Politics Roundup: Ortman-Fouse Poised To Receive Public Funding as Deadline Approaches for Candidates To Hit Required Thresholds
Plus: District 1 County Council candidate explains why she switched from Republican to Democrat; Riemer and Beyer land new endorsements; Frosh backs Manno in congressional race
Ortman-Fouse poised to become latest at-large County Council Candidate to get public funding
Less than two months after her 11th-hour entry into the Democratic primary race for County Council at-large, Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse of Silver Spring is poised to become the latest candidate in the race to tap into Montgomery County’s public campaign finance system.
In filings earlier this week with the state Board of Elections, Ortman-Fouse declared she had received 368 qualifying donations totaling nearly $23,500. She requested just over $78,700 in public funding for her campaign.
To qualify for public funds, an at-large candidate must receive at least 250 private donations of $150 or less from county residents totaling a minimum of $20,000.
Of 33 Democrats who are seeking four at-large council nominations this year, 20 remain eligible to tap into the public finance system. As of the latest Department of Finance accounting on March 31, 10 of these candidates had received public funding. Pending a review by the state Board of Elections, Brandy Brooks—a Wheaton-based activist who applied in early April—and Ortman-Fouse would become the 11th and 12th at-large candidates to obtain public subsidies.
Time is running out for the remaining eight candidates eligible to receive public funding. They must meet the minimum fundraising threshold by the second week in May, 45 days in advance of the June 26 primary.
The limited period that it took Ortman-Fouse to meet the threshold—considerably faster than other at-large contenders who have qualified for public funding—gives her candidacy a major boost after a bumpy launch.
After months of mulling a bid for County Council, Ortman-Fouse filed for re-election to a second term in her Board of Education at-large seat just two weeks prior to the Feb. 27 filing deadline. However, four days before the deadline, she announced that she had changed her mind and would pursue a council bid.
Ortman-Fouse’s latest filing reveals contributions from a number of current elected officials, including fellow school board member Jeanette Dixon, who donated $100. Eric Guerci, a former student representative on the board who served with Ortman-Fouse, also gave $100. And Kenneth Smondrowski, husband of current board member Rebecca Smondrowski, gave $25. Rebecca Smondrowski is currently running for state delegate in District 17.
Other contributions to Ortman-Fouse came from state Sen. Will Smith and District 5 council member Tom Hucker, both of whom donated the $150 maximum; at-large council member George Leventhal—currently a candidate for county executive—and Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Chair Dave Kunes, who each gave $100; and state Sen. Cheryl Kagan and Del. Eric Luedtke, who chipped in $50 apiece.
Former Obama administration official Alec Ross of Baltimore, one of nine candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, gave $100 to Ortman-Fouse as well as to another at-large candidate—attorney Will Jawando of Silver Spring, another Obama administration alumnus who also was a candidate for state delegate in 2014 and Congress in 2016.
Jawando—who already has received $97,000 in public funding—this week applied for another $71,000, based on recently received private donations. If approved, that would give Jawando nearly $168,000, putting him in second place in public funds received by candidates in the at-large field. At-large council candidates can qualify for up to $250,000 in public funding.
At present, the at-large candidate who has qualified for the largest amount in public subsidies is Gandhi Brigade Youth Media director Evan Glass of Silver Spring, with $176,000, followed by council President Hans Riemer of Takoma Park—the only incumbent in the at-large field—with almost $164,000.
Wellington explains why she switched from Republican to Democrat
Meredith Wellington, a former Republican Montgomery County Planning Board member who is now running as a Democrat for the Bethesda-based District 1 County Council seat, explained Thursday night at a debate in Bethesda why she switched her political party.
Wellington, a Chevy Chase resident who served on the board from 1999 to 2007, said the Republican Party was different when she was first appointed to the board—“particularly in Maryland, where we had a tradition—[such as] Connie Morella—of very fine Republicans.”
“But by the time I left, in 2007, the party had changed drastically,” Wellington said. “Meanwhile, Barack Obama was on the horizon. I wanted to work for Obama, all three of my sons were in Iowa for him. So I changed my affiliation right after I stopped serving … and I’ve been working for Democrats ever since.”
She said she helped with “voter protection” for Obama and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Maryland and Virginia.
“I’ve been all over the country for different candidates—so I saw the light,” Wellington said.
SEIU endorses incumbent Riemer; CASA In Action backs Beyer in District 18 Senate Race
With less than 10 weeks until Primary Day, SEIU Local 500—whose membership includes the 12,000-worker support staff of the county’s public schools—this week moved to fill out its endorsement card, announcing its support for at-large County Council member Hans Riemer of Takoma Park. Riemer is the only incumbent in a field of 33 Democrats seeking four council at-large nominations in the June 26 primary.
Meanwhile, CASA In Action—the political arm of CASA, which advocates for immigrant rights in Maryland—endorsed former eye surgeon and activist Dana Beyer of Chevy Chase in its third and final round of state and local endorsements. Beyer is vying with Del. Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington and business owner Michelle Carhart of North Bethesda for the District 18 Senate seat now held by Democrat Rich Madaleno, who is running for governor.
Also endorsed by CASA In Action were four candidates for the county Board of Education: Karla Silvestre of Silver Spring, a Montgomery College official, for an open at-large seat; incumbent Judith Docca of Montgomery Village in District 1; incumbent Patricia O’Neill of Bethesda in District 3; and retired U.S. Department of Education official Brenda Wolff of Silver Spring, for the open District 5 seat. In addition, the group endorsed Alan Bowser, a Silver Spring attorney who is challenging incumbent Barbara Meiklejohn for clerk of the circuit court.
The SEIU Local 500 endorsement of Riemer follows the union’s earlier endorsements of three non-incumbent at-large candidates: Gabriel Albornoz of Kensington, the long-time head of the county’s Department of Recreation, and former Obama administration officials Ashwani Jain of Potomac and Will Jawando of Silver Spring.
“Whether the issue is protecting the right to form unions, investing in our schools or expanding access to quality childcare, Hans Riemer has fought hard for working families. He is a critical, progressive voice on the Montgomery County Council … ,” declared Merle Cuttitta, president of SEIU Local 500.
First elected in 2010, Riemer is seeking a third term. The 2016 term limits referendum forced the retirement of the other three sitting at-large council members. Two of them, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of Takoma Park, are running for county executive; SEIU Local 500 is backing Elrich in that contest.
CASA In Action’s support of Beyer gives her a second major organizational endorsement in what is regarded as the county’s only competitive state Senate race this year; she was earlier backed by SEIU Local 500. Waldstreicher’s endorsements include the Montgomery County Education Association and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO—which represents a majority of county government employees—along with the Maryland Sierra Club.
CASA In Action praised Beyer as “a progressive activist for LGBTQ issues for years, advocating—both in her personal life as a trans woman and professional roles as nonprofit executive director and thought leader—for the equal rights that all communities deserve.” If elected, Beyer would be the first transgender individual to serve in the Maryland General Assembly.
In a statement, Gustavo Torres, who heads CASA in Action as well as its parent group, was critical of the just-completed session of the General Assembly—which failed to pass so-called “sanctuary state” legislation to limit immigration enforcement by state authorities.
“The Maryland session disappointed the immigrant community, which prompted many advocates to action,” said Torres. “We backed an explosive set of candidates whose boundless dedication to progressive policies would undoubtedly shake Maryland up.”
Frosh backs Manno in 6th Congressional District race
Brian Frosh, left, and state Sen. Roger Manno. Provided photo
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh endorsed his former state Senate colleague Roger Manno in the 6th District congressional race Thursday.
Frosh, who represented the Bethesda area for 20 years in the state Senate and served with Manno, who represents Silver Spring, for one term, said in a statement the two Democrats worked closely together in the state legislature to “improve the lives of working families, protect the Chesapeake Bay and preserve Maryland’s natural resources.”
Manno’s campaign noted in a press release that Frosh “is the first current statewide elected official to endorse” in the competitive 6th District race. Manno is working to boost his profile as he faces spirited opposition from primary opponents such as Total Wine & More co-owner David Trone of Potomac and state Del. Aruna Miller (D-Darnestown).
Trone is using his deep pockets to invest more than $5 million of his own money into the campaign, which is funding an advertising blitz that includes TV and online spots. Meanwhile, Miller has received the endorsement of major political groups such as The Sierra Club and the Maryland teachers union in the past week. She has also been endorsed by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and is receiving campaign financial support from the women’s political advocacy group Emily’s List.
Manno said in a statement that Frosh helped him pass two of his signature legislative achievements in the General Assembly—guaranteeing paid rest breaks for Maryland’s retail workers and providing “economic justice for victims of civil rights abuses.”
Manno has also received several endorsements from trade and employee unions such as National Nurses United and the Maryland chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Fraternal Order of Police.