Updated 3:50 p.m. Wednesday: Nancy Floreen, the surprise candidate for Montgomery County executive, raised more than $342,000 in the first weeks of her independent campaign, spending more than half of that on a petition campaign to land a spot on the November ballot.
The longtime Democratic County Council member who left the party to run as an independent got a significant boost from the real estate and development communities, which were responsible for a number of the $6,000 checks she took in between July 2 and Aug. 21.
Floreen’s fundraising patterns, as detailed in campaign finance reports released Tuesday, reinforced the idea that growth will play a central role in her general election face-off with Democratic nominee Marc Elrich, who has rejected contributions from developers.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Floreen said there was nothing wrong with receiving money from developers.
“These are folks who live in Montgomery County, who care about our future, who are deeply invested in it and who want to see a visionary leader. It’s not much more complicated. They’re like everybody else,” she said.
Both Floreen and Elrich will also go up against the Republican nominee, Robin Ficker, in the contest to replace outgoing County Executive Ike Leggett (D).
The finance reports showed the amount each candidate had in the bank as of Aug. 21:
- Ficker had the most with $234,200;
- Floreen was second with $135,832; and
- Elrich was last with $102,932.
Floreen has spent $206,207 since she announced the start of her unaffiliated bid in early July, about $180,855 of that going to two organizing firms—FieldWorks and The North Consulting—that assisted her in petitioning her way onto the ballot. She said about 400 volunteers also helped her collect more than 20,000 signatures in her petition effort.
Ficker said in 2006, he petitioned his way onto the ballot as an independent county executive candidate on a $2,000 budget.
“Contrast that with Nancy Floreen, who spent $180,000 getting the signatures. What’s wrong with that picture?” he said Wednesday. “Obviously, I get the job done cheaper, and as county executive, I’ll do the same thing.”
Floreen received 129 contributions over the reporting period, 35 of which were for the $6,000 legal maximum, her filing with the State Board of Elections shows. At least two-thirds of the money she raised came from donors with ties to development, real estate and construction. People in some of these industries are uneasy at the prospect of Elrich becoming county executive, Floreen said.
“What they tell me is they are concerned about having someone in charge with a strong vision for a growing economy for Montgomery County, because if we don’t have that, we do not have the resources to pay for our school system and our amenities that we provide throughout Montgomery County,” she said.
The average donation amount for Floreen was about $2,651, compared to roughly $77 for Elrich and $61 for Ficker.
Because Elrich is using the county’s new public financing system, he is limited to individual contributions of $150 or less, but in exchange, he’s eligible for matching county subsidies. As of Aug. 21, he’d received about $787,590 in public support. Floreen wasn’t eligible to participate in public financing because she entered the running too late to qualify for the program.
Ficker is also enrolled in the public financing system, which has supplied him with $231,185 as of Aug. 21.
County executive candidates can get up to $750,000 in public funding for the primary and another $750,000 during the general election; Elrich received the maximum amount for the June primary and has already started tapping into the second available batch of subsidies, the reports show.
A candidate’s leftover public funds from the primary can roll over and be spent in the general election, according to council attorney Amanda Mihill.
The system could present some challenges for Elrich going into the general, because he won’t be able to solicit funds from contributors who have already donated the $150 maximum during the primary. Mihill said the donors who hadn’t yet hit the $150 threshold could continue supporting Elrich before the November election.
Elrich did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The most recent campaign finance reports also offered insight into the spending and fundraising in the final weeks of the Democratic primary.
Over the course of their primary contest, the six Democratic contenders together spent more than $8.6 million, the lion’s share of that by Potomac businessman David Blair.
With expenditures topping $5.7 million, the Blair campaign set an all-time spending record in the Democratic primary for county executive, more than doubling one that had been in place since 2006.
The newest state finance report also reveals the candidate dipped into his personal fortune to power his campaign through the final stretch. He loaned his political committee more than $1 million on June 11 and another $1 million just five days ahead of the June 26 primary. An additional $518,000 in personal loans came in July and August, as he pressed forward with a recount when the initial vote totals put him in a near-tie with Elrich. Altogether, Blair loaned his campaign in excess of $5.1 million for the primary contest.
Despite outspending Elrich more than six-to-one, Blair lost the Democratic nomination to him by a mere 77 votes.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.