Tag Archives: Marc Elrich

Marc Elrich Has a Mandate

Mason-Dixon conducted a poll for outside groups supporting Marc Elrich’s campaign for Montgomery County executive at the end of September. Beyond predicting the outcome accurately, it indicates that Marc Elrich not only won the election but also a mandate for his development agenda.

One of Marc Elrich’s central issues has long been making developers pay more towards the county infrastructure needed to support the expanded population that development brings. Indeed, voters are quite mistrustful of the existing relationship between government and developers.

Developers Have Too Much Influence

Mason-Dixon asked voters, “Do you feel there is or is not a ‘quid pro quo’ relationship between county politicians and the development industry, where campaign contributions from developers result in county approval of development projects without proper planning for infrastructure, such as roads and schools?”

Notwithstanding the endless handwringing by the Washington Post as well as Councilmember Nancy Floreen that Elrich would kill economic growth in Montgomery, voters were far more worried about developer influence than limitations on them. Fully, 60% said there is a quid pro quo compared to just 14% who said there is no and 26% who weren’t sure.

As the following graph shows, this is a widely shared belief with far more people thinking that there is a quid pro quo relationship among all groups, including Republicans and supporters of both Nancy Floreen and Robin Ficker.

Infrastructure is Overburdened

Unsurprisingly, 72% of all voters agreed that the “current pace and type of growth in Montgomery County has overburdened our roads, schools and other infrastructure and public services.”

Again, there was wide agreement on this question across gender and party lines with 68% of Republicans and even 56% of Floreen supporters concurring.

Developers Need to Pay their Fair Share

Fifty-four percent agreed that “developers don’t pay their fair share.” Here, there was greater disagreement:

At 67%, Elrich supporters were much more likely to think developers need to pony up more than the 50% of Ficker supporters, and 35% of Floreen supporters. Sixty percent of Democrats agreed as opposed to 51% of independents an just 37% of Republicans. There was also a gender gap with women agreeing 5% more than men.

Conclusions on Development

Marc Elrich ran on this issue directly, highlighting it in campaign literature and his campaign commercials. Voters strongly agree with County Executive-Elect Elrich that insufficient infrastructure in a major problem and a majority like the idea of developers kicking in more money to help pay the costs associated with development.

People who disagree with Elrich need to ask why they have utterly failed to convince voters. It’s especially striking because incredible sums of money have been spent trying to persuade them otherwise. Even leaving aside the millions spent to support pro-developer candidates in the primary and the general, blogs like Greater Greater Washington, lobbyists, the region’s dominant newspaper, politicians and many others have argued mightily against far less well-funded opponents.

One problem is the false narrative about Elrich regarding development. As he regularly points out, there is plenty of buildable space in Montgomery County already under existing Master Plans. He supports higher density and smart growth development centered near transportation.

Elrich’s BRT plan will greatly expand development opportunities by easing transportation bottlenecks. It’s a positive sum solution that helps expand economic growth, get people – especially poorer residents – around the county, and helps take cars off the road – good for the environment and traffic. It’s also spending smart because it is just a fraction of the cost of either light rail (e.g. the Purple Line) or heavy rail (e.g. Metro).

So maybe it’s time to throw the “Elrich hates development” meme into the bin along with all those campaign flyers.

The idea that voters want developers to chip in more for the infrastructure needed to maintain the high quality of life that makes Montgomery County so attractive strikes a majority of voters as utterly reasonable. Here’s a radical thought: if we have more of that infrastructure, then voters would be less likely to oppose additional development.

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Your Election Night County Executive Scorecard

Eight Maryland counties elect county executives. These powerful offices are the equivalent of being mayor of a city. Incumbents are seeking reelection in five counties.

State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks is sure to win in Prince George’s where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.

Baltimore County has quite the race between John Olszewski, Jr. and Al Redmer. Republicans think they have this one, partly due to the enormous margins Hogan is expected to rack up. But Olszewski has unified Democrats and is pulling out all the stops. Democrats think he’ll win this one.

In Anne Arundel and Howard, Democrats are running unexpectedly lively challenges to two favored Republican incumbents. In Anne Arundel, development is a major issue, as are incumbent Steve Schuh’s occasional wanderings into more right-wing rhetoric on non-county issues.

Allen Kittleman in Howard has a more moderate profile but faces a more Democratic electorate. Additionally, Howard has exactly the highly educated profile of places that are swinging hard to the Democrats this year.

Despite challenges, both Anne Arundel and Howard lean Republican and it will an upset if Democrats win either. Based on past election statistics and the political leanings of each county, Schuh ought to be harder to defeat. But Kittleman has carefully tailored his profile to his county.

Montgomery has more of a race than usual. Councilmember Floreen has abandoned the Democrats to run as an independent. Though she often voted with Elrich on the Council, Floreen argues that Marc Elrich is too hostile to business. Republicans are left with perennial candidate Robin Ficker.

Elrich should win easily notwithstanding ongoing hostility from the Washington Post and their support for Floreen. Despite an influx of cash into Floreen’s campaign coffers, her campaign has just not been visible enough to make the case against Elrich needed in order to persuade the overwhelmingly Democratic electorate to defect to her in sufficient numbers.

In contrast, Elrich has attacked Floreen as a tool of developer interests and maintained good pre-election contact with Democrats. As a former council president, Floreen represents the status quo in a year when voters seem ready for change.

Even if Floreen does well in the less Democratic upcounty, she will still have to contend with the heavily Democratic crescent that contains far more voters. There are just too many loyal Democrats and not enough has been done to peel them off.

Finally, portions of Floreen’s campaign seem designed to alienate Republicans and she needs their support. Floreen has repeatedly identified herself as lifelong Democrat and publicized photos with Hillary Clinton. Neither seem likely to woo Republicans. Since Republicans have shown themselves willing to reject Ficker, I’m not sure it was the best approach.

I can’t say I know enough about the remaining races to make any strong predictions. In Frederick, Del. Kathy Afzali is challenging incumbent County Exec. Jan Gardner in what I imagine is a hard fought race in this purple county. Harford and Wicomico are the sorts of places that tend to elect Republicans countywide.

Now, I’m heading out to go vote. If you haven’t done the same, I encourage you to join me at the polls!

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Could Ficker Win a Three-Way Race for Executive?

By Adam Pagnucco.

There is much condemnation of Council Member Nancy Floreen among Democratic activists for leaving the party and launching an independent run for Executive.  Some of the outrage is related to party loyalty.  Some of it is related to support for the apparent Democratic primary winner, Marc Elrich.  And some of it is related to Floreen’s record in office and historic support by the business community.  Those are all value judgments best left to the readers.  But one concern can actually be evaluated with data – the notion that a Floreen candidacy could enable GOP candidate Robin Ficker to come up the middle and squeak out a victory.  Could that actually happen?

Ficker, who has a long and infamous history in the county, has been running for office since the 1970s.  He was actually elected to a District 15 House of Delegates seat in 1978, a decision reversed by the voters four years later.  Since then, he has run for offices of all kinds and placed numerous charter amendments on the ballot.  Two of his charter amendments – a property tax limitation measure in 2008 and a term limits measure in 2016 – were passed by county voters.

Robin Ficker’s official House of Delegates picture from 1978.  Forty years later, could he be headed to elected office again?

First, let’s look at Ficker’s electoral history since the 1990s.  He has run ten times and lost on every occasion.  In every race, he has been a Republican except for 2006, when he ran as an independent for County Executive.  (Twelve years later, that’s what Nancy Floreen is doing.)

Besides all the losing, the thing that stands out here is Ficker’s unpopularity in the Republican Party.  He has entered six contested GOP primaries since 1994 and lost five of them.  The only time he had opposition and won was when he ran in the 2009 County Council District 4 special election and defeated two no-name Republicans who barely campaigned.  The lesson here is that when Republicans have an alternative to Ficker who is not a Democrat, they tend to vote for someone else.

Even Republicans are reluctant to buy what Ficker is selling.  Photo credit: Getty Images, John W. McDonough.

Cathedral wedding Veil

When he did make it to general elections, Ficker earned vote percentages ranging from 34% to 41%.  But most of those elections occurred in Upcounty districts where Republicans are a much larger percentage of the electorate than the county as a whole.

Now let’s look at the performances of GOP candidates for County Executive over the last five general elections.

One of the untold stories in MoCo elections is the recent decline in electoral performance by Democratic nominees in MoCo Executive general elections.  From 1998 through 2006, the Republican nominee did not crack 30%.  In the last two elections, the Republican got 34% of the vote.  For the most part, these were protest votes as the Republican candidates had no money, did not campaign and were not expected by anyone to win.  Another thing to note is that the only one of these elections that had an independent candidate was 2006, when Ficker ran against Ike Leggett and GOP nominee Chuck Floyd.  Ficker got just 9% of the vote, another sign of his unpopularity with both Republicans and independents.

Finally, let’s consider turnout by party in MoCo mid-term general elections.

Over the years, Democratic turnout percentage has edged up gradually, independent turnout has increased and Republican turnout has collapsed.  At some point, it’s reasonable to expect that independent turnout might exceed the GOP.

For Ficker to win, he would need to hold onto all the GOP votes, win more than 70% of independents and have Floreen and Elrich split everyone else exactly down the middle.  That would result in Ficker getting 34% of the vote and Floreen and Elrich each getting 33%.  That’s extremely unlikely for two reasons.  First, as detailed above, Ficker is weak among GOP voters and Republicans and independents would have a viable alternative in Floreen.  Second, for this scenario to work, almost half of all Democrats would have to vote against their own party’s nominee to keep Elrich at 33%.  It’s easier to see a path to victory for Floreen, who could win by getting half the Republicans, all the independents and roughly 28% of the Democrats.

Just to be clear, we are skeptical that anyone can defeat a Democratic nominee in a MoCo countywide election.  But whatever the ramifications of a possible Floreen independent run, we’re pretty sure that one of them will not be a victory by Robin Ficker.

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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.

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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Post Editorial Board Goes After Elrich… Again

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post has published an editorial branding Council Member Marc Elrich, who is currently leading in the Democratic primary for Executive, as “an outlier who proudly positioned himself on the ideological extreme left” and “the most insistently anti-business and anti-development member of the Montgomery County Council for more than a decade.”  Those who are interested in the Post’s opinion can read it here.

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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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Voting for Change

In this county executive race, I’ve been looking for someone who can shake things up a bit. This doesn’t mean that I think Montgomery County is a bad place to live or that Ike Leggett has done a bad job. On the contrary, County Executive Leggett saw us through a deep recession and protected key county services by making tough choices. I grew up and love living here.

But Montgomery County is not on a sustainable path. We need to do more to encourage employment and economic growth. The current model of county government cannot continue as it relies on ever greater expenditures that we still have trouble meeting even now that the recession is behind us.

As a result, I’ve been looking for a candidate for county executive who recognizes our many manifest strengths but is unafraid to try new solutions. I’d like our new county executive, whatever their political perspective, not to feel trapped by how we’ve handled matters in the past.

We have a number of excellent candidates this year. As we head down the home stretch of what has been an unusually hard fought and negative campaign by Montgomery County standards, tempers are beginning to fray. I hope we can all take a deep breath and recognize that just about all of the candidates have the skills required to serve ably as county executive.

Rose Krasnow is a triple threat in terms of experience working on Wall Street, having lead a major city government in Rockville, and holding a senior position at the Planning Board. If you speak with her, it rapidly becomes clear that she is extremely fluent – more than most sitting politicians – in the complex issues of the budget and planning. At the same time, her campaign’s emphasis on experience has left me wondering how she’d be innovative beyond favoring growth.

I have long made clear that George Leventhal is temperamentally unsuited to be county executive. Nonetheless, I’d regard it as a sign from above that this blog should continue for another four to eight years if he won, as he and Robin Ficker provide more than enough copy. George is already wearing Superman outfits. Can we get him into cheetah shorts? Seriously though, his support from a group that wants massive new development on River Road, despite no plan for transit there, and for rezoning single-family neighborhoods for apartment buildings gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Bill Frick knows how politics works from his experience in the House of Delegates. Yet he is outside county government and has a real zest for restructuring it, as his leadership in taking on entrenched interests supporting our county’s liquor monopoly demonstrates. Like Rose, he’d like to get the county’s growth engine moving again. Unfortunately, his campaign just doesn’t seem to have taken off.

In my view, Roger Berliner has the strongest “insider” case to make. He has a number of nice accomplishments under his belt, including good work on the environment. Compared to many, he has a far more intuitive understanding of the perspective of ordinary residents on issues such as PEPCO service and the impact of federal tax changes on county residents. He has been making the case that he knows how to innovate (think evolution, not revolution) and has had good success at building coalitions on the Council. Roger has struggled because it’s an anti-establishment year and David Blair has taken much of the oxygen his campaign needs.

That leaves Marc Elrich and David Blair, who are seen as the leading two candidates despite the absence of any public polling data. Despite having served on the Council for three terms, Marc Elrich is unquestionably still an outsider who is not part of the Rockville consensus. He has never been elected council chair. While some might see this as a sign he doesn’t play well with others, it is more of a badge of honor in a year when voters are highly critical of the Council.

Marc makes many happy but others quite nervous because of his strong progressive viewpoint. But he simply is not Montgomery County’s version of Hugo Chavez. More importantly, he is not some ideologue who is all hat and no cattle. This is a candidate who has thoughtful, practical, concrete ideas on how to make meaningful change that benefits all county residents. His plan for countywide BRT remains the best, biggest idea proposed to combat transportation problems that cause development-limiting and soul-killing traffic in a long time.

In Marc’s case, his professed desire to help “all residents” is not simply a code for only the poorest, though his passion for politics stems from working to help people who are struggling.  Marc gets that the middle class face increasing burdens. Unlike some progressives, he also understands fully that the county cannot flourish without its share of successful businesses and upper class residents, so demonizing them is not the solution.

Marc hasn’t held executive positions previously but has clear ideas about how he would restructure county government from day one. One concern has been that he has a progressive candidate would cause skittish business to shy away. Except that I think business would quickly see that, while we’d have some real change, the People’s Republic is not upon us.

David Blair has burst on to the political scene thanks to the political ads that he has been able to self-fund and two editorials endorsing his candidacy from the Washington Post. I’ve met David but since he hasn’t previously had a high local profile or been active in politics, he is less of a known quantity to me.

As with Marc Elrich, I would ignore stereotypes that suggest David Blair is the boogeyman is disguise. His having been a Republican many years ago should not be disqualifying. Yes, he is a businessman running for office but he is not Trump II. Though it’s a low bar, I see no sign that he shares any of Trump’s repulsive bigoted narcissistic tendencies. People who know Blair think he is a terrific guy and would be a great county executive.

At the same time, I have some concern with plutocratic politics. I admire successful businessmen but don’t know that his success always translates into political acumen and am uneasy with the idea that the ability to spend a lot of money on a political campaign is a qualification for public office. But not all wealthy businessmen are the same. Jim Shea, a trailing gubernatorial candidate, has been deeply involved in the Baltimore community for years, and has lots of thoughtful ideas for Maryland.

David Blair brings some real assets to the table. He would have instant credibility with the business community. Unquestionably, he has executive skills. Unlike many executives, he seemingly has the ability to hear people and listen to them, as well as give marching orders. If elected, he’ll need to develop them further in order to work with a Council that doesn’t work for him. I think he’ll have the ability to run with good ideas even if they didn’t pop out of his own head.

I’m still wondering how much of a change agent David Blair would be as county executive. On the plus side, he’s an outsider who is not wedded to current perspectives and has articulated various fresh policy ideas. Nevertheless, it’s unclear to me how much change this would mean in practice. I’ve heard that he wants to retain much of the current administration. When I asked the campaign about this, they replied:

We are committed to ensuring the best and brightest lead our departments and are fortunate that many of these leaders are already in place. We will evaluate each position and our approach will be comprehensive, transparent and inclusive.

Voters can view this as a sensible process for ensuring orderly turnover and acknowledging that many good people are already in place who would know how to carry out needed reforms. Alternatively, others will see this as someone who isn’t quite ready to hit the ground running and is still learning about county government departments.

The other concern from my perspective is the need for more business versus residential development. Though there is a lot of residential development slated to go ahead, developers want more density and development for the same reason that government employees want higher salaries.

Except residential development is different from other kinds of business because it brings new residents who demand a welter of more expensive services. In particular, few residents are net contributors to the county budget while they have kids in school, as education takes up half of the county budget.

Our infrastructure is already strained. We need more business beyond residential development to bring in the revenue to pay for it. As a businessman, I think David Blair grasps that idea well and has emphasized business in his campaign. But his major outside funding and backers comes from the development industry.

Final Thoughts

Like many candidates, I’m grateful that the primary will be over tomorrow night. Not to flail a dead horse, but remember that we have a lot of good people running for office and respect the choices of our fellow citizens. Let’s also comfort and thank those who run but don’t win. Running for office isn’t easy and Montgomery is fortunate to have so many willing to put themselves out there.

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Lobbyists with Blair Connection File Flimsy Claim Against Elrich and Berliner

Screenshot from online Listings of Registered Lobbyists

Lobbyists Sushant Sidh and David Carroll, Jr. have filed a complaint against Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner’s campaigns for county executive. Sidh and Carroll are principals at Capitol Strategies, an Annapolis lobbying firm that represented Catalyst Rx while David Blair was still CEO of the company.

I am posting the complaint made by Sidh and Carroll to the State Board of Elections below in full, which has already been discussed on A Miner Detail. Seventh State received a copy of the complaint via email from Sushant Sidh at 4:59pm on Friday afternoon.

As Adam has previously mentioned, we both receive requests to publicize dirt on campaigns. Seventh State did not publicize this claim alleging illegal collusion between Progressive Maryland and the Elrich and Berliner campaigns because I think it has little merit.

The complaint uses words like “reasonable to assume” and “there is reason to suspect” but provides no hard evidence for gauzy suppositions with the sole source being a reference to an article in A Miner Detail. The follow-up email on the amended complaint this morning at 10:26am does not contain any further information.

This complaint followed on one previously filed by Brian Kildee alleging coordination between David Blair and Empower Montgomery. Blair was one of the founders of Empower Montgomery. (The complaint cites a 7S post that points out that Blair’s name was removed from the website listing of the founders.) While Kildee has donated to Bill Frick, also a candidate for county executive, he has not been linked to either the campaigns of Marc Elrich or Roger Berliner.

Seventh State did not publish this complaint either, which has also now been posted below. Kildee’s complaint contains a number of attachments that I haven’t posted here. This complaint is more interesting but does not, in my view, contain conclusive proof of coordination between Blair and Empower Montgomery.

I do not know if Sidh and Carroll’s complaint was meant as retaliatory but the timing will only serve to feed such speculation. Efforts to reach Sidh and Carroll for comment immediately before publication of this piece were unsuccessful.

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