Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) has made no secret of his desire to be the next county executive. So it is no surprise that his first fundraiser for the 2018 campaign will be less than two weeks after the end of the 2016 season.
The flier calls the Nov. 19 affair in Silver Spring his “Triple Chai Birthday Party,” chai in this case being the Hebrew word for long life and a combination of Hebrew letters whose corresponding numerical value add up to 18. Leventhal turns 54 that day, and according to Jewish tradition, any multiple of 18 is considered good luck.
“I’m not making any announcement yet,” Leventhal said, when asked about why he is raising campaign funds. “An announcement will come later.”
Leventhal is one of several county lawmakers who would be barred from seeking another term on the council if a term-limits measure passes on Tuesday. Incumbent County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has said he will not seek reelection, clearing the way for a new elected county leader.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about Leventhal’s birthday fundraiser is that it suggests he will use the new publicly funded campaign finance system, set up by the council in 2014 legislation, in his next election campaign. The flier says: “Contributions may not exceed $150 per individual and to qualify for public matching funds, may not be accepted from corporations, PACs or labor unions.”
Under the new setup, candidates can leverage small individual donations (between $5 and $150) into matching funds, at a ratio of as much as 6-to-1. To qualify, a candidate for county executive must collect at least 500 donations totaling $40,000. Leventhal could collect up to $750,000 in public money for his campaign. Candidates who qualify can start receiving matching funds as early as this June, a year before the 2018 Democratic primary.
“I think public campaign finance is a great experiment,” Leventhal said. “We all want it to succeed.”
The public match system — in combination with open seats that might be created if the term-limit ballot proposition is approved by county voters next week — is expected to generate a crowded field of candidates for county executive and council in 2018.
“It will be a lot of people,” Council member Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty) said at a government operations committee meeting Thursday. “Just know that.”