Several candidates for Montgomery County offices who were seeking funds from the county’s new public campaign financing system failed to qualify by the deadline this month, potentially narrowing the field of viable candidates in some races.
Six candidates for the four open at-large County Council seats and three candidates for district council seats failed to show they had raised enough money from a required amount of donors by May 12 — 45 days before the June 26 primary.
Of the four county executive candidates who opted for public financing, three Democrats — former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow and at-large council members George L. Leventhal and Marc Elrich — have qualified. But the status of Republican attorney Robin Ficker, who is unopposed in the primary but hopes to compete vigorously in the general election, is less clear.
Ficker said he had only recently discovered that he would have to file documents to qualify for public financing before the primary, even though he has no opponent in that election. Only candidates in contested races can receive public financing, but candidates who do not have opponents in the primary but do in the general election can still participate.
“You would not think someone who has no primary opponent would have to comply with some deadline that’s 45 days before the primary in which he has no opponent,” Ficker said.
He said his campaign got the required amount of contributions from enough county residents to qualify for matching funds, but the state website to enter the data was so slow that he and his team couldn’t input all the information by the deadline. Ficker plans to file amendments with the additional data and said he “absolutely” qualifies.
The state has 10 days to certify which candidates have qualified for public financing.
The 2018 election is the first in which candidates for Montgomery county executive or County Council can seek matching funds for their political campaigns.
Under the system, which was the county council passed in 2014, candidates can receive public money if they agree to limit the contributions they accept to no more than $150 from individual donors who live in the county. They also agree to take no contributions from corporations, unions or political action committees.
To qualify, candidates must receive a minimum number of contributions from a minimum number of donors. The numbers vary depending on the office; candidates for county executive, for example, must show they have raised at least $40,000 from at least 500 donors to participate.
The matching funds range as well, from $2 to $6 for every dollar raised by a hopeful. A county executive aspirant who raises the maximum of $250,000, for example, is eligible to receive $750,000 in matching funds from the county.
Six Democratic at-large candidates — Rosemary Arkoian, Craig Carozza-Caviness, Richard Gottfried, Neil Greenberger, Melissa McKenna and Darwin Romero — did not file new paperwork by this month’s deadline, meaning they will not be eligible to receive public money. Two District 1 candidates — Democrat Bill Cook and Republican Richard Banach — and District 5 candidate Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd, a Democrat, also did not file to qualify for public financing.
Earlier this year, five at-large candidates — Democrats Shruti Bhatnagar, Loretta Garcia, Paul Geller and Michele Riley and Green Party candidate Tim Willard — were disqualified from the public financing system by the state Board of Elections because they did not meet the requirements for certification.
Candidates who are not using the public finance system are free to raise money in the traditional way, with larger donations.
Greenberger, a longtime county government employee who spent years as the council’s public information officer, said he realized about two weeks before the deadline that he was not going to qualify. He plans to put his own money into his campaign, as well as solicit larger donations, and expressed confidence that he’ll win a council seat. “I feel bad for some of the other candidates that tried for public financing,” he said. “Some of them will not have the resources I have . . . to buy the mailings and whatever it takes.”