2021 | Politics

UPDATED: Elrich says he will run for re-election in 2022

Race could attract multiple candidates; some council members seeking another term

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he will run for a second term next year. He is pictured at a press conference on March 25, 2020.

File photo

This story was updated at 9:40 a.m. on March 2, 2021, to include an additional comment from County Council Member Craig Rice. It was also updated at 1:59 p.m. on March 3, 2021, to clarify information regarding a candidate’s qualification, and April 7, 2021, to correct a reference to Brandy Brooks’ finish in the 2018 primary.

County Executive Marc Elrich has decided to run for a second term next year.

Four of the nine members of the all-Democratic Montgomery County Council have said they plan to run for re-election, too.

Three other council members can’t run for re-election because of term limits (a maximum of three terms) — but could end up in the running for county executive with Elrich. Two of them have indicated possible interest in a campaign for executive.

Elrich, who served four terms on the County Council before he was elected executive, confirmed his intentions in a text message on Monday morning.

“I do plan to run for re-election,” he wrote in the text. “No, I’m not thinking about other races.”

Elrich is currently serving the second half of his first term, which is marked by a tumultuous year of a health crisis and will be followed by an attempt at economic recovery.

One term-limited at-large council member, Hans Riemer, said he will consider a run for executive after focusing on pressing issues at hand, including the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout.

Riemer said in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon that he is “looking hard at the county executive race.”

“I’m working around the clock on the vaccine rollout and the COVID-19 response. So, frankly, politics is on hold for the moment,” he said, adding there isn’t time for him to do other kinds of work.

“As we move forward in the vaccine rollout and the situation is more under control, then I will absolutely begin the process of exploring a run for county executive.”

Council Member Craig Rice, who represents District 2, also is term-limited and said he is considering his options.

When asked on Friday whether he’s considering the county executive race, he said he would like to see whether Elrich runs for re-election.

Rice wrote in a text message Tuesday morning that Elrich’s declaration “certainly has an impact on my decision making process.”

Rice said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that he is weighing his options in the private and public sectors, and has not made a decision about his next move.

“I’m still poking at the lay of the land,” he said. “Being a term-limited council member means you can look at a myriad of options. There’s still potential for a lot of us when it means going back to the private sector. … I still want to play a role in the future of this county. This is where I was born and raised, so obviously it is hard to step away [from the] role of council member.”

Rice said that whatever he decides to do next, he wants to focus on what he has primarily worked on during his time on the council, especially education policy in the county and throughout the state.

Rice, a former state delegate, said he also sees some benefits in running again for the General Assembly when it comes to “addressing things on a statewide level.”

“All options are on the table at this point,” he said. “I haven’t really ruled anything out at this point.”

When Elrich runs for a second term, he might again face businessman David Blair, who narrowly lost to Elrich in 2018 in a Democratic primary — 37,532 to 37,455.

Blair, founder and chair of nonprofit Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions, wrote in a text message on Friday afternoon that he is “seriously considering running” for county executive.

“I entered the Montgomery County Executive race in 2018, because I felt the county wasn’t reaching its full potential,” Blair wrote in a text message. “I believed then and still do today that I could make it a better place for all who live here. That’s why I am likely to run for County Executive in 2022.”

Nancy Navarro of District 4, the third council member who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, wrote in a text message on Monday morning that she has not decided her next move.

She said she has been “strategically focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, fiscal issues, economic development and equity.”

“I hope to continue to work on these and many other issues after my service on the council, but have not decided in what capacity,” she wrote.

The council members who said they plan to run again for their seats are:
● Gabe Albornoz (At-large)
● Evan Glass (At-large)
● Will Jawando (At-large)
● Sidney Katz (District 3)

The County Council is going to expand by two seats starting in 2022. Voters in the 2020 general election approved adding two more district seats, giving the council seven seats by district and four at-large.

Tuesday was the first day that candidates could file for the 2022 election. As of Monday, no one had filed to run for county executive or County Council. The filing deadline is Feb. 22, 2022.

However, Brandy Brooks, who finished seventh in a race for four at-large council seats in 2018, is already working on a 2022 campaign. Brooks has reached the requirements to qualify for public financing for her campaign.

Council President Tom Hucker of District 5, who is serving his second term, declined to comment on whether he would run for his seat again.

“I don’t have anything to say right now,” he said. “I’m focused on dealing with the pandemic and an equitable recovery.”

Council Member Andrew Friedson of District 1, who is serving his first term, said he has not made any final decisions about whether to run again.

“Right now, I’m really just focused on the work that’s before us to help our community navigate through the public health emergency. … I’ll be ready to [think about politics and a future campaign], but right now, there are too many immediate problems to solve and think about,” he said.

The only Montgomery County candidate filing so far was by Marylin Pierre, who is trying again to win election as a circuit court judge. Pierre lost in 2020.

Which districts the council members will run in, and whether any end up having to run against each other, is yet to be determined.

In response to the November vote, the county’s five districts will now need to be divided into seven, in time for the 2022 election.

To determine how the county will be redistricted, an 11-member commission was appointed in late January. The commission is scheduled to provide a plan and report by Nov. 15.

Because of the redistricting process, two incumbent council members could end up in the same district.

According to Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, a candidate’s district would be adjusted, if needed, based on their residential address.

For example, if a candidate files for District 3, but ends up living in District 4 because of the redistricting, his or her filing will automatically change to the district where they live.

“Whether they move [to another district] or drop out [because of the possible district change] is up to them,” Zelaya wrote in an email on Thursday afternoon.

The county’s charter requires that the commission include at least one but no more than four members of each political party which polled at least 15% of the total vote cast for all candidates for the council in the last preceding regular election.

The charter also requires that there be at least one commission member who lives in each district. No one elected to public office is eligible to serve on the commission.

Adding two council members will cost more than $1.9 million for member salaries and benefits, staff and operating expenses, and renovations to make room for two additional offices in the Council Office Building.

Albornoz said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon that he is excited at the prospect of serving again with a larger council.

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to have expanded representation which will open a lot of doors and opportunities for candidates, but also for community members to feel connected to their elected officials,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve with a new set of colleagues and I’m hoping that my colleagues that would be running for a second or third term. I’m hoping to serve with them again.”

These offices will be on the ballot:
● County Executive
● County Council
● State’s Attorney
● Clerk of the Circuit Court
● Register of Wills
● Sheriff
● Montgomery County Board of Education (Districts 1, 3, 5, and at-large)
● Republican Central Committee
● Democratic Central Committee

Candidates should file a certificate of candidacy and a financial disclosure statement covering the prior year with the county Board of Elections in Gaithersburg.

If candidates file for the county executive and council elections, the disclosure must cover the prior year and the current year up to the date of filing the certificate of candidacy.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.