2018 | Bethesda Beat

Politics Roundup: Del. Moon Gets an Endorsement as the Next House Speaker—From an Unlikely Source

Plus: Floreen embraces Democratic roots in first video ad; Corned Beef King and Nick’s Diner among county exec candidates’ favorite establishments

share this

Del. David Moon, left, and Robin Ficker

File photos

Del. David Moon of Takoma Park, one of the most outspokenly liberal members of Montgomery County’s all-Democratic delegation in Annapolis, this week got an endorsement as the next Maryland House speaker from an unlikely source: Robin Ficker, the Republican candidate for county executive.

“I’m pushing David Moon … to be the first speaker of the House of Delegates from Montgomery County since 1929,” Ficker declared during a debate Wednesday with his opponents, Democrat Marc Elrich and independent Nancy Floreen, sponsored by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. “When you see David Moon, tell him that he’s running for speaker to bring back something to Montgomery County——the good will and all the other things they bring back. David Moon for speaker!”

It’s not clear what Ficker, 75, and Moon, 39, have in common—except for an independent streak. Moon, a long-time campaign operative and blogger, had a reputation as a political gadfly before his initial election to the House of Delegates in 2014. Likewise, Ficker is a long-time  gadfly who has run 19 times for office prior to this year: His only success was his 1978 election to the House of Delegates, where he served one term.

“Montgomery County legislators have been kind of shy and hanging back,’ the voluble Ficker told the audience at the forum, adding to widespread laughter, “I’m generally not that way.”

When Ficker’s comments were relayed to Moon afterward, he let out a pained laugh and responded: “Robin Ficker has a track record of trying to stir controversy with attention-grabbing, ridiculous statements—like the one you just read to me.”

Moon, running unopposed for a second term this year from Silver Spring/Takoma Park-based District 20, added in a phone interview: “I do agree with him that it would be nice if Montgomery had a speaker—but I will tell you that it will not be me.” The last House speaker from Montgomery, E. Brooke Lee of Silver Spring, remained the undisputed political boss of the county in the 1930s and 1940s after leaving the legislature.

Ficker’s unusual endorsement of Moon came up at the forum during a discussion of relations between the county executive and the county’s state legislative delegation—and at a time when health issues surrounding the current speaker, Michael Busch of Anne Arundel County, have raised questions about his political future. If Busch, who is running for re-election this year, opts to step down as speaker in the foreseeable future, most of the speculation about a successor has centered around two powerful House committee chairs: Dels. Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County and Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Ficker also used the occasion to urge support for a fellow Republican, District 2 County Council candidate Ed Amatetti of North Potomac—albeit, in the process, he publicly wrote off five other council candidates running with him on the county’s GOP slate this year.

“Are you ready for Amatetti?” Ficker asked in a booming voice, with Amatetti seated in the audience. “Ed Amatetti is the only Republican who really has a chance to get elected to the County Council, and all we need is one vote … so that the council can’t unanimously pass property tax increases.” In 2008, voters by referendum approved a Ficker-authored proposal barring property tax increases above the rate of inflation without a unanimous council vote.

Most independent observers do agree with Ficker that the GOP council contenders outside of Amatetti—who is challenging Democratic incumbent Craig Rice of Germantown—have little or no chance of success this year. The five—including four seeking at-large seats and one running in Bethesda/Chevy Chase-based District 1—have reported spending little or no money to date.

—Louis Peck

Independent Floreen refers to herself as ‘lifelong Democrat’ in first video ad

County Council member Nancy Floreen has released her first video ad, in which she describes herself as a “lifelong Democrat” despite launching an independent bid to become Montgomery County’s next county executive.

In the 45-second video, posted Monday to her campaign website, Floreen begins by mentioning her party affiliation and that she has been “working for 30 years to get things done.” This is complemented by a photo of her with former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other pictures of her with constituents.

Floreen then states that her sole reason for entering the county executive race is to prevent her Democratic opponent and fellow council member Marc Elrich from winning. Floreen had supported former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow in the six-way June Democratic primary.

“If any other Democrat had won the nomination, I would have supported them. But the possibility of Marc Elrich holding that job is a real threat to the progress that we’ve made and need to be committed to make,” she states in the ad.

The ad is for digital use only and will not be appearing on TV, campaign spokeswoman Sarah Van De Weert wrote in an email.

Following Elrich’s narrow victory against Potomac businessman David Blair in the June 26 primary, Floreen shed her party affiliation to run in the general election; her candidacy was certified in August. In an interview Thursday, Floreen said she hasn’t stepped away from her “Democratic Party values.”

“The community needs to know my background, and it’s a big part of my background. I haven’t been campaigning for two years like Mr. Elrich. My objective is to remind people who I am and what I stand for. And I feel very good about our message.”

In a previous interview with Bethesda Beat, Floreen had cast off the importance of party affiliation in the county executive race, reflecting on her time as the former mayor of Garrett Park.

“The mayors in Montgomery County are not elected based on political party, they are elected based on issues. And that is frankly the same as county executive, with the county issues,” she said at the time. “You’re just as upset about that building going up next to you or across the street from you regardless of your Republican or independently registered neighbor. Likewise with traffic, trash and school issues—we’re all the same in this regard. And I think we need to remember that as we move forward in this campaign.”

Elrich, despite not having seen the ad when asked, called Floreen’s remarks “scare tactics” and pointed out that they’ve largely voted the same way as council members.

“It’s odd for her to claim that what she’s done is dramatically different from what I’ve done,” he said.  “She can’t point to a single business-related thing where she differentiates herself from me.”

Elrich added that he found it “troubling” that Floreen was “only running because of one person.”

—Dan Schere

A Couple of Small Local Eateries Get Some Free Political Advertising

The first question posed to the three candidates for county executive was an unusual one for a political debate: “What is your favorite small local business in Montgomery County and why?”

Independent candidate Nancy Floreen was first to reply, with a plug for her favorite food truck.

“I have to make a confession. It’s a really small business,” she told a forum this week sponsored by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors, while adding—to applause and laughter—“It’s the Corned Beef King.”

She noted the food truck is located at a Liberty gas station on Rockville Pike, a short drive north of her Garrett Park residence. “So you can do multiple things at the same time: You can fill up, get your car serviced, buy a couple of bananas—and it’s really good pastrami,” she said.

Like any good politician, Floreen steered her impromptu promotion of the Corned Beef King to some of her campaign’s talking points, praising it as an example of “creative entrepreneurship.”

“I will say that [it is] a good example of what we have done to make it easier for new ideas to operate and function in Montgomery County,” she contended. “We need to be nimble, we need to be creative.” And, in the case of the Corned Beef King, “we’ve seen a guy with a truck turn it into a nice little entrepreneurial effort,” she added. “And I’m guessing before too long they’re going to get their own place outside the gas station.”

Floreen’s Democratic opponent, Marc Elrich, named Nick’s Diner on Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton as “one of my favorite small businesses.” And, like Floreen, he brought the subject back to one of the planks in his campaign platform.

Elrich, long eyed warily by many in the county’s business community, has been wooing business with a promise to streamline onerous regulations—and held up Nick’s as “kind of a poster child for some of the things that are wrong in the county.”

Not long ago, Nick’s was ordered by county inspectors to change the access to its restroom—at a projected loss of six counter seats and a potential cost of $40,000, Elrich related. After appeals by the owners to county authorities were to no avail, Elrich said he had intervened.

“And sure enough, when they looked into it, they realized it had to be grandfathered,” Elrich said of the restroom access issue. “The question is … why did a council member have to go to a department head to get somebody to look at this and make the right decision? That should never have happened.”

For his favorite, Republican candidate Robin Ficker also named an eatery—albeit one that many would not consider a small business.

“I like McDonald’s,” he said. “I go there to catch a quick bite because I’m always hustling. I’m moving around so I don’t have time to sit down and be a foodie.”

And Ficker—who, whenever possible, tries to steer the subject to the successful 2016 term limits referendum he sponsored—found a way to do so with this question.

“We haven’t been getting small businesses in Montgomery County,” he declared. “When I’m county executive, that’s going to change. Term limits was a vote for change.”

—Louis Peck

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the reference to Rockville Pike.