Thursday, May 26, 2022

Rue 21 opens at Wheaton Plaza

Rue 21
has opened at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall. It was back in October 2021 that I broke the story that the fast-fashion retailer would be returning to the mall. The Gen-Z targeted chain is one of the few mall stalwarts to thrive nationwide during the pandemic. As a result, Rue 21 finds itself in the enviable position of growing its roster of stores while other brands pare down locations, including the two new Maryland stores here and in Waldorf. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Surging Wes Moore, Donald Trump-endorsed Dan Cox top Google searches in Maryland governor race

Democrat Wes Moore (left) and
Republican Dan Cox top Google searches
in Maryland governor race

The lack of polling in the Maryland race to decide who will succeed Republican Larry Hogan as governor is leaving pundits, candidates and voters alike in the dark. On the Democratic side of the contest, all prognosticators have had to look at recently are a straw poll, a tracking poll obtained by WUSA 9, and a poll conducted for the Wes Moore campaign by a well-known polling firm; no major polling data has been released on the Republican side of the race. One other data point we can look at is Google search data in Google Trends. It doesn't tell us who voters will cast their ballots for, but it does indicate whom the voters want to know more about, and which candidates' names are on the minds of the public.

Wes Moore (red) vs. Dan Cox (blue) in 
Google searches over the last year

Democrat Wes Moore is by far the most-searched for candidate in the governor race over the last year, according to Google Trends data. Among Republicans, Delegate Dan Cox is the most-searched for by a wide margin. Democrat Tom Perez is very competitive with Cox over the last year, making him the second most-searched for Democrat. Moore easily tops all Democrats, although it is difficult to get an accurate result for John King, as searches for the CNN journalist of the same name are mixed in with those for the gubernatorial candidate. "John King Jr" produces a trend line far below that of Moore's.

Wes Moore (blue) vs. Democrats Tom Perez (yellow), 
Peter Franchot (red), Doug Gansler (green) and
Rushern Baker (purple)

Each of the three boast big-impact endorsers, and their popularity in Google search is consistent over the last year, less dependent on events to spike interest. All three also benefit from having a national profile. While Republican candidate Kelly Schulz is well-known in Maryland GOP circles, she is still introducing herself to voters outside of the party, including a six-figure radio and TV ad buy this month in the Baltimore and Washington markets. 

Dan Cox (blue) vs. Republicans Kelly Schulz (red),
Robin Ficker (yellow), Joe Werner (green)

Google Trends won't tell us definitively who the actual frontrunners are, or who is likely to win. But they tell us who is on the minds of the voters, and who they want to know more about. They provide another intriguing view of the race for political junkies, and another data point to synthesize with what little else is out there - fundraising totals, endorsements, event turnout, etc. - to give us some insight into one of the most competitive and fog-shrouded horse races for Maryland's top office in recent history.

Dan Cox (blue) neck-and-neck with Tom Perez (red)
in Google searches over the last year

Wes Moore (blue) vs. Democrats John King, Jr. (red),
Jon Baron (yellow), Ashwani Jain (green) and
Jerome Segal (purple)

Wes Moore (blue) vs. Kelly Schulz (red)

Car reported stolen at Wheaton auto dealership

Montgomery County police were called to an auto dealership in Wheaton when a car was reported stolen there late yesterday afternoon. The theft was reported at a dealership in the 11100 block of Veirs Mill Road at 5:37 PM Tuesday, according to crime data. A Lindsay Ford Used Car Super Center is located on that block of Veirs Mill.

Gas prices stable in Montgomery County as Maryland governor, comptroller squabble over July gas tax hike

Gas prices on River Road in
Bethesda late Tuesday night

Gas prices, by and large, haven't increased that much in Montgomery County since last week. The most notable hikes spotted as of late Tuesday night were on River Road in Bethesda, topping out at 14 cents at one station. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) have squabbled back and forth this week about the scheduled state gas tax hike from 36 to 43 cents on July 1, 2022. Hogan has asked Franchot to take action to protect consumers. The comptroller, who is running for governor, said he has no authority to do so. He suggested Hogan declare an emergency, or call the legislature back into emergency session.

Regular gas for cash-paying customers was actually down a cent from last Thursday at Marathon at 5143 River Road in Bethesda yesterday. Liberty on River was the same price as last Thursday yesterday at $4.69, according to the Gas Buddy app. But prices last night were up at other stations along that River Road strip: Sunoco was up 14 cents to $4.83. Mobil was up to $4.84, and Shell at $4.89. Citgo up on Westbard Avenue was 4-10 cents cheaper at $4.79.

Gas prices held steady in higher-priced downtown Bethesda. Regular was $4.97 at the Exxon at 8240 Wisconsin Avenue, and $4.99 at the two Liberty stations on Bradley Boulevard.

The cheapest cashless payment gas in Montgomery County as of late Tuesday night was found in Rockville at the Liberty station at 5400 Randolph Road, where regular was going for $4.45. If you can pay in cash, your buck would go further at Sunoco at 18701 Liberty Mill Road in Germantown ($4.42), Liberty at 26241 Ridge Road in Damascus ($4.43) and Freestate at 20650 Frederick Road in Germantown ($4.43).

As of last night, your other cheapest options are Carroll Motor Fuels at 26234 Ridge Road in Damascus ($4.45 cash), Liberty at 1900 Rockville Pike in Rockville ($4.46 - cash), and Shell at 2240 Veirs Mill Road in Rockville ($4.49).

In general, the cheapesr gas stations outside of Bethesda are largely charging about the same, or a few pennies more, as last week. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Tree removal to impact traffic on part of Cedar Avenue Wednesday in Takoma Park

A tree removal in the 7200 block of Cedar Avenue in Takoma Park tomorrow, Wednesday, May 25, 2022 will impact traffic for an extended period of the day. Because a crane is being brought in for the work, expect temporary and extended lane and road closures. The tree contractor will have signage and flagmen on duty to assist drivers, but it's probably smartest to simply detour around the mess, as it's not the widest street to begin with.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Number 1 Pharmacy opens, Smoke Island coming soon at Glenmont Shopping Center

The Glenmont Shopping Center is welcoming two new tenants. Number 1 Pharmacy is now open. They've had a location in Layhill prior to this. Coming soon next to Pizza Hut will be Smoke Island. The tobacco retailer is in a major expansion phase in Montgomery County; they carry cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and liquids, vaporizers, hookah equipment and accessories, flavored wraps, and rolling papers.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano to campaign for Trump-endorsed GOP governor candidate Dan Cox in Maryland

Fresh off his victory as the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor Tuesday, State Senator Doug Mastriano is coming to Maryland on June 25, to campaign for fellow Donald Trump endorsee Dan Cox in his run for Maryland governor. Mastriano will headline a rally for Cox, a state delegate in the Maryland House, at Leaping Greenly Farm in Hampstead. In addition to having Trump's endorsement in Maryland, Cox sees himself in a similar position as Mastriano in another way, taking on the establishment of his state party and being attacked as a result.

Mastriano has energized the GOP base in Pennsylvania like no statewide candidate since Rick Santorum in the mid-1990s. Unlike many Trump-backed hopefuls, Mastriano was already well-positioned for victory before receiving the Mar-a-Lago endorsement. A retired colonel in the U.S. Army who holds a PhD., Mastriano's ability to mobilize the religious right in his state has resulted in dozens of negative media reports describing him as a "Christian nationalist." He has been a focus of controversy for his efforts on behalf of Trump's "stop-the-steal" campaign in Pennsylvania after the 2020 election, and for his proposed changes to election laws, controversies that have only boosted his appeal among Republican voters.

Most controversial has been Mastriano's proposal to require all Pennsylvania voters to re-register to vote, to weed out inactive names on the state's voter rolls. Election integrity is sure to come up at the June 25 Cox rally in Maryland, as "voter integrity advocate" Captain Seth Keshel is also on the list of speakers for the event. Integrity of elections was also a central theme when Mastriano announced his endorsement of Cox last year.

Like the Trump endorsement, the Mastriano appearance is likely to thrill the large number of Maryland Republicans who still support the former president. Establishment Republican operatives concerned about relitigating the 2020 election when Gov. Larry Hogan-endorsed candidate Kelly Schulz is seen as most-likely to hold Hogan's broad coalition together in November 2022 are less intoxicated. Hogan and surrogates have unleashed attacks against Cox, while Schulz has touted her successful work as Commerce Secretary, which was bolstered further this week with Greenland Technologies Holding Corporation's announcement it will build an industrial vehicle manufacturing plant in White Marsh. Greenland's decision, like those of Hitachi and United Safety Technology to build Maryland plants, was made during Schulz's tenure at Commerce.

Cox is counting on high-profile endorsers like Trump and Mastriano, and the enthusiasm they generate, to outmaneuver the advantages Schulz may have. Polling of the GOP race in Maryland has been minimal compared to Pennsylvania, meaning that there is little sense of where likely voters stand on the Republican hopefuls, who also include former state delegate Robin Ficker and attorney Joe Werner. 

The June 25th Cox rally with Mastriano is currently described as "free admission," and sponsorships are going for as high as $6000. An announcement says all attendees must register online to gain admission, however.

Photo via Dan Cox for Governor