Republican Montgomery County executive candidate Robin Ficker filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court last week contesting the State Board of Elections’ decision not to certify him to receive matching public funds under the county’s public campaign financing system.
Ficker, an attorney from Boyds, said in an interview Thursday that he raised about $48,000 in contributions of $150 or less from country residents—more than the $40,000 required by county law to qualify for matching public funds. His campaign currently has a cash balance of about $47,400, after spending $2,000 on website development in the past month, according to a campaign finance report filed with the board.
Ficker also believes he submitted the paperwork necessary to qualify for matching funds before the May 15 deadline imposed by the county. Despite this, he said, the state board, which has an oversight responsibility for the public financing program, denied his request for about $235,000 in matching public funds for his campaign.
He said the board informed him that he missed the deadline and that it provided information that some of his contributions did not qualify for matching funds. Ficker said his campaign struggled to submit the paperwork to the board shortly before the deadline because the board’s website kept crashing.
Ficker accused the board of “acting politically” in its decision and believes he’s being treated unfairly. His lawsuit was first reported by Montgomery Community Media.
Jared DeMarinis, director of the board’s campaign finance decision, did not immediately respond to an email Thursday requesting more information about why Ficker’s request for public funds was denied.
Bethesda Beat attempted to view the lawsuit Thursday at the circuit court in Rockville, but a clerk told a reporter that it remains in “quality control” to make sure the filing requirements have been met. She said a reporter would not be able to view it until it is removed from quality control and she did not know when that would happen.
Ficker said no hearings have been scheduled, but that he did request an expedited hearing. He is running unopposed in the Republican primary June 26.
Ficker will face the winner of the Democratic primary, in which six candidates—Potomac businessman David Blair, former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow, state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and County Council members Marc Elrich, Roger Berliner and George Leventhal—are trying to win the party’s nomination.
Krasnow, Elrich and Leventhal are using the county’s public campaign financing system to fund their campaigns. Elrich has received about $605,000 in public funds; Leventhal, $465,500; and Krasnow, $360,000, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections.
County executive candidates are limited to receiving $750,000 in public funds per election cycle. The matching contributions can more than triple the small-dollar contributions each county executive candidate receives. For example, a candidate receives $300 in county funds for each $50 contribution from a county resident, although the matching multiple is lower for a $150 contribution.
The program was partly designed as a way to diminish the influence of high-dollar contributors in local elections. Candidates using traditional campaign financing can receive up to $6,000 from an individual donor.