In past election cycles, it has not been unusual for two dozen state- and county-based groups to weigh in with candidate endorsements in the weeks and months leading up to the primary election in the overwhelmingly Democratic jurisdiction of Montgomery County. This year, with wide-open races for county executive and four County Council at-large seats, the number of groups and organizations hoping to sway the outcome of the June 26 primary seems only to have grown.
With early voting in the primary starting Thursday, what follows is a compilation of Democratic primary endorsements by a number of organizations that are well-known locally and have established a presence in recent elections. Also included in the listing are the choices of the editorial page of The Washington Post, given its circulation and influence within the county.
Tuesday’s installment focuses on the competitive races this year for county office; a separate breakdown of endorsements in this year’s contested congressional and state legislative elections will be published Wednesday. Both of these lists also will be updated in the Bethesda Beat voters’ guide to reflect any additional endorsements between now and June 26. A majority of the groups weighing in with endorsements in this year’s Democratic primary—there are no contested Republican primary elections at the local level in Montgomery County with the exception of the District 2 County Council seat— are labor unions or issue advocacy organizations. Only a couple of business groups—the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) and the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA)—have made formal endorsements this year.
A couple of other notes of explanation for the endorsement compilation that follows:
—The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) represents teachers in the county school system; the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 represents the school system’s support staff. The membership of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1994 MCGEO includes a majority of county government workers as its membership, while SEIU 32BJ represents many property service workers at office and apartment buildings in the county.
—While the Maryland Sierra Club endorses candidates at both the county and state level, another leading state environmental group, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, limits its Montgomery County endorsements to state legislative races.
—CASA in Action is the political arm of CASA de Maryland, which bills itself as the largest Latino and immigrant organization in Maryland.
—NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, while endorsing in both county and state legislative contests, also has given “100% Pro-Choice” ratings to other candidates in a given race—as it did four years ago. While this may blur the distinction with those who have received an outright endorsement, the group said it has opted to award 100 percent ratings to those supportive of its positions “based on questionnaire responses and public positions on reproductive freedom in Maryland.”
Candidates (Democratic primary): District 1 County Council member Roger Berliner, former health care company executive David Blair, at-large council member Marc Elrich, District 16 Del. Bill Frick, former Rockville Mayor/county Planning Department official Rose Krasnow, and at-large council member George Leventhal
Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA): Elrich
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500: Elrich
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ: Elrich
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 MCGEO: Elrich
AFL-CIO (Maryland State/District of Columbia): Elrich
Fraternal Order of Police (Lodge 35): Elrich
Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters (IAFF Local 1664): Elrich
Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association: Elrich
Maryland Sierra Club: Berliner
CASA in Action: Elrich
EMILY’s List: Krasnow
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland: Elrich (Berliner, Blair, Frick, Krasnow and Leventhal also received “100% Pro-Choice” ratings)
National Organization for Women (NOW)/Montgomery County Chapter: Krasnow
Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR): Frick
Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) of Metropolitan Washington: Blair
The Washington Post: Blair
Of note: With the MCEA belatedly awarding its influential endorsement to Elrich in early June—after more than a month of internal wrangling—most of the speculation about additional endorsements in this contest have focused on an individual: three-term County Executive Ike Leggett, and whether he will weigh in publicly on his successor. Leggett is said to have come under intense lobbying to make an endorsement, and has so far played his cards close to his vest—as he traditionally has been inclined to do regarding political matters. But, with just two weeks until the primary itself and only two days until the start of early voting, it appears increasingly likely that Leggett will opt to stay out of this contest.
Meanwhile, Blair has picked up the endorsements of two other high-profile local political figures in the past week: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Takoma Park resident, did so Monday, several days after U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Potomac offered his backing via Twitter. Also Monday, Krasnow received the endorsement of EMILY’s List. The move by that group— formed more than three decades ago to direct campaign contributions to Democratic women candidates supporting abortion rights—comes too late to have significant financial impact on the contest. But it could provide a political boost to Krasnow as she seeks to become the first woman elected Montgomery County executive since the post was created 50 years ago.
County Council/At-Large (four seats)
Candidates (Democratic primary): County Department of Recreation Director Gabriel Albornoz, retired federal government intelligence analyst Rosemary Arkoian, Gaithersburg/Germantown Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Balcombe, District 39 Del. Charles Barkley, community advocate Shruti Bhatnagar, former District 5 County Council member Cherri Branson, Progressive Maryland official Brandy Brooks, insurance agent Craig Carozza-Caviness, government consultant Ron Colbert, retired attorney Bill Conway, federal government contractor Hoan Dang, retired Montgomery County Police officer Tom Falcinelli, travel service owner Lorna Phillips Forde, Montgomery County Office of Human Rights official Loretta Garcia, Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations officer Paul Geller, former journalist/civic activist Evan Glass, accountant Richard Gottfried, county government public information officer Neil Greenberger, former Takoma Park City Council member Seth Grimes, former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, attorney/former Obama administration official Will Jawando, data manager David Lipscomb, former Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations officer Melissa McKenna, science consultant Danielle Meitiv, county Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse, incumbent at-large council member Hans Riemer, accountant Michelle Riley, public relations consultant Graciela Rivera-Oven, construction manager Darwin Romero, retired engineer Mohammad Siddique, Takoma Park City Council member Jarrett Smith, radio producer/host Steve Solomon, and Northwood High School teacher Chris Wilhelm
MCEA: Riemer, Brooks, Jawando, Wilhelm
MCGEO: Brooks, Jawando, Wilhelm
SEIU Local 500: Riemer, Albornoz, Jain, Jawando
SEIU 32BJ: Riemer, Albornoz, Brooks, Jawando
AFL-CIO (Maryland State/District of Columbia): Brooks, Meitiv, Wilhelm
Fraternal Order of Police: Jawando
Volunteer Fire and Rescue: Riemer
Sierra Club: Riemer, Glass, Jawando, Meitiv
CASA: Riemer, Albornoz, Brooks, Jawando
NARAL: No endorsement (Riemer, Balcombe, Bhatnagar, Branson, Dang, Geller, Glass, Greenberger, Grimes, Jain, Jawando, Meitiv, Ortman-Fouse, Solomon and Wilhelm received “100% Pro-Choice” ratings)
NOW: Riemer, Brooks, Forde, Glass
AOBA: Riemer, Albornoz, Balcombe
GCAAR: Albornoz, Balcombe, Dang, Glass
The Washington Post: Riemer, Albornoz, Balcombe, Glass
Of note: Riemer was the only one of four current at-large council members allowed to seek re-election due to the 2016 term limits referendum. Two of the three others—Marc Elrich and George Leventhal—are running for county executive, while council member Nancy Floreen is retiring from elected office. In contrast to his hands-off stance to date in the primary battle over his successor, County Executive Leggett has been far less shy in weighing in over his four choices in the 33-way Democratic free-for-all for council at-large nominations. Leggett’s endorsements have gone to Riemer and Albornoz—who has worked for Leggett for more than a decade—as well as Dang and Jawando.
County Council/District 1 (Bethesda/Potomac/Poolesville)
Candidates (Democratic primary): Video production business owner Bill Cook, former Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman, former Comptroller of Maryland advisor Andrew Friedson, District 18 Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, health care benefits professional Jim McGee, attorney Regina “Reggie” Oldak, social worker Dalbin Osorio, and former county Planning Board member Meredith Wellington
SEIU Local 500: Gutierrez
NARAL: No endorsement (Fosselman, Friedson, Gutierrez, McGee, Oldak, Osorio and Wellington received “100% Pro-Choice” ratings)
The Washington Post: Friedson
Of note: Two organizations—the Maryland Sierra Club and the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR)—have indicated they do not plan to make an endorsement in this highly competitive primary race. Both groups failed to achieve consensus on a preferred successor to District 1 County council member Roger Berliner, who has held the seat for the past 12 years. Service Employees International Union 32BJ also does not plan to endorse, with a spokeswoman saying the union has focused its endorsements this year on areas of the county where the bulk of its members reside.
County Council/District 2 (Clarksburg/Damascus/Germantown/Montgomery Village)
Candidates (Democratic primary): Safety instructor Tiquia Bennett and incumbent County Council member Craig Rice
Candidates (Republican primary): Former teacher Ed Amatetti, federal government consultant Tom Ferleman, and gym/restaurant owner Kyle Sefcik
SEIU Local 500: Rice
SEIU 32BJ: Rice
Volunteer Fire and Rescue: Rice
NARAL: No endorsement (Rice received “100% Pro-Choice” rating)
The Washington Post: Rice
Of note: Rice, currently the council’s only African-American member, is an overwhelming favorite to win renomination to a third term. But he could have a competitive re-election race in the fall in a district that Republicans eye perennially due to its inclusion of large swaths of rural territory in the northern sections of the county. It is the only council seat for which the GOP is expected to be competitive in November; the Republicans did not even file candidates for three of the other four district council slots.
County Council/District 3 (Rockville/Gaithersburg)
Candidates (Democratic primary): Incumbent County Council member Sidney Katz and political operative/civic activist Ben Shnider
SEIU Local 500: Shnider
SEIU 32BJ: Shnider
Fraternal Order of Police: Katz
Career Fire Fighters: Katz
Volunteer Fire and Rescue: Katz
Sierra Club: Shnider
NARAL: No endorsement (Katz and Shnider received “100% Pro-Choice” ratings)
The Washington Post: Katz
Of note: Combined with the county executive, County Council at-large and District 1 contests, this is the Democrats’ other marquee county-level race on June 26. Shnider—nearly 40 years Katz’s junior and running a challenge from the left—has picked up the endorsements of two of the three major county employee unions: MCEA and SEIU Local 500. But MCGEO has opted to remain neutral after a protracted internal discussion. There was significant sentiment within the union to join other labor groups in endorsing Shnider. But the ultimate decision to stay out of the race reflected MCGEO’s increasingly warm relations with Katz during the latter’s first term on the council—a contrast to Katz’s 16 years as mayor of Gaithersburg, when he and the union butted heads over collective bargaining rights.
County Council/District 4 (Colesville/Laytonsville/Olney/Wheaton)
Candidates (Democratic primary): Transportation services official Jay Graney and incumbent County Council member Nancy Navarro
SEIU Local 500: Navarro
SEIU 32BJ: Navarro
Volunteer Fire and Rescue: Navarro
Sierra Club: Navarro
NARAL: No Endorsement (Navarro received “100% Pro-Choice” rating)
The Washington Post: Navarro
Of note: Navarro, currently the council’s only Hispanic-American member, is an odds-on favorite to win renomination and re-election to a third full term; a former county Board of Education member, she was initially chosen for the council in a 2009 special election.
County Council/District 5 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park/Burtonsville)
Candidates (Democratic primary): Consultant to non-profit organizations Kevin Harris, incumbent County Council member Tom Hucker, and African Women Council director Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd
SEIU Local 500: Hucker
SEIU 32BJ: Hucker
Fraternal Order of Police: Hucker
Career Fire Fighters: Hucker
Volunteer Fire and Rescue: Hucker
Sierra Club: Hucker
NARAL: No endorsement (Hucker received “100% Pro-Choice” rating)
The Washington Post: Hucker
Of note: A former two-term member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Hucker was first elected to the council in 2014 after a narrow primary win in District 5 over former journalist Evan Glass—who this year is running for an at-large council seat. For a time, Hucker himself was said to have contemplated switching and running at-large this year, to increase his countywide visibility. But he ultimately decided to run again in District 5, where he is the strong favorite to win a second term even though one of his opponents, Harris, raised enough money to tap into the county’s new public campaign finance system in the last month of the primary.
Board of Education/At-Large
Candidates (Nonpartisan primary): Federal Railroad Administration economist Ryan Arbuckle, attorney/real estate agent Timur Edib, preschool administrator Marwa Omar Ibrahim, retired attorney/law school lecturer Julie Reiley, investment business manager Brandon Orman Rippeon, school administrator/teacher John Robertson, Montgomery College official Karla Silvestre, and government relations manager Stephen Sugg
SEIU Local 500: Sugg
The Washington Post: Reiley
Board of Education/District 3 (Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Garrett Park/Potomac)
Candidates (Nonpartisan primary): Beverage company owner Lynn Amano, incumbent Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill, and former business owner and product manager Laura Simon
SEIU Local 500: O’Neill
The Washington Post: O’Neill
Of note: The June 26 nonpartisan primaries for the at-large seat—which incumbent Jill Ortman-Fouse is leaving to run for County Council—and the District 3 slot will produce two finalists in each race. Those finalists will then face off in the November general election. In District 1 (North County/Laytonsville/Montgomery Village), a two-way race between incumbent Board of Education member Judith Docca and Maria Blaeuer, an official of a nonprofit education group, will not appear on the ballot until November. And in District 5 (East County/Brookeville/Olney), the recent withdrawal of sales manager Paul Pykosh has left retired U.S. Department of Education official Brenda Wolff unopposed for the seat now held by incumbent Michael Durso, who is retiring. A historical footnote: If she wins re-election this year, O’Neill, seeking her sixth term, would become the longest serving member in the 200-year history of the Montgomery County Board of Education—which has been subject to popular election since the early 1950s.