In MoCo Exec Race: Floreen Likely to Run; Blair Ponders Recount; Will Elrich Have Enough Dough?

The Maryland Board of Elections cleared the way for Montgomery County Council member Nancy M. Floreen, a lifelong Democrat, to run for county executive as an independent in November, telling county elections officials Monday they can approve her candidacy if she changes her party registration to “unaffiliated” by Aug. 6. Floreen, a term-limited lawmaker first elected in 2002, filed the required paperwork Monday, the day the window for such changes reopened. She is expected to make her candidacy official Wednesday. The action from the state board means county voters will have three choices in the general election. On Sunday, Marc B. Elrich was declared the unofficial winner of the June 26 Democratic primary, surviving a multi-day analysis of absentee and provisional ballots to post an 80-vote win over second-place finisher David T. Blair. Republican Robin Ficker, an attorney and well-known activist, won his party’s primary unopposed. Elrich told Maryland Matters on Sunday that his victory, while narrow, proves that his message resonated with voters. “People understand we have to get more serious about schools and transportation. If we’re going to develop we have to make sure that those pieces come along with it,” he said. Nancy M. Floreen Asked about Floreen’s looming decision to quit the party and run as an independent, Elrich said, “I don’t want to comment on that right now.” But then he said: “I feel good about where I am. I think the Democratic Party is going to get behind me. I think it will be fine.” It’s expected that Floreen will move to position herself as a “sensible centrist” while portraying Elrich as too reflexively opposed to the business community — and too tight with public employees’ unions — and Ficker as being ill-suited by temperament to run county government. Shortly after Sunday’s ballot counting ended Elrich said he would sit down with people in the business community to make sure “they understand that I have no secret plans to make their life difficult.”
An issue that began to surface in political circles on Monday: Elrich’s decision to participate in the county’s new public campaign financing system.
 Designed to give candidates enough money to be credible without having to rely on developers and other special interests, the program caps the amount of money a candidate can accept from any one donor at $150 per four-year cycle. Marc B. Elrich If the bulk of Elrich’s core supporters gave him that amount, or something close to it, in the primary, he could struggle badly for funds in the general, observers speculated. Because the law is new, many are unaware of that feature of the law. “Oh my God, that’s horrible,” said former Montgomery County Executive Doug M. Duncan (D). “That’s unbelievable.” “I was surprised by that,” said former Councilmember Bruce Adams (D). “That’s rough.” Former Councilmember Phil Andrews (D), an architect of the public campaign financing system, said the low cap, $150 per voter, was intentional. “One of the goals of the program is to encourage candidates to constantly expand their base of supporters,” he said. Andrews doubts Elrich will struggle. “There are a lot of Democrats out there who haven’t given to anybody. His fundraising potential should expand [now that he is] the Democratic nominee.” Adams agreed. “Marc is Marc,” he said. “He’s always gotten tons of votes without much money raised. It’s a barrier, but his campaigns have never been fueled by dollars.”
Ben Spielberg, Elrich’s campaign manager, said in a statement, “There are a whole lot of Elrich supporters out there who haven’t given the maximum contribution yet and we’re confident that Marc will continue to fundraise successfully through the public financing system in the general election.”
 David T. Blair Blair huddled with his legal team in Rockville on Monday to determine whether to seek a primary recount. To qualify for an automatic recount, funded by the county, Blair would need to have come within 75 votes, 1 percent of the ballots the two men received between them. He fell 80 votes shy. A former CEO of a health care company, Blair pumped more than two and a half million dollars into his campaign. Given the vote difference in the Democratic primary, it will surprise no one if he decides to seek a recount, even if it means funding it himself. “While we join those who eagerly await a definitive outcome to the county executive race, we must respect the Montgomery County elections process and let the board of elections and their dedicated staff finish their comprehensive efforts toward certification of the results. There is still a lot of work to be completed; the residents of Montgomery County deserve our collective patience in this very important undertaking,” Blair spokeswoman Laura Evans Manatos said Monday. [email protected]

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