This story has been updated to reflect the June 15 campaign finance filings.
State Del. C. William Frick likes to think of himself as the “third bowl of porridge” for Montgomery County voters selecting their next county executive.
Frick is positioning himself among the five other Democrats running in the June 26 primary as a pro-business candidate with legislative experience — what he hopes will be a comfortable temperature in a county that has never elected an executive lacking a government background.
“I present the best of both worlds to voters,” he said. “I can be a reformer from the outside, and yet I have 10 years of experience as a Democratic elected official.”
But Frick, a Harvard-educated lawyer who has been in the House of Delegates for 10 years — the last year and a half as majority leader — has a steep climb in his quest to succeed outgoing executive Isiah Leggett (D).
Frick, 43, announced his campaign for the office in September, abandoning a run for Congress he had launched just five months earlier. His work in Annapolis during the 90-day legislative session left his chair empty at various debates and forums early this year. And his base is largely District 16 — roughly Bethesda, North Bethesda and Potomac — so he must work to get his name recognized by voters countywide.
“It’s a challenge — it’s a big county,” he said.
Frick, who opted for traditional financing over the county’s new public campaign finance system, has the smallest war chest among the six Democratic candidates, raising $270,171 by mid-June.
He said he’s compensating with “old-school campaigning,” such as knocking on doors and shaking hands with commuters at Metro stations. He tells them he would encourage economic development to attract millennials to places like Wheaton, partly by working to dismantle the county’s monopoly over liquor sales, which he said discourages restaurants from locating in Montgomery.
“I’m not going to have the most money, but I can have the most hustle,” he said.
Frick, a senior practice attorney at the D.C. law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has emerged from behind before. He still refers to a Maryland Politics Watch blog post from 2007 titled “Who the Frick is Bill???” after Frick — then the 32-year-old chairman of the county’s Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee — was appointed to fill a vacant District 16 delegate seat, surprising many observers.
He was elected to a full term in 2010 and set his sights on attorney general in 2014. But he dropped out of that race about an hour before the filing deadline and pivoted to a successful reelection bid.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who appointed Frick majority leader in January 2017, called him “extraordinarily bright, extraordinarily practical” and gifted at finding compromises.
“I think he has something that nobody else in the race in Montgomery has,” said Busch, who has not officially endorsed a county executive candidate. “He has an understanding of state government and how to leverage Montgomery County’s needs with what he needs to get from the delegation and state of Maryland.”
But, Busch said, Frick’s lack of widespread name recognition and a modest war chest make his bid “an uphill battle.”
Frick headed an ultimately unsuccessful effort to put the question of whether to continue Montgomery’s liquor monopoly before voters. He also sponsored a measure that requires the state to purchase a quarter of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. That bill was vetoed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, but the veto was overridden.
Frick received his first — and so far only — endorsement in mid-May, from the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. He’s hoping that voters will turn to him rather than the three council members who are running and who are precluded from staying on the council because of term limits passed by voters in 2016.
In one video ad, Frick stands before the County Council office building arguing that “some people” — he gestures with his thumb at the building — “didn’t get the hint” when term limits were approved.
“This election, it’s time to elect new leaders,” he says, in case viewers didn’t get the hint, either.