Republican activist Robin Ficker says a referendum to impose term limits on county elected officials is “a virtual certainty” to be on the November general election ballot in Montgomery County.
Ficker, the Boyds man with a long history of challenging the county’s Democratic establishment through referendums, said Monday he has verified about 9,000 of the more than 11,000 signatures he and supporters have collected on a petition to put the term limits question up to voters. He needs 10,000 verified signatures to get the question on the November ballot.
“I expect it to be a very major issue in the fall election,” said Ficker, who’s also running for the Republican nomination for the District 6 House seat in Tuesday’s primary. “It’s going to be my running mate in the fall.”
If approved by a majority of voters, the measure would mean the county executive and County Council members are limited to three consecutive four-year terms. There are currently no term limits on those county officials.
Since the measure would apply retroactively to current county elected officials, it would mean County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal couldn’t run again for their current positions in 2018.
Last fall, when asked about Ficker’s term-limit petition drive, a spokesperson for Leggett said the three-term county executive had no comment because he’s not running for a fourth term in 2018.
Ficker, who has pushed for term limits three times before, said he thinks some of the council members who would be subjected to term limits in 2018 if the ballot question passes probably have set their sights on the county executive race regardless of his effort.
“I think that just about every one of them that’s going to be term-limited may run for county executive,” Ficker said. “Maybe that’s what they would’ve done anyway.”
In 2000 and 2004, Ficker collected enough verified signatures to get the term-limit question on the ballot. Forty-six percent voted in favor of term limits in 2000 and 48.6 percent voted in favor of term limits in 2004, meaning term limits were narrowly defeated both times.
In 2010, most of the signatures on Ficker’s term limit petition were thrown out by Montgomery County thanks to a state court ruling that heightened the verification requirements for signatures on ballot question petitions.
Ficker said Monday that shouldn’t be an issue this time around because he and his supporters have verified 90 percent of the names of petition signees and matched those names with signees’ registered voter identification numbers.
He expects to submit the 10,000 names to the county executive soon. The county Board of Elections will then have to verify the names before the question can be put on the November ballot.
Ficker said he thinks the ballot question will pass this time because of a term-limit referendum vote in 2014 in neighboring Prince George’s County. The county’s voters narrowly rejected a measure to increase term limits for elected officials from two to three terms.
He also said the heated nine-person Democratic primary race for Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s District 8 congressional seat has shown plenty of people in Montgomery County could be legitimate contenders for open council seats.
“Look at that spirited race we’ve had. It’s going to be the same thing when we open the county executive and County Council seats,” Ficker said.