2022 | Politics

Gaithersburg official taking on city’s former mayor for County Council seat

Robert Wu joins race as incumbent Sidney Katz seeks third term

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Incumbent Montgomery County Council Member Sidney Katz, left, is being challenged by Gaithersburg City Council Member Robert Wu for the District 3 County Council seat in this year's Democratic primary.

File photos

With a Gaithersburg City Council member now in the race for a Montgomery County Council seat, the incumbent — the city’s former mayor — is rounding up support from local elected officials.

Gaithersburg City Council Member Robert Wu filed this week to run for the newly drawn District 3 Montgomery County Council seat in this year’s Democratic primary.

Wu, 44, has served on the City Council since 2015, and is currently an attorney for defense contractor Northrop Grumman. He has served in the Army, including tours of duty in South Korea and Iraq. Since 2007 he’s worked primarily in the fields of government contract law and procurements.

Katz, 71, is finishing his second term on the County Council, representing District 3. County Council members are allowed to hold office for no more than three consecutive terms.

Katz was elected to the County Council in 2014, succeeding Phil Andrews.

His political career dates back more than 40 years. He served as a Gaithersburg City Council member from 1978 to 1998, then mayor from 1998 to 2014.

Katz, who said he plans to file soon for his next campaign, has been lining up support.

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman and Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton confirmed to Bethesda Beat on Thursday that they are supporting Katz. So are the four state lawmakers in District 17 — Sen. Cheryl Kagan and Dels. Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist and Julie Palakovich Carr.

Wu said he doesn’t view the race as him against Katz, but rather as running for the same seat.

“I like Sid. We’ve always had a good relationship,” Wu said. “In fact, before I was even making a decision to run, I reached out to him and had coffee with him just to let him know my thoughts. I didn’t want him, frankly, to be blindsided by me filing, and that’s kind of the relationship that we have and kind of the way we do things in Gaithersburg.”

The future District 3, approved during last year’s redistricting process, largely encompasses the municipalities of Rockville and Gaithersburg, as well as their unincorporated areas in the county. The basic geographic area in the county is the same as the current District 3, although there are some differences from the new map to the old, such as one section of Aspen Hill that is in the current District 3, but will soon be in the newly created District 6.

Wu filed for the District 3 seat on Tuesday in the Democratic race, which is on June 28. Candidates previously had until Feb. 22 to file, but that deadline was recently extended to March 22.

Wu said he thinks his experience in government contracting and his time on the Gaithersburg City Council have helped prepare him for the County Council job.

His priorities include building on the council’s previous environmental legislation, improving economic development and access to transit. He also said he wants to look for opportunities to increase opportunities for students interested in high tech jobs.

“Because of where District 3 is located, we’ve got USG [Universities at Shady Grove] and Montgomery College, and we’ve got a lot of research institutions like NIH, NIST and the Department of Energy,” he said. “There’s really a lot of ideas that we can grow, not just in biotech and biohealth, but also with technologies.”

Wu said the next council will “have to take a really hard look at public safety issues.” He said he recently learned that Gaithersburg’s police salaries are based on salary levels that Montgomery County’s police department sets.

“I heard they were low, and I asked our chief to do a compensation study. And we will be addressing that in our upcoming budget cycle [in Gaithersburg],” he said.  “We really need to reinforce support for our law enforcement.”

Katz said his long career in public service, including his role as chair of the County Council’s Public Safety Committee, will be an asset as the council dives into work on public safety, the police accountability board, economic development and the environment.

“I think experience is really gonna matter. And I certainly have that experience,” he said. “I’m someone that has worked in the community for many years.”

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com