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County Executive candidates square off again

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SILVER SPRING — If any of the 300 spectators who arrived at the Northwood High School gymnasium for Sunday’s County Executive candidate forum hoped one of the candidates in attendance would distinguish themselves from the crowded field, they probably left the three-hour event disappointed. 

Seven candidates are vying to replace Democrat Isiah Leggett as County Executive, who became term-limited in 2016 after voters approved a ballot initiative championed by attorney, activist and perennial candidate Robin Ficker, the sole Republican in this year’s race.

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Ficker claims no one denied him access at public meetings in the past

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Robin FickerRobin Ficker FILE PHOTO  On Dec. 26 during an impromptu County Council meeting, Republican candidate for County Executive and political activist Robin Ficker was not given a spot to speak at the public hearing.

While Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large), did not allow Ficker to speak at the Dec. 26 public hearing, many residents who frequent Council meetings and testify – including Ficker – said they have never had trouble voicing their opposition at the Council building before.

“He's making the Council a political body instead of a public body,” said Ficker, who has told the Sentinel he has never had trouble testifying at the Council before.

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Ficker banned from speaking, claims bias

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — Attorney, activist, and perennial candidate Robin Ficker said he was barred from speaking at last week’s County Council public hearing because he is running for County Executive as a Republican even though he admits that he was going to attack the Council instead of testifying about the bill under debate.

“It’s personal. It’s not Robin Ficker-personal; it’s the fact that I’m the only Republican running County-wide,” Ficker said. “They didn’t want to hear what I had to say and they didn’t want me to get any publicity from testifying before the Council.”

Ficker said he signed up to testify before last week’s impromptu County Council meeting, but was not included on the list of witnesses for the hearing, which was meant to quickly to introduce and pass a bill that allowed residents to pay their taxes early in hopes to avoid a projected tax increase from changes in federal taxes.

Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) said members from his staff picked the people who testified at the meeting based upon the analysis of the bill they gave in their requests to speak at the public hearing.

“We wanted people who had some content, and Mr. Ficker expressed none,” Riemer said. “Those who were here had written us extensive emails, you know, even providing a thorough analysis of the issue, so we felt that they would be constructive and helpful.”

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County executive candidates square off

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POTOMAC – Saturday’s candidate forum was one of the first opportunities for the four men filed to run for County Executive to take the stage together and speak to the public directly.

On Saturday, the Montgomery County Muslim Council hosted a forum at the Potomac Community Center for the four people who filed to run for County Executive candidates and current County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) Marc Elrich (D- at large), George Leventhal (D- at large), and attorney and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates Robin Ficker.

The candidates answered questions about diversity, profiling, schools and taxes.

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Race for county executive, county council touched by public financing law

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Robin Ficker remembers raising $200,000 for his unsuccessful 2014 run for State Senate.

Now, public contributions to his 2018 campaign for County Executive can be matched up to $750,000 by the County Public Financing Fund, a potential fundraising boon to his campaign. Even more importantly, his campaign could change the political landscape of Montgomery County. Public financing itself could create a more democratic election and encourage voter participation in 2018.

According to Ficker, a former member of the House of Delegates, the County Public Financing Fund “gets the big moneyed interests out of [the race] and gives power to the average person in Montgomery County.” Ficker notes that the fund’s ability to match citizens’ donations “gives the average person some clout” especially since the first $50 donation to a campaign is matched six-to-one and adds $300 to the campaign, something that Ficker considers unique, saying “There is no jurisdiction in the United States that has anything close to this.”

Although Ficker says he has never taken contributions from PACs, unions, or other groups, this law forbids participating candidates from taking such contributions, another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to expand the impact of private citizens and limit the influence of large organizations. Furthermore, officials say that the Public Campaign Financing law requires candidates to accept only donations from Montgomery County residents and only donations between $5 and $150.

However, there is some debate as to the effectiveness of the program’s limits on donations from large organizations. According to George Leventhal, the program is “an experiment in democracy which is intended to reduce the influence of big money in local politics.”

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Candidates test new campaign finance system

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MoCo LogoMore than a year from the 2018 primary election, candidates for County offices are heading in to a new territory of publicly-financed campaigns,

In 2014, the County Council passed a law to publicly finance County elections in hopes to counter the impact of campaign donations from large businesses and political action committees.

Montgomery County is the first county in the state to have publicly-financed elections, meaning the new funding system for candidates is untested.

“It leads some people running for office to look more to grassroots and small donations,” said Ed Amatetti, a Republican candidate for County Council District-2 on the new campaign finance system.

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Federal cuts run county deep

DHR Home SlideAs it turns out the Attorney General of the United States of America doesn’t have to do a thing to Montgomery County – Mick Mulvaney already took care of that.
Sessions, speaking Monday at a White House briefing urged “Sanctuary” communities to follow the law or face the loss of DOJ. grants – and hinted at other possible retributions.
County Executive Ike Leggett says Montgomery County doesn’t fall under “Sanctuary” status, but he is aware the DOJ isn’t fond of the county because leaders here do not necessarily cooperate with Homeland Security and ICE when it comes to illegal immigrants. The county will honor detainers and turn over criminal illegal immigrants, but otherwise leaves the immigrant community alone.
When a rape allegedly involving two illegal immigrants occurred recently at Rockville High School, more than 100 people came out to protest the county and the City of Rockville’s stance on illegal immigrants. Never mind the protesters didn’t exactly understand the issue, perpetual Republican gadfly Robin Ficker - fresh from his success in forcing term limits on the county and flush with the puffed up pride of a man who promised not to run for county office but had a change of heart – jumped into politicize the tragedy with his two bits.

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Takoma Park seals its reputation as a political nesting ground

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Takoma Park Govt logo

The center of power in the county, state and even at times the federal government is not Washington D.C., but a cozy city nestled just north of it.

During the last few decades, Takoma Park has transformed from a small town home to minority religious community to a progressive political haven and the crucible where political careers begin.

For a small city of 17,000 people, it is home to a long list of political players, such as Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8), newly elected Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and three members of the County Council George Leventhal (D-at large), Marc Elrich (D-at large) and Hans Riemer (D-at large).

“When you have a political belief, be absolutely fearless in promoting it,” said political activist Robin Ficker, who was born in Takoma Park. “Speak your mind and speak your mind until the heavens fall and don't let anyone intimidate you. It's a belief that springs from Takoma Park.”

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Candidate filing opens to a flurry of activity

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It was an unusually busy day at the Montgomery County Board of Elections as two people decided to file their paperwork to run for County offices on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the first day candidates could file their paperwork to run for any of the offices in the 2018 gubernatorial election. BOE Operations Manager Christine Rzeszut said it was an unusually busy filing day with two people deciding to file and total of five scheduled appointments to file.

“We’re going to have more of an active interest because we have open seats, especially in Montgomery County,” Rzeszut said.

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County Executive race is now ON!

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About four months after the presidential election and just days before the start of filing for candidates, the race for County Executive is starting to heat up.

For the first time since 2006 there will be an open seat in the County Executive Office building in 2018 leading to an array of contenders to replace the outgoing County Executive Ike Leggett. The candidate filing period begins Feb. 28 and the primary election is June 26.

Leggett, who has said his current term will be his last, cannot run for re-election after voters in November passed a referendum on term limits, limiting members of the County Council and the County Executive to three consecutive, four-year terms.

The chief proponent of the term limit referendum is also one of the first people to enter the County Executive Race – Robin Ficker.

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