MoCo Councilmember Campaign Finance Reports

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As everyone knows, 2018 is going to be a year of massive upheaval in Rockville. Three term incumbent County Executive Ike Leggett and four members of the County Council (Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, and George Leventhal) are all term limited, and another Councilmember (Craig Rice) is looking to run for executive as well. Speculation is so rampant about who’s running for Council that I hear there are lists of 30-40 people looking at the at large race.

For now, however, let’s look at the incumbent Councilmembers and what their fundraising the past year says (or doesn’t) about (1) their 2018 intentions and (2) whether they intend to avail themselves of the County’s new public financing law, either now or in the future.

Let’s start with the term limited Councilmembers.

Only one has thus far both publicly indicated that he’s running and that he will pursue public financing: George Leventhal. He has established a new campaign account (Leventhal for Montgomery County) and has raised over $15,000 thus far. Interestingly, more than half of that amount (approximately $8,600) got chewed up in campaign costs, showing the financially perilous path of public financing. You have to raise enough to qualify for matching funds, but until you do, your costs are going to be very high relative to donations.

Marc Elrich has clearly indicated that he’s running for executive, but he didn’t establish his new campaign account yet. I am certain that he will pursue public financing. Marc’s latest campaign report shows that he did no fundraising in 2016, as his only receipt was a $500 contribution from Jamie Raskin when he closed his state campaign account last month. Elrich has a little over $1,200 cash on hand.

Roger Berliner has made no public announcement of his campaign for executive, but all indications are that he is running too. I would expect Roger to pursue the traditional fundraising route, but his recent campaign report shows no fundraising from April 2016 to January 2017 other than a single check from Comcast and his cash on hand is a little over $1,000. That reads like a guy getting ready to open a public financing account, but I’d be surprised if that happened. Stay tuned to see how this shakes out.

At least at this point, Nancy Floreen has generated virtually no buzz that she intends to run for County Executive. If you’re of the belief (as at least a few chatty birds of mine have expressed) that under the radar behavior was a ruse to cover for a year of massive fundraising, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Floreen raised $2,650, all but $100 of it from corporations and PACs, and has less than $6,000 cash on hand. If she does run for Executive, I feel confident in predicting that she will not pursue public financing. But if I had to guess, I don’t think she’s running.

Craig Rice has yet to file his 2017 annual report. Whether he runs for reelection or for County Executive, I expect him to pursue the traditional fundraising path.

While the other four Councilmembers aren’t term limited, it’s an interesting exercise to see who elects to opt in to the public financing system. While there was much discussion about how it would be required for candidates to pursue it in 2018, it’s not shaking out that way, both because it’s a high bar to meet and because of increasing fears that there won’t be enough money to go around with the massive number of council candidates. So far, only $7 million has been set aside for matching funds in 2018. It’s not hard to foresee that money running out in the middle of the campaign.

To precisely no one’s surprise, Sid Katz isn’t pursuing public financing. He raised $49,900 and managed to do so while expending only a little over $5,000. There’s already been a bit of a reaction to Katz’s report here, and I’ve heard some private offline grumbling elsewhere, but it’s hardly surprising.

Nancy Navarro’s report suggests she’s looking at public financing for a potential reelection run. She only raised $2,000, she spent over twice that much, and she has $5,000 in the bank.

Tom Hucker went the traditional fundraising route, and corralled a nice haul of over $36,000, only spending around $9,000 in the process. Hucker is now sitting on just under $65,000 cash on hand.

Finally, Hans Riemer, the only at large member eligible to run for reelection in 2018, established a public finance committee the day the annual reports were due, January 18. His existing committee raised less than $4,000, paid himself back a $3,000 loan, and ended with a balance of just over $1,000.

Bonus report: retiring County Exec Ike Leggett is sitting on a cool quarter of a million bucks. Wonder where that’s gonna go?

I’ll have more thoughts and comments on the various races and stories around Montgomery Dounry coming up soon, but for now, you’re as knowledgeable as the Board of Elections as to each of the Councilmembers’ fundraising operations.

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