The Empire Strikes Back: Developers Pony Up for Floreen County Exec Bid

Nancy Floreen raised more than $300,000 for her campaign to become Montgomery County executive, tapping an eager network of corporate donors willing to stroke large checks for the Democrat-turned-independent. Floreen, a term-limited member of the County Council, is running against fellow Councilman Marc B. Elrich (D) and attorney Robin Ficker (R), both of whom are participating in the county’s new public campaign financing system. Incumbent County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has served since 2006, is term-limited.  Floreen decided to enter the race after Elrich, running with the backing of progressive groups and organized labor, won the six-way Democratic primary, narrowly defeating health care entrepreneur David T. Blair, a political newcomer, by 77 votes.  Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen meets the press earlier this month. Photo by Bruce DePuyt  Floreen, a lifelong Democrat, said she was bombarded with requests to enter the race by voters who viewed Elrich as hostile to the business community (a label he rejects) and Ficker as ill-suited to the job of executive.  Her fundraising report reads like a Who’s Who of the Montgomery County business community, particularly real estate firms, with large checks from high-ranking executives at Willco, Lerner Enterprises, Christopher Bruch, Miller & Long, and others. Several lawyers at Linowes and Blocher, a land-use law firm, also contributed. Many of her checks are for $6,000, the maximum donation allowed by law. Some of her donors appear to have tapped separate corporate entities, a legal practice to evade the $6,000 cap. Floreen took in a total of $342,040 in the just-concluded fundraising period, which ran from June 10 to Aug. 21. In all, about 95 percent of her money came from entities related to real estate and development. She spent $206,208 and had $135,833 remaining. Much of the money she’s taken in went to the firms that helped her gather the signatures she needed to get on the ballot as an independent candidate. Fieldworks, a Washington, D.C., firm, received nearly $150,000 for its work; The North Consulting, a Minnesota company, was paid more than $34,000. Floreen is seeking to become the first independent, and the first woman, ever elected Montgomery County executive. While her impressive fundraising report puts her squarely in the game, she will be criticized for relying so heavily on corporate interests. The influence of developer contributions has been a fault line in Montgomery County politics going back to at least the 1960s. “The candidates Floreen faces are both publicly funded – meaning the development and real estate companies can’t donate to them at all,” Damon Effingham, the executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, said in a tweet Tuesday. “It’s one of the reasons County residents supported public funding in the first place – the undue influence of developers on county politics.”   Elrich reported $102,932 in the bank as of Aug. 21. Because he is participating in the county’s public financing system, he must report campaign fundraising and spending activity more frequently than candidates who aren’t taking public funds. The Elrich campaign said he raised $8,015 between Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 and expected to be eligible for $27,518 in matching funds for that period. Elrich reported receiving $787,586 in public funds through Aug. 7. Ficker reported that he had $234,200 in the bank as of Aug. 21 – most of it from public funds. He reported raising just $2,230 from individual donors between June 11 and Aug. 21. Josh Kurtz contributed to this report. [email protected]

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent more than two decades on local television, including 14 years as host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the D.C. metro region. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County, as well as a reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. Bruce also is the host of the weekly The Bruce DePuyt Podcast.

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