All four Montgomery County Council incumbents elected at-large are running for reelection: Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer. Two challengers are also in the race: Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy. Both are credible candidates.
Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal joined the Council in 2002 as part of County Executive Doug Duncan’s “End Gridlock” slate. Elrich lost that year but joined the Council when tides turned in 2006. Hans Riemer lost the primary for the District 5 seat to Valerie Ervin in 2006 but unseated one-term incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg with Valerie’s support in 2010.
Gauging the shape of these primaries is difficult. In a county of roughly 1 million people, the county government–equivalent to the city council of a city of the same size–remains much less known than it deserves. Indeed, for the challengers, one of the main problems is getting sufficiently well-known to pose a serious challenge.
None can afford to advertise on television in this very expensive media market. Communication through the mail, in person, and now through social media are the central means of voter contact. All also race around the county following a brutal schedule that makes me tired just thinking about it.
Oddly enough, the Council’s most conservative and liberal members seem safe. In his first reelection bid in 2010, liberal Marc Elrich came in first by a mile despite being underfunded as usual. He is best known for his relentless advocacy of a countywide bus-rapid transit system–an indication of a willingness to work with development interests that he is better known for opposing.
Marc’s BRT plan still strikes me as the most innovative and future-oriented vision for the County. It has the potential not just to aid the County’s transportation needs but also to promote economic and job growth in a sustainable way over the long term.
Nancy has been a leading voice on the other side, successfully promoting revision of zoning laws in a developer friendly manner. While part of the County’s liberal consensus on social questions, she also has staked out conservative positions on other issues, such as her opposition to the county bag tax.
Even as she argues tenaciously for her positions, Nancy also does a good job of keeping in touch with all sides. Despite being seen in many ways as the Chamber’s closest ally on the Council, she is also occasionally willing to deviate from this pattern, particularly when pressed hard by well-organized large civic groups.
Both Marc and Nancy are smart, opinionated lawmakers who utterly disagree on many big issues before the Council.