Deadline Looms for Floreen’s Effort To Petition Her Way onto November Ballot

Deadline Looms for Floreen’s Effort To Petition Her Way onto November Ballot

Independent county exec candidate says she is “looking forward” to meeting the signature requirement

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Nancy Floreen

Courtesy photo

County executive hopeful Nancy Floreen has just a few days left to collect enough signatures to earn a spot as an independent candidate on the November ballot.

Her canvassers have spent the past month or so staking out grocery stores, farmers markets and business gatherings to amass the requisite 7,243 names, a total that represents 1 percent of the county’s electorate. On Friday, Floreen, a longtime Democratic County member who recently became unaffiliated, expressed optimism that she’d meet the threshold by Monday’s deadline.

“The amount of community enthusiasm has been breathtaking. We’re looking forward to submitting the required number of signatures on Monday,” Floreen said in a prepared statement.

A campaign spokeswoman declined to reveal the number of signatures Floreen has gathered so far.

Once Floreen hands over her list of names, the Montgomery County Board of Elections will have 20 days to validate the signatures and determine her eligibility to go up against the party nominees for the county executive post. Fellow council member Marc Elrich won the Democratic nomination by a hair over businessman David Blair, and Boyds attorney Robin Ficker is the Republican candidate.

Floreen kicked off her petition drive July 11, declaring that she would give voters a “third, independent  choice” for county executive. Elrich won June’s Democratic primary with 29 percent of the vote, meaning 71 percent of ballots were cast for someone else in the six-way race, Floreen noted. And about 141,000 unaffiliated voters didn’t have a say at all in the primary outcome, she added.

“There is no mandate here. Most county voters have yet to be heard from,” Floreen said in her statement.

The petition has been circulated widely among the business community.

Bethesda-based land use attorney Robert Brewer said he’s seen the petition getting passed around at “most meetings I’ve attended in the last several weeks, whether large or small.” He’s signed it, and he says several others in his firm have chosen to do the same, although he added that no one had pushed the petition around the office or pressured employees to add their names.

Some in the business community have signed out of “a certain antipathy” for Elrich, he acknowledged, but said he and many others are motivated by a desire for a diversity of election options.

“I think we need a broader choice than the choice that we have now,” Brewer said. “I think Nancy Floreen is a worthy candidate, and I think she deserves a chance.”

Development has been an important issue in the race at large and within Brewer’s orbit,  and he said Floreen has a wealth of expertise on the subject from her years on the county Planning Board and on the council’s planning, housing and economic development committee. Elrich has also a depth of knowledge but has a reputation in some quarters for being “slow to embrace even positive development,” Brewer said.

Elrich has said this notion is a myth spread by developers; he said he recognizes the merits of growth but argues it shouldn’t outpace road and school capacity improvements.

Floreen’s petition hasn’t only popped up at business meetings.

Chevy Chase resident Naomi Spinrad said she was at the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market on Sunday when she ran into a canvasser who told her she should “sign the petition because Floreen was a Democrat and she was pro-choice.” Spinrad, an Elrich supporter, pointed out to the canvasser that Floreen had left the Democratic party to run as an independent and then left without signing.

At one point in the sprawling petition effort, there was even some interest in collecting signatures aboard Ride On buses, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation said. The transportation agency referred the requestor to the county code on disruptive behavior and the Ride On policy, and spokeswoman Esther Bowring said the department doesn’t know of any attempt to circulate petitions on a bus.

Once Floreen submits her petition to the county elections board, officials will begin to compare the list against the voter registration database, elections board spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said. The officials toss out duplicate signatures or names of people who aren’t registered voters in Montgomery County. To count toward Floreen’s total, a person must also write his or her name largely the way it appears in the state’s voter registration records.

For someone registered as John Henry Smith, petition entries of John H. Smith or J. Henry Smith would work, but J.H. Smith would not. Making things even more complicated, petition entries should include a printed name and signature, and both combined can provide sufficient information even if they’re deficient standing alone. For instance, a printed name of John Smith with a signature of J.H. Smith would be acceptable, according to state requirements.

Because of the nuanced rules on petitions, candidates often collect far more signatures than they need, with the expectation that many will be disqualified.

In addition to turning in her petition Monday, Floreen will also have to hand over a financial disclosure form and certificate of candidacy.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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