Montgomery County Executive Race Gets Scrambled

We don’t even know who the Democratic nominee for Montgomery County Executive will be yet, but the race has been scrambled twice this week by decisions external to the two leading contenders.

First, Democratic County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen has decided that she too wants to be County Executive:

At-large Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen on Monday filed with the county’s Board of Elections to run for county executive as an independent.

Alysoun McLaughlin, the deputy director of the county board, confirmed Monday afternoon that Floreen filed a “declaration of intent” to run in the race.

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Floreen, who lives in Garrett Park, said in a statement released Monday afternoon that she filed the paperwork because she faced a Monday deadline to do so, but she will wait until the Democratic primary results are certified to decide if she will run for county executive.

Floreen decided to file in the race in case County Councilman Mark Elrich wins the nomination. Elrich, who as of this writing leads David Blair by 149 votes, is decidedly more of a left-wing candidate that the still leftist but more pro-business Blair.

Today another wrinkle entered into the race, one that affects Republican candidate Robin Ficker:

Robin Ficker, the Republican nominee for Montgomery County executive who sued after he was denied public financing for his campaign, said on Tuesday the state has reversed itself, determining he did in fact qualify for the funds.

In an email Ficker provided to The Washington Post, Associate County Attorney Taggart Hutchinson wrote that the state board of elections certified Ficker’s application for the funds, and that the county will provide him an initial sum of $231,185.

“As soon as I get the check in my account, I’m going to dismiss the lawsuit,” Ficker said. “It’s a big victory.”

Calls to state and county officials were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Ficker, an attorney who ran unopposed for the GOP nomination for the top elected post in Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, was one of three Republicans who sought to use the county’s new public campaign financing system.

He filed suit against state and county elections officials on June 15 after he received an email from Jared DeMarinis, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the State Board of Elections, informing him that his campaign committee did not qualify for the funding.

The reversal of the decision regarding Ficker’s matching funds greatly changes the calculus of the Montgomery County Executive race and would make Ficker the leader in campaign cash on hand in a three-way race against Elrich and Floreen, though Elrich also is participating in Montgomery County’s matching funds program.

Montgomery County Executive general elections tend to be sleepy affairs since usually the Democratic nominee is a well funded, well liked incumbent running against and overmatched and under-promoted Republican candidate. But a three way race among candidates who are equally resourced makes the election a little bit different. It also is an election in a year in which a popular Republian Govenor is running for re-election against a socialist nominee for the Democrats that is sure to make the wealthy Democratic business interests in Montgomery County a bit more nervous than usual.

If you look at past results for Republican countywide nominees, the ceiling looks to be 34.2%, which is what both Doug Rosenfeld got in 2010 and Jim Shalleck got in 2014. But neither of those candidates had the resources, the name ID, or the divided electorate that Ficker appears to have this year.

I’m certainly not saying that Robin Ficker is going to win the election this year. But I am saying it’s a heck of a lot more likely than it was last week.

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