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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


Instead of term limits consider changing the game with public finance

Those of you who are readers of the Montgomery County Sentinel are likely well aware on the evening of September 19 the Sentinel conducted a debate with local attorneys Robin Ficker providing the arguments for term limits on members of the County Council and the County Executive and Paul Bessel arguing against the need for such term limits.

During the debate, Mr. Ficker argued term limits encourages more individuals to run for office in that term limits result in more open seats. By not facing incumbents who have reached their term limit, Mr. Ficker argues, the likelihood of winning a seat increases and makes running for office more attractive.

Mr. Bessel countered this claim by pointing to a litany of studies and data that  demonstrate that this assumption is clearly not the case. Moreover, Mr. Bessel went on to state quite emphatically that, if increasing the numbers of individuals who run for office is a legitimate goal of term limits, then it can more effectively be accomplished, not with term limits, but with public funding of elections which makes running for office more affordable.

Regardless of which side of the term limits argument you find yourself, the issue of public funding of elections and whether it actually does impact significantly the number of individuals who may choose to run for office is an issue worthy of considering.


County takes on term limits

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ROCKVILLE -- County residents expressed support and opposition for the upcoming term limit referendum at Wednesday’s Charter Review Commission meeting, a day after the Montgomery County Board of Elections approved a term limit referendum for the November ballot.
The County Charter Review Commission, which was asked to give a response to the proposed referendum, listened as members of the public spoke on the matter.

“Public service ceases to be such when the service’s primary focus is not on the service to the citizens but rather doing anything he or she deems necessary to stay in office,” said Hessie Harris, a resident who spoke in favor of term limits at the meeting.

“In such case, instead of serving the public, the legislative body serves the political and special interest as necessary for re-election. Hence in this regard, the so-called public servants are always campaigning and the decisions made and actions taken reflect that fact.”

Local resident Paul Geller said term limits are a bad idea because they limit voters’ choices,

“What if I told you I agree in this room and we should have term limits in a way,” Geller said. “We already do, it's called elections, it's called voting. Every four years we are given the opportunity to vote people out of office or vote people in office whether they are incumbents or whether they are people who have been around a good long time. I find legislation like this to be absolutely dangerous.”


Council determines method to fight local hunger problem

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ROCKVILLE – Hoping to get the County’s food banks and charities on the same page, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill that would require the County Executive to develop a single plan to fight hunger in the County.

The bill calls for the County Executive to develop a five-year plan to reduce hunger by 10 percent each year, a goal that the bill’s lead sponsor Roger Berliner (D-1) previously said was to serve as a guideline. 

Berliner said the bill’s aim is to coordinate efforts between the county’s agencies and charities to provide meals to the about 78,000 people in the County that do not know where their next meal is coming from.

The County Executive has until Dec. 1 to finalize his plan.

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