David Blair, the businessman and philanthropist who finished just 77 votes out of the money in the 2018 Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive, announced Wednesday morning that he plans to try again in 2022.
While Blair’s announcement wasn’t surprising — he has upped his visibility and civic and charitable activity in the county and state since the last election — the timing and manner of the announcement was: A slick 3 1/2-minute video and accompanying statement released at 7 a.m.
In the video, produced by a leading national Democratic media firm, SKDK, Blair promises to bring needed change to Montgomery County and recharge the county’s economy to create new economic opportunities for residents.
“We can’t recover from COVID with the same thinking and same failed leadership,” he says. “…It’s time to think differently, act differently and lead differently.”
Blair in the ad also touts his business skills — he started and ran a health care services company — and suggests he can make county spending more targeted and efficient.
“We lack vision and energy and our county is financially careless,” he says. “We have a $6 billion budget. Are you getting your money’s worth?”
Blair’s ad features testimonials from two educators and a community activist, as well as from his wife, Mikel Blair.
With his bid for executive in the June 2022 primary, Blair is once again on a collision course with incumbent Marc B. Elrich (D), a progressive warhorse who won 37,532 votes, or 29%, in the six-way Democratic primary compared to 37,455 votes for Blair.
Elrich only recently said he plans to seek a second term; his first term has been dominated by the multiple COVID-19 crises over the past year. He told the District 18 Democratic Club earlier this month that he’s hoping to pursue some of his top campaign priorities — including more affordable housing, greater environmental protections and bus rapid transit — when the pandemic is over.
Although he spent a dozen years on the county council, Elrich has often found himself at odds with councilmembers since becoming executive, and was also tripped up by ethics problems surrounding his first chief administrative officer, Andrew Kleine. Kleine’s successor as CAO, former state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., has better relations with other political leaders in the county and internal operations appear to have stabilized to a degree.
Elrich recently hired Scott Peterson, a seasoned government relations pro, to help him promote his agenda and disseminate his message.
Blair largely self-funded his campaign in 2018, spending more than $5 million, and is likely to dig deep again in 2022, though he is better known this time and kicking off his campaign far earlier than he did last election cycle. Blair also benefited from support from The Washington Post, which is likely to be favorably inclined to his candidacy again.
He closed his 2018 campaign account and recently opened a new one, David Blair for Montgomery.
Elrich participated in the county’s public financing system for political candidates in 2018 and plans to do so again in 2022. Through mid-January, he had not raised a dime since the 2018 election.
Under the county’s public financing system, which was first used in the 2018 cycle, matching funds are only provided for money candidates raise in the year leading up to the election. Elrich reported just $1,627 in his campaign account in mid-January.
It is unclear whether the Montgomery County executive election will remain a two-person contest. County Councilmember Hans Riemer (D), who is term limited in 2022, is also publicly contemplating the race, and others could follow.
It seems inconceivable that in a progressive county in 2022, the Democratic primary wouldn’t feature a woman or a candidate of color. Two of the council’s members of color, Nancy Navarro (D) and Craig Rice (D), are term-limited in 2022, and have not said yet whether they plan to run for other offices then.
(Disclosure: The Blair Family Foundation is a financial supporter of Maryland Matters.)