Category Archives: Marc Elrich

Elrich Up by 198, Mail Count Complete

The latest totals came out tonight. According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections Twitter account, all mail ballots have been counted and they’ve started on provisionals. The entire count is hopefully going to be completed tomorrow.

The total number of mail ballot votes currently reported is 61,581. That compares to a total 63,626 returned Democratic mail ballots. My guess is that The totals now include all of the mail ballots as not everyone votes in every contest. But it’s hard to know for sure. Alternatively, there might be some provisionals in the count.

There are roughly 7000 provisional ballots. David Blair would have to win an estimated 2.9% more than Marc Elrich (assuming that all are valid counted) in order to catch up. This is possible but we’ll have to see how the count ends up.

Elrich has a smaller lead in numerical term than Blair did on election night but there are far fewer votes left to count. The share of remaining votes that Blair needs to get (assuming that no provisionals are thrown out) is now a bit higher than needed by Elrich after election night.

It’s certainly looking a lot better for Elrich than it did on election night but we’ll have to wait and see how the race ends up. It remains well within the free recount zone.

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Elrich Pulls into Narrow Lead

Today, Elrich added 5,514 (43.7%) votes while Blair gained 4,667 (37.0%)–a net gain of 847 votes for Elrich. Currently, Elrich has 35,300 votes to 35,004 votes for David Blair, so Elrich leads by 296 votes. Though enough to move Elrich into the lead, his spread over Blair in percentage terms is smaller than yesterday—a lead of 6.7% as opposed to yesterday’s 15.6%. But both leads are stronger than Blair’s on election night in either the early or Election Day vote.

Montgomery County is now reporting a total 16,730 mail ballot votes in the county executive race and the trend continues in incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich’s direction. The addition of 12,629 more mail ballot votes on top of the 4,101 reported last night has propelled Elrich into the lead.

Remember that if the Board of Elections is indeed counting ballots from earliest to latest received, this means that their composition could continue to vary. In other words, this is not a random sample of mail ballots. We’ll have to see if Blair improved among mail voters as the campaign progressed. UPDATE: At least one source is reporting that ballots are not being processed in order received. At the same time, mail ballots that have not been processed into the system can’t be scanned for votes yet and arrived later than ballots already processed.

But Blair’s advantage has, for now, been erased. The chance that Elrich once again snatches victory from Blair’s grasp is certainly looking better than both yesterday and on election night.

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Elrich Makes Strong Gains in Mail Vote but Still Trails

The first tranche of mail ballots is in and they were very good for incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich.

Going into tonight, Elrich trailed by 1,191 votes. The addition of just 4,101 valid votes from mail ballots has now cut David Blair’s lead down to 550 votes. Blair added just 1,376 (33.6%) votes to 2,017 (49.2%) for Elrich. Tens of thousands more mail ballots still have yet to be counted along with provisional ballots.

Though excellent news for Elrich, a strong dose of caution is merited. If the Board of Elections is indeed counting ballots from earliest to latest received, this means that their composition could well change. In other words, this is not a random sample of mail ballots.

Folks, like last time, it looks like we’re going to have wait to know the result.

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Can Elrich Win? Here’s the Math

Once again, Marc Elrich and David Blair are in a tight race for the Democratic nomination for county executive. Can Marc Elrich catch up?

The results from Montgomery County can be found on the Maryland State Board of Elections website. After election night, Blair has 28,961 votes (39.6%) and Elrich has 27,770 votes (38.0%)–a lead of 1,191 votes (1.6%).

Before I get further into the details, many are wondering which precincts have not reported yet because the page states 246 of 258 election day precincts reporting. This is a glitch. If you go to the page for the entire state, it reports correctly that results from all 258 have been tallied.

Due to the expansion of mail voting, including the addition of the ability to opt to vote by mail in every election, the number of mail ballots has ballooned considerably from four years ago. The estimate of the number of mail ballots on the Board of Elections website is far from complete because it includes only mail ballots that have been initially processed (but still not included in the vote tally).

I’m hearing that the Board of Elections guesses that they had received around 10,000 ballots more than listed on the site as of election day. Additionally, any ballots received over the next ten days that were postmarked on election day or earlier will be counted. The count also does not include ballots placed in drop boxes on election day, which I understand had heavy use, or provisional ballots.

We can roughly guesstimate that there will be around 50,000 additional ballots. That’s a lot considering that only 73,087 valid votes were cast in the race for county executive so far. Elrich needs to win 1,192 votes (2.4%) more than Blair to catch up.

Can this happen? I’d rather be in Blair’s position and leading, but it’s possible. After all, Blair led Elrich by 316 votes (0.6%) in the election day vote but by 875 votes (4.3%) in the early vote.

I can easily imagine scenarios that are good for both candidates. Mail votes often tend to follow election day votes. The mail vote might resemble the early vote since both were cast before the election. In either case, Blair wins.

On the other hand, one can also spin scenarios that are good for Elrich. Mail voters might be voters that are especially cautious due to the pandemic and especially appreciate his managing of it. They may also differ in some demographic that skews in his direction.

So maybe I was a little hasty to write yesterday that “My guess is that’s too much for Elrich to make up in mail ballots.” Though it still appears more likely than not to turn out that way, Blair’s lead is not insurmountable.

The bottom line is that we’ll just have to be very patient and wait for the votes to be counted. We’ll have a better idea of where this race is likely to end up once we know the total number of mail and provisional ballots as well as how they are trending from the first counts.

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Raskin, Frosh Endorse Elrich

Raskin endorsing Elrich

Earlier today, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8) endorsed Marc Elrich for re-election as county executive. “There are two types of politicians, justice politicians and power politicians. Marc has always been a justice politician.” Raskin also lauded Elrich’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I took a video of the second part of the endorsement:

Video of second part of Raskin’s endorsement

Attorney General Brian Frosh endorsed Elrich on Tuesday:

Marc has led our County through the COVID pandemic with one of the best responses in the nation. That alone would get my vote. But he has done much more:

  • He has created a Climate Action Plan and has started the implementation with new standards for Building Performance. He has increased accountability on polluters.That is why he’s been endorsed by Sunrise Movement Rockville and Food and Water Action.
  • He has funded our K-12 education at higher levels than ever before, while ensuring schools are being built and students are being taught. It’s why he was enthusiastically endorsed by our County teachers.
  • He has been a strong defender of the rights of women to make their own health care decisions, including pushing for a $1 million fund to aid women access abortion resources after the unconscionable Dobbs decision. It’s why he’s been endorsed by Pro-Choice Maryland.
  • He has treated labor as partners instead of as opponents, while still being a great steward of the County’s tax dollars. This year’s budget funded important new programs, all without raising taxes. It’s why he’s been endorsed by the Metro Washington Council of the AFL-CIO and so many of our County’s labor unions.
  • He has made our government and County more equitable by establishing the County’s first Office of Racial Equity & Social Justice. He has made sure that the members of the office are in the room when important decisions are made, and he has made the County a more welcoming place to immigrants. That is one of the many reasons he’s been endorsed by CASA in Action, the Association of Black Democrats, the Latino Democratic Club, the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats of Maryland and more.
  • Marc has made our County safer for so many, while safeguarding the health of our firefighters and public safety officers. It’s why he’s been endorsed by the Montgomery County Career Firefighters and the Montgomery Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.
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All Buzz, No Bite: YIMBY Prank Inadvertently Shows Elrich’s Support for Density and Affordable Housing

Councilmember Andrew Friedson is speaking, County Executive Marc Elrich is three to his right.

Sometimes, it seems like people who dislike County Executive Marc Elrich will criticize him for just about anything. Take the Washington Post. The day before it lambasted Elrich on its editorial page for “lavishing taxpayer dollars on his union allies,” it endorsed a slew of incumbent councilmembers who all voted to fund those contracts.

In a bizarre incident on Thursday, however, YIMBYs stole the prize by being so zealous to attack Elrich that they ended up proving the opposite.

In Bethesda, County Executive Marc Elrich and Councilmember Andrew Friedson—two people who disagree on many issues—came together to announce and to celebrate moving forward with a proposal to redevelop Parking Lots 25 and 44, which are located north of the Bethesda Metro Station on Wisconsin Ave.

The concept plan for the project is that it will result in 301 new housing units, including 224 rental units and 47 condo units. Elrich pressed hard for affordable housing and his efforts bore fruit. Among the proposed rental units on Lot 25, 20%, or 45, will be MPDUs, with 34 priced at 70% and 11 at 50% of area median income. In the seven (15%) MPDU condo units on Lot 44, condo fees will be reduced by 70%.

It will result in green space being added to an existing park and the refurbishing of the green space to the community’s benefit. There will be 3500 square feet of community space and potentially retail space. In short, this is a great example of a win-win. Dense housing will replace surface parking lots and we’ll even get more and better green space in the process.

It should have been a kumbaya moment.

But YIMBYs are so desperate to portray Elrich as opposed to housing density and affordable housing that major Real Estate Broker Liz Brent bizarrely brought the Nimbee to the event to protest Elrich even though this is exactly the sort of projects that YIMBYs claim to favor. The Nimbee sign read “Thanks, Marc for voting against this project!” even though Elrich was there to show his support for it.

Instead of highlighting their point, however, it demonstrated that Elrich favors more density in smart growth locations (i.e. near transit) like this one. Much like Councilmember Will Jawando, Elrich used his political power to press for meaningful inclusion of affordable housing.

As we’ve seen in the kerfuffle over the redevelopment of Chevy Chase Library, some self-proclaimed YIMBYs care much more about promoting development that focuses on expensive condos in the name of affordable housing rather than new affordable housing units.

So I guess Elrich owes Brent and Nimbee a big thanks for showing that the trope that Elrich opposes development and affordable housing isn’t true through their protest of a new development with a strong affordable housing component thanks partly to Elrich.

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Executive Race Lane 1: The Incumbent

Marc Elrich drove the other members of the Montgomery County Council a bit nuts by winning the Democratic Primary in 2018. It was an unpleasant surprise for them that primary voters opted for him despite their frequent rejection of his ideas as either too progressive or anti-business. One of his Democratic colleagues, Nancy Floreen, even went so far as to leave the party so she could challenge him unsuccessfully in the general election. Hans Riemer, also an at-large member, had to think hard before endorsing him.

When asked about his greatest challenges as prime minister, Harold Macmillan famously replied “Events, my dear boy, events.” So it has been for County Executive Marc Elrich, who no doubt had intended to concentrate his term on pushing forward with vision for a more effective, progressive county but instead faced the major health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis has provided opportunities and pitfalls for Elrich. Montgomery has the highest rate of vaccination of any county in the nation of its size and has done an especially impressive job of vaccinating Black and Hispanic residents compared to other jurisdictions. However, Elrich has also had to make tough choices regarding school closings, masking, dining, and vaccination requirements that were virtually guaranteed to anger large constituencies no matter the decision.

But he has made them and it’s hard to argue that the county has fared badly or that he strayed from science in the process. Council opponents have snapped at his heels all the way, but I don’t know it has had much public impact. The Council has trouble gaining attention even at the most placid of times.

Elrich was most vociferously attacked for not having imposed vaccine requirements on the police. But in a time of rising crime did we want to potentially find ourselves without substantial numbers of officers and further alienate the police—the group of county employees with the highest non-vaccination rate? While many said “damn the torpedoes,” it is easy to bet that the same people would rush to the front of the line to attack Elrich for any increase in crime that resulted.

To my mind, Elrich faces two challenges as he seeks reelection. First, he needs to communicate clearly what he has done. Elrich explains things well and laudably avoids jargon in the process—one reason residents find him accessible—but is not known for being succinct. He needs to sell a short list of top accomplishments concisely.

Beyond arguing that he’s kept the county safe during the pandemic, Elrich can argue that he got the new FLASH new bus-rapid transit line built with more to come. Elrich also needs to articulate how his administration has worked successfully to protect struggling Montgomeryites throughout the pandemic despite opposition. Everyone likes someone who stands up for the underdog.

This last point will help Elrich with his second challenge: keeping movement progressives on side and active. In both parties today, many expect politicians to work miracles and are ready to attack anyone who hasn’t accomplished them even amidst a world roiling pandemic and absent legislative support. While Elrich’s alliance with labor should hold firm, will progressives be as active for him in 2022 as in 2018?

His opponents may unwittingly help him out there by continuing to caricature him as a throwback Marxist who can’t manage money. And yet, pensions are funded. The county retains its AAA bond rating. Attacks by financial scolds rely more on stereotypes than balance sheets. County finances are in better shape as they have been in recent memory despite the wrenching economic ups and downs of the pandemic.

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Elrich: Maybe We Don’t Need Developers

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last week, Bethesda Beat reported that County Executive Marc Elrich was seeking a developer to partner with the county on redeveloping White Flint, an area that has fallen far short of its potential over the last decade. That sounds like a good idea except for this: Elrich said in a public forum just three days before that maybe the county should not partner with developers at all.

Yes, dear reader, you read that correctly!

Elrich was a panelist at a forum held by the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers on affordable housing on March 9. In response to a question from the moderator about the difficult economics of affordable housing, Elrich said this:

Part of me wonders whether we ought to be looking at not partnering with developers but just partnering with construction companies, where basically, here’s the – I want to build a building. What’s the price? I modified my own house, I have lots of experience in this. But I also did three tenant conversions in Takoma Park while I was a council member in Takoma Park and, you know, we took – there was no developer involved. We just looked at what’s the cost of the building, the units, what’s the cost of bringing in repair, and we dealt with it as a straight up transaction and we took anybody out of it who was going to take money out of the project in addition to the costs of just doing the physical work. And you know, it may be that we look more toward builders on a contract basis rather than developers. Because then I don’t have to deal with their rate of return.

You can see this at 1:25:37 of the video below.

Let’s remember that this was said not on a street corner or in a restaurant but during a forum for developers. One can reasonably assume that many of them heard the county executive loud and clear.

These remarks are problematic for two reasons. First, they fail to recognize what developers actually do. They don’t just oversee construction contractors. They analyze market economics; hire architects and engineers; design the project; obtain financing; go through land use, transportation and environmental reviews; negotiate with the community; market the property and/or hire agents to market it; manage the property or hire a property manager (if they continue to own it) and more. Construction contractors tend not to do those things, because if they did, they would be… developers. Eliminate developers from project development and who is going to do all of the above? County bureaucrats? Good luck in saving any money that way.

Second, it is totally banana cakes to publicly say that the county is looking to partner with a developer in White Flint and then to wonder out loud – in front of developers – whether the county should be partnering with developers at all. That’s right, developers, you are invited to partner with an elected official who believes that maybe you should not be on the project. Who is going to take that deal?

Anyone want to place any bets on when White Flint gets done?

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Elrich Wants to Single Track the Purple Line Through a Tunnel

By Adam Pagnucco.

In order to save money in the county’s capital budget, the administration of County Executive Marc Elrich has asked the state to single-track the Purple Line through a tunnel in Downtown Bethesda. That has aroused concern from Council Member Andrew Friedson, whose district includes the area, and advocates for both the Purple Line and its accompanying Capital Crescent Trail.

The Purple Line, the state’s light rail project between Bethesda and New Carrollton, has long been tied to the bicycle-pedestrian path known as the Capital Crescent Trail. The state is responsible for the Purple Line, the county is responsible for the trail and the two are supposed to run in parallel for most of the way between Silver Spring and Bethesda. The old version of the trail proceeded through an existing tunnel under Downtown Bethesda to enable pedestrians and bikers to avoid crossing Wisconsin Avenue, one of the most congested roads in the county. The new trail project is supposed to contain a new tunnel while the Purple Line uses the existing tunnel to connect to the Bethesda Metro Station.

Beset by tight bonding capacity and declining impact tax revenues, the county’s capital budget has been shrinking for years, forcing tough choices. In the prior version of the Capital Crescent Trail project, construction of the trail’s tunnel was supposed to “start in summer of 2024 with completion in late fall/early winter of 2026.” The executive’s new recommended version of the trail project delays the start of tunnel construction until FY27 or later. This follows a fight a year ago in which the executive did not include funding for the tunnel at all and the county council voted to add it.

This year is different in one respect. According to the executive’s new recommended trail project: “To provide an alternative approach, the County has requested that the State consider single-tracking through the Purple Line tunnel, freeing up space for the trail at considerable cost savings.” So instead of building a new tunnel, there would only be one tunnel containing one (not two) rail tracks plus the trail.

County transportation director Chris Conklin elaborated on the executive’s position in a letter to Friedson and the county council’s Transportation and Environment Committee. Conklin wrote:

For the Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel, the Executive and MCDOT staff have been discussing options for this project with the MDOT Secretary, MDOT/MTA Administrator, and MDOT/MTA Purple Line staff. We understand that MDOT is currently evaluating the opportunity to defer installation of a second track into the Bethesda Purple Line Station. Since Bethesda is a terminal station and given the initial headways planned for the Purple Line, it may be viable to eliminate this track without impact to the operations planned for the Purple Line. Without a second track through the tunnel, it may be possible to route the Capital Crescent Trail through the existing tunnel, which would also dramatically improve the very constrained pedestrian pathway included in the Purple Line design. This alignment would be much more direct than the alignment through the Carr Properties building to the Elm Street Park. In the future, if more frequent Purple Line service is needed, the trail alignment through the Carr Properties building could be constructed so that the second track could be installed.

Friedson pushed back hard against this idea, writing to his colleagues:

The County Executive’s suggestion to explore single-tracking the Purple Line in the existing tunnel in order to accommodate the new Capital Crescent Trail is highly problematic and would represent a dramatic departure from the County’s longstanding commitments to the community. To my knowledge, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has never expressed that such an arrangement is feasible. Project plans were approved long ago and construction has already started. For those reasons, and based on deep concerns that single-tracking would delay travel times and light-rail vehicle headways, I am firmly opposed to the County Executive’s proposal. Even if an abrupt change to single-tracking is possible at this late stage, it would make this critical light-rail system less functional and would fall well short of our shared commitment to reliable, high-quality public transit.

Council staff, planning staff and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association also oppose the executive’s proposal.

This is not the first time that Elrich has proposed single tracking the Purple Line. Back in 2009, Elrich (along with Council Member Roger Berliner, who was Friedson’s predecessor) suggested single tracking the Purple Line inside the rail right of way in Chevy Chase that was then used as the original version of the Capital Crescent Trail. Elrich was interested in single tracking to save trees along the trail. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) responded with a statement noting longer travel times, less frequent service and lower passenger capacity on single-tracked light rail lines built in San Diego, Portland, Sacramento, and Baltimore. MTA concluded:

In sum, introducing a single-track segment between Bethesda and Connecticut Avenue would significantly compromise travel time savings, service frequency, passenger carrying capacity, and the maintenance and operating reliability of the Purple Line, thereby reducing the effectiveness, efficiency, and the return on a $1.3 billion investment. The reduction in the amount of tree clearance hoped for from building a trail and single-track segment would not likely be achieved. For the many reasons stated above the MTA strongly recommends against single-tracking any portion of the Purple Line.

In fairness to Elrich, the capital budget is extremely tight and the council’s move to reduce impact taxes used to pay for capital projects was not helpful. However, Elrich’s proposal to single track the Purple Line through a tunnel is a huge change to the project that could limit its effectiveness. The state should heed input from the county council, the county’s state legislators, the public and its own transit agency (which came out against single tracking a decade ago) before deciding on its merits.

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