Reardon Sullivan Credit: File photo

Reardon Sullivan, the chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee, is running for county executive.

Sullivan, 62, who has been on the committee for roughly three-and-a-half years, is the first and only Republican in the race. He filed on Wednesday, two days before the filing deadline.

Five Democrats have already filed for the county’s top office:

  • Marc Elrich, the incumbent, who is seeking his second term
  • David Blair, a businessman who lost by 77 votes to Elrich in 2018
  • County Council Member Tom Hucker, who is finishing his second term and was council president in 2021
  • County Council Member Hans Riemer, who is finishing his third term and is term-limited
  • Peter James, who works in a tech background and previously ran for Congress as a Republican

The primary is scheduled for July 19.

Sullivan said in an interview that he decided to run for the county’s top office — his first run for public office — after mulling it over the past few weeks.

He said he’s been watching forums featuring the Democrats running for the seat and isn’t impressed about their visions for the future of Montgomery County.

“There needs to be another voice in this race, and it might as well be me,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said one of the main issues he’ll campaign on is public safety. He said there has been a rise in violent crime in recent months, and he thinks the current attitudes around law enforcement are to blame.

Police officers have been “demoralized,” he said.

Violent crime and property crimes are both concerning, Sullivan said.

“[Residents] want to feel safe, and when you have people saw-cutting the catalytic converters out of a Prius, that’s just not acceptable,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the business climate in Montgomery County is not friendly.

He said he founded a 40-person consulting engineering company. Because of the work that he does, he has observed that county inspectors and code enforcement officials have become more stringent, especially toward people trying to start various businesses, he said.

He gave Elrich’s administration credit for working through certain moratorium fees related to development. But the entire review process “needs to be reworked from top to bottom,” he said. 

Sullivan criticized the county’s efforts on combating climate change, including the renovation of buildings to make them more energy efficient. He noted he is the only architect or certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) engineer in the race. 

Other candidates might talk about the environmental changes needed, but he is the only one with direct experience, he said.

Sullivan also criticized Thrive Montgomery 2050, the county’s proposed update to its general master plan. He said he opposes building quadplexes and other multi-unit structures in the place of single-family homes.

Increased density would create more infrastructure needs, which aren’t adequately considered in the plan, he said.

Sullivan said that as county executive, he would try to withhold county funding if the school system tried to teach sexually explicit material to students in first through third grades.

He said the county executive also plays a role in safety in the school system through the use of police officers.

He supported reinstating school resource officers in high schools, noting that every principal wanted to keep them.

“At the end of the day, if the principals who are charged with teaching our students say they need this, then I think there’s value in that,” Sullivan said. 

Philosophically, Sullivan said, Elrich, Hucker and Riemer are too far to the left on many county issues, while many residents want middle-ground, common sense solutions. 

He said Blair seems more moderate, but Sullivan is concerned with how he is spending millions of his own dollars to campaign — giving the appearance of trying to buy the election.

Sullivan said Republicans can have good ideas that win over a largely Democratic county.

One example, he said, was political term limits for council members and the county executive, a successful petition effort by Republican Robin Ficker. County voters approved the measure with nearly 70% of the vote in 2016. Under the new limits, council members and executives can serve a maximum of three terms, or 12 years.

“The feeling I get when I talk to a lot of people is a lot of people aren’t happy with where the county is,” Sullivan said.

Steve Bohnel can be reached steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com