About four months after the presidential election and just days before the start of filing for candidates, the race for County Executive is starting to heat up.
For the first time since 2006 there will be an open seat in the County Executive Office building in 2018 leading to an array of contenders to replace the outgoing County Executive Ike Leggett. The candidate filing period begins Feb. 28 and the primary election is June 26.
Leggett, who has said his current term will be his last, cannot run for re-election after voters in November passed a referendum on term limits, limiting members of the County Council and the County Executive to three consecutive, four-year terms.
The chief proponent of the term limit referendum is also one of the first people to enter the County Executive Race – Robin Ficker.
Ficker, a criminal defense lawyer and local political activist from Boyds said he will run for County Executive as a Republican in 2018.
“We need someone that can deliver for the good people of Montgomery County and I’ve shown that I can do that, as far as term limits are concerned which was opposed by all the elected officials,” Ficker said.
Ficker, who served in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1983, and ran and lost for other elected offices including County Council and County Executive.
Since the term limit referendum, Ficker said he has spent time going around the County raising money and said he intends to qualify for the County’s publicly-funded campaign resources.
Ficker said the issues he is most concerned about are the County’s high property taxes, traffic congestion on I-270 and inadequate infrastructure for a growing County.
Ficker would have to overcome a big hurdle in order to win in 2018, as the County has not elected a Republican County Executive since James P. Gleason in 1978. Ficker said the fact that his term limit referendum passed with 69 percent of the vote is an indicator voter might chose a Republican in 2018.
“I think the people want someone who has delivered and will deliver in the future and would bring about some change and I think I’m that person,” he said.
While candidate filing begins on Feb. 28, candidates will have a long time to decide before the June 2018 primary. Council member George Leventhal (D-at large), said he has not made a decision on whether he plans to run for County Executive or not.
Since November’s presidential election, Leventhal who cannot run for re-election after term limits were added to the County charter, said he will have an announcement in June about his future political plans.
While Leventhal said he has not made a decision, he has hinted a possibility he might run. While he is considering his decision, he has spent time going around the County listening to residents, including a fundraising event he held during his birthday party in November.
A message on his website reads in part, “Please support George as he prepares to launch another campaign to serve the people of Montgomery County,” with a YouTube campaign ad-style video with dates of the Democratic Primary and General elections in 2018.
“I’m doing a lot of listening to people around the county,” Leventhal said.
Total Wine & More co-founder David Trone is considering a run for County Executive according to a statement.
“The campaign for Congress strengthened my commitment to be in public service. A number of people have suggested opportunities in that regard, and I am in the process of deciding on my next step,” Trone said in a statement.
Trone, who co-founded Total Wine, ran for the Democratic nomination for Maryland Eighth congressional district, where he lost to now congressman Rep. Jamie Raskin (D- 8). Trone spent more than $13 million of his own money on the race.
Fellow at-large council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large) also said she is considering a run for County Executive, but has not made a decision yet.
“At this point, you know, we will wait and see,” she said.
Floreen, like Leventhal and Elrich, cannot run for reelection in 2018. Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large), did not respond to requests for an interview, but has previously told the Sentinel that he will “probably” run for County Executive in 2018.