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Election 2022

Political Notes: Billionaire Drops $500K to Oust Elrich, Sierra Club Corrects the Record, AG and Dist. 6 News

A seal at the entrance of the Montgomery County executive office building. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

A billionaire cofounder of Facebook has invested $500,000 in a new political action committee set up to defeat Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich in the July 19 Democratic primary — and a top national Democratic strategist who lives in the county is heading the effort.

The Affordable Maryland PAC began airing a spot on cable and broadcast TV Wednesday, attacking Elrich’s record on affordable housing. The attack ad comes as a new political action committee funded by developers is flooding voters’ mailboxes seeking to elect businessman David Blair and a pro-development slate, and while Blair himself began airing a new ad Wednesday echoing The Washington Post’s recent endorsement of his bid to oust Elrich.

The Affordable Maryland PAC ad begins with grainy footage of a Little League field that appears to have been shot in the 1950’s.

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“The American Dream once lived in Montgomery County: work hard, get ahead, make a home,” a narrator says, as different images flash across the screen, eventually settling on unflattering photos of Elrich. “But now we’re facing an affordability crisis with higher housing costs than almost anywhere in America. And County Executive Marc Elrich is making things worse, opposing nearly every project to build affordable housing and blocking plans to make our county more affordable. Marc Elrich won’t solve the problem because he is the problem. Vote for affordability. Vote against Marc Elrich.”

According to a Wednesday night filing with the State Board of Elections, the PAC’s sole source of funding comes from Dustin Moskovitz, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur who is the cofounder and CEO of Asana, a tech company designed to make workplaces more efficient. Moskovitz, 38, is also a cofounder of Facebook — and has become an advocate for affordable housing measures across the country, contributing to affordable housing groups and lobbying campaigns.

The chair of the PAC is Adam Jentleson, best known as a top aide to the late U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Jentleson, who lives in Takoma Park — Elrich’s hometown — is one of the founders of Battle Born Collective, a national political strategy firm, who has become an author and frequent TV talking head.

The treasurer of the PAC is Eric Saul, an architect who lives in Takoma Park. Earlier this year, he helped create a website called Marc Elrich: Rhetoric vs. Reality, which several Elrich foes contribute material to. He’s also the man behind Takoma Torch, a satirical website that often skewers local politicians.

The Affordable Maryland PAC campaign finance statement shows the PAC paid $128,617 to Waterfront Strategies, a media buying firm associated with the Democratic media and communications firm GMMB, on Wednesday. The PAC still has $371,383 in its campaign account.

While a poll conducted six weeks ago showed Elrich with a significant lead over his three Democratic primary challengers — Blair, County Councilmember Hans Riemer and tech worker Peter James — there is a late rush of anti-Elrich activity by well-funded forces that could have a significant impact on the primary outcome. Elrich, who is participating in the county’s public financing system for candidates, will not have the resources to respond in equal measure.

The polling firm that conducted the survey in May was asked to do so by a Montgomery County affordable housing advocate named Jonathan Robinson — who happens to be a signatory on the anti-Elrich website cofounded by Saul. A person familiar with the political activities of local pro-business groups said the poll was financed by forces associated with the Affordable Maryland PAC, though there is no record of that in the new campaign finance report.

Blair’s new TV ad is effectively a recitation of the Washington Post editorial endorsing his campaign last weekend, with choice lines like “Elrich is the candidate of continued decline” and Elrich has “set the county up for failure.”

Meanwhile, Progressives for Progress, the super PAC created by real estate interests and also poised to spend at least half a million dollars electing pro-development candidates, had to walk back a factoid listed on one of its mailers Wednesday. The slick fliers, hitting mailboxes in the new 4th county council district, maintains that the PAC’s favored candidate, nonprofit leader Amy Ginsburg, had also been endorsed by the Sierra Club. The environmental group has in fact endorsed one of Ginsburg’s Democratic primary opponents, Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart.

New poll shows tie in AG Dem primary

Voters are divided between the Democratic candidates running for attorney general, according to new poll results.

About 30% of likely Democratic voters favor retired District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley and 29% said they’d prefer U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown. The results are within the 4.9% margin of error. About 35% of those polled were undecided.

The survey of 403 likely Democratic voters was conducted between June 15 and 19, and was co-sponsored by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, The Baltimore Banner, and WYPR.

In the Republican primary for attorney general, almost 70% of 414 Republican likely voters are undecided. About 17% said they will vote for Michael Peroutka and 11% said they plan to cast a ballot for Jim Shalleck. The margin of error for the Republican survey was 4.8%.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) endorsed Brown in the attorney general race.

“Before I was a Senator, I was a Mayor of New Jersey’s largest city. Anthony Brown has what it takes to bring about real public safety,” Booker said in a written statement. “’I’ve worked side by side with him on some of the most pressing issues in our nation. So I am excited. This is one of the most exciting races going on because when you get him in that position, not only will Maryland thrive, but it will be a national model for how to do public safety right.”

On Thursday evening, state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery), who came close to running for attorney general himself this year, is hosting a fundraiser for Brown at his home in Silver Spring.

The new Goucher Poll also measured voters’ choices in the open-seat race for comptroller.

Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) leads Bowie Mayor Tim Adams in the Democratic primary by a margin of 28 percent to 14 percent, according to the poll. More than half of voters are undecided.

Hogan backs Foldi in the 6th District

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) endorsed Matthew Foldi in the 6th District congressional race on Wednesday.

Foldi, 25, is in a six-way primary for the Republican nomination, which includes Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington), who was the 2020 GOP nominee in the race.

“Matthew Foldi represents a new generation of common sense conservative leaders. He fought with us to take on the one-party monopoly in Annapolis, and I trust him to hold the career Washington politicians accountable,” Hogan said in a statement. “I am proud to endorse Matthew for Congress in the Sixth District. It’s time for all Republicans to unite behind Matthew and focus on defeating David Trone in November.”

The Foldi campaign said Hogan won the newly drawn 6th District by 31 percentage points in 2018.

Foldi, who has been active in the state’s Republican party since his youth, was an early supporter of Hogan’s gubernatorial bid.

“The Governor knows what it means to challenge the entrenched Democrat interests in Maryland and win big with conservative solutions,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

If elected, Foldi would be the youngest member of Congress.

Hogan was about the same age when he made his first run for congress at the age of 24 in 1981.

At that time, Hogan was seeking to replace Gladys Noon Spellman, who was declared unable to serve after a serious heart attack left her comatose. He finished second in the Republican primary, and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) ultimately won the seat (which had previously been held by Lawrence J. Hogan Sr.) and has held it ever since.