For 14 years, the County Council has gone without a Republican. Now two men vying in the primary think they can change that if given the chance.
Ed Amatetti, a Brooklyn-born former middle- and high-school science teacher, and Kyle Sefcik, a Gaithersburg-based professional mixed martial arts fighter-turned-small business owner, have both said 2018 is a ripe time for a Republican to replace incumbent Craig Rice in District 2.
District 2, which contains much of the up-County, including Clarksburg, Germantown and Damascus, is seen by many as the best shot for a Republican to reclaim a seat on the County Council. In a County where there are 260,000 more Democrats than Republicans, it is challenging for any Republican to win a County-wide election.
However, County Council District 2 is the most Republican-friendly district, where Republican candidate Dick Jurgena won 40.4 percent of the vote in the 2014 General Election – the highest percentage of any Republican running for a County seat.
As in many primary elections, Amatetti and Sefcik agree on many things. Both said the County’s policies toward business, such as its regulations, and taxes have hurt job growth and driven people out of Montgomery.
Both men said they worry about development without the County providing proper funds for necessary infrastructure like schools, public transportation and, perhaps most importantly, M-83, a proposed highway that would connect Clarksburg to Gaithersburg.
Both men have said that their party affiliation is not important to who they are as a candidate. And both men have said the County Council has ignored the up-County for far too long.
“We constantly have to tax the people more and more, so we increase the energy tax, we increase the property taxes, we increase the real estate tax, and we are starting to run out of money because our economy no longer grows,” Amatetti said. “And our tax base is leaving the County because we’re becoming less affordable.”
Amatetti has promised if elected to be the lone vote – if necessary – against a property tax increase above the County charter limit, which would need unanimous approval by the County Council, and to curb regulations.
In addition, Amatetti said he wants to change the County requirements on affordable housing units, which require developers to make 15 percent of their units affordable. Amatetti said the current regulations require developers to increase their prices on regular condo units – pricing out would-be middle-class buyers.
While both men are competing against one another in the primary, both said they are looking to court Democrats and independent voters, as each of them looks towards the general election.
“My job going forward – God bless me – is to talk to as many Democrats as I can,” Amatetti said.
As a former teacher, Amatetti has made education reform a large part of his campaign, promising to become the biggest advocate in the County for more charter schools – saying many schools, especially in the up-County, are falling behind.
Amatetti proposed giving teachers and principals more autonomy over schools and classrooms and revamping the Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum, which Amatetti said is being “dumbed down.”
Sefcik said he considers himself a political outsider who is running for office because he feels that his community is not being represented properly. So far, Sefcik has not taken any campaign contributions, totaling $1,300 in contributions in his May report, all of which is his own money.
Sefcik, who runs various speaking events around the County, said he does not like politics; he feels shunned by the County Republican Party, and is uncomfortable asking people for campaign contributions, opting to instead self-finance his campaign.
“I’ve been offered big money – big money, man – and I just say no,” said Sefcik, who said he plans to spend thousands of dollars of his own money in final weeks of his campaign.
A main issue for Sefcik is development, which he said is being planned in the County without proper thought for infrastructure needs – creating overcrowding in schools. Sefcik said he supports development, but that the County has not taken in the proper needs for schools, transportation, and other infrastructure, most notably the proposed M-83.
As a business owner, Sefcik said he knows firsthand the frustration many like-minded entrepreneurs have with the County regulatory and tax regime, saying he personally gone through the frustrating process to get the various permits he needs to runs his businesses.
While Sefcik talks about making the County more business-friendly, he is not a typical Republican. While Sefcik said he grew up a Republican in Damascus, he is not a strong ideologue, even considering a run for County Council at-large as a Democrat before opting to run as a Republican for District 2.
Like his opponent, Sefcik said his party affiliation is secondary to the issues he talks about, saying his goal is to represent the community in the up-County if elected, not push an ideological agenda.
“I’m a man of action; I want to know what needs to be done, and I’m going to go do it,” Sefcik said.
Tom Ferleman, who is still listed on the Maryland Board of Elections’ website as a Republican candidate for County Council District 2, is not actively campaigning due to a health issue, he told the Sentinel.