By Adam Pagnucco.
In addition to the wild and woolly Executive and Council At-Large races, MoCo has two competitive District County Council elections. Let’s have a look.
Council District 1
In District 1, which stretches from Kensington in the east to Poolesville in the west, nine candidates are vying to succeed incumbent Roger Berliner, who is term limited and is running for Executive. But of these nine, only four look competitive at the moment and one stands out: former aide to the Comptroller Andrew Friedson.
Friedson’s lead in total raised and cash balance is as obvious as it is staggering. But consider these three facts. First, if Friedson were running in the Council At-Large race, his total raised for the cycle ($218,903) would be second only to Hans Riemer ($219,103), who is the only at-large incumbent running. Friedson’s cash on hand ($200,622) would be second only to Delegate Charles Barkley ($232,428). Second, Friedson’s lead is not in money alone. We added up the number of individual contributors each of the top four fundraising candidates had in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Kensington, Cabin John, Glen Echo, Poolesville and zip codes 20852 (Rockville) and 20878 (Gaithersburg/North Potomac) to approximate in-district contributors. Friedson had 289 contributors in these locations, followed by Reggie Oldak (217), former Town of Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman (195) and Meredith Wellington (92). Third, Friedson has accomplished this in just five months. Fosselman has been running for ten months, followed by Oldak (nine months) and Wellington (eight months). We wonder how much Friedson would have raised if he had been campaigning longer.
The good news for Reggie Oldak is that she has done well in public financing and should have no problem hitting the $125,000 cap for public matching funds. The bad news is that it’s probably impossible for her to catch Friedson because once she hits the cap, she will be limited to $150 individual checks. Wellington has relied on self-financing more than the other candidates and has a high burn rate (41%). Fosselman should have been the fundraising leader in this race. He was Mayor of the Town of Kensington for a decade and is plugged into Ike Leggett’s network, the county developer network (he once worked for Rodgers Consulting) and what is left of the network of former Governor Martin O’Malley, who endorsed him and had his PAC max out to him. But Fosselman is fourth in cash on hand and faces the risk that the business community will turn to Friedson as a better prospect to win.
Council District 3
In District 3, which is mostly comprised of Rockville, Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Leisure World, part of Norbeck and Washington Grove, former J Street Political Director Ben Shnider is taking on incumbent Council Member and former Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz. Shnider, who is in the traditional financing system, outraised the incumbent, who is taking public financing.
Shnider’s fundraising edge, along with his endorsement by SEIU Local 32BJ, gives his campaign credibility against Katz, who has been in county and municipal politics for decades. A further look at the fundraising numbers reveals two things. First, 76% of Shnider’s fundraising has come from out of state. (Katz’s percentage is just 2%). But second, and more worrisome for Katz, Shnider is starting to catch on in the district. When we added up the number of individual contributors from Rockville, Gaithersburg, Washington Grove and zip code 20906 (Leisure World/Norbeck) to approximate in-district contributors, Katz had 99 and Shnider had 75. Shnider is the underdog in this race, but Katz needs to start working harder to hold him off.
The other districts lack competition. District 2 incumbent Craig Rice has not been raising money and is apparently unworried about his Republican rivals in the age of Trump. District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro and District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker have no opponents and are headed to reelection.
We will get to state legislative races soon, folks!