County executive candidates George Leventhl, left, and Marc Elrich have qualified for more than $356,000 in public funds for their campaigns Credit: Bethesda Beat file photos/ Provided

Nearly $800,000 distributed in January from county’s public campaign finance system

Montgomery County’s new public campaign finance system distributed nearly $800,000 in January, well over the previous monthly high of $333,000 last October, the county’s Department of Finance reported Thursday.

That brings to $1.81 million the total funds distributed since last July—when the system began allocating money to candidates who met certain thresholds while raising private donations of $150 or less. As of this week, the fund had $9.19 million remaining of the $11 million initially appropriated, with five months until the June 26 primary.

More than one-third of the public funding to date has gone to two contenders for the Democratic nomination for county executive: Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of Takoma Park. Elrich has qualified for more than $356,000, including $40,200 in January; Leventhal has received nearly $305,000, with nearly $45,300 of that distributed last month.

A third Democratic candidate, former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow, is participating in the public financing system, but has yet to meet the threshold to receive funding; Krasnow announced her candidacy late last year. A county executive candidate is eligible for a maximum of $750,000 in public subsidies.

In the crowded field of 28 Democrats seeking four County Council at-large nominations—including 20 who have indicated their intent to tap into public financing—six contenders received public funding for the first time in January. They include Evan Glass of Silver Spring, $116,100; Chris Wilhelm of Chevy Chase, $98,300; Will Jawando of Silver Spring, $96,900; Gabe Albornoz of Kensington, $89,000; Mohammad Siddique of Montgomery Village, $73,400; and Seth Grimes of Takoma Park, $72,900.

The only incumbent in the field, Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, has received the most in public funding—$163,800, nearly two-thirds of the $250,000 maximum for which an at-large candidate is eligible. About $36,000 of what Riemer has received was allocated last month.

Second behind Riemer is Bill Conway of Potomac, with $140,500, including $39,800 in January. Hoan Dang of Silver Spring has received $107,400 to date, with $33,600 in January.

Another Democratic at-large contender, Shruti Bhatnagar of Kensington, has filed a formal request with the state Board of Elections but not yet received funding. Bhatnagar filed a request for $90,000 at the beginning of January, but amended her filing this past Tuesday to ask for $69,500.

Three candidates seeking district council seats have received public funding to date.
In District 1, Regina “Reggie” Oldak of Bethesda received $37,400 in January, for a total of $85,600. District council candidates are eligible for up to $125,000 per election. Oldak is part of an eight-way Democratic primary contest.

District 3 incumbent Sidney Katz of Gaithersburg, facing an aggressive challenge for renomination to a second term, has been allocated $65,800, with $16,400 of that received in January.

Edward Amatetti of North Potomac, the only Republican candidate to qualify for public funding so far, has received $38,900 in his bid for the District 2 seat, $1,700 of it in January.

Louis Peck


New poll ranks Hogan second-most popular governor in country

The market research and online survey company Morning Consult reported Thursday that Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is the second-most popular governor in the country, with an approval rating of 66 percent from poll respondents.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who like Hogan holds office in a state largely controlled by the Democratic Party, ranked as the most popular governor in the survey, with an approval rating of 69 percent.

The survey polled about 250,000 registered U.S. voters in the last quarter of 2017 and determined the approval ratings of governors from specific states based on responses from voters in those states, according to Morning Consult.

Hogan has been ranked as the second-most popular governor in the quarterly poll four straight times and in five of the last six quarters, according to state politics blog Maryland Matters.

Just 18 percent of Maryland respondents in the poll disapproved of the job Hogan is doing, while 16 percent were undecided.

The governor is ramping up his reelection campaign ahead of the 2018 race. Seven Democratic challengers will compete in the June 26 primary for the opportunity to unseat him in November: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Kensington), former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Baltimore Attorney James Shea, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross and former Michelle Obama aide Krishanti Vignarajah.

Image: Gov. Larry Hogan and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao sign the Purple Line federal funding agreement in August. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Andrew Metcalf


Hennessey, after saying he will leave District 16 race, jumps back in to oppose Amazon bill

Just days after announcing last week that he was dropping out of the race for District 16 delegate, Joseph Hennessey has jumped back in—citing opposition to legislation to attract online retail giant Amazon’s second headquarters to Montgomery County.

“It’s an outrage,” Hennessey, a Chevy Chase attorney, declared in an interview. “Amazon already has been feeding from the trough of government largesse.”

Hennessey endorsed fellow attorney Sara Love of Bethesda in initially withdrawing from the contest, and said he continued to stand by that endorsement. Hennessey, Love, and three other nonincumbent Democrats—health care professional Jordan Cooper of Bethesda, writer/consultant Nuchhi Currier of Chevy Chase and teacher Samir Paul of Bethesda—were drawn to the race by the seat now held by Del. Bill Frick, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive.

“Sara Love … will be an outstanding member of the House of Delegates,” Hennessey said, adding, “I had intended to withdraw from the race—but that was until I found out that some of the people in the Democratic Party were working with [Gov.] Larry Hogan to give Amazon $5 billion in incentives.

“So I decided not to file my papers withdrawing from the race. There are two other slots.”

Those slots are currently occupied by Dels. Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman, both Bethesda Democrats, who are seeking reelection. In a recent social media post, Hennessey made clear he was taking aim at Kelly and Korman as well as Frick and District 16 Sen. Susan Lee, declaring, “I trust that [they] do NOT give $5 billion in Maryland taxpayer funds to a company with a market-cap of $640 billion and a CEO [Jeffrey Bezos] with $105 billion in wealth.”

In an interview, Hennessey contended: “Under the [federal] Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998, Amazon—until roughly 2010—did not have to collect and pay any state sales tax. That gave them a comparative advantage over all the brick-and-mortar stores in America. We’re subsidizing a company that has already been subsidized.”

To date, Hennessey’s crusade against the Amazon legislation has been a lonely one.

Hogan’s bill to attract the Amazon headquarters and up to 50,000 jobs—through infrastructure improvements as well as tax incentives—will be introduced shortly in the General Assembly. It has garnered widespread support among county elected officials in Annapolis and Rockville.

Meanwhile, District 16 sources said Hennessey approached other nonincumbent candidates about forming a slate to oppose Kelly and Korman, but found no takers.

While endorsed by Hennessey, Love expressed a mixed view of what has been proposed to attract Amazon. “I have some concerns,” she said. “A lot of jurisdictions [providing] these massive incentive packages end up giving out more than they take in. And in talking to a number of local smaller business owners, their concern is that they’re really the ones who are bringing in the jobs, and where is their support?”

At the same time, she said of the legislation being floated: “The infrastructure investment is a positive in it. And I understand there is a requirement that jobs be created; a lot of incentive packages don’t have those. Anything put out there must require Maryland jobs being created.”

Hennessey—whose campaign lagged well behind both Love and Paul in the latest fundraising reports—left open the possibility that he might not remain in the race until the June 26 primary.

“I’m waiting to see what the vote is going to be on this incentives package to make my final determination on whether or not to withdraw later in the campaign,” he said. “For now, I’m still a candidate.”

Louis Peck