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Nancy Floreen split the Republican vote, not the Democratic!, and three other 2018 lessons learned

Nancy Floreen split the Republican vote, not the Democratic!, and three other 2018 lessons learned

The 2018 election was good for the Democrats nationally although Maryland results were pretty much status quo. My own focus is local however, on Montgomery County, so let’s look at the numbers here in Maryland’s largest county. I draw four conclusions…

Conclusion #1: County executive candidate Nancy Floreen split the Republican vote, not the Democratic!

This year, Democrat Marc Elrich won 64.3% of the vote (preliminary result) to Independent Nancy Floreen’s 19.2% and Republican Robin Ficker’s 16.4%.

Contrast with 2014, when incumbent Democrat Ike Leggett won a third term as county executive with 65.3% of the vote to Republican Jim Shalleck’s 34.2%.

This year, the non-Democrats’ votes, Floreen’s and Ficker’s, total 35.6%. Compare to Republican Shalleck’s 34.2% in 2014. The difference is a mere 1.2 points. Trump-era Democrats’ stayed true to their party, and Nancy Floreen split the Republican vote, not the Democratic!

Conclusion #2: Public finance works, and woe betide a candidate who raises narrowly.

Marc Elrich maxed out on public-finance matching funds, receiving $750,000 in public money for the primary and $750,000 for the general election, given support from over 3,600 donors who contributed $150 or less. Nancy Floreen’s campaign had 685 donors, less than one-fifth Elrich’s count.

It’s said that “yard signs don’t vote,” but donors do, and given their campaign equity, they tell their friends about their candidate. A public-finance candidate must build a substantial donor-voter base in order to receive matching funds. To max out, the candidate must go wide by raising from diverse geographic, cultural, and age demographics and interests.

Yet Floreen stayed narrow. Montgomery Neighbors PAC found that “87.5% of the total funds raised in support of Nancy Floreen’s campaign,” direct to her campaign and to the County Above Party Super PAC, “comes from one industry – land developers, financiers, builders, apartment managers, service providers, and commercial and residential real estate agents.”

Public finance worked by providing Elrich both the funds he needed to win and an incentive to go wide. Floreen stayed narrow and lost.

Conclusion #3: Montgomery County voted county, party, and PRESENCE, to the detriment of Ben Jealous.

Both Marc Elrich and Nancy Floreen are long-time local electeds with oversize personalities. They have equal presence. It’s party and positioning that explain Elrich’s victory over Floreen. The perception that Elrich cares about everyday people contrasts with Floreen’s perceived pro-developer bias.

Why didn’t Democrats similarly back Ben Jealous? He and Elrich are cut from the same progressive cloth, yet in Democrat-dominated Montgomery County, Jealous scored only 54.5%, lagging Elrich by 10.8 points.

Jealous’s Maryland association was simply too weak. He lacked local presence, coming across as a movement guy more than as someone you’d look to craft a workable state budget. His scant state voting record didn’t help, and his involvement in the Maryland marriage-equality fight was peripheral. So most Marylanders were introduced to Jealous as a Bernie guy, which gets you only so far. Bernie Sanders did show up for his 2016 state campaign chair, saying “I am proud to be here because Ben is one of those leaders who is not going to be nibbling around the edges, but understands we have got to transform the economic and political life of this country.”

I suspect that most Marylanders — the state overall voted 56% for Hogan and 43% for Jealous — wanted a first-term governor, if Jealous, who they could be confident would focus on the state first. Fine for incumbent Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to spend time going after Donald Trump. Frosh is a Montgomery County native who has served the state well, and he earned 77.8% of the county’s vote this year. Going back to 2014, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown was well known as then-Lieutenant Governor and won in Montgomery County over Hogan 61.7% to 36.9%. Both Frosh and Brown in 2014 possessed the presence that Jealous lacked, the voter’s sense that the candidate is in it for the long haul for us.

Conclusion #4: The 2022 election just became a bit less interesting.

Progressive Marc Elrich earned only one percentage point fewer votes than centrist incumbent Ike Leggett did in 2014. This fact should give pause to anyone thinking of challenging Elrich from the center in the 2022 Democratic primary, whether that person is a business figure (David Blair’s positioning in this year’s primary) or a known political quantity, say a term-limited councilmember. Then again, one of those latter figures could make a compelling 2022 candidate for statewide office. Let the positioning begin!

Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County

Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County

Our society is unequal, but of perhaps greater concern, it is inequitable. Synonyms for inequitable: biased, unfair, unbalanced, discriminatory. We need to redress past inequity. We need to ensure opportunity for all.

We must concern ourselves with discrimination, whether intended or not, associated with gender, race and ethnicity, geography, economic resources. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., injustice to any person and not just in any place.

Let’s think in terms of redress, having two senses: correction (of the underlying inequity) and compensation, noting that in many cases, those who are advantaged in an inequitable situation and wield power in that situation are not those who created the situation. We’re nonetheless duty-bound to address it.

  • Let’s ensure educational programming and spending that will close the achievement gap and, even better, prevent it from opening via universal pre-K and early learning opportunities.
  • Let’s address criminal-justice issues that have led to mass incarceration of African American and other minority youth and adults – end the school-to-prison pipeline – apply principles of restorative justice – boost reintegration into society.
  • Let’s recognize the role African Americans and other minorities have played in building our county and historic discrimination against women and LGBTQ neighbors: We aim for inclusion and balance and equitable civic and political representation.
  • Let’s help all county residents thrive, including seniors via aging-in-community initiatives and immigrants via English-language instruction and cultural sensitivity.
  • Every resident deserves safe and affordable housing in an attractive neighborhood, strong schools, convenient transportation, and fair wages and the opportunity to start a business.

I applaud Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiatives Unit, aiming for awareness, knowledge, and understanding of one’s own and students’ and staff’s racial and cultural identity. Let’s extend this framework to gender and sexuality and let’s apply it broadly to county government.

The bottom line: Equity should be a primary consideration in Montgomery County revenue, spending, and programing decisions, and in county government operations. I will work to make that happen.


A recently published Urban Institute report, “Racial Inequities in Montgomery County: 2011–15,” describes “a challenge in overcoming the racial and ethnic inequities that are highlighted in the divide between Council District 1, home to Bethesda and Chevy Chase, and District 5, where Silver Spring and Takoma Park are located.”

The report is worth a look. “This brief measures inequities in education, income, employment, and homeownership by race and ethnicity in Montgomery County and its council districts and provides a profile on what racial equity would look like in the county. Quantifying this information will help county agencies, policymakers, and advocates recognize the community’s needs and to build new solutions and create a more equitable county.”

Income disparities by race across Montgomery County

Please visit sethgrimes.org/issues for the statement in the first part of this article and other takes on Montgomery County concerns.

Mike Tidwell: Will you join me on Sunday?

Mike Tidwell: Will you join me on Sunday?

A letter from environmental activist Mike Tidwell:

My friend and former city council rep Seth Grimes launches his Montgomery County Council campaign this weekend at a Takoma Park event. I’ll be with him. Will you join us?

Seth drafted Takoma Park’s polystyrene food serviceware ban and wrote a bill expanding recycling. Seth worked with activists to ban cosmetic lawncare pesticide use and helped pass a countywide ban. He promoted curbside food-waste pickup for composting and advanced the city’s environmental sustainability agenda. He has backed fossil-fuels divestment and acted to protect the county’s watershed and the urban forest.

Seth understands environmental challenges, and he knows how to make local government work.

This is why I’m backing Seth for Montgomery County Council at large and speaking at his October 22 launch event, 2 pm in Takoma Park. RSVP at http://bit.ly/SG22Oct to join us.

If you can’t make it then, you have another opportunity on Sunday October 29: Seth’s Campaign Launch II in Bethesda at 2 pm. RSVP at http://bit.ly/SG29Oct.

Both events are free, but donations of $10-$150 are welcome. Seth has opted in to Montgomery County public finance and is not accepting developer or PAC money. Visit http://SethGrimes.org to learn more and donate.

The time to get behind strong, progressive candidates like Seth is now.