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Two more at-large candidates file for County Council seats

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Will Jawando Mohammad SiddiqueWill Jawando (D) and Mohammad Siddique (D) both filed for at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council. COURTESY PHOTOS  Since the new term limits amendment to the County charter, preventing reelection bids for at-large incumbent Council members Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, there will be at least three new At-Large Council members in 2018. Two more at-large candidates officially filed for County Council this week, bringing the total number of candidates to 11 for four at-large seats.

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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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Metro follies, elections top Montgomery 2016 stories

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Metro fireA fire in a subway tunnel was just one of the challenges Metro endured as it dealt with derailments, shutdowns and firings. FILE PHOTO  

With Metro shutting down, voters backing term limits, an explosion killing seven people at an apartment complex, racist and anti-Semitic graffiti popping out throughout the county, and a Sentinel investigation revealing problems with local water infrastructure, 2016 will certainly be a year to remember in Montgomery County.

Meanwhile in Prince George’s County, 2016 featured a new hospital is on the way, a delay for a much anticipated mode of travel, two new council seats, and tumultuous times for the county school system.

And The Sentinel was there to see it all. Here are the stories of 2016, from where we sit.

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Ficker does about face on running for office

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Robin FickerRobin Ficker will run for local office in 2018. FILE PHOTO

Former state Del. Robin Ficker (R) is running in 2018 for... something.

Exactly what that something is, the Boyds attorney wouldn't say Friday when he declared his intention to run for local office in two years, only ruling out a return to the state legislature. He lost a run for state Senate in 2014.

"I'm going to run for County office," he said.

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Ficker surprised by size of term limit win

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Robin FickerRobin Ficker     FILE PHOTO  

The referendum on term limits passed by such a wide margin Nov. 8 it even surprised its biggest supporter – former state Del. Robin Ficker (R).

Montgomery County residents voted in favor of the referendum by a 69.4 percent to 30.6 percent margin.

Ficker, a political activist and who helped gather the necessary 10,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot, said the margin of victory surprised him.

“I thought it would pass, I didn't think it would pass as well as it did,” Ficker said.

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Council members mull options

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With the passage of term limits Nov. 8, the County Executive seat is now officially open for 2018.

County Executive Ike Leggett, who previously said he had planned to retire and not run for re-election, will now be prohibited from seeking another term as County Executive in two years.

County Council member George Leventhal (D-At large) will also not be allowed to run for another term on the Council in 2018.

He previously said he did not plan to run for re-election but he filed a notice of intent Nov. 9 with the State Board of Elections to qualify for public contributions from the Public Election Fund.

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Term limits adopted in Montgomery County

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Term limits sign 11-8-16PHOTO BY DANICA ROEM 

Montgomery County voters approved term limits for the County Council and County Executive by a two-to-one margin Tuesday, meaning there will be at least four open seats on the nine-member council in 2018 and an open race for County Executive.

Question B passed by a 68.9 percent to 31.1 percent margin, limiting County Council members and the County Executive to serving three consecutive terms in one office before sitting out for one term in order to run again for the same office.

"Well, this is really what I love about America, where you can bring about peaceful change through the legal and electoral process," said former state Del. Robin Ficker (R), who led the collection for ballot signatures to put the question to referendum. "And this is an example for that."

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Hype over term limits ramps up as election day looms

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While the opposition of the Montgomery County Council to voting “yes” on Question B is unanimous, the council’s financial support is not.

For months, members of the County Council have criticized Question B, a referendum on whether there should be term limits for members of the County Council and County Executive.

If passed, council members and the County Executive would be limited to three four-year terms.

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