Democratic Council Members Mull Whether To Back Elrich in General Election
Two of Elrich's Democratic colleagues say they haven't determined whether they'll endorse him, as Floreen ponders independent bid
From left, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer
Updated – 1 p.m. ,Tuesday – There may be unrest in the county’s Democratic Party after County Council member Marc Elrich pulled out an unofficial narrow victory in the Democratic primary for county executive Sunday night.
Elrich, of Takoma Park, has an 80-vote lead over Potomac businessman David Blair after the Montgomery County Board of Elections finished tabulating absentee and provisional ballots over the weekend.
On Monday, one of Elrich’s Democratic council colleagues, Nancy Floreen, was mulling the launch of an independent bid against him in the general election. And two other Democratic council members were uncertain if they’d back him for county executive.
“I’m thinking about it,” County Council President Hans Riemer said Monday morning after offering his congratulations to Elrich. “Nancy Floreen is a Democrat, but if she runs as an independent, I have to give that some consideration.”
Riemer, the only at-large incumbent able to run for re-election due to term limits, was the top vote getter among the four Democratic at-large nominees in the primary election. He received more than 54,500 votes—about 17,000 more than Elrich did in the county executive race.
Riemer said he’s concerned about economic development and making the county a more affordable place to live if Elrich becomes county executive.
“I certainly have some differences with him—that is a fact,” Riemer said.
Riemer wrote in a Facebook post the week before the primary election that he believes Elrich is “backwards looking and even regressive on housing and development” due to Elrich’s opposition to several master plans that will allow additional development to take place in areas such as downtown Bethesda and Lyttonsville.
Council member George Leventhal, one of Elrich’s Democratic primary opponents, also said Monday he’s weighing whether to back Elrich in the general election. Leventhal finished fifth in the primary behind Elrich, Blair, former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow and council member Roger Berliner.
“I need to have a conversation with him,” Leventhal said. “I’ve always supported the Democratic Party—I used to be chairman of the [Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee].”
Leventhal and Elrich have served together on the council as at-large members since Elrich was first elected in 2006.
“I congratulate Marc, he ran an effective campaign,” Leventhal said. “He’s clearly built up support in many parts of the community over a long period of time. Clearly the labor movement was very unified behind him.”
Berliner said Monday he would back Elrich or whoever the Democratic nominee is in the general election. He said he remains loyal to the Democratic Party. Frick said in a text message Tuesday that he will "absolutely" support Elrich in the general.
The other candidate who faced off against Elrich in the primary—Krasnow—didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about whether she’ll endorse Elrich in the general election.
Krasnow said in a text she is in Portugal and unavailable to talk.
The county’s final results are scheduled to be certified July 16, when a formal winner will be declared. Blair could request a recount, although he may have to pay for it.
Blair’s spokeswoman, Laura Evans Manatos, said in a Sunday night statement that the campaign is still evaluating the results and trying to figure out the impact of the Motor Vehicle Administration glitch that failed to update party affiliation or address information for about 83,000 voters statewide.
“With almost 130,000 votes cast, the margin of 80 votes is razor-thin, and David Blair has been gaining ground as the votes have been counted,” she wrote in the statement. “We are committed to seeing that the most credible possible outcome is finally reached. Our supporters and all Montgomery [County] residents, deserve nothing less.”
Meanwhile, Floreen, a term-limited at-large Democrat, has filed paperwork with the board to potentially run as an independent.
Floreen has said she’s considering an entry into the county executive race because she wants to give voters a third, independent option. She has said Elrich would not stimulate the type of economic growth that the county needs and told the Bethesda Beat in a recent interview that his election as county executive would be “devastating for Montgomery County.”
Elrich responded that he and Floreen have often aligned on issues before the County Council.
“Her votes on the council, other than development, are pretty much the same as my votes on the council, and most of what we do is not development. So if I’m going to be a disaster, I would assume she would be a disaster, too,” Elrich said Sunday night.
Floreen said in a text message that she’ll share more on Wednesday about her intentions going forward. She said she plans to change her party from Democratic to unaffiliated on Monday.
However, even if she does turn in the paperwork in coming days, her party switch will have to wait, according to Marjorie Roher, Montgomery County Board of Elections spokeswoman.
Roher said the voter rolls don’t reopen until the state board of elections certifies the vote totals, a step expected to be done July 19.
State elections officials have advised the local elections board that they can accept Floreen’s declaration of intent to run as an independent, even though she’s still registered as a Democrat. She will have to be registered as unaffiliated before she files her certificate of candidacy, according to Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Floreen would also have to obtain more than 6,000 signatures from county residents by Aug. 6 to have her name placed on the ballot
If the primary results hold, Elrich will face Republican attorney Robin Ficker, of Boyds, in the general election as well as, potentially, Floreen.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3-to-1 in the county, so the race would still likely come down to which candidate can get the bulk of support from the county’s Democrats.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Elrich said he’s now turning his attention to the general election and developing a transition plan for assuming office.
“We’ll … begin to hone our plans for how to hit the ground running in 2019 with pre-K expansion, restructuring the government, and an equitable economic development strategy,” he wrote.
Floreen, who supported Krasnow in the primary, said in her statement last week that both Elrich and Blair received votes from a small subset of the county’s electorate—about 30 percent of the third of registered Democrats who voted. She believes the county would benefit from having a third choice in the general election, according to her statement.
Shortly after the primary, Floreen described Elrich as potentially harmful to business and job growth in the county. She said he “is not going to be an asset to Montgomery County.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Leventhal and Elrich have served together on the council since 2006, not 2002 as initially reported.