The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) has decided to throw its support behind Marc Elrich in the six-way Democratic primary for county executive.
Sources close to the union, which represents 13,500 teachers in the county school system, said the MCEA’s representative assembly of 200 members voted late Wednesday afternoon to back Elrich. The level of support for the three-term County Council member was in excess of the 58 percent threshold required under the organization’s rules to render an endorsement.
“As a former teacher and MCEA member, Marc Elrich is the right person to lead our county in the years ahead,” said Nikki Woodward, chair of the MCEA Political Action and Legislative Support Committee. “We are pleased to support his bold and progressive vision for our schools—schools that are funded adequately and equitably.”
It was the second time in the past month that the MCEA’s representative assembly had sought to reach a consensus on the county executive race. The union had earlier held off possible endorsements involving current County Council members until after key decisions were made in conjunction with this year’s county budget process.
With the start of early voting for this year’s June 26 primary just a week away, the late endorsement of Elrich provides a challenge for union officials in terms of publicizing it: Copies of the MCEA’s influential “Apple Ballot” already have been printed.
More than 20,000 Apple Ballots with the union’s choices in countywide races are due to be delivered for distribution by the end of this week. In addition, variations of that flier with the MCEA’s candidate choices in a number of council and state legislative districts around the county also have been produced.
Ultimately, this year’s competition for the MCEA endorsement for county executive was said to have come to a two-way contest between Elrich and another at-large council member, George Leventhal. While there also was scattered backing for the other candidates in the race, Elrich’s inability to capture the necessary 58 percent during a vote of the representative assembly a month ago was largely the result of support for Leventhal, according to sources.
Also running in the Democratic primary for county executive are District 1 council member Roger Berliner, former health care company executive David Blair, former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow and state Del. Bill Frick of Bethesda. Attorney Robin Ficker is unopposed for the Republican nomination.
Despite Leventhal’s failure to win the MCEA’s backing, the latest developments represent something of a political comeback for Leventhal—who, when seeking re-election to a fourth term on the council in 2014, failed to win the endorsement of the MCEA following what was described as a confrontational interview with union officials.
Known as a mercurial personality prone to flashes of temper, Leventhal subsequently sought not only to mend fences with the MCEA, but to actively woo its membership. Sources said he has held focus groups with teachers in recent months, with a number of the participants being members of the MCEA’s representative assembly.
While more than two dozen organizations currently offer candidate endorsements in Montgomery County races, the two endorsements long regarded as the most influential are those of the MCEA and The Washington Post.
The Post endorsed Blair nearly a month ago, and that appeared to have spurred the MCEA to reach a consensus, lest it be left on the political sidelines in this year’s county executive race. The Post followed up its initial endorsement of Blair with an editorial Tuesday that was critical of Elrich—long the council’s leading skeptic on matters relating to economic development and growth.
Elrich has virtually unanimous backing from labor groups in the county and region. The endorsement of the MCEA now gives him the support of the county’s three largest unions, coupled with prior endorsements from SEIU Local 500—which represents the support staff of the county school system—and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, whose membership includes a majority of Montgomery County government employees.