Candidates in the 30-member at-large County Council race include (from top left) incumbent Hans Riemer, Gabriel Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe, Charles Barkley, Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Neil Greenberger and Brandy Brooks

Head count hits 30 for at-large council candidates; Glass latest to file for public funding

With more than two months until the Feb. 27 primary filing deadline, the number of candidates running at-large for County Council has hit a new benchmark.

Rosemary Arkoian of Gaithersburg filed Tuesday, making her the 30th candidate to either file or announce for one of four at-large nominations available in the June 26 Democratic primary. Arkoian, a former civic association president who ran for council from District 2 in 2002, is also the 22nd of the 30 Democrats seeking to tap into the county’s new public campaign finance system.

To date, three at-large candidates seeking public financing have received funds, and another three have met the threshold for doing so—with Evan Glass of Silver Spring the latest in the latter group. On Tuesday, Glass filed paperwork indicating he had received nearly 420 qualifying contributions of $150 or less, for a total of nearly $29,000.

In turn, this makes Glass eligible for more than $97,000 in public financing, according to his filing with the Maryland Board of Elections. At-large candidates must raise at least 250 qualifying contributions totaling $20,000 to tap into the public funding system; they are eligible for a maximum of $250,000 in public subsidies.

Glass, who finished a close second to now-Councilmember Tom Hucker in the 2014 Democratic primary in District 5, is now executive director of Gandhi Brigade Youth Media, which provides after-school programs for underserved students.

Due to term limits, three of the four current at-large council members are barred from running again. The remaining incumbent, Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, is seeking a third term.

Riemer is one of the three at-large candidates to receive public subsidies to date. He got $86,000 earlier this year, and, two weeks ago, filed for another $40,000.

Attorney Bill Conway of Potomac has received about $100,750 in public funding. And Hoan Dang of Silver Spring, after earlier being allotted nearly $74,000, Tuesday declared his eligibility for another $30,600.

Besides Glass, two other at-large candidates are poised to qualify. After earlier announcing that he had met the threshold, Chris Wilhelm of Chevy Chase—a teacher in the county school system—filed Tuesday with the Board of Elections. He reported $26,800 in private donations, making him eligible for nearly $91,200 in public campaign funds.

Gabriel Albornoz, head of the county’s Department of Recreation, also announced recently that he had raised enough to qualify for about $80,000 in public funding for his at-large bid. Albornoz had planned to file this week, but said the task of assembling the necessary paperwork had pushed back his filing to early January. 

Louis Peck


First round of environment group endorsements out; more expected in early 2018

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) last week came out with its first round of state legislative endorsements for 2018. In Montgomery County, the LCV picks tracked closely with the choices of another leading environmental group, the Sierra Club, earlier in the fall.

The first round of endorsements for both groups focused on incumbents seeking re-election to their current posts. The LCV and the Sierra Club each are expected to issue a second round early next year with verdicts on open state legislative contests.

The LCV does not make endorsements for county offices, but the Sierra Club will weigh in, perhaps as soon as January.

In recent years, the Sierra Club endorsement has been seen as ranking behind only The Washington Post’s editorial page and the Montgomery County Education Association’s “Apple Ballot” in local impact. This may be particularly true in 2018, when voters will be trying to sort through a wide-open county executive race and a 30-person field, so far, for County Council at-large.

In their first round of endorsements for the all-Democratic Montgomery County delegation, the LCV and Sierra Club both backed every House of Delegates incumbent seeking re-election with two exceptions: Dels. Pamela Queen (District 14) and Jheanelle Wilkins (District 20).

Unlike the other incumbents, who faced the voters in 2014, Queen and Wilkins were appointed to fill vacancies in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Because they had not been previously elected, both groups deferred decisions on them to the second endorsement round.

But while the Sierra Club has a policy of waiting until the second round to consider all appointed legislators, the LCV chose to give early endorsements to Sens. Will Smith (District 20) and Craig Zucker (District 14), both appointed in 2016. Since Smith and Zucker were elected to the House of Delegates prior to their Senate appointments, the LCV endorsement was said to be in deference to their environmental records while in the House.

By the same token, the LCV—unlike the Sierra Club—gave an early endorsement to Del. Ben Kramer, who is seeking the open District 19 Senate seat. But the two groups were on the same page in deferring a decision on the open District 18 Senate seat that Del. Jeff Waldstreicher is seeking. Behind the LCV move: Kramer has no primary opposition, while Waldstreicher faces competition from local activist Dana Beyer.

Finally, Sen. Nancy King (District 39)—endorsed by the LCV along with the county’s other Senate incumbents seeking re-election—was notably missing from the Sierra Club’s early list.

King, who chairs the county Senate delegation, did not meet a numerical threshold used by the club in scoring votes for an early endorsement—a predicament also faced by several other incumbent senators from elsewhere in Maryland, sources said. However, there was no indication King had taken any actions to which the Sierra Club strongly objected, and she could find herself on the endorsement list in the second round.

Louis Peck


Elrich receives CASA in Action endorsement

County Council member Marc Elrich received a boost from the Latino political advocacy group CASA in Action in his campaign for county executive.

CASA represents about 96,000 members and advocates on behalf of immigrants in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region.

“Time and again, Marc Elrich has stood shoulder to shoulder with our members to fight for a county where children can achieve, families can strive, and immigrants are woven into the fabric of every community,” Gustavo Torres, the president of CASA in Action, said in a statement.

Elrich has previously been backed by CASA in his efforts to pass the county’s new $15-per-hour minimum wage bill, which was approved in November. County Executive Ike Leggett signed the bill into law at CASA de Maryland’s Rockville offices.

CASA also cited Elrich’s efforts to pass local legislation to protect tenants’ rights and his opposition to master plans “that eliminated existing affordable housing,” according to a press release.

CASA said it chose Elrich over other candidates running for county executive—such as Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and Council member George Leventhal—who the advocacy group said has “long stood up for immigrant rights in their current roles.”

Other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive in 2018 include Council member Roger Berliner, outgoing planning department deputy director Rose Krasnow and Potomac businessman David Blair. Republican Robin Ficker also is running.

Image: Marc Elrich at the $15 per hour minimum wage bill signing. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Andrew Metcalf


Leventhal earns Ph.D. in public policy

County Council member George Leventhal earned a doctor of philosophy in public policy from the University of Maryland this week.

Leventhal has been studying at the university’s graduate school of public policy since 2007. His doctoral dissertation, titled “The Stubborn Persistence of Homelessness,” focused on ending chronic homelessness among veterans and others.

Leventhal studied the national 100,000 Homes Campaign from 2010 to 2014 to determine if it had a statistically significant effect on reducing homelessness. He found that it didn’t, but it did have “positive effects by helping communities better understand the inflow of persons into chronic homelessness, and by establishing evidence-based practices for reducing chronic homelessness,” according to a press release.

Leventhal, in his fourth term on the council, is one of six people seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive in 2018.

He chairs the council’s Health and Human Services Committee and has long been an advocate for the homeless. He has promoted a “housing first” strategy to lifting people out of homelessness.

Image: George Leventhal via Montgomery County Council video on YouTube.

Andrew Metcalf


Kyle Lierman returns to local politics, this time in behind the scenes role

Nearly eight years after a bid for state delegate in Bethesda-based District 16, Kyle Lierman is back in local politics—this time in a behind-the-scenes role.

Lierman—who earlier this year started a consulting company, Civic Advisors, after six years in the Obama White House—has signed on to David Blair’s county executive campaign as a consultant. Lierman will hold the title of chief strategist as Blair hires a campaign manager and prepares to ramp up his efforts next month, including web-based and mail advertising.

Among the six Democrats seeking the party’s county executive nomination, Blair, a health care executive, is the only one who has never sought nor held elected office.

Lierman, however, sees Blair’s political novice status as a major asset. “He’s absolutely new to politics, and that’s one of his strengths,” Lierman said Thursday. “He’s going to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the county.”

After growing up in Bethesda and working in the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, Lierman launched a bid for delegate in District 16 in 2010, not long after graduating from The George Washington University.

With an assist from his father, businessman and Democratic insider Terry Lierman—a former congressional candidate and Maryland Democratic chair—Kyle Lierman raised a then-unprecedented $195,000 for his campaign. He finished a close second to now-Del. Ariana Kelly in an 11-way competition for an open seat.

Three months after the September primary, Lierman went to work in the White House Office of Public Engagement, later becoming its senior associate director. After flirting with a run for state Senate in 2014, he decided to remain with Obama—leaving at the end of the president’s second term with added responsibilities as a senior policy adviser to the Domestic Policy Council.

Lierman, who just turned 31, lives in Silver Spring with his wife, Amanda Brown Lierman—political and organizing director of the Democratic National Committee—and their four-month-old daughter.

He is chief executive officer of Civic Advisors, which also includes four of his colleagues from the Obama White House. The firm specializes in advising on social impact strategy for foundations and mission-driven companies.

Blair is Lierman’s only political client, not counting the informal advice and assistance that he provides to his sister—Del. Brooke Lierman, an attorney who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2014 from a Baltimore-based district.

Louis Peck