Robin Ficker was quite clear after he delivered petitions for a term-limits ballot question to Montgomery County officials on Monday: he had no assistance from Help Save Maryland, an organization that has been designated a “nativist extremist” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama-based non-profit that monitors extremist political activity.
Council member Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County), one of five council members who would be barred from running for re-election under Ficker’s proposal, had charged that Ficker worked with Help Save Maryland to collect the 10,000 signatures required to place the measure on the ballot.
Asked about the alleged collaboration on Monday, Ficker said: “I never got any [signatures] collected by Help Save Maryland.”
But Brad Botwin, executive director of Help Save Maryland, said Tuesday that he collected “hundreds and hundreds of signatures, if not more than that.”
Botwin, who denied that Help Save Maryland is a hate group, said the organization supports the Ficker amendment because it would bar re-election of Navarro, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), and four other council members, all of whom he described as supportive of undocumented immigrants. The measure would limit elected officials to serving no more than three consecutive terms.
“I’ve been out collecting signatures for almost a year,” Botwin said, and “turned them in to Ficker or some of the people working for him.”
Help Save Maryland describes itself on its website as “dedicated to preserving Maryland’s counties, cities and towns from the negative effects of illegal aliens.”
In January Botwin posted a notice on the website urging members to get in touch with him so they could sign Ficker’s petitions. “Let’s send an important message to our elected officials,” he wrote.
Asked again about the issue on Tuesday, Ficker, said Botwin collected signatures at Republican party events, but added that he “never saw the words Help Save Maryland displayed.”
“Don’t let a far fetched, McCarthy-like Guilt by Association argument be made up,” Ficker wrote in an email.
Botwin said he opposes the county’s status as an immigrant “sanctuary” and Leggett’s 2014 announcement that the county would no longer honor requests by federal immigration authorities to detain prisoners beyond their scheduled release dates without probable cause.
Navarro, the council’s only Hispanic member and the first immigrant woman to serve, accused Ficker of targeting her with the charter amendment. Navarro won a 2009 special election before winning full terms in 2010 and 2014. Ficker was among the opponents she defeated. Help Save Maryland also spoke out against Navarro in 2009.
“Navarro has close ties to CASA of Maryland and the illegal alien community. She is also a founder of Centro Familia, another front group for illegal aliens funded by Montgomery County tax dollars,” the group’s site said.
“I guess the Trump factor is in full-effect in Montgomery County,” Navarro said on her Facebook page Monday evening.