ABOUT 50 candidates are on the June 26 Democratic primary ballot for the Montgomery County Council, well over half of them vying for four at-large seats, three of them open because of term limits, on the nine-member body. In an overwhelmingly Democratic county, the primary winners are likely shoo-ins in November; no Republican has won a countywide election in 16 years.
As the legislature for a jurisdiction of 1.1 million people, the council plays a central role in land use, transportation, housing and fiscal policy, among other matters; it also controls the purse strings for the school system, one of the nation’s largest, funded mainly by local taxes. With the county at a crossroads — prosperous but also straining to maintain schools and services on the backs of a tepid business climate and aging residents — the next council’s composition is critical.
Our endorsements in the primary contests are based on an assessment of which candidates are most likely to help broaden a tax base now lagging the demand for services — those who can stand up to entrenched interests and cultivate balanced growth.
For the at-large seats, we support Hans Riemer, the lone incumbent eligible for reelection, and three other richly experienced candidates: Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe and Evan Glass.
Mr. Riemer, running for a third term, is a steady lawmaker respected by his colleagues, who elected him as the council’s current president. He has been a leader on expanding programs to help children from low-income families, and on other measures aimed at fostering a modern economy, including establishing a coding program for students and expanding wireless and broadband networks.
Mr. Albornoz served for a decade as director of Montgomery’s Recreation Department, managing thousands of employees, dozens of facilities and a large budget of tens of millions of dollars. Few county officials are as capable or widely admired, including by his own rivals in the at-large race.
Ms. Balcombe, chief of the Gaithersburg- Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is an exemplary community activist, having played key roles in building a local library and park. She would lend a pragmatic, business-minded common sense to a council on which that quality is badly needed.
Mr. Glass, a nonprofit executive, has been an effective advocate for affordable housing, preserving green space and pedestrian safety. Independent-minded, tireless and deeply committed to local communities, he would be the council’s first openly gay member.
In the remaining council races, for individual district seats, our endorsements are as follows:
District 1 (Bethesda/Potomac/Poolesville): This is a contest to replace a council veteran, Roger Berliner, who’s running for county executive. The best candidate in a strong field is Andrew Friedson. A longtime senior official in the state comptroller’s office, Mr. Friedson has a wealth of experience in combing through major agency and program budgets, and financing small business and higher education.
District 2 (Germantown/Clarksburg/Damascus):Craig Rice, a two-term incumbent and former state lawmaker, is a competent, constructive council member who has been a champion for underprivileged residents. He deserves reelection.
District 3 (Rockville/Gaithersburg): Sidney Katz, who spent decades as a city council member and then was mayor of Gaithersburg before being elected to the County Council in 2014, is a consensus builder whose down-to-earth, practical brand of politics reflects a career spent building relationships as a small-business owner. He combines a sense of decency with a broad streak of independence — exactly the qualities needed to withstand the pleadings of special interests that have contributed to the county’s growing fiscal travails.
District 4 (Wheaton/Olney/Laytonsville): Nancy Navarro, a nine-year incumbent, is a progressive stalwart on the council and a former school board member who has been a champion of minority rights. She merits reelection.
District 5 (Silver Spring/Burtonsville/Colesville): Tom Hucker has had a solid first term on the council and should return. A former state legislator, he has a liberal track record reflecting his constituency.
In addition to the council races, four seats on the Montgomery County school board will be decided in the November general election; primaries are being held in just two races — at-large and District 3 — to select the top two vote getters for November. All eligible voters are able to vote in the nonpartisan races, and the candidates, even those running from particular districts, are elected countywide.
Our choice among the eight candidates vying for the at-large seat being vacated by Jill Ortman-Fouse, a candidate for County Council, is Julie Reiley, a longtime education advocate. A champion for students with special needs, Ms. Reiley has developed a deep understanding of the system and the importance of thoughtful strategies to serve a variety of students. In District 3, incumbent Patricia O’Neill faces challenges from two candidates, but voters should not hesitate to return her for another term. First elected in 1998, she has proved to be an effective and committed leader with an unmatched knowledge of the system.
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