnitude become a change of kind. If we can make that work, I'm all for it, but frankly I intend to discuss things to death before I make any decisions, because I want things to come out right.

BTW: arguing with an engineer is like mud-wrestling a pig. You're not built for it, and the pig is; furthermore, the pig actually likes it.


Thomas Hardman for District 4.

Posted by: thardman | April 1, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and I forgot to mention.

I am _far_ less concerned about how well I please the Council, and _far_ more concerned about how well I serve the people of District 4.

Have A Nice Day! ;)

Posted by: thardman | April 2, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

The Sierra Club needs to be investigated, and all money from Maryland needs to stop. This group has a reputation of being not only a mouthpiece for the dumbocrats, but is a bully in the county. I have launced a complaint into their tax exempt status, and would advise others to do the same. They are obviously not a non-profit, but insted a PAC.

The way they treated the Republican candidates, and all who came to listen, was typical of a one party system. If nothing else, the county needs a Republican or Independent on the Council to effect debate.

There is NO difference between Navarro and Kramer, and neither deserves a spot on the coucil. One is party to a massive fraud in Annapolis and the other is associated with a group that is currently missing nearly a million dollars in county funds.

We don't need these two clowns on our council.

The Sierra Club let everyone see last night the sort of county council they envision. . . .one of back room deals and elite control over the citizens.

Look for the endorcement of this group and the vote the opposite way.

Posted by: CitizenPayne | April 2, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Mark, don't flatter yourself. The point of my comment was to point out your naivete. This is politics, not touch football. I hope that your statement,"Obviously, my argument makes sense, or why so many counter arguments?" was tongue-in-cheek...really, I do.

thardman, as cynical as it is I think that the marketplace of ideas is dead and this idea of "reaching across the aisle" is antiquated. Obama has been making a good faith effort with zero results. Why? The Republican party has gone further and further to the right and moderate Republicans are virtually non-existent. What remains are party ideologues who are not interested in governing, but instead, pushing narrow interests. Did you read about their alternative budget? What a joke! How can you get ideas from a party who wants to see the government become a private industry? The only thing I hear from Republicans (locally and otherwise) is to cut taxes. That seems to be the solution to everything. Is that really responsible? You can reach across the aisle all you want, but you should expect nothing back but an embarrassing slap in the face.

Posted by: dkinmd | April 2, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

How disappointing. The GOP candidates MUST understand that this is viewed by voters as nothing other than avoidance and obfuscation.

I'd like to see debate amongt parties during primary and Dem vs. GOP during the general election. It almost seems like the GOP candidates are hiding their true colors WAY too early.

These folks need to understand that MoCo voters are too intelligent to fall for Bush/Nixon parlor tricks. Just put your cards on the table and walk tall. Let the voters become informed and make an honest decision.

Posted by: free-donny | April 2, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Donny, there is no debate scheduled after the primary.

dknmd: The only thing we have heard from the Democrats in Montgomery County is big tax increases. Being against them does not mean you are for tax cuts or that you are low tax, just that you are against big tax increases. These are the ones we have had in the past 18 months:
13.5% increase in property taxes
10% energy tax increase
20% sales tax increase
20% car tax increase
18% corporate tax increase
15 year high water bill increase
5 year high Metro fare increase
52.5% income tax increase
new speed camera tax

Being against all these big tax increases is not being for tax cuts or low tax. No it being against using the homeowners as an ATM.

P.S. Why is it that Mr. Kramer and Ms. Navarro have never once blogged on Maryland Moment?

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | April 2, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Robin -

Maybe Kramer and Navarro are, I don't know, busy with their day jobs. When did commenting - you're commenting, not blogging - on MD Moment become a requirement for county council? If that's the case, I should have run!

Also, looking over your list of what you call "tax increases" (new speed camera tax? tax? really?) it looks to me as though you should be running for a state senate seat rather than for county council. Metro fare increases aren't controlled by the County. Nor are sales taxes or a bunch of the other items you've listed.

Posted by: | April 2, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Ficker, I don't think its those Dem candidates responsibility to blog. I urge you and the other Repubs to join the debate...make your voices heard. I think you will find that voters are interested in your message.

No doubt - you will find that MoCo is a largely Democratic county and that you may have to answer some difficult questions. Still, I say - its your chance...go for it. Don't let folks view this as a case of deception or obfuscation.

Its your call, sir. Good luck.

Posted by: free-donny | April 2, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you what tax has got ME hopping mad.

I tried to buy some rolling tobacco and discovered that they've added a flat $20.00 tax to a $13.00 can of rolling tobacco.

The price has more than doubled overnight.

This is just plain despicable.

It's a tax of 120 percent!

Posted by: thardman | April 2, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Ann, please do not leave out facts when writing articles...

You say the Sierra Club planned two separate debates...If that is the case, then how come no one knew this except for them? I sat in the cafeteria with the 50 plus "Democrats" waiting for what was billed as a forum with all the candidates...After 15 minutes I went into the hall I randomly heard someone mention that the Republicans had been moved down the hallway.

Had this been how this event was described to the candidates and the voters, I would have no problem with it, and would agree with your assessment of the situation. However, this was not the case, and I feel you are doing a disservice to your readers by only writing what the Sierra Club tells you to.

Also, when a few members who were working the forum were explaining that since members of a party cannot vote in the other parties primary, they were separating the candidates. When I asked them if there was a forum/debate planned for after the primary, they said they did not know...When I asked what Independents, who may be attending this event to get to know the candidates for the general election, were supposed to do, I was told they had to "pick their poison." To me, that is an unacceptable attitude to have towards our local political process.

It was bad enough this happened, it is worse that the "so called journalists" covering this event are only presenting one side of the situation.

Posted by: GeoffTroidl | April 2, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

"I'm sure Republicans with their history of integrity and sense of fair play would have graciously agreed to let the Democrats influence their voters."

The word 'Republican' does not belong in the same sentence as "integrity and fair play". Just like Republicans don't belong in Government since they're ideologically opposed to it and, when given control of it, lead the country into unnecessary wars and over the economic precipice.

Posted by: thebobbob | April 3, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

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