Law Firm Client Requesting County Email Lists Identified

By Adam Pagnucco.

Earlier today, we published a piece noting that an associate with the law firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C. requested the county’s email lists.  The post contained an important error: the firm did in fact identify its client in its request letter to the county.   Law firm member Joseph E. Sandler wrote the following to us this morning:

Your piece in Seventh State regarding our law firm’s Public Information Act request for e-mail records, submitted to Montgomery County, is flat-out inaccurate.  County law requires that a lawyer submitting such a request on behalf of a client disclose the client—Empower Montgomery– and Ms. Krupke did so, in her letter, of copy of which is attached.  The County website did not list the client but Ms. Krupke’s letter did disclose it.  Apparently you didn’t bother to check the letter itself.  Please run an immediate retraction/correction.  Thanks for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Joe Sandler

When your author requested that Mr. Sandler cite the section of state or county law requiring attorney disclosure of clients when making Public Information Act (PIA) requests, he replied, “Our view is that we were required, by the rules of legal ethics, to disclose the client in these circumstances.  We do not believe it is required by state or county law.”

Sandler’s firm did in fact disclose the client in their PIA request.  The request itself did not appear on the county’s website.  We were wrong in implying that the firm intended to protect the identity of the client.  We reprint the request letter below.

Empower Montgomery, the client requesting the emails, is an advocacy group whose co-founders are real estate executives Charlie Nulsen and Chris Bruch, former health care executive David Blair and former County Council Member Steve Silverman.  Blair has been mentioned as a possible candidate for County Executive twice in the Washington Post.  Silverman was once the Director of the county’s Department of Economic Development and is now a registered lobbyist with both the county and the state.

We apologize to Mr. Sandler and his firm for implying in our original post that their Public Information Act request was intended to conceal the identity of their client.  That was clearly wrong.  Even so, the news that a rumored potential County Executive candidate and a registered lobbyist with business before the county are now in possession of the county’s email lists is interesting in and of itself.

Law Firm That Has Represented Candidates Requests County Email Lists

By Adam Pagnucco.

Correction

The law firm in this post identified its client as Empower Montgomery.  Please read our follow-up and bear this in mind when reading further.

Original Post

After Westbard activist Robert Lipman requested electronic copies of the email lists possessed by the offices of the County Executive and the County Council, others including Robin Ficker and a supposed Nigerian prince requested them too.  But the most recent request for the emails is most interesting because it may protect the identity of the ultimate requester.

Jessica Krupke, an associate of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C., has filed a Public Information Act (PIA) request with the county asking for a “complete list of esubscription email addresses and paperless airplane email addresses.”  The county’s PIA website indicates that a response was posted on April 19 but it is not visible on opening.  Sandler Reiff is a law firm specializing in campaign finance and election law.  Why would they need more than 200,000 email addresses of county residents?

The PIA request on the county’s website.

It turns out that the firm, headed by former Democratic National Committee general counsel Joseph E. Sandler, has a long work history in Maryland.  Sandler has represented former Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg and her former aide, Dana Beyer, in the past.  State Board of Elections records show that Sandler Reiff has been paid by many campaign committees over the years, including those of former Governor Martin O’Malley, former Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, State Senator Will Smith (D-20), Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19), Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras, the Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus Committee, the Maryland House Democratic Caucus Committee and other committees associated with labor unions and gambling interests.  That may just scratch the surface of the firm’s relationships in Maryland.

Until now, while some candidates may covet the county’s email lists, the prospect of public condemnation has undoubtedly deterred at least a few of them from submitting PIA requests for the lists under their own names.  (The PIA requests themselves are public records and subject to disclosure.)  But if candidates can get a law firm like Sandler Reiff to obtain the emails on their behalf, they can dodge any scrutiny in obtaining the lists.

Pandora’s Box is now wide open.

Two Tiers in the At-Large Council Race, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

In Part One, we spotlighted five losing candidates who went on to be elected to multiple terms on the Montgomery County Council.  That illustrates a key point: candidates with electoral experience often come back stronger in future races, even if they lose their first elections.  The top tier of potential at-large council candidates includes the following people who have earned lots of votes in prior races for council and the General Assembly and presumably know how to earn them in the future.

Hans Riemer

49,932 votes in the 2014 at-large primary, third place

Your author admits to being partial to Riemer as a former member of his staff.  That said, he is the only incumbent in the race as his three current colleagues have been tossed out by term limits.  Back in 2010, we ran a series on why MoCo incumbents lose and identified four reasons: they were Republicans, they were lazy, they made lots of enemies (especially in their districts) and they had great challengers.  Riemer is not a Republican, he’s not lazy and he has no more enemies than most other local politicians.  Great challengers are rare, and because Riemer is the only incumbent running for one of four seats, four great challengers would have to get in to knock him out.  That’s just not going to happen.  The only certainty in this race is that Riemer will be reelected.

Beth Daly

39,642 votes in the 2014 at-large primary, fifth place

Dickerson activist Beth Daly ran a solid at-large campaign in 2014.  Her support crossed over with incumbent Marc Elrich and she got many valuable endorsements from the labor and environmental communities.  Daly’s problem had less to do with her and more to do with the field as she was running against four incumbents.  So did Riemer in 2010, but he benefited from incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg’s blowing up her relationships with labor and sitting on a huge unspent campaign balance.  None of the 2014 incumbents committed mistakes of that magnitude, and Daly, despite all the things she did right, could not break through.  We don’t know if she has any interest in running again, but if she does, she would be a strong contender in a wide open race.

Tom Hucker

7,667 votes in the 2014 District 5 primary, winner

If Hucker stays in District 5, he will be defending a safe seat.  Pay no attention to his close victory in 2014; Hucker and his super-duper staff led by MCDCC Chair Dave Kunes have locked down the district.  But there are rumors that Hucker could run at-large.  If he does, he would be formidable.  Hucker has a true-blue progressive voting record in both Rockville and Annapolis, and with more than 20 years of political experience, he knows how to win.  Labor and the environmentalists will be there for him, too.  Note: it’s misleading to compare the vote totals of Hucker and his 2014 opponent, Evan Glass, to the other candidates on this list.  Hucker and Glass ran in a vote-for-one race whereas most of the others ran in multiple-vote races.

Evan Glass

7,445 votes in the 2014 District 5 primary, second place

Former journalist and uber-activist Evan Glass nearly shocked the world by coming close to beating heavy favorite Hucker in 2014.  Since then, he has kept busy by running youth film non-profit Gandhi Brigade and serving on Committee for Montgomery’s board.  He has well-wishers in many parts of the county’s political community and could be a consensus candidate in whatever election he enters.  It’s important to note that Glass and Hucker won’t be in the same race.  One will run in District 5 and the other will run at-large.  Our prediction: there is a strong possibility that the two former rivals will be council colleagues in December 2018.

Will Jawando

5,620 votes in the 2014 Legislative District 20 primary, fourth place

5,634 votes in MoCo in the 2016 Congressional District 8 primary, fifth place

Former Obama aide Will Jawando is the kind of candidate you could fall in love with.  He’s handsome, well-spoken and ridiculously charismatic.  He’s also good at raising money.  But after running strong for a District 20 House seat in 2014, he inexplicably ran for Congress in 2016.  Our prediction is that Delegate Sheila Hixson, who just gave up a committee chair she held for more than twenty years, will retire and Jawando will run for her seat.  But if Jawando runs for council at-large instead, he will get more than his fair share of votes.

Charles Barkley

4,896 votes in the 2014 Legislative District 39 primary, first place

Note: the above race had no challengers

District 39 Delegate Charles Barkley was first elected in 1998 as part of a slate of Democrats who took out three Republican Delegates.  He has coasted to victory in the district ever since.  Something of a maverick in Annapolis, Barkley has told Bethesda Magazine that he will likely be running for council at-large.  Barkley’s problems are that he has never run a modern campaign including social media and blast email and his district has the smallest number of regular Democratic voters of any legislative district in the county.  But he reported a $205,478 campaign account balance in January 2017, and if he doesn’t enroll in public financing, he can spend every cent of that in a race for council.

That’s the top tier.  The second tier is everyone else.  There are some noteworthy candidates stepping forward.  Chris Wilhelm is a progressive MCPS teacher who has worked for Delegate David Moon (D-20) and is off to a fast start.  Marilyn Balcombe, President/CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is well-known in the business community and is smart and pragmatic.  School board members Rebecca Smondrowski and Jill Ortman-Fouse have not publicly said they’re interested in the council – yet – but both of them ran against MCEA-endorsed opponents and won.  Would any of them, or any of the many other people thinking about running, be top-notch candidates?  There’s no way to tell right now.  But given the number of at-large openings and the high probability that some of the top-tier people won’t get in, at least one new candidate will probably win.

Two Tiers in the At-Large Council Race, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

The race for Montgomery County Executive is starting to draw some attention from the press, but relatively little has been written about the upcoming election for the County Council’s four at-large seats.  That’s too bad considering the historic nature of the race.  The council has never had three open at-large seats since its current structure was created in 1990, but it does now thanks to term limits.  Combined with the open District 1 seat, the council will have four openings in 2018.  Whoever wins those seats, along with the next County Executive, will be running the county for as long as the next twelve years.

We are fourteen months out from the election and the race is just now beginning to form, but we are reasonably sure of one thing: candidates who have run before, even if they lost (respectably), will have an advantage over those who have not.  That’s because of two reasons.  First, they have electoral experience and don’t have the often-steep learning curve of brand-new candidates.  Second, they will have leftover support, relationships and name recognition from their prior races.  Why do we emphasize this?  MoCo electoral history is full of candidates who lost and later came back to win.  Consider just a few examples.

Steve Silverman

Silver Spring attorney Steve Silverman took on all three incumbent District 20 Delegates in 1994 and lost by more than 2,000 votes.  But he captured a council at-large seat four years later and finished first for reelection in 2002.  Silverman, as shrewd and canny as they come, is still a player in county politics as a co-founder of the advocacy group Empower Montgomery and as a successful lobbyist.

A 1994 Silverman mailer about school construction.  Some things never change.

Phil Andrews

Former Common Cause of Maryland Executive Director Phil Andrews ran for an at-large council seat in 1994 emphasizing his work on curbing lobbyists and big campaign donors.  He finished sixth, but came back four years later to knock out District 3 incumbent Bill Hanna.  Andrews would go on to serve four terms on the council.

A 1994 Andrews mailer.  Reading his comments on his time at Common Cause, it is no surprise that he would create the county’s public campaign financing system twenty years later.

Roger Berliner

Energy sector lawyer Roger Berliner ran in the 2000 District 1 special election primary and lost to Pat Baptiste, who subsequently was defeated by Republican Howie Denis for the seat.  Berliner came back six years later to beat Denis and has represented the district ever since.

A Berliner mailer from 2000.  He has much better glasses now!

Hans Riemer

Former Rock the Vote political director Hans Riemer lost a 2006 open seat race in District 5 to school board member Valerie Ervin.  Four years later, Riemer finished second in the at-large race and is the only incumbent eligible to run again.

Riemer vows to build the Purple Line in 2006 or die trying.  For the sake of his wife and two kids, we hope the project is allowed to proceed!

Marc Elrich

Former MCPS teacher and Takoma Park City Council Member Marc Elrich is the patron saint of persistent candidates.  Elrich ran four straight times for County Council before being elected at-large in 2006 and has finished first in the last two elections.  Elrich’s longevity, tenacity and consistency of message will make him a formidable candidate for Executive.

An Elrich mailer from 1994.  What did we say about things never changing?

We love history like many Seventh State readers.  But what does this have to do with 2018?  We’ll explore that in Part Two.

Baltimore County Young Dems Respond

By Adam Pagnucco.

Henry Callegary, Secretary of the Baltimore County Young Democrats, sent us the following response on his organization’s email soliciting straw poll attendees for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.  The County Executive, who is running for Governor, offered to pay expenses for up to twelve county Young Dems who agreed to vote in the poll.

It’s true that the email was sent out by the Baltimore County Young Democrats. The Kamenetz campaign asked us to pass along information about the Western Maryland Democratic Summit to our membership, and we agreed to do so. BCYD supports opportunities for young people to get exposure to as many events as possible. It’s always been our policy to forward information from Democratic candidates to our general membership, and we invite any and all Democrats to provide us details about upcoming events. 

No response yet from Kamenetz.

Is Kamenetz Trying to Rig the Western Maryland Straw Poll?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As we have previously written, the Western Maryland Democratic PAC is holding a summit event in Flintstone at the end of this month.  The event will include a straw poll held on Saturday the 29th.  And one prospective candidate is REALLY interested in making sure that event is well attended: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is running for Governor.

The following email was sent out by the Baltimore County Young Democrats (BCYD) soliciting attendance for the summit.

The contact in the email is Henry Callegary, Secretary of BCYD.  We asked for confirmation and comment from both the County Executive’s office and the three BCYD officers.  None of them responded before publication time, but if they do get back to us, we will print what they say.

We will be interested to see what the other campaigns make of this.  But in the meantime, if you are one of these straw voters, go ahead and rent the best wet-bar and Jacuzzi mega-suites Western Maryland has to offer!  It’s not like you’re paying for them, yeah?

Should You Take Public Campaign Financing? Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

In Part Two, we explored some reasons why a candidate may want to enter public financing.  Today we will look at some factors that would argue for staying out.

Reasons to Stay Out

  1. You Already Have Money

In January 2014, then-District 20 Delegate Tom Hucker had a war chest of $146,905.  He had accumulated it by raising money continuously and not having serious challengers since he was first elected in 2006.  Hucker, whose progressive credentials are beyond question and who had sponsored public financing legislation while in Annapolis, would have been crazy to enter public financing for his Council District 5 race had it been available.  He would have had his war chest frozen and would have had to start from zero while facing a strong opponent in Evan Glass.  Even with his starting balance, Hucker won by just 222 votes.

Other state legislators who are thinking of running for council this time are in the same situation as Hucker.  For them, getting into public financing means walking away from significant war chests and participating in a system that is brand new and might have some implementation hiccups.  Self-funding candidates are in a similar place.  It would be understandable for these folks to stay out.

  1. You are Unknown

Complete unknowns rarely win.  Our voters usually expect county-level candidates to have some record in the community before supporting them.  But this is compounded in public financing, which requires participants to hit the in-county thresholds below before distributing public funds.  This will be tough for many unknown candidates.

Even fairly well-known candidates could struggle to qualify for matching funds.  Over the last three cycles, candidates who would not have hit the match thresholds include Mike Subin, Bo Newsome, Hugh Bailey, Sharon Dooley and Bob Dorsey (2006), Nancy Navarro (2008), Duchy Trachtenberg and Royce Hanson (2010) and Duchy Trachtenberg, Vivian Malloy, Ryan Spiegel, Chris Barclay and Terrill North (2014).  Ben Kramer would not have qualified in 2009, but he is primarily a self-funder.  Note that this list includes two incumbents, two school board members, two City Council Members, a state legislator and a Planning Board Chair.  If you are less known than these folks, you could have a hard time in public financing.

  1. You Have Lots of Supporters Outside the County

Most new candidates tap their families, friends and professional associates for start-up funds.  If you’re a MoCo native and have worked in the local area for a while, chances are that you will start with a fair number of in-county contributors.  That’s a good thing for qualifying for matching funds.  But if you come from outside the area and got here recently, that’s a problem.  Your parents and childhood friends in California, your fraternity brothers on the coasts and your former co-workers in New York and Boston can all give you $150 contributions, but none of that will count towards the qualifying thresholds.

  1. You are Running Against an Incumbent

If you are challenging an incumbent in a one-seat race and you enter public financing, you are almost guaranteeing that the incumbent will outraise you.  If the incumbent stays in the traditional system, he or she will clobber you with corporate and PAC money.  If the incumbent also enters public financing and has done even a halfway decent job of constituent service, the incumbent will have more in-county contributors than you and therefore more money.  Either way, you lose.

  1. You Have Connections to the Business Community

If you have a professional background in the business community – especially in development, real estate and/or construction – the progressive left is going to target you.  Individual activists, left-wing groups and maybe even some opponents will label you as “pro-business,” a Democrat in Name Only (DINO) or worst of all, a “tool of the developers.”  It’s debatable whether enrolling in public financing will tamp down such criticism, but it will certainly cut you off from your financial base.  You might be better off sticking with the traditional fundraising system, tolerating attacks from people who won’t vote for you anyway and running a well-financed campaign targeting those voters who don’t care much about the issue.

There you have it, folks.  If you are running for county office, public financing might be a good way to go.  Or maybe not.  It’s all about you and your race.  The decision is yours.

Hogan Smears Federal Judge to Hide State’s Lack of Transparency

Spreading Lies

Larry Hogan joined in the attacks of the most extreme Purple Line supporters in accusing U.S. District Court Judge Robert Leon of being conflicted in the case.  As Bethesda Beat reported:

Hogan, who discussed the project with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao during a meeting last month, said the $900 million can’t be “shaken loose” because of Leon’s alleged conflicts.

“Secretary Chao can’t do anything about a judge whose wife happens to be involved in an opponent group and who has a conflict of interest who’s making a decision to hold this up,” Hogan said.

However, there is no real evidence of the claim that Judge Leon’s wife is involved beyond her membership in a citizens association that has opposed the project:

Christine Leon, the judge’s wife, has been a block captain for Andover Road for the Brookdale Citizens Association since at least 2005, according to documents posted on the associations’ website. The association is part of the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, which testified against the Purple Line in 2008 during a public hearing hosted by the state and submitted written testimony on stationery that noted the group was “representing the Citizens Associations of Brookdale, Chevy Chase Village” and other nearby communities. There’s no evidence that Christine Leon personally lobbied against the project.

One can only imagine the cries of sexism that would have emerged from Purple Line Now if the judge had ruled the other way and Purple Line opponents accused him of a conflict. Hogan went to spread a bizarre outright lie:

“But even with federal funding, we can’t move forward because of a judge who lives at a Chevy Chase country club,” Hogan noted.

Leon’s house is actually about 3 miles from Columbia Country Club in the Brookdale neighborhood of Chevy Chase.

Of course, Greater Greater Washington joined in the smear.

Lack of Transparency or Responsiveness

If the State thought there was a real conflict, they would have brought it up before the case was heard. As it stands, these sour grapes look designed to cover up the State’s total lack of transparency or responsiveness regarding the question of ridership raised in the judge’s decision.

Specifically, the judge wanted to know how the steady decline in Metro’s ridership will impact estimated ridership on the Purple Line. As is well known, Metro ridership has been affected by its chronic problems along with the rise of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft as well as telecommuting.

The State’s response to the judge’s concern was not to present any analysis but instead to thumb its nose at the court and declare such an analysis unnecessary. The claim of the unimportance of transfers directly contradicts the State’s own website, which highlights as a major benefit that the light rail “Connects to Metrorail Green and Orange lines and both branches of the Red Line.” Oops.

The State’s failure to respond to Judge Leon is a continuation of its total lack of transparency on how the ridership figures were calculated. MTA has consistently refused to divulge critical information about how the ridership numbers were calculated by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Call it a faith-based initiative.

Frankly, I have little expertise as to the legal or substantive merits of judge’s decision. I’m not a lawyer let alone an expert in environmental law. Nor do I know Judge Leon or anything about his record. But leaving legal questions entirely aside, why is the State so desperate that it must demean the court? Why has the State stonewalled and hidden the critical ridership analysis? If the Purple Line is so great, why not reveal all?

Why the secrecy?

House of Delegates Ratings, Part IV: Likely GOP Seats

After a long hiatus, 7S is resuming its rating of legislative races for the 2018 election. Previous posts covered Safe Democratic, Safe Republican, and Lean Republican seats.

All four Likely Republican seats are outside shots for the Democrats. But if the anti-Trump whirlwind hits Maryland in 2018 and sweeps away Republicans, here is where it is likely to strike. Democrats need strong candidates here in order to be prepared to take advantage and to put the Republican on defense.

William Folden

Del. Folden won election in 2014 from District 3B, a singleton subdistrict of fiercely contested Frederick County D3. More Republican than 3A, Hogan carried 3B by 28 points in 2014 and Trump beat Clinton by 6 in 2016.

However, Folden’s 56% victory margin lagged far behind the more popular Hogan. While Hogan will undoubtedly carry this area again, the question remains of by how much. Frederick continues to trend Democratic, which doesn’t help Folden either.

Democrats were demoralized and did badly in the 2014 midterm election but the reverse situation could be Folden’s undoing. One can well imagine a scenario in which Trump continues to perform below expectations, weakening Republican support and turnout in contrast to angry Democrats.

Notice that the same swing needed for Clinton to have won the district in 2016 would also ejected Folden in 2014.

Joe Cluster and Christian Miele

Del. Joe Cluster was appointed in 2016 to fill the seat won by his father, John Cluster. Del. Christian Miele was newly elected to the House in 2014. Miele and John Cluster won that election in Baltimore County’s District 8 with the equivalent of around 58% of the vote.

Unusually, they share their three delegate district with a Democrat, Del. Eric Bromwell, who is also the son of a former legislator. Bromwell trailed his Republican seatmates with the equivalent of just 50.1%–about 5% ahead of the third Republican–in an area of Baltimore County that has been seen as moving Republican.

Bromwell’s shaky hold despite his long experience in the House combined with Hogan’s 36 point victory ought to indicate that the Republicans should be fine. But Trump lost the district by 1% to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and notice that the Republicans significantly underperformed compared to Hogan.

While Hogan is on the ballot, Trump is now President. Instead of riding an anti-Democratic wave, Cluster and Miele will have to contend with anti-Trump sentiment. Candidates in both parties always have to run hard here. Though well positioned, Cluster and Miele will likely have to run harder in 2018, as this is the sort of  territory in which Trump’s unpopularity upset the increasing comfort felt by Republicans.

Glen Glass

Like Cluster and Miele, second-term Harford Del. Glen Glass holds one of the rare multimember districts split between the two parties. In 2014, he won with 57%, ahead of the 53% won by newcomer Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti and the 48% gained by his losing Republican ticket mate.

Harford County has been a growing Republican suburb but Democrats have nonetheless managed to retain a foothold in two-member District 34A. Before Lisanti, Mary Dulany James did well in delegate elections despite losing the senatorial election in larger D34 in 2014.

Like Baltimore County’s D8, D34A went for Hogan in 2014 but then narrowly for Clinton in 2016. But this subdistrict is less strongly Republican. Hogan won by 28 and Clinton won by 2. The anti-Democratic winds blowing in 2014 that undermined Del. James’ senate bid won’t be blowing in 2018.

Glass remains the favorite but, like D8, this is one of those districts that candidates from neither party can take for granted. If voters in Maryland’s outer suburbs turn on Republicans in a backlash against Trump, his reelection fight could be much tougher than anticipated, particularly if the Democrats find a good candidate.

 

Should You Take Public Campaign Financing? Part Two

  1. By Adam Pagnucco.

There are a number of factors that argue either for entering the county’s public financing system or staying out.  Let’s list the things that might cause candidates to get in first.

Reasons to Get In

  1. You Won’t Take Corporate or Developer Money

If you don’t want to take corporate or developer money, public financing can be a great way to replace those funds with taxpayer money.  Your author ran a series of simulations of what county candidates would have raised in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 cycles if public financing had been available.  The huge majority of candidates would have raised less money with public financing than what they actually raised through the traditional system, but there were two big exceptions.  Phil Andrews would have more than doubled his take in his 2006 council race and his 2014 Executive race if he had had access to public funds.  And Marc Elrich’s receipts would have increased by 55% in 2006, 71% in 2010 and 66% in 2014 with public money.  Both Andrews and Elrich refused developer money and Andrews turned away PAC money as well.  It’s not a coincidence that Andrews was the author of the public financing bill.

  1. You Have a Large Pre-Existing Base of Supporters

Under public financing, the key determinant of fundraising is not connections to business or labor or self-financing capacity.  It’s the number of in-county residents you can convince to contribute to your campaign.  That’s it.  For funds received from those folks, the government will pay 75% or more of your campaign receipts, at least until you hit the public match cap.  See the thresholds and caps below.

Most incumbents start with supporter bases and should be able to meet the match thresholds if running for reelection.  Over the last three cycles, only two incumbents – Mike Subin (2006) and Duchy Trachtenberg (2010) – would have failed to meet them.  It is probably not a coincidence that this system was designed and passed by incumbents!  State legislators running for county office have a good shot at qualifying for matches too.

Evan Glass is a good example of a non-incumbent who could qualify.  Glass had 396 in-county individual contributors in his 2014 District 5 race, enough to qualify if he were running at-large.  He raised $159,235 through August 2014, but would have raised $183,382 if public financing were available.  With one election under his belt (a VERY close loss) and continued involvement in the community since then, public financing is a real consideration in his case.

  1. You Can Afford Seed Money

If you don’t start with a large base, you will need a mechanism to raise small contributions.  Otherwise, you will get trapped by not having enough in-county contributions to qualify, which means you won’t have the money to set up a campaign infrastructure, which makes it harder to raise small contributions and so on.  The public financing system allows candidates (including spouses) to self-fund up to $12,000.  You should do that as soon as you can and use the money to set up a website, buy an email list and start running social media ads.  That will help you meet the match thresholds and keep your campaign going.  Or, if you don’t mind having the incumbents hate you, you can get a big email list for free!

  1. You Will Benefit from an IE

During the District 20 Senate appointment process, a group of unions and liberal groups announced that they were joining together “to achieve a progressive sweep” in local elections.  That means there is a real possibility of a labor-backed independent expenditure (IE) campaign to support left-wing candidates.  That could help ease the financial burden on those candidates unlikely to attract significant business support.  But counting on the IE is risky – there’s no guarantee that there will be one, that it will be effective and that it will support you.  After all, there could be lots of progressive candidates for an IE to choose from next year.

  1. You Are a Republican

One would think that Republican candidates would collect tons of business money, but that has not been true recently in Montgomery County.  Most business interests are non-ideological.  They want to pick winners who will support their agenda once elected and they don’t care very much about party labels.  (One of the untold stories in this county is the significant volume of political money contributed by Republican business people to Democratic candidates.)  But public financing gives Republican candidates another option – they can go to their fellow party members.  There are more than 120,000 registered Republicans in MoCo and nearly 60,000 of them voted in the 2014 general election.  Good luck getting elected here during the Trump era, but you can at least be financially competitive in the public system.  Finally, let’s remember that the most successful user of public financing in recent Maryland history was none other than Republican Larry Hogan, who is now Governor.

So are you convinced that you should enter public financing?  Well, not so fast.  In Part Three, we will examine reasons to stay out.