The Year Of The Woman

One day into the New Year, and the branding has already begun. It’s the Year of the Woman in Maryland politics. 

Women voters in Maryland are being targeted with television ads about the two candidates running in the state’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, underscoring the battle underway for a demographic that will play a key role in choosing a successor to Barbara A. Mikulski, the pathbreaking dean of the Senate women.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County began airing a new commercial this week promoting his record on women’s issues. The spot comes as a powerful national women’s group with a history in Maryland politics is running $1 million in advertising for his primary opponent, Rep. Donna F. Edwards of Prince George’s County.

In races across the state, candidates are working aggressively to reach women, who typically account for about 60 percent of the turnout in Maryland Democratic primaries — and who observers believe will be energized by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to vote in larger numbers this year.

“There are many women who are looking at her candidacy as historic,” said Steve Raabe, president of the Annapolis-based polling firm OpinionWorks. “That certainly isn’t going to hurt the turnout among women.”

And it’s not just the Senate race, either. It’s happening in both open House races as well.

In the 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Montgomery, Frederick and Carroll counties, former television news anchor Kathleen Matthews focused her first position paper on what she described as women’s issues, including paid family leave and equal pay.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin, also running for the Democratic nomination in the 8th District, announced a group of female supporters early in his campaign that will help organize other women to back the campaign.

Several women’s political organizations, meanwhile, have endorsed state Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk in her bid in the 4th Congressional District, which includes Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. Another candidate in the 4th, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, launched a group of women supporters in December.

Given the statistics on turnout, appealing to women is critical. Moreover, there is a natural fit between certain issues that matter  to women - pay equity, family leave, child care - and economic justice issues generally that are of critical importance to the increasing progressive left wing of the party’s electorate. If you’re a candidate with a real and meaningful track record on these issues, then you’re in the game.

But let’s be brutally honest in a way that John Fritze perhaps can’t be: being a female candidate in 2016 is an advantage. It’s Donna Edwards’ calling card - if she wins, it will be because she argues that she brings a unique perspective as a black woman (race isn’t exactly relevant, either, prtixularly in the Senate contest). Kathleen Matthews and Joseline Pena-Melnyk are surging because they’re working hard and running good campaigns, but part of their appeal is that they’re women.

It’s a fine line. Nobody should be elected solely because of their identity: race, gender, ethnicity, generational, etc. But it is a factor. 

“Vote for me because I understand what it’s like to be a woman.”

“We need more voices that will speak to women’s issues and concerns.”

If being a woman is all you’ve got, then you’re not going to succeed. But the women in all three races have extensive and impressive track records, and being women only enhances that appeal. How it all plays out in the end will be one of the key story lines between now and April 26.

Joseline Pena-Melnyk: “Abogadita”

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk was recently profiled by NBC News for its series on Latino politicians running for office. Lots of interesting history, but my favorite part is this:

As a young, bilingual girl in New York City, Joseline Peña Melnyk did a lot of the translating for her mother and the rest of the Spanish speakers in northern Manhattan’s predominantly Latino Washington Heights neighborhood.

“I knew everyone’s business,” she laughed.

With her ability to navigate their needs and help with their problems, Peña-Melnyk’s mother began calling her “abogadita” (the little lawyer). Decades later, Peña-Melnyk went on to be a public defender in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office; a member of the College Park, Md. City Council and the Maryland House of Delegates.

Those who know her would say nothing has changed - she’s still out in the community helping out those in need.

As is usual, Pena-Melnyk got another endorsement today. I’ll be back in a few minutes with more information on that.

“The Candidate To Beat”

“Beep. This is a recording. Joseline Pena-Melnyk got another endorsement. Beep.”

This time from the Latino Victory Fund.

¡Sí, Se Puede! Peña-Melnyk Endorsed by Latino Victory Fund

LAUREL, MD – Despite making up 17% of the population, Latinos represent only one percent of all elected officials. Righting that imbalance is the goal of the Latino Victory Fund and today they endorsed Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress. Co-founded by actress Eva Longoria and businessman-activist Henry Muñoz III, the organization helps to ensure that the voices of Latinos are reflected at every level of government.
“The Latino Victory Project is making a positive difference in American politics and I am deeply grateful for their support. In Congress I will continue to fight for all of our neighbors, especially the underserved, as I have throughout my many years in public service,” said Peña-Melnyk.
“We are proud to endorse Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress,” said Cristóbal Alex, Latino Victory Fund President. “Joseline will be the first Dominican-American to serve in Congress; she is a great leader who will fight for our community and the issues that matter to Latinos. As a city councilor and Maryland delegate, Joseline has demonstrated a strong record of putting her community first, and we know she will continue to do that in the halls of Congress.”
Communications Director Michelle García adds, “with the recent support of EMILY’s list, several national progressive organizations, and now the Latino Victory Project, Joseline is enjoying national recognition and support. Coupled with the strong support she is receiving locally in the district, the volunteers and financial support that a national profile brings will help her win on Election Day.”
Joseline Peña-Melnyk continues to outpace her opponents in fundraising and endorsements (the complete list can be viewed here). In a crowded field, she is emerging as the candidate to beat.

BOOM: EMILY’s List For Pena-Melnyk

You night owls get the scoop. I’m here for you. The Post has the major news.

The national Democratic group Emily’s List is endorsing Maryland state Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk’s bid to succeed Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) in Congress.

The fundraising behemoth’s support could help Peña-Melnyk overtake rival Glenn Ivey, a former Prince George’s county state’s attorney. According to the latest available data, Ivey is leading in campaign contributions in a crowded Democratic primary race for the 4th Congressional District.

* * *

Peña-Melnyk emigrated from the Dominican Republic as a child and was raised by a single mother. A former federal prosecutor, she has sponsored legislation abolishing the death penalty in Maryland, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and establishing the state’s Dream Act for undocumented immigrant students.

In a statement, Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said Peña-Melnyk “has successfully fought to strengthen equal pay laws, expand women’s access to health care, and increase educational and job opportunities for all Marylanders.” Emily’s List raised more than $40 million in the 2014 cycle to help elect pro-choice Democratic women to state, local and federal offices. The group says it is on track to raise up to $60 million in the next cycle and can also help connect candidates to vast numbers of women voters — a crucial voting bloc.

This is a very big deal. There will be substantial independent expenditures on behalf of Pena-Melnyk, plus direct donations from EMILY’s List’s, uh, lists.

I am horribly biased here, but I will stake my claim: Joseline Pena-Melnyk is now the candidate to beat in CD4. 

UPDATE: The EMILY’s List website has already been updated to include Pena-Melnyk.

Another Pena-Melnyk Endorsement

Yawn. She seems to be getting all of them lately. This time it’s the Elevator Constructors and yes, the campaign’s press release goes right for all the puns that you can think of.

Elevator Constructors Give a Lift to Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress

LAUREL, MD - The International Union of Elevator Constructors – over 25,000 members strong – today gave their support to Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress. Since 1901, IUEC members have constructed safe, practical elevators that make skyscrapers, the symbol of America’s modern cities, possible.
Joseline Peña-Melnyk is running an energetic campaign to represent the people of Maryland’s 4th District, which includes large parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties, extending from Forest Heights, to Hyattsville, to Laurel and on to Arnold, Maryland.
“I’m proud to have the support of the Elevator Constructors,” said Peña-Melnyk. “America’s union workers are a source of our nation’s strength and competitiveness. Unions are a critical part of our national workforce, providing training and opportunity for men and women. They’ll be a key partner for me in Congress as we work to keep America competitive in the 21st Century.”
“The International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 10 proudly endorses Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress. Joseline is a strong supporter for higher education, be it academically or vocationally. Joseline supports these core values not only by word but also by deed,” said Dave Geib of Elevator Constructors Local 10.
Peña-Melnyk has pushed the “up” button and is ascending as the candidate to beat. Her endorsements outpace others; earlier this week she was endorsed by CASA in Action, an immigrant advocacy organization in Maryland and Virginia. Last month, the Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local #24, and the Steamfitters UA Local #602 endorsed Joseline Peña-Melnyk. She is also endorsed by numerous other progressive organizations and many State and local officials, including:
· The Sierra Club,

· Democracy for America,
· Blue America,
· Progressive Change Campaign Committee, 

CASA Endorses Pena-Melnyk in CD4

Another endorsement for Joseline Pena-Melnyk. Press release from the candidate:

For Immediate Release

December 1, 2015
Contact: Michelle García

Maryland’s Largest Latino Group Endorses Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress

LAUREL, MD - Today, CASA in Action announced its support for Joseline Peña-Melnyk for Congress. CASA in Action is the region’s most powerful voice providing educational and political advocacy in support of Latinos and immigrants in Maryland and Virginia. The group has more than 50,000 active members.

“CASA is doing great work in the community and I’m very happy to have their support. I’m running for Congress because I believe that public service means helping working families and our children to succeed,” said Peña-Melnyk.

 Campaign Communications Director Michelle García adds, “These endorsements show that Joseline is lining up support from constituencies that are key to victory - labor, environment, progressives and the immigrant community - and there are more to come. Coupled with her strong fundraising in the last quarter, it is clear that Joseline’s momentum grows every week.”

 The CASA in Action endorsement is the latest in a recent string of endorsements for Peña-Melnyk. Last month, she was endorsed by the Sierra Club and two local unions, The International Associations of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local #24, and the Steamfitters UA Local #602. Several national progressive organizations also have put their weight behind Joseline Peña-Melnyk, including Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Blue America. The leading Latino groups, Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC and PODER PAC also have voiced their support for Peña-Melnyk.

Joseline Peña-Melnyk is a congressional candidate for Maryland’s 4th District to succeed Donna Edwards who is running for the Senate.

2 Unions For Pena-Melnyk

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk received two union endorsements today. The Capital Gazette has the story.

Two unions have announced their support for Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk’s race for Congress in District 4.

The Laurel-based International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 24, and the Steamfitters UA Local 602, headquartered in Capitol Heights, made their endorsements last week.
Peña-Melnyk, a Democrat, said in a Thursday news release the support is a “show of confidence from the labor movement in Prince George’s County.”
“As a first-generation American Dominican raised by a single, working mother, I understand the critical importance of a living wage — and the importance of the rights of workers to have a say in how, when, and where they work,” she said. “I’ve fought for workers the last nine years in the Maryland Assembly, and I’ll continue to fight for workers in Congress.”

BREAKING: Sierra Club Endorses Pena-Melnyk in CD4

A significant endorsement for Joseline Pena-Melnyk from the Sierra Club. Press release from within the past half hour:

Today the Sierra Club announced another endorsement for the 2016 election cycle: Joseline Pena-Melnyk for Maryland Congressional District 4. Last week we endorsed Jamie Raskin for Maryland Congressional District 8. These are two ardent environmentalists who fight for our issues in Annapolis.

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk has been a staunch supporter of environmental legislation and has worked well with the environmental community in the State Legislature where she represents State District 21. She has a lifetime score of 94% as reported by MD-LCV and she has proved herself to be a fierce fighter for our issues. We know she will be a great representative for District 4.

BREAKING: Pena-Melnyk Raises $139,000, Has $305,000 COH

Starting early this lovely Ocrober 15, the code of silence has been broken. Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk raised $139,000 in the third quarter, bringing her year to date fundraising to $364,000 and her cash on hand to $305,000, reports Arelis Hernandez in the Post.

Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) became the first candidate in a crowded Democratic congressional field to announce on Thursday that she had raised $139,000 in mostly small-dollar donations during a slow third quarter fundraising period.

The state lawmaker credited her “massive grassroots support” for the donations, despite having raised nearly $30,000 less than the previous quarter. Peña-Melnyk is trailing two of her primary rivals in the race to succeed Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) in the House.

* * *

Peña-Melnyk, who entered the race about a week after Ivey, reached a new total, raising $364,000 so far in the election cycle with $305,000 of that in the bank. Her campaign has assembled scores of volunteers to help the delegate host gatherings across the district — which spans Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties — and spread her message.

“Our message of fighting for working families — for good jobs, strong public schools, and affordable healthcare — is resonating throughout our district,” she said in a statement. “…we’re going to win this race together.”

Pena-Melnyk raised $181K in the second quarter. Early word is that in Q3, virtually all candidates struggled to match Q2 fundraising levels. We’ll see if this holds true as further reports come in.