2018 | Politics

Politics Roundup: Blair Spending Big on Facebook Ads

Plus: Two at-large County Council candidates set to max out on public funding; Riemer unveils new ad

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Blair significantly outspends opponents in county executive race on sponsored Facebook content

Facebook rolled out a new feature in early May that allows users to track candidates’ spending on sponsored Facebook ads. It shows that since May 7, Montgomery County executive candidate David Blair has been significantly outspending his Democratic opponents on ads running on the social media platform.

According to Facebook, which only provides a range of the amount of money that candidates spend on the ads, Blair paid between $10,000 and $50,000 for one sponsored post that highlights his endorsement by The Washington Post. The platform shows the sponsored ad had more than 1 million user “impressions” after it started running May 22. Blair also spent between $1,000 to $5,000 on two other sponsored posts, as well as $100 to $500 on three others.

Screenshot via Facebook.

His five opponents, meanwhile, each have spent no more than $1,000 on any single sponsored post leading up to the June 26 primary. County Council member Marc Elrich spent between $500 and $1,000 to promote a biographical ad about himself on the social media platform beginning May 25 and council member George Leventhal spent less than $100 on eight ads using his Avenger-themed campaign video as well as between $100 and $500 on two sponsored posts that include the superhero video. Rose Krasnow, former deputy director of the county planning department, spent between $100 and $500 to promote her campaign’s Facebook page.

A searche for ads for the two other Democrats in the race, state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and council member Roger Berliner, did not return any results for paid Facebook ads since the tracker launched May 7. The local politics blog Seventh State first highlighted the campaigns’ Facebook spending.

  • Andrew Metcalf


Glass, Jawando set to be first at-large County Council candidates to max out on public funding

Evan Glass, left, and Will Jawando. Provided photos.

Former journalist Evan Glass and former Obama administration official Will Jawando, both of Silver Spring, are poised to become the first County Council at-large candidates in this year’s crowded Democratic primary field to qualify for the maximum amount available in public campaign financing.

Pending approval of their latest filings by state Board of Elections officials, Glass and Jawando will max out at the $250,000 limit for at-large council candidates under the county’s new public funding system as the June 26 primary looms.

In a filing Tuesday, Glass—currently director of the Gandhi Brigade Youth Media—requested another $18,400 in public funding on top of $233,200 that he already received. If approved by the state board, his latest request would actually be capped at $16,800 to keep him from receiving more than the $250,000 limit. Also Tuesday, Jawando, an attorney, filed a request for an additional $33,540 on top of $216,460 that he already received, for a total of $250,000.

As with other candidates receiving public funding, Glass and Jawando qualified by raising contributions of no more than $150 apiece from county residents. Both can continue to collect private donations that do not exceed the $150 limit.

Of the field of 33 Democratic candidates for council at-large in this year’s primary, 10 others have received public funding. Many of them filed earlier this week or late last month for the funds to beef up their campaign treasuries as early voting for the primary begins Thursday.

Here are the five at-large candidates besides Glass and Jawando who had already received public campaign funds totaling more than six figures:

— Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, the only at-large incumbent seeking re-election, late last month requested $67,000 on top of $163,800 already received, for a total of $230,800 in public funding.

— Attorney Bill Conway of Potomac: $26,800 requested; $140,500 already received; $167,300 total.

— Federal contractor Hoan Dang of Wheaton: $37,400 requested; $125,700 already received; $163,100 total.

— County Department of Recreation director Gabriel Albornoz of Kensington: $21,400 requested; $124,100 already received; $145,500 total.

— Science consultant Danielle Meitiv of Silver Spring: $21,800 requested; $103,600 already received; $125,400 total.

In addition, teacher Chris Wilhelm of Chevy Chase, who was previously just short of the $100,000 mark, this week requested an additional $5,200 on top of $98,300 already received, which would put his total at $103,500.

In other races, District 1 council candidate Regina “Reggie” Oldak of Bethesda previously hit the $125,000 public funding maximum for district council candidates, with District 3 incumbent Sidney Katz of Gaithersburg very close at $123,800.

None of the three Democratic county executive contenders who has qualified for public funding—Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow and George Leventhal—has hit the $750,000 maximum for that race. Elrich is the closest: He requested another $86,400 this week on top of $503,900 previously received, for a $590,300 total.

  • Louis Peck


Riemer unveils new ad

Hans Riemer, the only incumbent among the 33 Democratic candidates running for County Council at- large, released a new video ad on Facebook this week that features local residents backing him for his work on the council. They mention his efforts to fund public transportation and create walkable downtowns and how “he’s taken tough votes for our kids.” That line is likely a reference to his vote, along with the other eight council members, to raise property taxes by about 9 percent in 2016 as a way to increase funding for Montgomery County Public Schools.

At the end Riemer says, “On June 26, vote to keep moving us forward.” Early voting in this year’s primary election begins June 14 while the primary is June 26.

  • Andrew Metcalf


Blair gets a foretaste of possible future dealings with the County Council

George Leventhal, left, and David Blair

Businessman David Blair, who has not previously run for or held public office, this week got a foretaste of what he might be in for dealing with an independently elected legislative body if chosen as the next county executive.

Appearing at a forum with his five Democratic rivals, Blair suggested that his first act upon winning the June 26 primary would be to take the nine newly elected County Council members on a multiday retreat—not unlike those frequently utilized by corporate America as team-building exercises among management.

One of his opponents, four-term council member George Leventhal, quickly provided Blair with a preview of how his suggestion might be received.

Addressing a question about leadership style, Blair told an audience of more than 400 at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville Sunday: “My company was one of Fortune [Magazine’s] most admired health care companies. And I was able to accomplish that by inspiring individuals to accomplish things that were greater than they thought they could do … and it’s going to be really important when elected to work closely with our new County Council members.”

Continued Blair: “And so the thing that I’m going to do first, on June 27, is I’m going to call all nine of them up, and we’re going on a three-day retreat. I want to do one of those rope challenges, where you really have to really trust you’ll not fall backwards. I’ve done it in business …”

It was Leventhal’s turn immediately after Blair spoke.

“I’m George Leventhal, and I’m exhausted. And I think most County Council members will not want to go on a three-day retreat on June 27,” mused Leventhal, as the audience responded with widespread laughter.

Added Leventhal, “I would be very surprised if they were able to do that, whether or not there’s a rope-climbing exercise.” That prompted more laughter from the audience, as several of Blair’s rivals on stage grinned widely—and Blair stared straight ahead.

There have been six Montgomery County executives elected since the post was created a half-century ago. And there have doubtless been times when, in their dealings with the County Council, they have related to the frustrations of the late U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker—who once likened getting that body to act to “trying to push a wet noodle.”

“The problem is what I call the ‘wet noodle problem’,” Baker vented during remarks on the Senate floor in the early 1980s. “And that is I cannot make the Senate do anything it does not want to do.''

  • Louis Peck