An attorney who specializes in elder law and adult guardianship cases filed on Thursday to run for Montgomery County executive, creating a contested Republican primary.
Shelly Skolnick, 78, of Friendship Heights, said in an interview that he decided to enter the race as a moderate Republican, because he hadn’t seen any Republican filing for county executive in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, though, Reardon Sullivan, chairman of the Republican Central Committee, also filed — the first Republican in the race.
Skolnick said he doesn’t know Sullivan personally, but he looks forward to the competition in the July primary. The filing deadline for candidates is Friday.
Most recently, Skolnick finished sixth out of nine candidates in the at-large County Council race in 2018.
Skolnick also ran unsuccessfully for County Council at-large in 2006 and 2014. He ran for county executive in 2002.
He has had two unsuccessful bids for the Eighth District Congress seat, in 2012 and 2016.
Skolnick described himself as a moderate Republican interested in the issues, not attacking his political opponents. His campaign slogan illustrates that: “Campaign, don’t complain.”
One of Skolnick’s priorities, he said, is offering free tuition or loan assistance to college students who volunteer in various capacities in county government — for instance, as a volunteer firefighter, a teacher’s aide, or as auxiliary police, helping with paperwork or other duties.
Skolnick said those volunteers should attend college locally through Montgomery College or The Universities at Shady Grove, but he would consider extending it outside the county. The agreement would help students attend college and save the county government money versus paying for a full-time employee, he said.
Transportation is another high-priority issue for Skolnick. He said there should be more buildings near Metro stations, which he called “bus rider buildings.” Those buildings could have foot courts, restrooms and other amenities for commuters waiting for trains and buses.
Skolnick was not against land around Metro stations being used for housing, but said commuter buildings would not need to take up much of a footprint.
Skolnick said local and state government officials in the region should lobby the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to give up control of buses and land and garages around stations, and focus all of their efforts on Metrorail service. Local and state governments have given plenty of money to WMATA, which runs the Metro system, over the years. he said.
Skolnick is open to negotiating with WMATA, but he accused the agency of mismanagement over the years, calling the safety issue with the 7000 series trains the latest example.
“We’ll see how the public reacts to my proposal … but I think it makes sense for them to focus on one area and try to do a good job,” Skolnick said of WMATA.
He was skeptical of the county’s plans to expand bus rapid transit, saying it does not lead to long-term relief. Skolnick instead supports a “bus lane toll” system, in which the left lane of a three- or four-lane road would be used either by buses or by vehicles paying tolls.
The toll money could be used for transportation projects, and the model could reduce traffic congestion, he said.
He said he has an idea for making roads safer, especially as emergency vehicles approach intersections. Skolnick recalled a bad crash in Bowie years ago, near his law office, when an emergency vehicle struck a car at an intersection.
A blue light or similar indicator at traffic lights would alert people that a vehicle is approaching, he said, which would be more effective than just sirens.
He understands his chances in Montgomery County, which has a Democratic majority in enrollment, are slim. But he hopes that if he wins the Republican primary, some Democrats and others might be encouraged to vote for a more moderate choice.
“I believe we need more moderates running for office in both parties and more moderates registering in both parties,” Skolnick said.
The filing deadline for elections in Maryland is Friday. The primary election is scheduled for July 19. The general election is set for Nov. 8.