Tag Archives: David Blair

Anti-Ficker, 9 Districts Charter Amendments Group to Speak on Monday

By Adam Pagnucco.

A new group formed by former County Executive Ike Leggett, former Congresswoman Connie Morella, businessman and former county executive candidate David Blair and business owner Carmen Ortiz Larsen is holding a press event on Monday to discuss their plans to oppose charter amendments by Robin Ficker and Nine Districts for MoCo. Maryland Matters discussed the group in broad terms today but did not name its leaders. The group’s news advisory (listing Leggett’s former public information officer Patrick Lacefield as contact) appears below.

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COUNTY LEADERS LEGGETT, MORELLA, BLAIR, LARSEN TO ANNOUNCE LAUNCH OF “NO ON QUESTIONS B & D COMMITTEE”

Former County Executive Isiah Leggett, former Congresswoman Connie Morella, non-profit leader David Blair, and Latina tech business owner Carmen Ortiz Larsen will speak out against November Montgomery County ballot questions B and D and urge a “NO” vote on both. Question B would put an inflexible cap on County property taxes, on top of already existing limitations on increases, severely hampering the County from responding to crises such as COVID-19 and sustaining critical services such as education and public safety. Question D would eliminate the County’s four at-large Council seats and replace it with nine individual districts. The impact would reduce the number of Councilmembers each voter can vote for from five to one.

WHEN: Monday, September 14 at 10:15 AM
WHERE: Outside of the Dennis Avenue Health Center, 2000 Dennis Avenue in Silver Spring
CONTACT: Patrick Lacefield

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Five

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Today, we begin the list of the most influential non-elected people in MoCo. They may not have the direct power of elected officials, but they still have considerable indirect ability to shape this county’s politics and government.

15 (tied). David Blair, Executive Chairman, Accountable Health, Inc. and Chairman, Coalition for Advocacy and Policy Solutions – 7 votes

AP: David Blair is a double threat with both the non-profit think tank he chairs, the Coalition for Advocacy and Policy Solutions (CAPS), and his status as a potential candidate for another run for office. No matter where you go in MoCo politics today, the question of “What is Blair going to do?” keeps popping up. (Disclosure: CAPS is one of my clients.)

15 (tied). Joy Nurmi, Chief of Staff, Office of Council Member Gabe Albornoz – 7 votes

Source: Commands influence and knows what’s going on.

Source: She knows where all of the bodies are buried, and Gabe Albornoz was very wise to hire her as chief of staff. Possibly the driest humor I’ve ever encountered in Rockville. Cross her at your peril.

Source: As plugged in as anyone in County politics. The close relationship with the CE has clearly cooled, but her deep ties to virtually all the holdovers in his administration are as strong as ever. She’s fiercely loyal to her current boss (Gabe) as she was to her last ones (Leggett & Praisner). Has unbridled passion and a powerful bull in a china shop personality — an interesting juxtaposition to a boss who has been referred to as “Mr. Rogers.”

AP: The Fixer. She is tougher than you. She knows more than you do. She remembers things that you have never heard about. Don’t even think about messing with her. I did once when I was young and foolish. Never again! All of that said, The Fixer gets a lot of respect and is a serious force for good in Rockville.

15 (tied). Dan Reed, Author, Just Up the Pike/Greater Greater Washington – 7 votes

Source: The public intellectual we have done nothing to deserve.

AP: If Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson is the primary smart growth leader inside the government, Dan is the main leader outside of it. Young people who are looking to get involved in the county should look to Dan as a role model.

15 (tied). Laura Stewart, Vice President for Advocacy, MCCPTA – 7 votes

Source: Works A TON behind the scenes. She is my go to gal when I’m going into the weeds on anything school related. She has relationships and a wide breadth of advocacy experience.

Source: Everywhere all the time – in Annapolis and at the Council. Persistent!

AP: Only the coronavirus could stop Laura from going to events non-stop! Few activists aside from Diana Conway show up at more things, know more people and work as hard as she does.

13 (tied). Glenn Orlin, Transportation and Capital Budget Expert, County Council – 8 votes

Source: Retirement leaves massive void. But his impact will last decades, arguably having more power (right or wrong) than individual Council Members on CIP projects, school construction/subdivision staging policy and transportation projects, planning and policy.

Source: Retiring, but has been so influential even this last year he stays on my list.

AP: The reason why Glenn doesn’t rank higher is that his influence is largely invisible outside of the county council building. But make no mistake: his knowledge and his experience are vast. Few if any public officials will leave a longer-lasting mark on this county than Glenn and that includes his bosses on the council.

13 (tied). Julie Verratti, Co-Founder, Denizens Brewing Company – 8 votes

Source: The go-to voice of small biz in MoCo and Maryland, especially recently with COVID economic remedies.

AP: A rare crossover figure between the worlds of business and politics. She is responsible for opening up the craft brewing world in MoCo and helps run one of the best breweries anywhere.

More to come in Part Six!

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David Blair’s Concession Email

Dear Friends –

Yesterday afternoon the Board of Elections concluded their recount of the Primary Election.  The outcome did not change.  While we ran a dynamic campaign that pushed the status quo . . . at the end we came up 77 votes short.

Last night I congratulated Marc Elrich on winning the Democratic nomination for County Executive.  I encouraged Marc and offered my support to enhance critical programs such as early childhood education, affordable housing and access to healthcare, as well as pursuing initiatives to foster business growth. Our message clearly resonated with residents all across the County and I will remain engaged to ensure our voices are heard.

I also want to thank you again for your support and commitment over the past year. Together we ran an incredible campaign and we generated many innovative ideas to make Montgomery County an even better place to call home. I am proud and humbled by all the support I received and truly grateful for the many new friendships made along the way.

While no doubt we are disappointed in the outcome of the election, I suggest to you that this is not the end, but rather just the beginning of our journey together.  Looking forward, let’s continue to drive the conversation on the issues that matter most and support Democratic nominees across the state.

Again, a heartfelt thank you.

Best wishes,

David Blair

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Blair Cites Voter “Disenfranchisement” in Asking for Recount

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive candidate David Blair is citing voter “disenfranchisement” as a reason for his asking for a partial recount.  Blair is specifically referring to the MVA voter registration change issue which affected 5,381 MoCo Democrats and, in your author’s opinion, certainly could have impacted the 79-vote margin race.  We reprint Blair’s blast email below.

Dear Friends –

Yesterday afternoon our campaign filed a formal petition with the Board of Elections for a recount of the June 2018 Primary Election results. Over the last several weeks, we have analyzed the election results by precinct, reviewed the treatment of thousands of provisional ballots, and spoken with hundreds of individual voters who experienced difficulties registering to vote or casting their ballots, and while it is certainly unclear whether a recount will affect the outcome, we believe the narrow margin coupled with the numerous issues impacting the election make a recount appropriate.

This year’s Primary Election was impacted by a variety of unusual circumstances. Most notably, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) technical errors that affected thousands of Montgomery County residents. The MVA issues caused delays and, in some cases, lost or failed voter registrations and resulted in a significant increase of provisional ballots cast over prior elections. The MVA issues also had a deterrent effect that caused an untold number of legally registered voters to leave polling places without casting ballots, and it resulted in the rejection of valid provisional ballots. Of the 3,616 provisional ballots cast in this year’s Primary Election, 955 or 26.4 % were rejected in the County Executive race.

Our chief concern centers on the 955 provisional ballots that were rejected by the Board of Elections in the County Executive Race as these rejected ballots disproportionately impact our supporters. We have spoken to many supporters whose votes fall into this category, but unfortunately, the recount process does not provide a legal avenue for the campaign to get these votes counted. We join our supporters and the voters of Montgomery County in being frustrated with the breakdown in process that led to their disenfranchisement and we pledge to continue to work with the appropriate officials to fix this error.

During the official canvass, members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections expressed their own concerns that poor data tied their hands and forced them to reject provisional ballots cast by individuals who swore to their longstanding status as registered Montgomery County voters. We hope that the State of Maryland will work in cooperation with the Montgomery County Board of Elections to reach out to voters whose ballots may have been erroneously rejected to ensure the MVA database accurately reflects their most current voter registration and that every vote is counted. In addition, we encourage individual voters whose ballots remain incorrectly rejected to seek administrative relief to rehabilitate their votes and to use our campaign as a resource should they need any help in this process.

The formal petition submitted yesterday calls for a partial recount of the election results to include provisional and absentee ballots as well as a select number of precincts. We expect that this process will take several days. We are grateful for your continuous show of support and we will keep you updated throughout the recount process.

Best wishes,

David Blair

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Blair Comments on Recount

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive candidate David Blair, who is trailing by 79 votes in the certified result of the Democratic primary, has sent out a blast email commenting on a possible recount.  In the email, Blair says, “We have concerns with the tabulated results after hearing from voters who experienced difficulties during Early Vote and on Election Day coupled with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s voter registration technical errors, which resulted in thousands more provisional ballots than in previous elections… Accordingly, we anticipate that in the next few days we will request the Board of Elections to perform a full recount.”

We reprint the entire email below.

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MoCo Democrats Reveal Preferred Directions for the County

By Adam Pagnucco.

Lots of attention has been paid to who will win the MoCo Democratic Primary for Executive.  At this point, it appears to be Council Member Marc Elrich.  But much less attention has been paid to something equally important: the voice of the voters.  In this primary, MoCo Democrats spoke out loud and clear about their preferred directions for the future of the county.

The Executive race is like no other in MoCo.  The office may not be as powerful as the County Council on paper, but its holder is THE leader and spokesman for the county and sets the tone and direction of the county going forward.  Voters understand that.  And they scrutinize the message and vision of the Executive candidates to a much greater extent than others running for local office.

In this primary, there were six candidates for Executive.  Each had enough resources to be heard.  And as a group, they sent three kinds of messages to the voters.  By choosing between these three messages, the voters indicated their preferred directions for the county’s future.

Status Quo (23% of the vote)

Council Members Roger Berliner and George Leventhal ran on their records in office and argued that they merited a promotion to Executive.  Berliner and Leventhal were arguably the two most effective legislators on the County Council.  Both showed substantial skill at passing a large variety of bills, including difficult ones like Berliner’s bill to protect street trees and Leventhal’s bill to prevent unilateral sales of county property by the Executive.  The two served a combined twenty-four years as committee chairs and each was elected Council President twice.  Their records were not just their own, but were also essentially those of the council itself.  Boiled down to its basic nature, their message was, “I’m an experienced leader and you can count on me to continue the county’s success.”

Berliner and Leventhal ran on their records as Council Members in their mail.

engagement dress

In many years, this kind of strategy would have worked.  MoCo Democrats tend to respect effective elected service.  But this was not one of those years as Berliner and Leventhal combined to get 23% of the vote.  More than three-quarters of Democrats opted for change of one kind or another.

Progressive Plus Anti-Developer Direction (29% of the vote)

Despite being in elected office continuously for 31 years, Council Member Marc Elrich ran as a change candidate.  He argued that the county needed a more progressive social justice direction that would help renters, vulnerable people and those living in and close to poverty.  He was especially focused on closing the achievement gap in public schools and instituting the most progressive environmental standards in the nation.  At the same time, he lambasted developers as “the special interest with too much influence over the government” and vowed to “hold developers accountable for providing the resources necessary to maintain our quality of life.”

Elrich’s comments about developers on his website and in email are in line with the message he has used for decades.

This wasn’t just Elrich’s campaign; almost the entire progressive movement in MoCo lined up behind him and did everything they could to get him elected.  The result was 29% of the vote.

Competitive Direction (48% of the vote)

The three non-Council Members – businessman David Blair, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow and Delegate Bill Frick – had very different biographies but they had similar campaign messages, especially on the economy.  All three agreed that the county’s economic competitiveness is slipping and must be restored to fund the kinds of progressive priorities favored by all the candidates, and most of the voters.

Blair, Krasnow and Frick made economic competitiveness the focus of their campaigns in their mail and websites.

Blair, Krasnow and Frick combined to receive 48% of the vote with essentially the same message on the economy.  The Executive election revealed that the group of voters wanting economic competitiveness and tax restraint is the largest faction in the county’s Democratic Party.  The competitive direction candidates did not win because there were too many of them and they split up each other’s support, allowing Elrich to squeak in by 80 votes.

Combine the competitive direction Democrats with the roughly 40% of registered voters who are unaffiliated or Republicans and you get 70% of the general electorate – the exact percentage who voted for term limits.  These numbers are not a coincidence.

The Executive election is not quite finished yet.  Council Member Nancy Floreen is trying to get on the ballot as an independent, which we believe is an uphill battle, and a general election awaits.  But through their votes on candidate messages, MoCo Democrats have spoken about where they would like the county to go.  Elected officials would be wise to heed them.

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Blair Reaching Out to Absentee and Provisional Voters

By Adam Pagnucco.

As Council Member Nancy Floreen plans an independent run for Executive, the Democratic primary is not quite over.  Democratic Executive candidate David Blair, who trails Marc Elrich by eighty votes, is reaching out to absentee and provisional voters whose ballots were rejected to ensure that their votes are counted.  We reprint Blair’s email blast below.

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Heavens to Nancy. We Might Have Competition in a MoCo General Election!

You can read some of my thoughts on Nancy Floreen’s mulling over entering the county executive race in an interview with WAMU.

In essence, I consider it virtually impossible that Councilmember Floreen plunges into the race if David Blair ends up winning the tightly contested Democratic primary. Floreen’s bid is being talked up by the more or less the same developer folks who back Empower Montgomery and vehemently oppose Elrich.

David Blair has a different background from Nancy Floreen. He’s a former business exec, while she has earned her political stripes serving as Mayor of Garrett Park, on the Planning Board, and on the county council. But their issue positions aren’t radically different. Essentially, a bid by Floreen would be a mulligan for the business community if Blair loses.

Even more important, Floreen would lack the essential money from the business community required for a serious campaign. Getting on the ballot is tough enough in such a short period and would be hard to do without financial support. Of course, that leaves aside the money needed for a campaign or fighting a lawsuit challenging her eligibility to be on the ballot because she filed to run as an unaffiliated voter while still registered as a Democrat.

Some argue that Floreen’s gambit is an effort to try to get a women into power after the county executive and council primary results resulted in the nomination of one woman. At the end of the day, I tend to regard that as nice verbiage that will disappear if David Blair wins the nomination. Besides, Nancy Floreen has a lot more to offer beyond “girl power” as a candidate.

Earlier today, Del. Kirill Reznik made the case that the Democratic candidates are all good, reasonable people. Boiled down, it articulated the wisdom of the old, typing practice phrase “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.” It’s time for Democrats to rally around the winner.

Except it’s hard for me to get that exercised about the idea of Nancy Floreen running as an independent. If an independent like Bernie Sanders can take lots of Democratic Party money for his Senate bids and even run for the Democratic presidential nomination, why can’t a Democrat like Nancy Floreen run as an independent?

The Republican label is now so toxic that it’s virtually unthinkable of a Republican winning an election in Montgomery. Having Robin Ficker as your champion doesn’t help. That has forced all contests into the Democratic party, and only a select share of the electorate participates in the Democratic primary. Many voters end up frustrated as it renders the general election meaningless.

Parties are valuable because they provide useful cues to voters as a starting point (often an ending point) in evaluating candidates. There are divisions but no truly organized factions within the Democratic Party to structure politics for voters. Moreover, as V.O. Key noted long ago. one-partyism facilitates rapid ideological movement within a party of the sort we’ve seen in Peter Franchot’s evolution from progressive tribune to Hogan buddy.

The increasing leftward trend of the Democrats and extreme right-wing nature of the vast majority of today’s Republicans leaves a lot of unoccupied space in the center. Unsurprisingly, some pols may begin to take advantage of it and a lot of voters might well respond.

I should make clear that, while I respect Nancy Floreen, that these points are general rather than specific. She’s right that the county could sorely use more competition in the general. At the state level, the Democrats would also benefit as it would help motivate Democratic voters to turn out in the general election.

More specifically, I do not share the fears held by some in the business community regarding Marc Elrich as county executive. It’s important to look at specifics beyond ideological type. Elrich is far from someone who simply mouths progressive slogans and will mindlessly attempt to implement them.

If you listen to him speak in detail about issues, it’s clear that he’s highly knowledgeable and has many concrete, practical ideas that are far from whackadoodle to address problems that all Democrats claim they want to address. Elrich will also have to deal with a county council with a range of views. Assuming he wins the Democratic primary, I think he deserves his shot and will have my vote. I can say the same regarding David Blair.

Though I end up with the same vote as Kirill Reznik here, I applaud people looking beyond party (at least when the candidates merit it). Small-d democratic competition is healthy. Let’s embrace it.

P.S. Having assumed life would be dull after the primary, I’m stepping away from the keyboard for a few weeks. I trust Adam Pagnucco will continue to make healthy mischief in my absence.

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County Exec Race Going to Be Extremely Tight

Yesterday, Adam Pagnucco explained that David Blair needs to win the outstanding ballots by 6.2% in order to pass Marc Elrich in the final vote tally. The absentee ballots counted yesterday suggest that this is entirely possible.

Yesterday, 3793 absentee ballots were counted. Among those voters, 3292 participated in the Democratic primary. Fewer voters tend to cast votes as one goes down the ballot, a phenomenon known as roll-off. In the Democratic primary for county executive, 3140 cast valid votes.

Blair lead Elrich by 7.1% among the absentees counted, which allowed him to pick up a net 223 votes and close the gap with Elrich to 269 votes. Substantial numbers of absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted.

Why the difference between election day and absentee voters? It could be a number of factors. One reason might be if Blair had a better absentee voter program than Elrich. Once an absentee ballot is requested, it’s vital for campaigns to contact a voter in order to try to obtain their vote. Another explanation might be that voters who made decisions prior to election day tended to vote differently than those who cast ballots on the day itself.

In any case, it now looks like the final count may be exceedingly close. We’ll almost certainly have to wait for provisional ballots to be counted, after Independence Day. Provisional ballots may show a different pattern than for absentee ballots, but that is a wild card and we don’t know how voters affected by the MVA screw-up tended to vote compared to the whole electorate. (It turns out the number of registered voters affected has crept up again and now reached 90,000.)

Even when the count is finalized, I could well imagine the losing campaign requesting a recount.

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Does Blair Have a Chance?

By Adam Pagnucco.

With early votes and election day votes counted, Marc Elrich leads David Blair by 452 votes to win the Democratic County Executive nomination.  This would be a close margin in a House of Delegates race but it’s incredibly close for a county-wide race.  The final outcome will now be decided by absentee and provisional ballots.  Does Blair have a chance or will Elrich hold on to win?

According to Bethesda Magazine, the county’s Board of Elections received 4,900 Democratic absentee ballots as of Monday.  In addition, 3,614 provisional ballots were cast but that total includes all parties.  For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that 2,500 of those provisional ballots came from Democrats.  If there are only 5,000 Democratic absentee ballots received, that is 7,500 outstanding votes.  A higher end assumption would be that 7,500 Democratic absentee ballots come in, resulting in 10,000 outstanding votes.

Let’s do a math exercise on the final outcome of the absentee and provisional votes.  In the first scenario, let’s assume that the percentages of three categories – Blair’s percentage, Elrich’s percentage and the percentage of all the other candidates – exactly match the shares recorded during early and election day voting.  In this scenario, Elrich picks up between 30 and 40 votes more than Blair and he would win.

Now let’s do a scenario in which Blair wins.  Since Blair and Elrich are the top two and no one else is even close, it’s the margin between them that will determine the victor.  In this second scenario, we will hold the percentage of all the other candidates constant and merely adjust the totals for Blair and Elrich.  Adding 3.3 points to Blair and subtracting 3.3 points from Elrich produces a net gain for Blair of 465 votes in a 7,500 vote universe, enough to win.  That margin would go up to 620 votes in a 10,000 vote universe.  But note that this scenario requires Blair to lead Elrich by 6.2 points among these groups, a very different result than Elrich’s 0.4 point lead in early and election day votes.

We adjusted the percentage for the other candidates up and down and didn’t find much change in the margin Blair needs, which is more than six points over Elrich.  Again, this is a departure from the cumulative early vote and election day totals.

Will it happen?  Readers, you tell us!

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