Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Money Chase: Montgomery County Offices

Today, we examine the campaign funds of Montgomery’s county-level office holders. All data pertains to the year ending 1/14/09.

Strongest Position

1. George Leventhal, At-Large (Balance $59,677.53, Net Gain $366.03)
Leventhal is the strongest of the at-large members. He has a broad base that reaches into every important group and every corner of the county. He finished first in the 2006 Democratic primary and is the early favorite to do it again. If Leventhal dominates in 2010, he will be a prominent mention for higher office in 2014.

2. Nancy Floreen, At-Large (Balance $33,206.64, Net Gain $11,188.95)
Floreen is the only at-large member to survive 2006 without getting on the Apple Ballot. She always raises money and works hard at election time. A supporter of union contracts in 2008 and the county’s prevailing wage law, she should have more labor backing in 2010. Floreen is a shrewd survivor who can never be underestimated.

3. Phil Andrews, District 3 (Balance $45,646.22, Net Gain $11,211.99)
Andrews refuses developer and PAC contributions but still has enough money to win. He is the most aggressive door-knocker on the County Council. Most labor unions despise Andrews, but their disastrous foray into Gaithersburg’s 2007 city elections may weaken their influence in District 3.

4. Valerie Ervin, District 5 (Balance $3,193.10, Net Gain $386.12)
District 5 has a history of close races. Derick Berlage won a five-candidate Democratic primary when the seat was created in 1990. Eight years later, Berlage won a hard-fought contest against Marc Elrich. Tom Perez triumphed in a four-way primary in 2002. But Valerie Ervin won the open seat by 24 points in 2006 and may not have a primary challenge next time.

Needs to Do More

1. Duchy Trachtenberg, At-Large (Balance $1,016.16, Net Gain -$2,475)
The county’s public employee unions endorsed Trachtenberg in 2006, but they are now very upset with her over her advocacy for a 2-point COLA cut in 2008 and her recent support of a bill that threatens collective bargaining. Other than the GLBT community and a few parts of the civic community, not many influential groups inside the county are making Trachtenberg’s re-election a top priority. Added to all this is that only 33.7% of Trachtenberg’s campaign contributions have come from Maryland sources since she began her political career in 2002.

2. Marc Elrich, At-Large (Balance $1,392.79, Net Gain -$100)
Elrich, who refuses developer contributions, always has money problems. He depends on a large grassroots network that agrees with his positions on growth and fiscal restraint. Unlike many politicians, Elrich is more focused on pursuing his policy proposals than doing political chores like schmoozing and fundraising. Labor support will be key for his re-election.

3. At-Large Challengers
No at-large contenders that we are hearing about have county-wide name recognition. The cost of building that name ID will be at least $300,000. Any challengers must start raising large amounts of money NOW.

4. Mike Knapp, District 2 (Balance $2,638.53, Net Gain -$7,690.32)
If Knapp is thinking of challenging County Executive Ike Leggett, he is not raising the money for it. If he remains in District 2, his combination of business and labor support should make him as strong an incumbent as last time. Knapp paid out $6,968.25 in rent and office expenses last year, an amount that exceeded any other Council Member.

The Wild Card

Doug Duncan, Former County Executive (Balance $331,545.46, Net Gain -$1,352.66)
We have heard no credible rumors that Duncan will be running for office in 2010, although he is certainly unhappy with the state’s political leadership. So what will he do with all that money? Duncan can still be an effective behind-the-scenes player in Montgomery County if that’s what he wants to do. Even another run for County Executive is not totally out of the question.