Deep-pocketed supporters of Nancy Floreen’s independent bid for county executive have a powerful, new way of giving her a boost—by pouring unlimited amounts of money into a super PAC recently created to help her candidacy.
The County Above Party PAC established Aug. 29 is chaired by Charles K. Nulsen III, president of the development firm Washington Property Co. and an early backer of Floreen’s campaign. The PAC’s organizing documents express support for Floreen and opposition for her two county executive rivals, Democratic nominee Marc Elrich and Republican candidate Robin Ficker.
Reached by phone Thursday, Floreen said she hadn’t been aware of the super PAC’s existence but welcomed its arrival.
“The other two candidates have the advantage of public financing” she said.
Elrich and Ficker are enrolled in the county’s new public financing system, which provides candidates with matching campaign funds if they agree only to accept contributions from small, individual donors. Floreen wasn’t eligible for the public financing program because she started her campaign after the deadline for participation had already passed.
In her first campaign finance filing in August, Floreen reported hauling in $340,000 within weeks of launching her effort to become the first female Montgomery County executive. More than two-thirds of that money came from donors with ties to development, real estate and construction, with Nulsen himself ponying up the $6,000 maximum allowed by law.
Floreen, a longtime Democrat who relinquished her party affiliation to launch an independent bid, has said people in the real estate and development industries have told her they’re uneasy at the prospect of Elrich becoming county executive.
The super PAC will give developers and other land use interests a far greater ability to leverage their wallets on Floreen’s behalf. These political action committees are not bound by the $6,000 donation cap that applies to candidate committees and can collect as much money as individuals, unions and corporations are willing to contribute.
Ficker said Thursday the creation of a pro-Floreen super PAC isn’t causing him too much concern because he believes the race will hinge on the candidates’ performance during a series of public debates. The Boyds attorney says he has an advantage there because his profession has given him plenty of practice in making a case.
“We’re not going to end up with a PAC-man or -woman county executive,” he said. “We’re going to end up with a person of the people.”
Elrich was not immediately available to comment Thursday afternoon, and Nulsen did not respond to an interview request.
Similar to candidate committees, super PACS must report their contributions and expenditures periodically to the state. They are also subject to an additional reporting requirement that instructs them to file a disclosure within 48 hours of spending $10,000 or more on campaign materials, said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.
The groups are prohibited from coordinating with a candidate’s campaign but are free to buy television, radio and online advertising and send out mailers in support of the candidate.
The County Above Party PAC has launched a basic website that is so far empty except for an American flag background and a call for “accountable and responsible leadership.”
Floreen, a four-term County Council member, entered the running for county executive in July out of dissatisfaction with the primary race outcome and has cast herself as a moderate flanked by two candidates on the extremes. She earned a spot on the general election ballot after collecting more than 13,000 signatures in support of her effort.
Elrich, who’s finishing his third term on the council, has noted that he and Floreen have voted the same way on many issues and argues their differences largely center on development. He has long expressed concern that the county’s development is outpacing infrastructure expansion, leading to overcrowded schools and clogged roadways.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at email@example.com.