Endorsing Nancy Navarro for the Montgomery County Council

Friday, May 15, 2009

SIXTY-TWO VOTES. That's the margin out of more than 8,700 cast by which Nancy Navarro slipped by her main opponent in last month's Democratic primary to fill a vacant seat on the Montgomery County Council. Ms. Navarro emerged to face off against Robin Ficker (R) in a special election on Tuesday. In liberal Montgomery, Ms. Navarro is the strong favorite to succeed former council member Don Praisner, who died this year. Against the controversial Mr. Ficker, she's also the better choice.

When Ms. Navarro was appointed to the Board of Education in 2004, her critics -- we among them -- worried that she would get too caught up in confrontational politics to work with Superintendent Jerry D. Weast on behalf of students. In the five years since, Ms. Navarro has proven herself an effective champion for disadvantaged students and has been elected board president twice by her colleagues. Most recently, she worked with unions, county officials and others to craft a package to help the schools navigate the recession. A native of Venezuela, Ms. Navarro would bring welcome diversity to the council and could effectively represent District 4, a majority-minority district that spans the eastern part of the county and includes Wheaton, Olney, White Oak and Burtonsville.

We endorsed Ms. Navarro's main opponent, Maryland Del. Ben Kramer (D), in the primary, concerned that Ms. Navarro would be too indebted to the unions that donated to her campaign. Public-sector unions have a legitimate role in looking out for their workers, but when they become disproportionately influential, other priorities -- schools, housing, police, parks -- may be sacrificed to their salary and pension demands. We also worried that Ms. Navarro would vote in lockstep with the bloc of four council members who endorsed her -- Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) and George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) -- in opposition to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who endorsed Mr. Kramer. But Ms. Navarro proved us wrong on the school board; we hope she does the same if elected to the council. She certainly has the smarts and energy to be an effective legislator.

Longtime Montgomery residents are familiar with Ms. Navarro's opponent, Mr. Ficker, the sports heckler extraordinaire who served in the House of Delegates 30 years ago. Mr. Ficker's campaign has been propelled by the success of his ballot initiative last fall, a measure that hinders the county's ability to exceed the charter limit to raise property taxes. Mr. Ficker is too polarizing a figure to succeed on the council, but his message -- that the county needs to stop using homeowners as an ATM -- is something council members should keep in mind. George Gluck, the Green Party candidate, opposes the intercounty connector, which is now under construction, and would revamp the way the county assesses property taxes.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters should call 240-777-8683 if they have questions.

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