2018: The Looming MoCo Shuffle

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For much of the past 14 years, there’s been a fundamental stability in Montgomery County government. Long time Councilmember Ike Leggett took four years off to serve as state party chair, but everyone knew he wanted to be County Executive and was waiting for Doug Duncan’s 2006 run for governor. Leggett has been county executive ever since.

Duncan ran with a slate in 2002, the infamously named End Gridlock Team, which included George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen, Mike Subin, and Steve Silverman. The target of the slate’s vitriol was the late Blair Ewing, elected in 1998 and a huge thorn in Duncan’s side from the get go. Things got so bad during the run up to the 2002 primary that at one point Subin, hardly a picture of proper deportment, threatened to “cut [Ewing’s] balls off” after a council hearing. The EGT swamped Ewing’s team with gobs of money, and won a bitterly contested contest. 

The tight focus on issues of development and the ICC has dominated the divisions on the Council ever since, even when such issues became less pressing after the economic meltdown of 2008-2009.

Silverman unsuccessfully ran for County Executive in 2006 against Ike Leggett. Subin was defeated by Duchy Trachtenberg (who lost the 2002 general election in Council District 1 to MoCo’s last Republican Councilmember Howie Denis) and Marc Elrich (who had run with Blair Ewing in 2002) that same year, delivering a greater sense of balance on development issues.

Trachtenberg was ousted in 2010, replaced by Hans Riemer. Elrich, Floreen and Leventhal remain on the Council.

With Leggett most likely stepping down in 2018 (either voluntarily or via a term limits charter amendment likely to be on the ballot), the status quo is likely to be shattered. Elrich, Floreen and Leventhal all are gunning for County Executive, as are at least two district members – Roger Berliner in D1 and Craig Rice in D2.

Don’t forget David Trone, who also may be eyeing this race hungrily. And LD19 Delegate Ben Kramer, who’s openly coveted a chance to run for his dad Sid Kramer’s old job for years. 

The impending cataclysm would also leave three of four council at large seats open, which hasn’t happened in, I’m pretty sure, forever.

I won’t rattle off the list of names that have been rumored to be considering a run, but suffice it to say that there will be a lot of interest in what is shaping up to be a watershed year in local politics.

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I’m going to drop the names.

Here’s a clearly incomplete list of people mentioned to me when I started asking around about who was interested. I haven’t called anyone to confirm, because this early, nobody’s going to publicly say anything. So I’m sure there’s some that won’t end up doing it, and there’s others not on the list who will. The list is for entertainment purposes only – don’t go making any bets on any names here.

Evan Glass. Ran a great race in D5 in 2014, but came up around 200 votes short. Has been anything but bashful about his interest in another run. 

Terrill North. Didn’t do as well in D5 in 2014, but is a smart, savvy guy who will assuredly learn from his experiences.

Will Jawando. Ran for delegate in 2014. Ran for Congress in 2016. Is pursuing the D20 Senate vacancy later this year, and presumably a resulting delegate appointment as well. If he doesn’t get an appointment, rumor is he may run for Council.

Gabe Albornoz. Head of the County’s recreation department and former chair of the county central committee. No prior runs for office. 

Kathleen Matthews. That lady who ran for Congress. You remember her, right?

Marilyn Balcombe. Head of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce for over a decade. Deeply involved in local politics. Would be a first time candidate.   
Beth Daly. Upcounty resident who ran unsuccessfully in 2014. Those close to her say she won’t run again, but the rumors persist.

Um, me. Maybe. Possibly. Lots of things to consider and sort out between now and then.

One or more sitting delegates. The pay is better, you’re one of nine instead of one of 141, and you’re closer to home. Plus, there are multiple vacancies. Look for one or more delegates to at least consider this race. Names I’ve heard bandied about include Jeff Waldstreicher, Al Carr, Ariana Kelly, and Marc Korman.

While we’re here and on a roll, let’s tackle the district races. Just for funsies, of course.

D1: Roger Berliner is running for exec. Prominent names mentioned include former Franchot henchman and Trone campaign Svengali Andrew Friedson and current LD16 delegate Marc Korman.

D2: Craig Rice is likely running for county exec. If he does, the drumbeat has been getting louder and louder recently that current D39 delegate Charlie Barkley will run to replace Rice. Marilyn Balcombe is also frequently mentioned as a candidate here.

D3: Sid Katz just won this seat in 2014 and is highly likely to stay put in 2018.

D4: Nancy Navarro has held this seat since 2009, when she narrowly won a special election over Ben Kramer. There is some queries whether she’d be pushed out by the term limits proposal. If she is term limited, she might well join the crowd in the exec race or look elsewhere. Her precinct is the only one currently in both Council D4 and LD20, so maybe she gets in on that chaos? Who knows? I haven’t heard much chatter about who’d run to replace her – anyone got any ideas?

D5: Tom Hucker nabbed this seat in 2014 in a hotly contested race. He’s one of only three Councilmembers who’s not term limited immediately, so he will probably stay put. But – there’s always a but, right? – rumors are that an African-American candidate may run against Hucker in the heavily black D5, maybe Will Jawando or even current D20 Delegate Will Smith (depending on the outcome of the D20 Senate appointment) or someone else. So in this scenario, Hucker might just slide over to the at large race, which would have the added benefit of setting him up for a county exec run down the road.

Got all that? Lots of moving parts, and waiting on (1) Ike Leggett and (2) the outcome of the term limits charter amendment before all the shoes can begin to drop in earnest. But if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that things are definitely gonna change in Rockville, and change a whole lot.

And there’s enough gossip in here to sustain y’all for at least the next, oh, couple of hours? Happy reading.

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