Tag Archives: Hans Riemer

Rice Blasts Riemer on the Budget

By Adam Pagnucco.

Budget time is a busy one for Council Members.  It involves an unusual amount of meetings, work and negotiation even by the sometimes hectic standards of Rockville.  So when the budget is over, the whole building breathes a sigh of relief and Council Members put out exultant press releases.

Not this year.  Council Member Craig Rice, who chairs the council’s Education Committee, sent out a statement seething with unhappiness about the council’s funding of Montgomery College and singling out the process led by Council President Hans Riemer.  The key lines are:

I unfortunately find myself in a very difficult and torn position, frustrated about the fact that I encountered what I feel was a flawed budget process, something that I’ve never seen in my 8-year tenure here on the Council. Something that encompassed disrespecting my committee’s hard work and well researched and coordinated recommendations for what seems is the gain of a tagline in an election year.

As Chair of the Education Committee, I truly appreciate the County Executive’s support of Montgomery County Public Schools and fully funding their budget. And I also appreciate my Council colleagues’ support to invest in our future by investing in our schools.

And while I celebrate the success of everything in this budget related to MCPS, conversely, I am dismayed at the fact that Montgomery College’s budget was severely cut which could mean even greater increases in tuition than originally proposed, reductions to strategic programs designed to reduce the achievement gap and eliminate disparities, or reductions in staff pay. And none of these things will help us to address workforce disparities that our community college has been partners with us on fixing for many years…

And while our budget of over $5.6 billion may be more than one particular entity, the way this process went with the College and the way the Council President handled it, forced me to say I initially would not vote for it…

Four years ago, I served as Council President, in an election year, leading us through an equally difficult time where we had to find creative ways to ensure our priorities were met. And I did it in a way that brought my colleagues and stakeholders together collaboratively, inviting their thoughts and feedback, never dictating to them how we would come to consensus. But this year I am remiss that this was not the case.

Council Member Rice read his statement from the dais in this video.

We reprint his full press release below.

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Montgomery Councilmember Rice’s statement on the County’s operating and capital budget agreement

May 17, 2018

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 17, 2018—Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice made the following remarks today after the Council reached agreement on the County’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Operating Budget, the FY19 Capital Budget and FY19-24 Capital Improvements Program. The budgets will be formally adopted by the Council on May 24.

The complete text of Councilmember Rice’s remarks:

I unfortunately find myself in a very difficult and torn position, frustrated about the fact that I encountered what I feel was a flawed budget process, something that I’ve never seen in my 8-year tenure here on the Council. Something that encompassed disrespecting my committee’s hard work and well researched and coordinated recommendations for what seems is the gain of a tagline in an election year.

As Chair of the Education Committee, I truly appreciate the County Executive’s support of Montgomery County Public Schools and fully funding their budget. And I also appreciate my Council colleagues’ support to invest in our future by investing in our schools.

And while I celebrate the success of everything in this budget related to MCPS, conversely, I am dismayed at the fact that Montgomery College’s budget was severely cut which could mean even greater increases in tuition than originally proposed, reductions to strategic programs designed to reduce the achievement gap and eliminate disparities, or reductions in staff pay. And none of these things will help us to address workforce disparities that our community college has been partners with us on fixing for many years.

Our Montgomery College is the largest community college in the state and second largest post-secondary institution after the University of Maryland. The county funds 60% of Montgomery College’s budget and we always get tremendous return on that investment. Their collaboration with MCPS through the Early College dual enrollment program allows juniors and seniors to earn an associate degree while completing their high school requirements. The ACES program provides a seamless pathway for high school students to transition to Montgomery College and provides them resources to succeed.

The college, through the insightful leadership of Dr. DeRionne Pollard, continues to create student gateways to success, in addressing the achievement gap, particularly among black and latino males, and providing career tech opportunities such as IT, Construction and Homeland Security. Their budget also asked for needed library enhancements, so students have a place conducive to studying. Montgomery College for many is a destination of choice because they know they can get a world class education at an affordable cost. To think this budget places this mission at risk is unconscionable.

And while our budget of over $5.6 billion may be more than one particular entity, the way this process went with the College and the way the Council President handled it, forced me to say I initially would not vote for it.

By prioritizing resources and fully funding Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), we send a strong message that Montgomery County values MCPS and the crucial part education plays in everything we do. Our schools are not the stereotypical K-12 institutions in which teaching and testing are done. Our kids’ educational, social/emotional wellbeing, and basic needs are provided within those four walls. I have had the pleasure of working with Superintendent Jack Smith over the past two years, and his vision and mission to enhance our school system to ensure success for all students is one I whole-heartedly support. Dr. Smith’s mantra of “all means all” is at the heart of everything he does, and through the addition of support personnel, supplemental resources and programming for our kids’ pre-k to job, our schools have given them the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

One of my initiatives, based on my work on the Kirwan Commission, was the continued funding for MCPS to expand Pre-K and broaden Head Start from half-day to full-day, giving our beginning learners the best opportunity possible to start kindergarten prepared to succeed. Other program enhancements include expansion of dual language immersion programs in our elementary schools, adding new career pathways for our high school students in areas of cybersecurity, law enforcement and aviation, and expanding ACES to additional high schools.

A critical component when it comes to safety and security in our schools is our School Resource Officers (SROs). SROs have a unique understanding of school security and how building relationships with students is crucial to mitigating and preventing incidents within our schools. Having one SRO in each high school is an important complement to MCPS’ safety and security protocols, but it is not enough. It’s time to ensure our middle schools are afforded the same attention as their needs are just as great as our high schools. This is why I strongly advocated for funding for an additional ten SROs to be placed in our middle schools. While the council was unable to fund all ten positions this year, I am very pleased that we were able to accommodate an additional three SROs for our middle schools in the coming school year.

Four years ago, I served as Council President, in an election year, leading us through an equally difficult time where we had to find creative ways to ensure our priorities were met. And I did it in a way that brought my colleagues and stakeholders together collaboratively, inviting their thoughts and feedback, never dictating to them how we would come to consensus. But this year I am remiss that this was not the case.

So while I am proud that this year’s budget again highlights K-12 education as a priority in our county, it does not do the same for our community college. But with so many priorities of mine that are addressed in this budget, I cannot turn a blind eye to them and not support the overall budget.

I fought hard to be in this seat to make sure that I was doing good things in our community and prioritizing issues that I knew were important to our constituents. And I strongly feel that our budget should reflect those same priorities.

I want to thank Montgomery College and Montgomery County Public Schools for your ongoing partnership and look forward to working with you in the future.

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Washington Post Endorses for MoCo Council, School Board

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post has endorsed the following candidates for County Council and Board of Education.

Council At-Large: Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe, Evan Glass, Hans Riemer

Council District 1: Andrew Friedson

Council District 2: Craig Rice

Council District 3: Sidney Katz

Council District 4: Nancy Navarro

Council District 5: Tom Hucker

Board of Education At-Large: Julie Reiley

Board of Education District 3: Pat O’Neill

Read their endorsements here.

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MCEA Endorses Council Incumbents

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which represents MCPS teachers, has endorsed four County Council Members running for reelection: Craig Rice (District 2), Nancy Navarro (District 4), Tom Hucker (District 5) and Hans Riemer (At-Large).  The only Council Member running for reelection this year who has not been endorsed by MCEA is Sidney Katz (District 3).  The union has previously endorsed Katz’s opponent, Ben Shnider.

Also, MCEA has not endorsed in the County Executive race and may ultimately not do so.  That would echo the 2006 Executive primary, when neither Ike Leggett nor Steve Silverman could reach the union’s 58% threshold for support in its Representative Assembly.

We reprint MCEA’s press release below.

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For Immediate Release:

May 3, 2018

Contact:  Nikki Woodward

Anzer.woodward@gmail.com

MONTGOMERY COUNTY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES NEW COUNTY ENDORSEMENTS

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which represents more than 14,000 classroom teachers, guidance counselors, speech pathologists, media specialists, and other non-supervisory certified educators in the Montgomery County Public Schools system, has endorsed several candidates for elected office in Montgomery County.  Endorsed candidates will appear on MCEA’s “Apple Ballot” for the 2018 primary and general elections.

COUNTY COUNCIL AT LARGE:

Hans Riemer (new), Brandy Brooks, Chris Wilhelm, Will Jawando

COUNTY COUNCIL (DISTRICT):

District 1: Ana Sol Gutierrez

District 2: Craig Rice (new)

District 3: Ben Shnider

District 4: Nancy Navarro (new)

District 5 Tom Hucker (new)

BOARD OF EDUCATION AT LARGE:

Karla Silvestre

BOARD OF EDUCATION (DISTRICT):

District 1:  Dr. Judith (Judy) Docca

District 2:  Patricia (Pat) O’Neill

District 5:  Brenda Wolf

MCEA has not yet endorsed a candidate for County Executive for the June primary.

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Riemer Exacerbates Economic Growth Concerns

Andrew Metcalf over at Bethesda Beat reported on Council Chair Hans Riemer’s response to a question on the successes of the two-year old county economic development nonprofit:

“OK, so what are the successes of the Economic Development Corp.?” Riemer said. “Um, I might need a little staff here. My economic development team is not here.”

After a brief pause, he continued, “They are a new organization, they are growing. They have helped us build consensus around economic development. They have helped engage the business community in a positive way. I think they have improved the dialogue.”

Riemer’s inability to come up with an answer only continues the building narrative that the county government is not doing enough to promote economic growth or address fiscal concerns. His flub also undercut his claim that the Sage report cherry-picked its data and the claims are politically motivated:

“In comes this attempt to overturn the apple cart and get everyone shooting at us again,” Riemer said.

Consider the cart not just overturned but run over by a truck.

Is Riemer in Danger? Probably Not

Despite hiccups likes these that can accompany that spotlight on the Council Chair and a wealth of candidates,  Riemer looks to be on a solid path to a third term. He’s the only at-large member seeking reelection. After two terms, he has high recognition, which should be enormously helpful in a large county with so many candidates trying to get the electorate’s attention.

It also helps that most people, supporters or not, would agree that Hans is a nice guy. He has a deserved reputation for being willing to listen to a variety of viewpoints and responding respectfully. Naturally, decisions he has made leave some unhappy, but at least they feel heard.

In short, while his time as council chair has had its rough spots, it’s hard to see how Hans loses. No one is really pointing at Hans in way that could focus any anti-incumbency mood. There is little incentive to attack rivals in a multi-candidate race. Many Democrats are also far more angry at Republicans.

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Public Financing Geography, Part Four

By Adam Pagnucco.

Let’s start looking at the Council At-Large candidates who have qualified for public matching funds.

Hans Riemer

Riemer, who is finishing his second term, is the only incumbent in the at-large race.  His contributions are heavily based in Downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda, the twin poles of Democratic Downcounty politics.  He is weaker in places like Rockville and Upcounty.  Riemer’s fundraising reflects his smart growth, urban-focused brand and fits the Democratic Crescent nicely.  Our hunch is that he will finish first in both Bethesda and Silver Spring en route to his third term in office.  (Disclosure: the author was once employed by Riemer.)

Bill Conway

Here is an amazing fact: in a public financing system that includes multi-term incumbents like Riemer, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, first-time candidate Bill Conway is the number one fundraiser in both Potomac and Chevy Chase.  He has also done well in Bethesda.  Conway could use more exposure in Silver Spring.  If he gets that, he could combine a top two or three performance in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac with a smattering of votes in other areas and get a ticket to the County Council.

Evan Glass

Second-time candidate Evan Glass, who almost won the District 5 seat four years ago, has a decade-long history of civic leadership in Downtown Silver Spring which is reflected in his fundraising.  Glass has raised almost as much money there ($18,573) as has Marc Elrich ($20,763).  Glass needs to grow his base, with the logical targets being other areas in District 5 like East County Silver Spring, Burtonsville, Takoma Park and Forest Glen as well as western parts of the Crescent.  As it is, he has a good shot to win.

Hoan Dang

Dang is also a second-time candidate, having finished fifth of six candidates in the 2010 District 19 Delegate race despite doing a good job in fundraising.  Dang has done pretty well in public financing but he is not dominating anywhere and has not shown a lot of strength in the Crescent.  He could use some institutional backing and more support in places like Bethesda and Downtown Silver Spring to increase his chances of victory.

Gabe Albornoz

County Recreation Department Director Gabe Albornoz is by far the leading fundraiser in Kensington, where he has a large base of family and friends.  Other than that, he is not among the fundraising leaders in any of the county’s Democratic strongholds.  Albornoz has three useful networks: his professional network from his day job, the contacts he has accumulated during his service on the county’s Democratic Central Committee and the supporters of County Executive Ike Leggett, who has endorsed him.  Albornoz needs to continue to monetize those networks and get a couple key endorsements, like the Washington Post.  If he can do that, he has a path to victory.

We will finish looking at the Council At-Large qualifiers tomorrow.

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MoCo Endorsements: March 9, 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

We have entered the thick of endorsement season and a big one just came out: a partial decision by MCEA, holder of the mighty Apple Ballot.  We have updated our institutional endorsement matrix and offer some comments below.

First, a note.  Many of the listed endorsing organizations have not finished their processes and may be announcing more decisions in the future.  Other important organizations (like the Washington Post, the Realtors and the Volunteer Fire Fighters) have not endorsed yet at all.  So this list is a work in progress.

That said, here are a few impressions.

Senator Roger Manno, who might be the most pro-union member of the entire General Assembly, is sweeping labor endorsements in his run for Congress District 6.  How far will that take him against Delegate Aruna Miller and Total Wine co-owner David Trone?

Council Member Marc Elrich, who is running for Executive, has put together an impressive string of progressive endorsements and he will be getting more of them.  He is definitely the favored Executive candidate of the left.

Ben Shnider, who is challenging District 3 County Council candidate Sidney Katz, has also become a darling of the left.  Will that be enough to take out Katz, who has been the most prominent politician in Gaithersburg for decades?  We will have an opinion on that in the near future.

Will Jawando, who is running for Council At-Large, has had a great six weeks.  He is the only non-incumbent who has assembled four influential institutional endorsements, including the Apple.  (Chris Wilhelm has three and Danielle Meitiv and Brandy Brooks have two each.)  Combine that with Jawando’s fundraising success, electoral experience and natural charisma and he is looking strong right now.

The good news for Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, who is running for the District 18 Senate seat being vacated by Rich Madaleno, is that he is dominating the institutional endorsements over Dana Beyer and Michelle Carhart.  The bad news is that his dispute with House candidate Helga Luest is escalating.  Women are 60% of MoCo Democrats and this is a particularly bad cycle to run afoul of them.

While MCEA has made some county-level endorsements, it has postponed its decision on the incumbents (except for Sidney Katz).  The teachers are unhappy with recent MCPS budget decisions made by the County Council, especially with the breaking of their collective bargaining agreement two years ago.  With Ike Leggett’s recommended budget coming next week, we will learn more about what might happen to MCPS this year and that will affect the union’s thinking.  The remaining non-incumbents in the Council At-Large race will be paying rapt attention!

Speaking of the At-Large race, we wrote last April that the sole incumbent running, Hans Riemer, was going to be reelected.  We still believe that will happen and so do most of the folks running in his race.  But what happens if he is passed over by both the Apple Ballot and the Post?  The Apple is skeptical of council incumbents right now.  As for the Post, the newspaper endorsed Riemer in the 2014 primary in part because it said challenger Beth Daly was “dead wrong.”  But it dumped Riemer for a no-name Republican in the general election, saying he was “a first-termer with modest achievements.”  The Post has a lot more options in the 2018 At-Large field than it did last time.  Then throw in the facts that there are a lot of good folks in the At-Large race and Riemer’s name will be appearing near the end of a VERY long ballot.  If Riemer loses both the Apple and the Post and the hungry field of non-incumbents continues to impress, is he still a lock to win?  (Disclosure: your author used to work for Riemer.)

That’s it for now.  We’ll have more when the next wave of endorsements comes in!

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Laborers Union Announces MoCo Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Mid-Atlantic region of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has announced its endorsements in MoCo county-level races.  The union is supporting Marc Elrich (County Executive), Andrew Friedson (Council D1), Ben Shnider (Council D3), Nancy Navarro (Council D4), Tom Hucker (Council D5) and Hans Riemer and Chris Wilhelm (Council At-Large).

LIUNA’s announcement on Twitter.

Elrich and Shnider are starting to roll up progressive endorsements; both are supported by SEIU Local 32BJ and Casa, while Shnider has the Sierra Club and Elrich has the AFL-CIO.  Friedson looks like he is building the kind of business-labor coalition that once supported politicians like Doug Duncan.  Navarro and Hucker have no opponents – so far.

LIUNA, SEIU and UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers) are probably the most active unions in the Washington region that include at least some private sector members.  LIUNA does not represent any MoCo county employees, but it does represent workers employed by the county’s private trash removal contractors.  LIUNA’s main objective is getting the county to use project labor agreements on its construction projects which would mandate union representation of the workers on those jobs.  While the union has not been a huge player in MoCo politics in the past, it did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get Cathy Pugh elected as Mayor of Baltimore in 2016.

[Disclosure: your author worked as a strategic researcher for LIUNA’s international office in 1994 and 1995.]

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Sierra Club Endorses Berliner, Council Candidates

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Sierra Club has endorsed Roger Berliner for County Executive as well as several council candidates.  With a brand commonly recognized by progressives around the country, the Sierra Club’s support is valued in MoCo.  Many expected this endorsement to go to Marc Elrich, so this is a blow to him and a boost for Berliner.  It’s also a big pickup for District 3 challenger Ben Shnider, who is starting to get traction against incumbent Sidney Katz.  We reprint their press release below.

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Sierra Club endorses Berliner for County Executive; and several outstanding candidates for County Council

ROCKVILLE, MD – The Sierra Club, representing 6000 members across Montgomery County, announced today that it is endorsing Roger Berliner for County Executive and several outstanding candidates for the County Council.

Those endorsed for the four At-large Council seats are Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, and Hans Riemer.  In addition, Sierra Club is endorsing Ben Shnider for District 3; Nancy Navarro for District 4; and Tom Hucker for District 5.

With all the open seats in this election, 2018 provides an historic opportunity to elect a county government committed to forging significant and measurable solutions to addressing climate change through a variety of new and enhanced programs and policies.

Dave Sears, chair of the Montgomery County group of Sierra Club said, “We are excited about the prospects of our endorsed candidates focusing their skills, experience, and knowledge on making our county a national model for how local governments address the climate  emergency facing our planet.”

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Campaign Finance Reports: Council At-Large, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Now to the swarming Council At-Large race, a fascinating contest with a cast of candidates exceeding the population of several small island nations.  In accordance with our prior post on the Executive candidates, let’s review our methodology.  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, on to the financial presentation.  (We hope this graphic can fit on your screen.)  Two candidates – Brandy Brooks and Darwin Romero – have not filed reports at this writing.

Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) is a big winner here with the largest cash on hand in the race.  He has used his unique perch as the House’s point man on liquor issues to raise large amounts of money, adding to a war chest he has been accumulating for twenty years.  But the last time Barkley had a competitive election, Facebook did not exist and black and white mailers were still in use.  This is a big field full of hungry candidates and Barkley needs to do more than raise alcohol money to win.

Council Member Hans Riemer, the only incumbent in the race, continues to excel.  He has the highest amount raised ($219,103) and a low burn rate of 11%.  Add to that his two terms in office, his experience running countywide, his history of influential endorsements and his campaign skills and he looks like a safe bet to return.

Bill Conway has gone from being Diana Conway’s husband to being perhaps the one non-incumbent candidate that his rivals say is most likely to win.  Conway’s total raise ($215,881) is almost equal to Riemer’s and he actually collected more than Riemer from individuals.  The difference is that he has spent a lot more than Riemer by employing a campaign manager from the early days of his candidacy.  But since that campaign manager is former Raskin field staffer Doug Wallick, that was a good decision.  Conway combines a MoCo-targeted message of education, transportation and jobs with a likable personality and a staggering ability to learn quickly.  So far, so good.

The Council At-Large candidates pose for their Class of ’18 picture.

Next come the others who have qualified for public financing, most of whom have done so recently.  Evan Glass ran strong in District 5 last time, knows the county well and has a lot of fans from his service on more advisory boards and task forces than your author can count.  Chris Wilhelm is a progressive teacher who should appeal to his union, the powerhouse MCEA.  Will Jawando is a skilled candidate who would be in the House of Delegates now if it weren’t for Jamie Raskin’s 2014 slate.  Gabe Albornoz combines several networks – party, Leggett supporters and folks who have known him from his day job at the Recreation Department – and is liked by basically everyone who meets him.  A group of nine candidates – Glass, Wilhelm, Jawando, Albornoz, Hoan Dang, Seth Grimes, Shruti Bhatnagar, Mohammed Siddique and Ashwani Jain – are basically clustered together financially.  Danielle Meitiv will be right there too because she is close to qualifying for matching funds.

And then there are the rest.  Look folks – it’s popular to say that there are more than 30 candidates in this race.  But in all truth, the number of viable candidates is at most half that number.  To everyone who filed an affidavit or is not close to qualifying for matching funds: it’s not gonna happen for you, OK?  You’re the gazelle trying to run with a pack of hungry cheetahs.  You need to show some game or don’t show up at candidate forums asking for your ninety seconds of speaking time along with the folks that are busting their rear ends and getting several hundred residents to contribute.

We have a lot of questions about this data, such as: who is giving money?  Which candidates are drawing support from specific parts of the county?  And why aren’t the female candidates doing better?  (Of the top twelve fundraising candidates, only one – Shruti Bhatnagar – is a woman.)  All of that analysis will have to wait as we are done for now.

Next: the district council candidates.

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Public Financing Update: January 2, 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Happy New Year, folks!  After a relatively quiet period in the fall, December saw a number of applications for public matching funds from county candidates participating in public financing.  One of the many positive things about public financing is that when candidates apply for matching funds, they have to file full reports with the State Board of Elections.  That gives data junkies like your author – and Seventh State readers!  – lots of updated data without waiting for the relatively few regular campaign finance reports in the state’s schedule.  The next time all campaign finance reports are due, both from public and traditional accounts, is on January 17.

The candidates below have met the thresholds for matching funds and have applied for those funds from the state.

A few notes.  The column titled “Non-Qualifying Contributions and Loans” refers to loans from candidates and their spouses (up to $12,000 is allowed) and out-of-county contributions, which are allowed but not matched.  The column titled “Adjusted Cash Balance” includes the cash balance in the last report plus the most recent matching funds distribution requested but not yet received.  It is the closest we can approximate the financial position of each campaign at the time they filed their last report.  The column titled “Burn Rate” is the percentage of funds raised that has already been spent.  Generally speaking, candidates should strive to keep their burn rates low early on to save money for mail season.  Mohammad Siddique’s totals are preliminary as there are a few issues in his report that will have to be resolved with the Board of Elections.  And District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro applied for $35,275 in matching funds but cannot receive them unless she gets an opponent.

Below is the number of days each candidate took to qualify for matching funds.  Let’s remember that the thresholds are different: 500 in-county contributors with $40,000 for Executive candidates, 250 in-county contributors with $20,000 for at-large council candidates and 125 in-county contributors with $10,000 for district council candidates.

So what does it all mean?  Here are a few thoughts.

County Executive Race

Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, who are using public financing and running for Executive, have been active in county politics for a long time.  Elrich first joined the Takoma Park City Council in 1987 and has been on the county ballot in every election since.  He has been an elected official for thirty years.  Leventhal worked for U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and was the Chair of the county Democrats in the 1990s.  He played a key role in defeating a group of Republican Delegates in District 39 in the 1998 election.  Both of these fellows have built up large networks of supporters over many years and they have done well in public financing, raising similar amounts of money from similar numbers of people.

The difference between them is burn rate.  Leventhal is spending much more money than Elrich early, with some of it going to a three-person staff.  He had better hope this early spending is worth it because if this trend keeps up, Elrich could have almost twice as much money as Leventhal available for mailers in May and June.

At-Large Council Race

One of Council Member Hans Riemer’s advantages as the only incumbent in this race is the ability to raise money, and he has put it to good use in public financing.  Riemer leads in number of contributors and total raised.  He has also maintained a low burn rate.  This is Riemer’s fourth straight county campaign and he knows what he’s doing at election time.  His biggest problem is that his name will be buried near the end of a VERY long ballot.

The five non-incumbents who have qualified for matching funds have raised similar amounts of money so far.  As a group, they are not far behind Riemer.  The one who stands out here is Bill Conway.  Hoan Dang, Evan Glass, Chris Wilhelm and Mohammad Siddique all filed in December while Conway last filed in September.  Our bet is that when Conway files next month, he will show four months of additional fundraising that will put him close to Riemer’s total.

That said, the five non-incumbent qualifiers have so far separated themselves from the rest of the field.  Gabe Albornoz and Danielle Meitiv have said they have qualified but have not filed for matching funds with the state.  No other candidates have claimed to qualify.  Raising money in public financing takes a long time and raising a competitive amount (at least $250,000) takes a REALLY long time.  Those at-large candidates who do not qualify soon risk appearing non-viable.

Public Matching Funds Will Be Nowhere Close to $11 Million

The county has so far set aside $11 million to cover the cost of public matching funds.  That appears to be waaaaaay too much with only $1.4 million so far disbursed.  Our guess is that the ultimate total will be less than half what was allocated and will be even lower in the next election cycle with fewer seats open.

Incumbents Have Nothing to Fear From Public Financing

Five council incumbents are using public financing.  All five have qualified for matching funds and have done so fairly easily.  We will see how the challengers stack up, particularly in the at-large race, but so far the only at-large incumbent (Hans Riemer) is leading.  As we predicted last April, public financing is good for incumbents because it allows them to leverage their networks into lots of small individual contributions.  State legislators and other County Councils should take heed.

That’s it for now, folks.  Come back in a couple weeks when all reports, including those from traditional accounts, are due and we’ll put it all together for you!

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