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Government & Politics

Elrich Basks in Late Primary Victory and Dems Begin to Fall in Line

Marc Elrich finally got his victory party. One month to the day after the primary, the Montgomery County councilman basked publicly for the first time Thursday night in his status as the Democratic nominee for county executive. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you,” Elrich told a cheering crowd at McGinty’s Public House in downtown Silver Spring. “This victory was put together by lots of neighbors and lots of friends.” Half a week after being officially declared the primary winner by just 77 votes, Elrich brought together about 200 supporters – his unique coalition of civic activists, labor leaders and down-county progressives – to celebrate. Elrich worked the crowd for an hour before finally being persuaded to speak. “It’s very impromptu,” said Debbie Spielberg, a top Elrich aide. Marc B. Elrich, the Democratic nominee for Montgomery County executive, is interviewed by Montgomery Community Media’s Douglas Tallman during Elrich’s victory party Thursday night. Photo by Josh Kurtz The idea of Elrich – a perennial political outsider – as the Democratic Party standard-bearer in Maryland’s largest jurisdiction is going to take some getting used to. He may have spent 12 years on the county council and another 19 years before that as a city councilman in Takoma Park, the county’s most liberal enclave. But it took him four tries to win his county council seat and he has never fully been embraced by the party establishment or local business leaders. Now, leaders at the highest echelon of the party are closing ranks behind the 68-year-old lawmaker. In the past 36 hours, U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) and Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Kathleen Matthews have issued statements praising Elrich and pledging their support. “I’m glad people are here with Marc – that’s really where they need to be,” Susan W. Turnbull, a former state party chairwoman and Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, told Maryland Matters Thursday night. She was one of several politicians to turn up at McGinty’s. Elrich – and both his longtime and newfound supporters – are mindful of the fact that Nancy M. Floreen, his colleague on the county council, has left the Democratic Party at the urging of business and real estate powerbrokers and is seeking to get on the November ballot as an independent. A Floreen petitioner was trying to gather signatures of registered voters just half a block from Elrich’s celebration Thursday night. Attorney and gadfly Robin Ficker is the Republican nominee. “I’m actually happy to be a Democrat and be a progressive Democrat and have the party standing with me in Maryland,” Elrich said. “And that’s not something you have all across the country.” Elrich said he has reached out to his vanquished Democratic primary rivals, to the Democratic nominee for governor, former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous, to incumbent and incoming county council members, and to longtime and new Democratic legislators and candidates, pledging to work together. “Hopefully, we’re going to have a Democratic governor, and we’re going to have an amazing Democratic legislature,” he said. “I’m going to be in Annapolis when session’s in. I’m going to work with our delegation to make sure they know what we need. And I want to work with them and help them on their priorities.” Elrich gave a shout-out to his union supporters, but said they realize the county budget will have to be streamlined some. He said he was determined to finally solve the achievement gap in the county’s schools and to stabilize struggling families. He vowed to boost employment prospects for high school graduates who do not intend to go to college. “I want to make you all feel that the county government is yours,” Elrich said. While former county executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) has signaled his preference for Floreen in the general election, a former special assistant, Tina Clarke, was on hand Thursday night to support Elrich. “They’re the complete opposite,” she conceded, but added that she admired Elrich’s record advocating for special needs children in the public schools. Said Turnbull: “If you hear Marc, he wants the things we all want – quality schools, less traffic on the roads, equal opportunity. What’s so radical about that?” [email protected]