A political newcomer, motorcycle enthusiast and president of a property owners’ association in an office park near Gaithersburg has filed his intent to run for county executive as a member of the Green Party.
Devin Battley, 71, of Derwood has been pondering a run for the county’s top office for months, and filed with the state Board of Elections his intent to run in the general election for the Green Party last week.
Battley said in an interview Friday he decided not to run in the Democratic or Republican primaries because of how “intense” those races can be and how much money one needs to raise to be competitive. He admitted he is a political beginner, still figuring out how to run a campaign.
If his filing is finalized, he will face the winner of the Democratic and Republican primaries, which occur July 19.
In the Democratic primary, incumbent Marc Elrich, businessman David Blair, County Council Member Hans Riemer and tech CEO Peter James are running. Reardon Sullivan, the county Republican Central Committee chairman, and Shelly Skolnick, who specializes in elder law and adult guardianship cases, are running in the Republican primary.
Battley has been involved in environmental issues and has been involved in a court case against Montgomery County involving the county’s Water Quality Protection Charge, which is assessed on properties countywide to help pay for stormwater mitigation projects. Property owners who do improvements can get tax credits.
He said he is working on collecting signatures from either local or state party leadership to get on the November ballot. According to state election law, Battley doesn’t need signatures from residents, but rather the approval of Green Party leaders, either in the county or state, to appear as a candidate on the ballot.
Battley identified smart development — especially near Metro stations — as a way to bring more affordable housing to Montgomery County, but he was skeptical of converting single-family lots into duplexes, triplexes and similar structures.
He’s in favor of building near transit, including the light-rail Purple Line that’s under construction, along with the currently planned bus rapid transit projects countywide.
“In the immediate vicinity of transportation hubs, we only have so much land,” Battley said. “The only way we can have greater capacity is to build up, so yes, that would be another item on our agenda…to make sure we have the zoning to allow that kind of development.”
When asked what he thought about Thrive Montgomery 2050 — the county’s proposed update to its general master plan, he said it needs some tweaks, but overall, he believes it is a good document.
“Proper planning involves not so much quantity of development, but quality of development,” he said. “And where you have quantity, you put it in the right places, you put our density where the density needs to go.”
Battley said he also agrees with many of the Green Party’s positions on environmental issues, from lessening traffic congestion to investing in infrastructure related to smart development and public transportation.
He added, however, that he supports the I-270 widening project proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration. The project would add two toll lanes in either direction along the southern end of I-270 through the spur and west on I-495 to the American Legion Bridge. It also would include the replacement of the bridge.
Some have criticized the proposed toll lanes, calling them “Lexus Lanes” because only rich people would be able to afford using the toll lanes, in order to be in less traffic. But Battley said that the lanes would also serve drivers who want to use them for convenience. Overall, he accepts that road widening is part of the solution to relieving congestion.
Battley also said there needs to be more security in schools, and agrees with council members and Montgomery County Public Schools that mental health resources need to increase, too.
He was blunt in describing how to attract more workers to positions providing mental health services — part of it is better pay, but it’s also improving respect and working conditions for such jobs, he said.
“If…we have the right carrot on the stick, we’ll attract people. …We have to make it attractive, we have to make it better than a job at the [Motor Vehicle Administration],” Battley said.
Battley added that county government needs to be more responsive to residents and businesses, whether through the permitting process required for building or opening businesses, or in other county services. As county executive, he said he would aim to improve in those areas.
Tim Willard and Nancy Wallace, co-chairs of the Green Party in the county, both said Friday in interviews that they are working with the state Board of Elections to determine what signatures are needed to get Battley on the November ballot.
They said they support him as a candidate, agreeing with his views on making county government more responsive to residents.
They also support his belief that there should be more solar power in the county’s agriculture reserve, along with other environmental issues. Having him in the race presents voters with an option to choose someone other than a Republican or a Democrat for county executive, they said.
Willard and Wallace said that Democrats, who’ve long held the top public offices in the county, have not done enough to improve various aspects of government over the last 20 years.
“It’s clear that having one-party rule in Montgomery County has not led to the response in climate change [issues] or responsive government that we need,” Wallace said.
Battley acknowledges he has a slim chance of winning if he qualifies to be listed on the ballot. But he still feels the need to run so he can show voters where he stands on the issues.
“That whole thing about no chance — there’s always a chance,” Battley said. “If you don’t try, you won’t find out… . I have this attitude, well, if it’s a snowball’s chance in hell…you never know, hell might freeze over for me.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com