With just under five weeks to go until the Nov. 8 general election, the nine county council members are backing county executive Marc Elrich in his bid against Reardon Sullivan, the county’s former Republican Central Committee chairman.
What a difference a primary election victory can make.
As the July 19 Democratic primary approaches, most council members have not publicly endorsed a county executive candidate. Council member Nancy Navarro, who was running for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate Rushern Baker, was the only one to endorse a nominee. She backed David Blair, a Potomac businessman and Elrich’s main challenger in the rematch of their 2018 main contest.
Blair, who lost to Elrich by 77 votes in the 2018 Democratic primary, this time finished 32 votes behind Elrich. The prolonged counting of absentee ballots and a recount meant that the final result was not known until more than a month after the primary election.
Now Blair says he supports his former opponent.
In a text message, he wrote Thursday that he supported Elrich and “all Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.” He did not say why he prefers Elrich to Sullivan – but he had called the incumbent to wish him luck in his next term after the primary results were finalized in August.
Elrich is considered the general election favorite after the competitive primary, as registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 4 to 1 in the county.
Sullivan said in an interview Friday that he was not surprised by council members’ decisions to endorse Elrich, and that he was more focused on campaigning to educate residents and businesses than endorsing residents. politicians. But he noted in a follow-up email that it had been endorsed by the county police union and several professional organizations.
“Would you expect them to support someone else? Would you expect any of the current board members to jump ship? Sullivan said.
Council Vice Chairman Evan Glass and Council Member Andrew Friedson texted that they supported Elrich and all Democrats on the ballot. Councilman Hans Riemer, the other major Democratic primary contender for county executive, said in a recent interview that while he and Elrich do not agree on all issues – the two have notably disputed over housing policy during the primary campaign – Elrich is a much better choice to lead the county than Sullivan.
“He and I agree on a lot of things,” Riemer said. “For example, the focus on preventing youth violence…it’s just for the money. Marc and I agree on this. We disagree on things,” such as the county’s decision to allow the Fraternal Order of Police to review county officers’ personnel and disciplinary documents before they are released if the records are requested under provisions of a new state law.
“I have no hesitation in endorsing Marc over Reardon Sullivan,” he later added. “Sully is a nice guy, and we had fun together on the [primary] campaign circuit, but that doesn’t mean we’re close in our opinions.
Navarro – who, like Riemer, leaves office in December due to term limits – shares a similar view. She said she agrees with Elrich’s views on some issues, including passing the county’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, which ensures all legislation is reviewed. from this angle. The two also agreed on improving early childhood education and similar initiatives across the county.
Still, she said she supported Blair in the primary in part because he had a vision for economic development that prioritized equity and brought more resources to underserved communities in the county.
“The fact that the election was so close is an indication that the people of the county appreciate this and are concerned and want to see more economic development, and more amenities and job opportunities…especially in areas of the county who missed it. level [of support]”, Navarro said.
Noting that she supports all Democrats on the ballot, she said Elrich was a better option than Sullivan to move the county forward.
“I would worry that someone like Reardon would come in and try to dismantle a lot of the infrastructure that we have put in place to address these equity issues,” Navarro said.
Sullivan also faces challenges in the county due to who leads the Republican ticket in Maryland, many political insiders note. Gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox, who faces Democrat Wes Moore, and Michael Peroutka, the attorney general’s nominee against Democrat Anthony Brown, are considered far-right candidates, council members have noted in recent weeks. .
Having Cox and Peroutka on the ballot is a concern, Sullivan admitted. But he added that he was focusing on Montgomery County issues, not what’s happening in statewide racing.
Cox does not accept the results of the 2020 presidential election while Peroutka says he is unsure of the validity of the results, according to recent reports. Sullivan, however, said he trusted local election officials and would accept the county’s general election results.
“Whatever the results say is what the results say and I will respect the results,” Sullivan said.
During the primary, one of the most sought-after endorsements was for the county chapter of the Sierra Club. The group chose to endorse Blair, which local political observers considered a controversial decision at the time.
Dave Sears, political chairman of the Montgomery Group of the Sierra Club, said in an interview Wednesday that the organization now supports Elrich, noting its ongoing opposition to Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to widen parts of I-270 and I -495 using toll lanes. .
Incumbent council member Tom Hucker, who dropped out of his county executive campaign to run instead for a general council seat, said that despite their disagreements, he and Elrich are in agreement on issues such as such as funding public education, paying for more mental health resources, aggressively fighting climate change, and investing in bus rapid transit. Sullivan doesn’t represent the views of most county residents, said Hucker, who lost his primary race.
“Their candidate and their national party are completely out of touch with the values of most people in Montgomery County,” Hucker said of Sullivan and the Republicans.
Council member Craig Rice, also stepping down due to term limits, said he wished Elrich the best for a second term. Like Navarro, Rice said Elrich has focused on serving underserved communities throughout the county, including people of color, whether addressing health disparities or developing community. workforce.
Rice, who represents the more conservative District 2 that covers the northwest part of the county, said he and Elrich differed on their views on solving the county’s housing shortage. While protecting natural affordable housing is important, the county executive must also focus on building various types of housing to address the shortage, Rice said.
Potential incumbents weigh in on Elrich’s tenure
Elrich will also have to work with the board incumbents, given that they are winning in the general election. Sidney Katz, who is running for a third term on the District 3 council representing Rockville and Gaithersburg, said he and Elrich were “not in sync” on every issue. But he understands that they are often compared, given their political experience in the county.
“I’ve said it many times…but Marc and I are personal friends, and if they ever decided to do ‘The Odd Couple,’ it would be based on Marc and I,” Katz said.
Council member Will Jawando, seeking another term, believes it is possible for him and Elrich to work with the other council members to implement some form of rent stabilization, while continuing to support mental health services for students and helping small businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Council President Gabe Albornoz, who is seeking re-election for a universal seat, will see his term as president end in December. He thinks the Elrich administration could move more aggressively on housing issues, but thinks he and the county executive are aligning on several other policy areas, such as tackling climate change and the improving social programs.
“I think the experience helps, and while we may disagree on some policy decisions, the continuity of his administration is important, especially now,” Albornoz said, hinting at the county’s continued recovery from the impacts. of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some political observers have said it can be difficult to work with Elrich. But in a recent interview, the county executive said he was optimistic he could continue to make progress on several issues in a second term, should he win – noting there will be six new members council if every Democrat wins, and potentially more Democratic leadership in Annapolis and Washington, D.C.
“In addition to what the county is doing right now – we’ve been pretty sound financially – it’s not enough to tackle all these [issues] how deep you have to attack them,” Elrich said. “So we’re going to need more state support — and you need a governor who thinks these are important things for us to do — and you need a federal government.”