Q&A with County Executive Candidate Nancy Floreen
This is the third in a series of interviews with the three contenders
Is a second Potomac bridge crossing something that should be considered as part of the equation?
Much to the chagrin of some folks, I don’t see that occurring. I’ve told everybody that we’re all for it happening out at Point of Rocks [in Frederick County]. (Laughs.)
Speaking of Gov. Hogan’s transportation proposals, would you like to see him re-elected to a second term or replaced by the Democratic nominee, Ben Jealous?
I’m staying out of that. What I care about is whichever candidate will do the most for Montgomery County to serve our needs, and that remains to be seen.
Mr. Leggett has expressed concern about potential adverse effects of Mr. Jealous’ income tax and school funding proposals on the county and its residents—as well as Mr. Jealous’ statements critical of the legislation designed to attract Amazon’s second headquarters. Do you share those concerns?
Those are serious issues, and that’s why I say that. … I think those are things that Montgomery County voters should pay very close attention to. Those are county priorities that we need to worry big time about. If we lose our wealthy residents, that’s going to affect our resources. If we have a big target on our back when we’re talking about school funding, Montgomery County’s 20 cents on the dollar return will only go down. And Amazon … if the message is Maryland isn’t welcoming to business investment, what does that say to our future of a thriving economy that’s welcoming investment?
I know where Mr. Hogan is on the Amazon part, and I know where he is on the big tax increase part—I don’t know where he is on the school funding part. [On Amazon], we’ve been a real team. The state has stepped up to the plate on a variety of our business initiatives; they’ve been great partners.
There was criticism when you first announced that if you had wanted to compete, you should have done so in the Democratic primary. While you are running as an unaffiliated candidate, do you still consider yourself a Democrat?
When I first registered to vote, I might have registered as an independent—it would have been almost 50 years ago. And then I found out you couldn’t vote in a primary—I was in Massachusetts—so I switched. I’ve been deep in the weeds on behalf of the party. I know some people in the Democratic Party feel I am not being true to my roots, and I will say that I have strong Democratic values, but inclusiveness. In fact, that’s driving this more than anything.
One of the emails that went around after I first stated that I was looking at this was, “Oh no, Nancy will bring out moderate Democrats to vote.” People actually said this on Facebook. I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s what representative local government is all about, it’s bringing out everyone and talking to everyone—and not making them feel that they are excluded from the process.
If you’re elected, would you see yourself remaining as unaffiliated or re-registering as a Democrat?
I don’t know the answer to that. I should know, I suppose. But this isn’t a game. I believe in speaking the truth.
Unlike some of your County Council colleagues, you did not contribute financially to the effort to defeat the 2016 term limits referendum for which Mr. Ficker collected signatures to place on the ballot. You were one of four incumbent council members for whom the three-term limit foreclosed the option of running again. Did you oppose passage of it?
I didn’t contribute. It seemed to me to be inappropriate for us to be contributing to a campaign that was basically to protect my job.
My view about this—and I say it over and over again—is that we [already had] term limits here: our elections. And if you don’t like what someone’s doing, you shouldn’t support them. Term limits is a way for people to not to have to go to that effort to … vote somebody out. It’s an easy ask: Most people say, ”Oh yeah, I’m for term limits. … I want to get rid of that person. I didn’t vote for that person, I voted for the other ones, but I want to get rid of that person, and this is an easy way to do it.”… This could be worse, it is three terms, it’s 12 years. [Editor’s note: There is a two-term, eight-year limit for the county executive and County Council members in neighboring Prince George’s County].
Now, really, I wasn’t going to run again anyway for the County Council. But you’re losing a lot of experience. There will be [three] guaranteed openings four years from now. So you’ll have a bench without that much experience left. I’m sure the new council will be terrific, but it’s a lot more work than people think—and it’s not an easy job.
Plus, one of the sad things is that there are so few women now. I’ve served with up to four of us, and now it’s down to one. … It’s hard—there are a number of women who ran in the primary. I think it’s unfortunate that more of them did not get elected.
Given what you just pointed out, are you hoping that some voters go into the booth in November and say “OK, there’s never been a woman elected county executive”—and give your candidacy that much more consideration?
Absolutely. They should think that way. Will they? I’m not betting on it, let’s put it that way. … It’s funny, the men think this is a bigger advantage than the women do.
I created a nonpartisan women’s group, Montgomery Women, years ago. A variety of us created that group before I ran for office to encourage women’s participation in leadership roles. We got a little bit of pushback because it wasn’t partisan—it was to lift up all boats. I think it’s 53 percent of our population that is female. I think when you don’t see people who look like you making decisions, you feel excluded. And I think that’s a really big problem for democracy and citizen participation.
I think women are more collaborative than men in finding solutions. I think we’re more inclusive largely. I don’t want to generalize against a gender that I’m very fond of (chuckles), but I do think we bring a different style to the community. I think we’re less ego-driven. I’m not doing this for my ego, trust me. I think Montgomery County’s future is so important that I’m putting the county above the party here.