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Candidates test new campaign finance system

  • Published in Local

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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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.

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Ficker and Bessel debate merits of county term limits

  • Published in Local

Bessel  Ficker - Term Limits DebatePaul Bessel, left, and Robin Ficker, right, take part in a debate over term limits in Montgomery County. PHOTOS BY MARK POETKER  

ROCKVILLE -- A debate about term limits Monday night featured an argument based on studies and facts against one centered on a distrust of local elected officials.

During the debate moderated by Montgomery County Sentinel executive editor Brian Karem, term limits opponent Paul Bessel debated term limit advocate Robin Ficker at the Montgomery County Council Chambers about the merits of Question B on the fall ballot.
If passed, five of the nine council members would not be allowed to run for re-election in 2018.

"We need an infusion of new talent," said Ficker.

"I can't find any study that says term limits result in anything good," said Bessel.

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