2018 | Government

Politics Roundup: Maryland Democratic Party’s Former Executive Director To Manage Floreen Campaign

Plus: Sierra Club endorses Elrich; $4 million spent so far on new public financing system

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Nancy Floreen

Nancy Floreen

Rich Parsons, former executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, won’t be supporting the Democratic nominee for county executive this year – instead, he’s giving Nancy Floreen a hand with her independent bid in the race.

Parsons has most recently been working as a senior strategist on the campaign of David Trone, the Democratic nominee for the Distirct 6 congressional district seat. Earlier this month, he announced he would be moving to a part-time consulting role with the Trone campaign and reactivating his public relations and consulting firm, Parsons & Associates. He’d suspended his activity with the firm to work full time on the Trone campaign but, with his candidate past the primary, he felt comfortable turning his attention back to the company.

“I will also be taking on some exciting new projects in the weeks and months ahead so stay tuned,” Parsons wrote Aug. 9 to his contacts. “I am looking forward to this new chapter and to many new opportunities to work with leading candidates, non-profit organizations, and institutional clients who are making a positive difference here in the Washington region.”

One of his new projects, apparently, will be aiding Floreen, who is running against Democrat Marc Elrich and Republican Robin Ficker.

A spokeswoman for Floreen’s effort on Friday confirmed that Parsons had accepted a position as her campaign manager. Spokeswoman Sarah Van De Weert would not comment further.

Parsons helped lobby for passage of the Brady bill, the legislation mandating federal background checks for firearm purchases.

In Maryland, he’s served as executive director of the Democratic party and president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

He also has ties with developers, at one point working as chief operating officer for Rogers Consulting, a land-use planning and civil engineering firm based in Montgomery County, according to his company profile.

Parsons also has a history with Floreen, acting as a key player in the so-called “End Gridlock” slate formed by former County Executive Doug Duncan. The slate included Floreen and George Leventhal, both of whom were seeking their first terms on the council.

The 2002 slate coalesced around support for the Intercounty Connector, which now runs from Gaithersburg to Laurel.

Elrich at the time was part of a rival slate and lost his council race that year, winning his first election to the post in 2006. Now, as the Democratic nominee for county executive, he again finds himself at odds with Floreen and Parsons.

Blogger Ryan Miner first reported Parsons’ position in the Floreen campaign. Parsons did not return a call for comment.

—Bethany Rodgers

Montgomery County Sierra Club switches endorsement to Elrich for general election

The Sierra Club’s Montgomery County group, which backed County Council member Roger Berliner for county executive during this year’s primary campaign, has voted to switch its backing in the general election to council member Marc Elrich—the winner of June’s Democratic primary.

The group also added two more candidates—Andrew Friedson of Bethesda in District 1 and incumbent Sidney Katz of Gaithersburg in District 3—to its list of County Council endorsements, on top of five previously endorsed contenders who were victorious in the primary.

But it did not issue an endorsement in what is likely to be the most competitive council race this fall—in District 2, where Democratic incumbent Craig Rice of Germantown is seeking a third term against Republican Edward Amatetti of North Potomac.

“Sometimes we will do endorsements in waves—it’s possible we may come back to District 2 in a few weeks and make an endorsement,” Dave Sears, chair of the Sierra Club’s Montgomery County group, said in a telephone interview.

In the contest for four council at-large seats, the Sierra Club had previously endorsed three of the Democratic primary winners: incumbent Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, along with Evan Glass and Will Jawando, both of Silver Spring. It has now added the fourth Democratic nominee, Gabe Albornoz of Kensington, to its list of endorsements, in place of Danielle Meitiv of Silver Spring—who had Sierra Club backing in her unsuccessful primary bid.

Albornoz, Glass, Jawando and Riemer face Republicans Robert Dyer of Bethesda, Chris Fiotes of Gaithersburg, Penny Musser of Boyds, and Shelly Skolnick of Silver Spring on Nov. 6. Dyer, Fiotes and Skolnick also sought the same position four years ago.

In District 1, where the Sierra Club declined to make an endorsement during an eight-way Democratic primary, it has now swung behind Friedson, who faces Republican Richard Banach of Chevy Chase in November. In District 3, the group voted to endorse Katz after backing challenger Ben Shnider of Rockville in the primary—even though Katz has no Republican opponent in the general election. Two of the Sierra Club’s earlier endorsements, District 4 incumbent Nancy Navarro and District 5 incumbent Tom Hucker, both of Silver Spring, also won their respective primaries and have no general election opposition.

Sears cited Elrich’s long-time advocacy of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system as a key factor in the Sierra Club’s endorsement. As county executive with jurisdiction over the county Department of Transportation, “he’s going to be in a great position to push on BRT,” Sears said.

Sears, who noted that the Sierra Club’s endorsement process includes candidates filling out a questionnaire and later being interviewed, said the Montgomery County group also had interviewed the Republican county executive candidate, attorney Robin Ficker. Council member Nancy Floreen, whose place on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate was not certified until Wednesday, did not return the Sierra Club questionnaire prior to the group’s endorsement vote.

Asked why the Sierra Club had not waited until Floreen had formally qualified for the ballot, Sears said: “Nobody knew for sure what was going to happen at the Board of Elections but I, as an outsider, could figure out that if she submitted 20,000 signatures [on Aug. 6], she was likely to get on the ballot. We gave her the same opportunity that we gave the other two county executive candidates, and she did not submit the questionnaire by our deadline.”

He also said a possible endorsement in District 2 had been delayed because both Amatetti and Rice had yet to respond to the Sierra Club’s request to interview them.

—Louis Peck

Initial tab from county’s new public financing system comes to just over $4 million

The bills from the first primary election under the county’s new public financing system are in. The tab to the taxpayer: just short of $4.1 million.

That still leaves a bit more than $6.9 million of the $11 million originally appropriated for the 2018 election cycle. Based on projections of the total amount of additional public funding (about $2.625 million) that could be spent during the general election, it appears at least $4.3 million—about 40 percent of what was originally appropriated—will be left over.

The amount in the county treasury could end up being significantly more than that, depending on how competitive several of the fall races turn out to be.

Candidates in the county executive and county council races are eligible to tap into public funding if they raise a certain number of contributions from county residents of $150 or less per donor. Candidates are eligible only if they have opposition.

A look at the $4.1 million spent in the primary, as reported by the county Finance Department,  and the amount of public financing that could be spent in each of the fall races is as follows:

—County executive ($1.66 million of public funding total in primary). The Democratic primary winner, County Council member Marc Elrich, raised sufficient private donations to qualify for the $750,000 per candidate maximum in public subsidies; two of his rivals, George Leventhal and Rose Krasnow, received $496,000 and $412,000, respectively. The other three Democratic primary contenders opted to rely exclusively on private fundraising.

Heading into the general election, Elrich has already received about $37,600 of another $750,000 for which he will be entitled, according to filings with the State Board of Elections. Republican nominee Robin Ficker, who had no primary opposition, is also eligible for up to $750,000 between now and Nov. 6—for a potential maximum of $1.5 million in public funding in that race in the general election. Independent candidate Nancy Floreen is not eligible; to qualify for public funding, general election candidates must be certified 45 days prior to the primary.

—County Council at-large ($1.98 million of primary total). Off the 33 Democratic contenders for the at-large seat in the primary, 12 qualified for public funding—about half of those who initially sought it. Included in this group were the four Democratic primary winners: Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass, Will Jawando and Hans Riemer. Glass and Jawando raised enough in small donations to tap into the $250,000 maximum in public subsidies for each at-large candidate; Riemer was close behind at nearly $243,000, while Albornoz received about $169,000. If all four max out in the general election, it could total another $1 million in subsidies. None of the four Republican at-large candidates on the November ballot—Robert Dyer, Chris Fiotes, Penny Musser and Shelly Skolnick—filed by the deadline to be eligible for public funding this fall.

—County Council district seats ($456,000 of primary total). Of the seven candidates who qualified for and received public funding in five district races in the primary, just three made it to the general election. Two of them, District 3 Democratic incumbent Sidney Katz and District 4 Democratic incumbent Nancy Navarro, received $125,000 (the maximum public subsidy for a district council candidate) and $37,000, respectively. But neither has a general election opponent, and therefore cannot receive further public funding this year. Republican Edward Amatetti received nearly $45,000 in public funds in the primary, and could get up to $125,000 in the general election, contingent on private fundraising. His Democratic opponent, incumbent Craig Rice, has opted not to utilize the public finance system.

—Louis Peck