Rob Sobhani, the Montgomery County businessman who announced an independent run for the U.S. Senate only this month, has leapt to a statistical tie for second place in the race, according to a Gonzalez poll of Maryland voters released Wednesday.
Fifty percent of respondents said they would vote to reelect Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, to a second term. Twenty-two percent said they would vote for Republican former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino; 21 percent said they would vote for Sobhani.
The telephone survey of 813 registered voters from Sept. 13 through 17 by Gonzalez Research and Marketing Strategies has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
Sobhani, who lost Republican primaries for the Senate in 1992 and 2000, was the first candidate in the general election to advertise on television. He has spent more than $1.5 million of his own money so far on spots that have aired heavily in Baltimore and Washington.
Sobhani's campaign e-mailed the results to reporters Wednesday morning.
"Any poll is only a snapshot in time, and what this poll shows is that in a scant three weeks, Rob's support has grown to 21 points from nowhere," said spokesman Sam Patten, who called the number “only the beginning."
Sobhani polled ahead of Bongino among women and among African-American voters; Bongino polled ahead of Sobhani among male and among white voters. Cardin led in all categories.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
Wal-Mart is moving ahead with plans to open a new Supercenter in Bel Air, taking another step in the development process last Friday by submitting a proposed site plan and a traffic impact analysis to the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning. The move is another in a series of steps required prior to county approval of the project.
The proposed site plan map submitted on September 14th appears similar to one made public at a required community meeting that was held by the company in July. The plan calls for a 185,706 sq.ft. store and a parking lot with 752 spaces located on nearly 17 acres near Plumtree Rd. and MD Rt. 924. The proposed site plan map shows additional lanes on Rt. 924 near the store and a new traffic light at the intersection of Rt. 924 and Bright Oaks Drive. A berm is shown along the section of Rt. 924 that borders the store site.
Also shown is an extension of Blue Spruce Rd. connecting Bel Air South Parkway to Plumtree Rd. Three access points to the store are shown: one from Blue Spruce Drive, another at Bright Oaks Drive and Rt. 924, and another from Plumtree Rd. Proposed sidewalks are shown surrounding the store on some sides, along with tree areas in two locations. The map indicates two potential locations for eight foot “monument” signs. Final landscape design will be determined during final construction drawings, according to the plan.
Below is the proposed site plan:
Traffic Impact Analysis
Excerpts from the summary findings of the traffic impact analysis are provided below. The analysis, provided by Wal-Mart, includes suggested mitigation at five intersections to satisfy Harford County guidelines and to mitigate the impact from the development of the Bel Air site. They are:
MD 24 at Plumtree Road:
“…adding a second southbound MD 24 left turn lane and a second westbound Plumtree Road left turn lane.”
MD 24 at Bel Air South Parkway:
“…a second left turn lane is recommended along both eastbound and westbound Bel Air South Parkway onto MD 24.”
Bel Air South Parkway at Blue Spruce Drive:
“…With the implementation of a traffic signal, minor street delay is reduced and an acceptable level of service can be provided.”
MD 924 at Bel Air South Parkway:
“Provide an additional through lane in the northbound direction. It is anticipated that the northbound lane will continue north of the new site access and drop at Plumtree Road; and… a second eastbound left turn lane from Bel Air South Parkway onto northbound MD 924 while changing the right most lane to a shared through/right turn lane.”
MD 924 at Bright Oaks Drive/Site Access:
“Traffic signalization is recommended to facilitate access to and egress from the site…a second through lane will be needed along northbound MD 924 within this road segment. A separate left turn lane is recommended along northbound 924. A separate right turn lane is needed along southbound MD 924. The site access approach should provide a shared left through lane and separate right turn lane.”
The improvements to failing intersections recommended above are subject to review and approval by county officials and the State Highway Administration (SHA). The county and/or state may also require different improvements than those recommended by Wal-Mart. Improvements required to mitigate the impact from a development are paid for by the developer.
The complete traffic impact analysis is available online here: www.harfordcountymd.gov/gis. Click on link for Walmart TIA, then open the pdf – Walmart Bel Air – TIA. County officials caution that the file is large.
Hard copies of both the site plan maps and traffic study are available for review at the Department of Planning and Zoning located on the second floor of the county administration building at 220 South Main Street in Bel Air. Office hours are from 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Copies are also available for a fee of 25 cents per page for the 622-page traffic study, and $2 per page for the three-page site plan, which requires large-page duplication.
Wal-Mart Moves Forward Despite Intervention by Harford County Executive David Craig
Wal-Mart’s latest move to build a mega-store in Bel Air comes despite intervention from Harford County Executive David Craig. Following public outcry from area residents, Craig urged the company to expand its Abingdon store, rather than proceed with plans to close the older store and move to a new Supercenter in Bel Air.
In a statement issued in July, Craig echoed concerns raised by Bel Air residents who are angry with the company and county officials alike for a move that they say will further snarl traffic in the area. The Bel Air site, which is currently undeveloped, was zoned B3 by the county in 2009. The classification permits so-called “big box” retail stores.
Craig has acknowledged that county zoning allows for the proposed Bel Air Supercenter, but met with Wal-Mart officials to discuss his concerns and what the county might do to help the company develop a Supercenter at the Abingdon location instead.
Aaron Tomarchio, chief of staff to Craig, said at an August Abingdon Community Council meeting that according to those discussions, Wal-Mart wanted to be in the Bel Air market, with a store modeled after the Fallston Supercenter. Like other Supercenters, the Fallston store sells groceries.
Tomarchio said the company believes they could “get around” a restriction on grocery sales at the Abingdon location, but company engineers didn’t think the Supercenter plan was a fit with the Abingdon site. Tomarchio said the company was asked to reconsider the feasibility of an Abingdon expansion, but he didn’t hold out hope for a change of course.
Battle Lines Drawn
Making the case for a Wal-Mart in Bel Air, the company recently sent mailers to area residents soliciting support for the move from Abingdon. “A new Walmart Supercenter in Harford County will bring convenience, savings and jobs to the community,” reads one mailer. Offering 100 new jobs, additional tax revenue, and energy-saving initiatives in the new building, the mailer also cites a study finding that Wal-Mart saves the average household more than $3,100 per year. A tear-off return postcard is included, with boxes for residents to check if they are willing to write letters or attend a meeting in support of the new Bel Air store. To learn more, residents are asked to call 866-458-1178 or email the company at Harford@walmartsupport.com. Some residents have also reported receiving phone calls from the company in recent days, asking about their support for the new store.
In the other corner, the Bel Air South Community Foundation, formed to oppose the Bel Air Wal-Mart, has gathered signatures on a petition and is soliciting volunteers and donations. The group has a Web site, nobelariwalmart.org, and is planning to distribute bumper stickers and yard signs, according to members of the group. Area residents have also flooded public meetings and called for a boycott of the Abingdon store. The Abingdon Community Council issued a statement in August, opposing the move to Bel Air and calling for county officials to conduct a “thorough and proper review of any development proposal.”
UPDATE: A Development Advisory Committee meeting to review the proposed Supercenter has been scheduled by the Department of Planning and Zoning for 9:00 a.m on Wednesday, Oct. 17. The meeting will be held in the Harford County Council Chambers at 212 South Bond Street in Bel Air. The meeting is open to the public.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Freedom to Marry, a national pro-gay right group, has opened a political action committee in Maryland, and will start raising money here.
"It is the home stretch and we want to be able to do all we can do in Maryland. We believe there is a real path to victory," said Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of FTM.
So far the organization has put about $3 million into the other three states with same-sex marriage questions on the ballot, but has not put cash here. The group's early decision to stay out of fund raising for Maryland was seen by some as a vote of no-confidence in the state.
Wolfson brushed off that criticism, saying that he's always believed Maryland could pass same-sex marriage on the ballot as long as the funding and organization for a state-wide campaign. "I've always said you have to do the heavy-lifting," he said.
But he cautioned: Maryland, he said, is further behind in fund raising. "There is a clear path to victory if Maryland gets the resources it needs," he said. "We wanted to send a call to action to everyone, we all need to do what we can in all the states."
In November, Marylanders will vote on whether to uphold a new law that permits gay marriages in the state. Maine, Washington state and Minnesota are voting on similar measures this year.
Monday, September 17, 2012
Dagger and Harford Campaign for Liberty:
Harford Campaign for Liberty will host Blain Young, Frederick Council President, for a town hall style question and answer session at their monthly meeting on September 25th. Young, described by the Gazette.net online news source as the “sometimes combative president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners”, has served with that body since 2010. His opposition to Plan Maryland and founding membership in the Rural Maryland Counties Coalition has brought attention to the difficulties facing these areas. Mr. Young will briefly address the audience with comments regarding his views and actions on property rights, economic development, and the role of government. These comments will be followed by questions from the assembled. Harford Campaign for Liberty invites all to this opportunity to explore the practice of liberty in other counties. The group encourages attendees to probe Mr. Young with insightful queries designed to fully comprehend the style of government currently practiced in Frederick County.
Harford Campaign for Liberty meets every fourth Tuesday. Their upcoming meeting is September 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 23 Newport Drive, Forest Hill, Maryland 21050. Cash bar is available.
For more information visit www.harfordliberty.org or their Facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/HarfordCampaignforLiberty
Sunday, September 16, 2012
from the Las Vegas Review-Journal
By the time Maryland voters head to the polls Nov. 6, two casino companies combined might contribute more money to a gaming expansion referendum than was spent during the state's gubernatorial election two years ago.
When the dust settles, either MGM Resorts International will have convinced Maryland voters to approve construction of a hotel-casino complex roughly 10 miles from the nation's capital, or Penn National Gaming's argument that the state has enough casinos will have been heard.
Either way, Maryland voters are going to be bombarded.
So far the scorecard reads: MGM Resorts, $5.4 million in campaign contributions; Penn National, $9.5 million.
And clearly more money is on the way.
MGM Resorts Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Alan Feldman couldn't predict how much MGM Resorts would spend in favor of passing the ballot measure.
"We are prepared to see this through," Feldman said Thursday. "We believe this is an amazing opportunity in Maryland."
Approval of Question 7 on Maryland's ballot allows construction of a new Las Vegas-style casino in suburban Prince George's County and lets the state's five previously authorized slot machine-only casinos add table games. The measure reduces the state's gaming tax, which is now an industry-high 67 percent.
Less than a month after Maryland lawmakers set the stage for ballot measure during a special session, MGM Resorts and Penn National weighed in.
Last week, MGM Resorts wrote a check for $2.9 million to the organizations backing Question 7, adding to the $2.6 million it previously donated.
Not to be outdone, Penn National wrote a $4 million check this week to the groups opposed to the referendum, adding to the $5.5 million it had already contributed.
The total $14.9 million in campaign money from MGM Resorts and Penn nearly equals the $17 million spent in Maryland's 2010 gubernatorial election.
"Both MGM and Penn have upped lobbying efforts heading into the November referendum," Union Gaming Group managing director Bill Lerner told investors. "MGM is planning to open a visitor center at National Harbor on Monday. The center's main goal will be to provide information on MGM's plans to develop an integrated resort in the area."
MGM Resorts has proposed building a $700 million gaming complex in the National Harbor complex, a 350-acre retail, dining, residential and entertainment development along the Potomac River, about 10 miles from Washington, D.C. The Peterson Cos., which developed National Harbor, is a partner in the project.
Penn National owns the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Md., and would be eligible to bid for the Prince George's license. The company has proposed putting a casino at its Rosecroft Raceway.
However, Prince George's elected leaders back National Harbor as a casino site.
Penn National also owns a casino in Charles Town, W.Va., that stands to lose customers from Maryland if gambling expands.
Penn National officials declined to comment Thursday on the campaign.
Last month, the company placed newspaper advertisements in Maryland, explaining its opposition.
"Despite our company's deep commitment to, and significant investment in, Maryland, the State Legislature recently approved a deeply flawed bill during Special Session that, among other things, will result in a virtual sole source contract for a casino at National Harbor, thus ensuring the demise of Rosecroft and the long-term solution to saving horse racing in Maryland," the ad stated.
Some analysts believe that if Maryland builds all six casinos, the state could rival Pennsylvania for gaming revenue concentration.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. was awarded a license in July for the $300 million Harrah's Baltimore near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
The casino was being planned for 3,750 slot machinelike video lottery terminals, but Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman said in August that the company would welcome the ability to add table games.
Penn National has opposed gaming expansion in Maryland before. The company spent millions two years ago in a failed effort to defeat a referendum that allowed Maryland Live! to be built in Anne Arundel County.
On Tuesday, Maryland Live!, which opened in June, unveiled an expansion to its slot machine floor that added 1,300 games. The property now has 4,750 slot machines, making it one of the largest casino floors in the country.
The ballot referendum in Maryland is expected to draw increased attention as the November election nears. It is the largest gaming question in the 2012 election cycle. Smaller casino issues will be voted on by voters in Oregon and Rhode Island.
Friday, September 14, 2012
from the Baltimore Sun
Elections officials in Florida say they are asking prosecutors there to investigate allegations that former Maryland congressional candidate Wendy Rosen was registered and voted in both states.You can bank on the fact that Maryland won't prosecute... they only go after REALLY dangerous criminals like the owner of the Lucianne.com blog, who had tape recorded Monica Lewinski. After all, if it's got an (R) after it, it has GOTS to be evil!
"After receiving information locally concerning this issue, we are referring this matter to the State Attorney’s Office of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida," Julie Marcus, the deputy supervisor of elections for Pinellas County, Fla., said Tuesday.
State prosecutors in Maryland, meanwhile, declined to say whether they were investigating the allegations here.
Rosen, who won a close Democratic primary in April to challenge Republican Rep. Andy Harris in the 1st Congressional District, withdrew from the race Monday after she was confronted with the allegations by the Maryland Democratic Party.
State Democratic Chairwoman Yvette Lewis said an examination of voting records in Maryland and Florida showed that Rosen participated in the 2006 general election and the 2008 primaries in both states.
Maryland and Florida both held gubernatorial and congressional contests in 2006 and presidential primaries in 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competed for the Democratic nomination.
Rosen, 57, a Cockeysville businesswoman and Maryland voter, told The Baltimore Sun on Monday that she had registered to vote in Florida, where she owns property, in order to support a friend running for the St. Petersburg City Council.
Asked if she had voted in both Maryland and Florida in the same elections, she said she did not remember how she voted. Asked if she had voted twice in the 2008 presidential primaries, she declined to comment "due to possible litigation."
Lewis detailed the allegations in a letter Monday urging Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and State Prosecutor Emmitt C. Davitt to investigate.
A spokesman for Gansler said it was the office of the state prosecutor that would investigate such allegations.
Deputy State Prosecutor Thomas M. “Mike” McDonough declined to comment Tuesday.
“As always, our policy is we don’t confirm or deny any investigation,” he said.
Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, asked the State Board of Elections what legal, administrative or database changes might be necessary to prevent an individual from voting in state or federal elections from more than one state.
Maryland this year became the first state to join a multistate database that should flag voters registered in more than one state, Maryland voter registration director Mary Cramer Wagner said.
But the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, would not have found Rosen, because Florida has not joined the database.
Seven states have signed on; more are expected to join. Wagner said the Maryland State Board of Elections should receive its first report as early as this week.
A spokesman for Maryland Democrats said party leaders were told of Rosen's dual registration on Friday by someone within the party. After verifying the details over the weekend, spokesman Matthew Verghese said, the leaders confronted Rosen on Monday.
She withdrew from the general election in an email to party leaders.
"I have been proud to serve as the Democratic Congressional Candidate of Maryland's 1st Congressional District for the last five months, so it is with great regret, and much sorrow that I must resign," she wrote. "Personal issues have made this the hardest decision that I have had to make."
It was unclear whether Rosen could remove her name from the ballot with the election less than two months away. Under state law, a candidate has until 70 days before an election to remove his or her name from the ballot. The deadline for the Nov. 6 election passed on Aug. 28.
Democratic leaders, who demanded Rosen step aside, said they would gather the central committees in the 1st Congressional District this month to identify a write-in candidate for the district.
Rosen edged Chestertown physician John LaFerla in the Democratic primary in April by just 57 of the more than 25,000 votes cast.
In the general election, she was seen as the underdog to Harris, a 55-year-old physician from Baltimore County who is serving his first term in Congress representing the district that includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford, Carroll and Cecil counties. The district that has grown more solidly Republican since Harris ousted Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in 2010.
Still, she mounted a highly visible effort to promote her candidacy in July at the annual J. Millard Tawes crab feast in Crisfield. At the time, she told a reporter she believed Harris was vulnerable to a challenge because of unpopularity among voters.
She traveled to Charlotte, N.C., last week for the Democratic National Convention. At a Maryland Democratic party luncheon at that city's Mint Museum, she stood up to be recognized and receive applause.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Maryland atheists may soon have a lobbying group of their own.
The Secular Coalition for America, a nonprofit that lobbies of behalf of atheists, agnostics, free thinkers and "other nontheistic Americans," announced plans Wednesday to organize a Maryland chapter to advocate in Annapolis for strong separation of church and state.
The group put out a call for secular-minded Marylanders, regardless of religious beliefs, to take part in an organizational teleconference Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. The group plans to train volunteers in how to lobby lawmakers and mount a public relations campaign, said spokeswoman Lauren Anderson Youngblood.
Annapolis has a long history of lobbying by religious groups ranging from the Maryland Catholic Conference to The Associated: Jewish Community Federation to the Maryland Muslim Council. If the secular coalition is successful, the non-religious would have their own presence in the General Assembly.
Youngblood said the coalition has chapters up and running in Colorado and Arizona and hopes to have affiliates in all 50 states. Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Washington-based national group, said the group is stepping up its lobbying activities at the state level because that is where "some of the most egregious violations of church-state separation are being promoted."
Rogers estimated that 40 million Americans are not affiliated with any religion, but she said their influence has been limited because they traditionally have not been organized.
The group has not adopted a legislative agenda for Maryland but said it focuses on opposing bills that try to promote religious beliefs in secular laws or to steer public funds to groups that promote religious beliefs.
The coalition pointed to three bills introduced in this year's legislative session that it would have lobbied against -- a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman, a requirement that the governor proclaim March 1 as St. David's Day and a measure telling the Motor Vehicle Administration to develop a license plate bearing the words "In God We Trust."
The phone number for the teleconference is 530-881-1400, with an access code of 978895.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
As a gay, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, Edwin Guil, 22, says he is used to being discriminated against. But when a gay friend recently said he was not going to vote for President Obama because of his program to stop deporting some undocumented immigrant youths, Guil, a student at Montgomery College, decided it was time for some cross-cultural education.
“I confessed to him my situation, that I came here when I was 14, that my mom brought me into the U.S. illegally.” Living in the shadows was something that both undocumented immigrants and generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans had in common, he told his friend.
“He completely changed his mind about the whole situation, so it made me feel great about educating somebody about it. Now I want to do more,” Guil said.
And so on Tuesday, Guil, who lives in Silver Spring, joined Latino and LGBT community leaders and elected officials in Hyattsville to launch Familia es Familia, a campaign to bring together Latinos and LGBT members in advance of the November election.
Both groups have groundbreaking — and controversial — initiatives on the ballot in Maryland: one that would allow civil marriage for gays and lesbians, and another that would make undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition at community colleges and four-year public universities in Maryland.
The two causes might seem to be unlikely bedfellows, especially considering the negative feelings toward homosexuality among some conservative Latinos. But the organizations behind the campaign — Casa de Maryland, Equality Maryland and Latino GLBT History Project — say they see more commonalities than differences between the two groups.
“Marriage equality is from our viewpoint a civil rights issue, very similar to immigration reform,” said Gustavo Torres, Casa’s executive director, adding that more than 60 percent of Latino Catholics support people’s right to marry someone of the same gender.
Some compared the alliance with the coming together of blacks and Jews during the civil rights movement — a strength-through-unity approach.
“Opponents . . . have tried to use these issues to divide us,” said Ruben Gonzales, deputy vice president for resource development at the National Council of La Raza. The Hispanic organization co-released a report earlier this year showing 54 percent of Hispanics support marriage equality compared with 53 percent of the general population.
“I hear, ‘Well, Latinos aren’t supportive’ — you wonder where all that comes from,” Gonzales said.
In California four years ago, after voters supported Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, exit polls showed that many blacks and Latinos had voted for it (really???? and 70% of Black California Voters rejected gay marriage). That played a part in the decision to launch the campaign, said Kim Propeack, political director for Casa de Maryland.
“We consider it particularly important in Maryland to show mutual support, given the historic opportunity with the two referendums,” she said.
But the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, questioned the Maryland approach.
“I think the two issues are totally unrelated,” he said by phone from Tampa, where he is attending the Republican Convention. “To connect the two dilutes each individual platform. Each of them has valid points and they should stand on their own merits.”
Rodriguez said he doubted that center-right and religious Americans who support the Dream Act for immigration reform would also support same-sex marriage. “They will not sacrifice biblical truth on the altar of political expediency,” he said.
With town meetings, fliers and film screenings planned, proponents of the campaign hope that each of the two communities will educate its members about the concerns of the other community — and send the message to the broader society.
“We see that the Latino and LGBT communities, for a long time they existed in different silos,” said George Boe Ramirez, a Puerto Rican who lives in Rockville and attended the launch with his partner of 17 years, German Roa.
Ramirez, 43, who grew up in a strict religious household in Brooklyn, said his family came around to accepting his sexual orientation after making a discovery about a certain traditional family value: “We’re probably out of my siblings the only ones who never went through a divorce,” he said. “Because of that, we have their full support now.”
Councilwoman Nancy Navarro of Montgomery County District 4, whose brother is gay, also called the merging of the two causes “a family values issue.”
“For the Latino community, supporting family is paramount,” she said. “It also sends a strong message that as a community we’re not only looking at these issues in isolation but we are definitely building these bonds throughout the larger community.”