County Council member Marc Elrich plans to use public funds in his run for county executive.
The at-large Democratic representative is filing a form with the state’s Board of Elections to qualify for the county’s public financing system, which will enable him to raise up to $750,000 in public funds based on the small dollar contributions he receives.
Elrich is the second county executive candidate who plans to use the system, which was approved by the County Council in 2014. At-large County Council member George Leventhal told Bethesda Beat in January he also plans to use public financing to run for county executive in 2018.
Elrich was not immediately available to comment on his decision Thursday morning. Elrich’s intent to use public financing was first reported by the local politics blog Seventh State.
The system allows candidates to receive matching county funds based on contributions they receive that are $150 or less. For county executive candidates a $50 contribution would net them $300 in public financing, while a $150 donation would give them $600.
The council passed the law as a way to reduce the influence of large contributors from special interests, unions and developers in local elections.
In order to qualify for public financing, county executive candidates must first file their intent to use the system with the board of elections, then raise a minimum of $40,000. The minimum was set as a way to ensure candidates who use the system are viable candidates who have shown an ability to fundraise.
Elrich and Leventhal both must step down from their council positions in 2018 after voters approved term limits in 2016. Current County Executive Ike Leggett is also unable to run for re-election in 2018 due to term limits.
Other Democratic candidates considering a run for county executive include Council President Roger Berliner, County Council member Craig Rice, Del. Ben Kramer of Wheaton, former council member Mike Knapp and Total Wine & More founder David Trone.
Trone’s entry into the race could present problems for publicly financed candidates. The businessman spent $13.4 million of his personal fortune on a failed bid for Congress last year and has the ability to spend far more than candidates who could be limited in their fundraising by the public system.
Trone said in January he’s “focused very heavily” on the county executive race, although he has not formally announced a plan to run for the office.
The county's administration has also been debating how much to budget for the public financing system–given that it may also be used by several County Council candidates in the 2018 race. Leggett is scheduled to present his proposed fiscal 2018 operating budget March 14, which may include as much as $10 million for public financing.