Running in the first competitive general election contest in decades, the Democratic and Republican contenders for county executive, Marc Elrich and Robin Ficker, have tapped into the county’s public funding system for more than $500,000 with a month left until Election Day.
A report this week by the county’s Department of Finance shows Elrich qualifying for $184,400 in September, bringing his total in general election public funding to $277,300. Ficker so far has received nearly $241,000, with most of that—$231,200—coming in July.
By limiting private contributions to $150 or less, Elrich and Ficker are each eligible to receive a maximum of $750,000 in public matching funds during the general election campaign—although, with just a month to go, it does not appear that either one will reach that limit.
Elrich did max out at $750,000 in winning a six-way Democratic primary in June, in a campaign that stretched out over more than a year. Ficker, because he did not have opposition for the Republican nomination, was not eligible for public funds in the primary.
The other county executive candidate in the general election, Democrat-turned independent Nancy Floreen, did not enter the contest until after the primary, and is relying exclusively on private contributions. The law requires that candidates seeking to tap into the public finance system meet the minimum requirements for eligibility 45 days prior to the primary.
[For more information about the candidates, check out Bethesda Beat’s 2018 General Election Voters’ Guide]
A fuller look at the finances of the county executive race will be available at the end of next week, when pre-election disclosure reports are due to be filed with the State Board of Elections.
The County Council originally appropriated $11 million for the public financing system, but $4 million of that was transferred out to other uses in July—when it became clear that the full amount of the original allocation would not be needed.
Of the $7 million from the original appropriation remaining for public campaign funding, slightly more than $4 million was given to county executive and County Council candidates in the run-up to the June primary, and another $585,000 has been distributed since July for the general election—leaving about $2.3 million still available in the system.
While the lion’s share of the general election public funding has gone to Elrich and Ficker, a total of about $66,200 has been distributed to five candidates for County Council. The largest single portion of that, $24,000, has gone to Republican Ed Amatetti of North Potomac, a contender in what is widely regarded as the only competitive council contest on the November ballot.
Amatetti, who won a three-way Republican primary, faces Democratic incumbent Craig Rice of Germantown for District 2, which covers most of the northern portion of the county. Rice is relying on private contributions in his bid for a third term. Amatetti is eligible for a maximum of $125,000 in public funds through the Nov. 6 election.
The Democrats who emerged from the 33-way primary for four council at-large nominations— incumbent Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, Gabe Albornoz of Kensington, and Evan Glass and Will Jawando, both of Silver Spring—to date have qualified for a combined total of $42,200 in the general election.
More than half of that, $21,400, has gone to Jawando, followed by Glass, with $13,100; Albornoz, $5,600; and Riemer, $2,100. All four face little more than token Republican opposition this fall.
At-large council candidates are eligible for a maximum of $250,000 in public funds per election. Glass and Jawando reached this threshold in the primary, and Riemer came close to doing so.
Floreen runs TV Ads
Montgomery County executive independent candidate Nancy Floreen has spent $15,500 on her first set of television advertisements, according to records from the Federal Communications Commission.
According to an invoice dated Oct. 1, Floreen bought time to air 30-second ads on nine cable channels available through Comcast in the greater Washington, D.C., region. The networks include American Movie Classics, Bravo, CNN, ESPN, Food Network, HGTV, MSNBC, TLC and USA. According to the documents, the ads began airing Oct. 2 and were scheduled to run through Monday evening.
The most expensive ads Floreen purchased were for $308 each, which included air time on CNN, ESPN, HGTV and USA. The least expensive ads were for $59 each on TLC.
FCC records indicate that neither of Floreen’s opponents, Democrat Marc Elrich nor Republican Robin Ficker, has begun airing ads on TV. Ficker has said he wasn’t sure when he would air ads, but that it would be “sometime between now and the election.” He released a two-minute internet ad in August.
Major county public employee union leaves a couple of Democrats off its endorsement card
When, in late August, one of Montgomery County’s major public employee unions endorsed virtually the entire Democratic slate of county and state legislative candidates on this year’s Nov. 6 ballot, the announcement was more noteworthy for who didn’t make list.
SEIU Local 500—which claims to be the county’s largest union, with 13,500 of its members living here—initially left five Democrats off its endorsement card for the general election. The union, which represents the support staff of the Montgomery County Public Schools, subsequently endorsed Del. Ben Kramer of Derwood, running for state Senate in District 19 with opposition only from a Green Party candidate.
And Local 500 is also poised to endorse two other Senate candidates: incumbents Cheryl Kagan of Rockville in District 17 and Will Smith of Silver Spring in District 20. Both of those endorsements were said to have been delayed while Kagan and Smith responded to the union’s candidate questionnaire. Both face only token Republican opposition.
That leaves just two of the 42 Democrats on the Montgomery County ballot for county executive, County Council, and Maryland General Assembly without the SEIU’s backing: District 3 council member Sidney Katz of Gaithersburg and Lily Qi of North Potomac. Qi is seeking to fill the District 15 legislative seat being vacated by Del. Aruna Miller, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination from the 6th Congressional District in June.
There has been no public comment from Local 500, but sources said that the union has no plans to add either Katz or Qi to its list of endorsements prior to the Nov. 6 election.
For Katz, the matter is largely academic: He has no opponent and is guaranteed a second term.
Qi, however, is running in a district where Democrats enjoy less of a registration advantage than most areas of the county. Unlike all but one of Montgomery’s other seven legislative districts, Republicans have fielded a full candidate slate in District 15. One of Qi’s opponents, former state Board of Education member Laurie Halverson, is one of only a couple of Republicans given a chance of success this year in a county that has not elected a Republican to office since 2002.
The reason for the SEIU’s thumbs down to Katz and Qi is not entirely clear. Sources indicated it stemmed less from any one issue than a feeling that both have been hostile to union interests.
Katz is the only member of the current nine-member council with a background largely in business: He ran a family-owned department store for many years. The coolness of Local 500 toward Katz is in contrast to another major county union, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, which represents a majority of county government employees. MCGEO butted heads with Katz over collective bargaining rights during his 16 years as mayor of Gaithersburg, but developed an increasingly warm attitude toward Katz during the latter’s first term on the council.
MCGEO stayed neutral in this year’s primary in the District 3 race, as Local 500 strongly backed political operative Ben Shnider in an aggressive challenge to Katz. In District 15, Local 500 endorsed Kevin Mack, an aide to outgoing U.S. Rep. John Delaney, over Qi—who has been a top aide to County Executive Ike Leggett for the past seven years, most recently as an assistant chief administrative officer for the county.
Meanwhile, SEIU Local 500 backed state Sen. Roger Manno of Silver Spring in his unsuccessful bid for the District 6 congressional nomination in the primary. Union officials are slated to meet soon with the Democratic primary winner, businessman David Trone of Potomac, before deciding whether to shift their endorsement to him. Trone has previously picked up the backing of the Maryland State Education Association and the Sierra Club—both of which endorsed Miller in the primary—in his general election contest against Republican Amie Hoeber of Potomac.
Floreen to receive award from American Planning Association
Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen will be honored by the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association on Oct. 18 at George Washington University’s Marvin Center, according to a press release. Floreen, who is running for county executive as an independent, will be recognized for her work as chair of the council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee in advocating for affordable housing, streamlining the development process and spurring economic development.
“I have admired Nancy for how she collaborates with her colleagues and guides them in the land use planning arena to outcomes which move Montgomery County to increasingly enlightened land planning decisions,” County Executive Ike Leggett said in the press release.