Marc Elrich (left), David Blair (center), and Hans Riemer (right) Credit: File Photos

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park) – whose increasing national prominence has made him a coveted endorsement for many Montgomery County candidates in this year’s primary – offered Saturday an 11th hour endorsement for the re-election of County Executive Marc Elrich to a second term, amid a highly competitive Democratic primary.

“I’ve had quite a week defending democracy against … the insurrections and the political violence, and attempts to usurp the will of the people,” Raskin mused – referring to his work as a member of the House of Representatives committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “So I thought I would just swing by to tell everybody I’m voting for Marc Elrich.”

A cheer went up from the group of pre-primary canvassers assembled on the Silver Spring lawn of Debbie Spielberg, a long-time aide to Elrich.

Both Elrich and Raskin are Takoma Park residents who have long been associated with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. “I’ve known Marc for most of my life,” Raskin told the informal gathering – a video of which was released afterward. “He’s always the same Marc – you know what you’re going to get with Marc Elrich. We can count on him.”

Raskin’s appearance in Silver Spring followed a week in which he led a nationally televised hearing of the Jan. 6 committee, in which he laid out the case that a series of actions by then-President Donald Trump and others at the White House in December 2020 had led to an attack by Trump supporters on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as the vote to elect Joe Biden as the next president was being certified.

[For more information on candidates for local, state and federal races, check out the Bethesda Beat voters guide.]

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Closer to home, Raskin’s endorsement of Elrich came just three days before polls open in the July 19 primary, and after a week of early voting had ended Thursday. But Raskin’s move could provide Elrich a boost as thousands of mail-in ballots remain out.

As of late this week, the Montgomery County Board of Elections said that of 114,183 mail-in ballots sent out, only 19,424 had been returned. Outstanding ballots must be submitted or postmarked by the time the polls close at 8 p.m. this Tuesday.

While the true state of the race for the Democratic nomination for county executive remains uncertain due to a paucity of independent polling, the campaigns of both of Elrich’s leading Democratic rivals – businessman David Blair and County Council Member at-large Hans Riemer – have repeatedly utilized blast emails and social media in recent days to contend the race is tightening.

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The only public polling in the race has been commissioned by Data for Progress, a San Francisco-based think tank. Its latest survey – taken from July 8-12 and first reported by Maryland Matters earlier Saturday – showed Elrich and Blair tied at 34% each, with Riemer at 20% and 11% undecided. An earlier Data for Progress poll provided to Bethesda Beat, taken May 19-23 of likely Democratic primary voters, showed Elrich leading with 33%, Blair and Riemer with 14% each, and 38% undecided.

The May survey was more than a month before The Washington Post editorial page endorsed Blair in late June in an editorial that sharply criticized Elrich. That editorial subsequently became the basis for a saturation TV advertising effort by Blair, whose largely self-financed campaign had spent just over $5 million as of the beginning of July – more than 30 percent of that funding directed to TV advertising, according to the latest campaign disclosure reports.

At the same time, private polling earlier this spring by a coalition of labor groups suggested that three-quarters of respondents felt the county was headed in the right direction, with Elrich receiving high approval ratings for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elrich has repeatedly mentioned his management of the pandemic first in listing the accomplishments of his first term, and Raskin also emphasized that issue in his remarks Saturday.

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“We counted on him through COVID 19, where Montgomery County became one of the leading counties in America to get people vaccinated and to promote public health,” Raskin said. Turning to Elrich, he added, “For that reason alone, we owe you a debt of gratitude, Marc, for getting us through that in such a fabulous way.”

Louis Peck, a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine, can be reached at: lou.peck@bethesdamagazine.com.