Tag Archives: David Blair

Blair Goes on TV

By Adam Pagnucco.

Businessman David Blair is the first County Executive candidate to go on TV.  Below, we print page one of his contract with WUSA (CBS Channel 9) for the week of March 6-12.  Blair chose to run three spots on morning news show Great Day Washington and three spots on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a combined cost of $5,070.  We have seen no evidence from Federal Communications Commission filings that any other local candidates have gone on TV yet other than Congressional candidate David Trone, who has purchased time on radio, WDVM-TV in Hagerstown and Univision.


Top MoCo Fundraisers, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Recently, we have run several reports on fundraising through January 2018.  This post combines all of our data and presents the top 20 fundraisers in MoCo so far.  Note that we break out self-financing and report totals raised for the cycle, not just totals since the last report.  And… here they are!

A few random thoughts.

1.  It’s natural to expect Brian Frosh and Peter Franchot to be the leaders since they both hold statewide offices.  Of the county-level candidates, Council Member Roger Berliner, who is running for Executive, is number one.

2.  The numbers for Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18), who is running for Governor, are misleading since he will be applying for public matching funds.  Madaleno has said that he anticipates receiving about $975,000 from the state.

3.  Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18), who is running for Senate, is the leading fundraiser among all of MoCo’s state legislators.  He will need that money against his self-funding rival, Dana Beyer.

4.  County Executive candidate David Blair, gubernatorial candidate Krish Vignarajah, Council District 1 candidate Andrew Friedson and Council At-Large candidate Bill Conway are first-time candidates.  It’s a significant achievement for first-timers to make a list of this kind although it’s somewhat tempered by the self-financing of Blair and Vignarajah.

5.  Delegate Marc Korman (D-16) is the only first-term elected official on this list.  That’s a big deal and a sign of good things to come.

6.  Council Member Marc Elrich, who is running for Executive, has never been on a top fundraising list in his life.  He is now, and that’s thanks to public financing.

7.  Lieutenant Governor candidate Susan Turnbull raised more money in a month and a half of campaigning than half the people on this list did in the entire cycle, a staggering feat.

8.  Governor Larry Hogan has raised more money this cycle ($11.5 million) than everyone on this list combined.

Note: an earlier version of this post mistakenly omitted Turnbull’s results.  We have corrected it to include her.


Campaign Finance Reports: County Executive, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Christmas morning is over and your blogger is done opening the presents – errrrr, campaign finance reports.  Now we get to share them with you!  And we will start by breaking down the Montgomery County Executive race.

Before we start playing with the toys, let’s clear away the wrapping and discuss a few data issues.  Our numbers are different from what you will read in other outlets.  That’s because Seventh State readers are special and we are going to give you only the best!  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Many candidates, particularly in other races we will discuss, have been campaigning for more than a year and we want to capture that.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Total raised does not include in-kind contributions.  Third, for self-financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in cash on hand (which we call adjusted cash balance).  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

And now, we reveal the numbers you all have been craving: the first round of fundraising reports for the seven people running for County Executive.

This is exactly the kind of race Council Member Marc Elrich wants.  He is up against five other candidates, only one of whom has run countywide before, who are nothing like him and cannot steal votes from his progressive and anti-development base.  Better yet, because of public financing, he has the resources to be financially competitive.  (The thought of Elrich with money is almost as strange as the sight of Elrich wearing a suit and tie.)  Elrich has been building a grass roots base for thirty years and he will be able to combine it with substantial labor, progressive and environmental support.  This election is starting to turn into Elrich and a competition to become the non-Elrich alternative.

Council Member Roger Berliner has to feel good about his report.  He leads the field in total raised for the cycle and cash on hand, and also has the lowest burn rate.  Berliner can now start making the case to those who are not inclined to support Elrich that he is the most viable alternative to Elrich.  Doing that is essential for his path to victory.  (Disclosure: your author is a publicly-listed supporter of Berliner and has done work for him in the past.)

Businessman David Blair is sometimes compared to fellow businessman David Trone, but he is not using a Trone-like strategy.  When Trone entered the CD8 race last year, he staffed up rapidly and began spending millions on television within weeks.  Accordingly, some observers expected Blair to write himself a million dollar check, putting opponents on notice and perhaps intimidating one or two of them to withdraw.  But while Trone plays to win, Blair looks like he’s playing around.  He gave himself just enough money ($300,000) to equal the formerly penniless Elrich in cash on hand and trail Berliner.  As for private sector fundraising, Berliner has raked in almost three times as much as Blair.  Blair needs to sharpen his message, learn more about the county and show a hunger to win.

Council Member George Leventhal is plenty hungry.  He might be the hardest-working candidate in the race and he clearly believes he’s the best person for the job.  But Leventhal is killing his campaign with his sky-high burn rate (46%), which is more than double the burn rates of Elrich (19%) and Berliner (18%).  Like Berliner, Leventhal needs to show to non-Elrich folks that he is the most viable alternative to Elrich.  To do that, he needs to tighten up his spending and get some big endorsements – sooner rather than later.

Bill Frick, you know we love you.  We admire your heroism on the liquor monopoly and we appreciate all the great fodder you have given us over the years.  But you showed a cash balance of $150,753 – less than half what Berliner, Elrich and Blair reported.  Why are you doing this, Bill?  We want many more years of you in public office, so please take our advice: stay in the House and run to succeed Brian Frosh as Attorney General when the time comes.  We will help you do it!  We will even write dozens of blog posts just like this one.

Former Planning Department staffer and Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow is an appealing, substantive and competent candidate with fans in both the business and smart growth communities.  The fact that she is the only female candidate running against five men in a Democratic primary electorate that is almost 60% female is a big plus.  Her numbers are not in yet, but she told Bethesda Magazine that she had raised $39,800 from small contributions in the public financing system.  If that’s true, it means she is on pace to qualify for public matching funds much faster than either Elrich or Leventhal did.  Still, we don’t understand why she entered public financing.  It takes a long time to raise money that way and it prevents her from tapping into what could be substantial business support.  Even if she qualifies for matching funds, she could very well trail all the other Democrats in fundraising except maybe Frick.

Republican Robin Ficker appears roughly halfway to qualifying for public matching funds.  That means the county’s most infamous anti-tax activist could wind up campaigning on the public dole.  And all of you MoCo residents will be paying for that!

Next up: the council at-large candidates.


Blair Doesn’t Know, Krasnow Plans, and Frick Just Says No

Thanks to Bethesda Beat for their illuminating coverage of the Realtors Forum for county executive candidates.

We’ve Got Questions, He Still Doesn’t Have Answers

When David Blair announced his candidacy, he refused to take a position on the county recordation tax hike, saying “There will be a lot of opportunities to talk about specific policies.” After much rumination, his refusal has evolved into waffling:

David Blair, was less definitive in his answer.

Blair said he would’ve combed the county budget for savings before resorting to raising the recordation tax. When pressed about whether he would’ve voted yes or no on a tax increase, Blair acknowledged that the county in 2016 was “in a really particular jam” in light of the education infrastructure needs.

“I believe I would’ve been able to find those savings,” he said. “If I couldn’t have found the savings, presumably we would’ve had to raise the recordation tax.”

He said he’d like to roll back the tax increase, if he can find budget savings to replace the lost revenue.

In short, Blair continues to do his best to prove Gus Bauman correct in his claim that Blair lacks enough political knowledge and experience for the job of county executive.

Too Much Time in the Planning Department?

Former Rockville Mayor and Planning Department Deputy Director Rose Krasnow has some interesting housing advice for millennials:

Candidates also were asked where they’d advise a young couple making about $100,000 annually to live in the county.

Krasnow said she’d probably tell the hypothetical couple to explore renting an apartment that’s an accessory to a single-family home. . .

Somehow, I don’t think “Move to Montgomery County, so you can live above your parents’ garage” is a winning slogan. In articulating the latest fad among planners, Krasnow inadvertently captured the nervous national zeitgeist of expectations of a lower quality of life than previous generations.

Allowing more accessory apartments into existing neighborhoods is a popular idea at the Planning Department. Existing neighborhoods wonder why plans for parking or additional infrastructure to accommodate new residents never accompany these proposals.

Frick Opposes Recordation Tax Increase

Alone among Democrats, Del. Bill Frick came out strongly against the tax hike in a county known nationally for its unusually high taxes related to buying and selling property:

“I think the recordation tax increase was a mistake,” he said. “And frankly, I’m sorry you were put through what you were put through.”

Frick said unequivocally that he’d seek to reverse the hike, if elected, and would lobby for more state funding to address school construction challenges.

This stance sets Frick noticeably apart from candidates like Roger Berliner, David Blair and Rose Krasnow who are also trying to position themselves as pro-change, pro-growth and pro-business candidates.

While the other candidates either waffled (Blair) or favored the increase as necessary for school construction (everyone else), Frick took a definitive public stance against it. Frick’s willingness to stand out on this and other issues looks smart in a field with many candidates that voters have trouble sorting out.

I don’t know if Bill won any new friends at the forum but he should have for (1) taking a stance the crowd supports, (2) even though the stance will be unpopular with other Democratic constituencies, and (3) his willingness to be clearcut about it.


Gus Bauman Responds on David Blair

Gus Bauman, an attorney, is a former chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board and as candidate for county executive. He sent me the following response to yesterday’s post on David Blair’s first outing with the press as a candidate for county executive.

Concerning your fine Seventh State post of November 14 on David Blair entering the Montgomery County Executive race, I have one small, but telling, bone to pick with your otherwise piercing analysis of Mr. Blair’s candidacy. You call Mr. Blair a “politician.” But all that you wrote underscores how he is not—-and that, in my judgment and experience, is not a good thing.

Know that I have not decided who to support among the six Democratic candidates. Obviously, given the field, I am inclined to support some. As the leaders of the County well know, I have for years raised the alarm of the need for a business-friendly government if we are to have any chance of maintaining a healthy tax base for needed public services.

As for experience, I first became engaged in political campaigns by supporting and speaking for presidential candidate JFK in 1960. I have worked in Congressional and presidential campaigns, all for Democratic candidates. I have twice served in government in Montgomery County. Once, I was even persuaded by a sizable group of women to run for Montgomery County Executive at a time when this community fielded three solid Democratic candidates and three solid Republican candidates. And I have chaired Nancy Floreen’s campaign in all four of her At-Large races for County Council (having an excellent candidate and politician made my job immeasurably easier).

All of that is to say that aside from being a close student of history, I also have pertinent experience to speak to the point—the point being, one should be leery of a candidate lacking not only governmental and political experience but also involvement with community organizations, who suddenly wishes to lead an increasingly complex political jurisdiction of 1,000,000 souls. There are so many examples in our history of the point, but you only need look to the current occupant of the White House for one more example.

Mr. Blair is an accomplished person. I have no doubt he is also a well-meaning man. But when you need a brain surgeon to delve into a brain problem, you would be wise not to hire, say, an accomplished auto parts manufacturer. Or even a General Practitioner.


David Blair’s Entry Raises More Questions Than Answers

Businessman David Blair became the sixth candidate to announce for county executive. However, beyond a willingness to open up his wallet (more on campaign finance below), there is little evidence that he is ready to run. Right now, this tech entrepreneur has no campaign website. (Correction: He does! It just doesn’t show up in the top Google searches yet.)

You May Have Questions. Does Blair Have Answers?

While it can be refreshing to see a politician who doesn’t claim to have all the answers, David Blair takes it a bit far. Based on his interview with Bethesda Beat’s Andrew Metcalf, he is neither ready nor willing to answer questions:

Asked if he’s always been a registered Democrat, Blair responded, “I believe so. I believe that’s a true statement.”

However, Maryland Board of Elections voter information indicates Blair was a registered Republican before he switched his registration to the Democratic Party in 2003.

Asked about that, Blair responded, “I don’t remember that. That could be accurate. … That could be.”

Blair refused to answer a question about taxes:

He declined to take a position on the County Council’s decision last year to raise property and recordation taxes.

“There will be a lot of opportunities to talk about specific policies,” Blair said.

And this was one of them.

He did seem ready with the political pablum:

“One of the ways to generate new revenue is through business,” Blair said. “We need more jobs here.”

“I have a vision to take Montgomery County to the next level.”

If Blair wants to enter the political arena, that’s great. But he needs to be ready to talk about issues when asked about them. I look forward not only to hearing more specifics but also more openness and willingness to answer questions from journalists and voters.

No on Public Financing. Will Empower Montgomery Launch an IE Campaign?

Unsurprisingly for someone from a very wealthy family, Blair said he will not participate in the public financing system. Bobby Lipman of MoCoVoters.org has already dinged him for this in the comments section of the Bethesda Beat article.

But why on earth would Blair want to waste his time asking people for small checks? Why would people want to give them to him? Why would he want to limit his spending when facing several better-known candidates?

More interesting from a campaign finance perspective is his decision to distance himself from Empower Montgomery:

When told he has been publicly referred to as a co-founder of the group, Blair said he contributed money.

“I would not consider myself a co-founder of that group, no,” Blair said.

Empower Montgomery’s website lists him as one of the founders of the group. . .

Empower Montgomery has now removed his name as one of the founders of the group.

If this pro-business group is planning an independent expenditure (IE) campaign on his behalf, Blair would not want to look like he is helping to direct it, as independent expenditures have to be independent to avoid legal troubles. And Empower Montgomery clearly plans to be active:

We are set up as a non-profit, tax exempt organization in Maryland, which allows us to perform a wide range of public education and advocacy activities and even participate in elections when key issues get elevated in the voter’s mindset.


David Blair is Polling

Sources report that David Blair, a businessman and prospective candidate for Montgomery County Executive, has a poll in the field. The poll tests views on a number of topics and messages, including:

  • Support for the Purple Line
  • Whether Takoma Park has an unfair advantage over the rest of the County.
  • Messages based on running against Trump using national issues.
  • Impact of a series of positives about Blair, including his support for an interactive children’s center in Rockville and providing glasses for the needy.
  • Support for Del. Bill Frick and former Councilmember Mike Knapp in addition to declared candidates and Blair.

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.


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.