County Council member Nancy Floreen, the unaffiliated candidate for County Executive, knows some people say she’s in the pocket of the developers, and she’ll end up throwing the race to the Republicans.
She readily agreed that much of the $342,000 she has raised came from the those involved in real estate and development. After all, she said, money from business is how the County pays to take care of its schools and help its most-vulnerable residents.
She pointed to the Maryland Hispanic Gala she attended last week, which has raised $700,000 over the past six years for scholarships. Most of those contributions came from business owners, she said.
Most of her $6,000 donations, the most allowed by law, come from members of real estate firms, construction companies and legal and financial services. She received donations from Donohoe Companies, Folger Pratt, Bernstein Management, Soltesz and Miller, and Long Company.
“These are people who employ our residents and create great places and support our non-profit community,” she said. “We should have a partnership.”
Floreen noted that she votes with her fellow council members to create “a daunting set” of requirements and regulations for companies doing business in the County. “We are very tough on these issues.”
She scoffed at those who believe her candidacy will pull votes from Democrat Marc Elrich, thus clearing a path for Republic Robin Ficker to become the next County Executive. “There is no way Mr. Ficker can win.”
Registered Republicans are greatly outnumbered here, and many of them already have shown they won’t support Ficker, she said, noting he has come out on the losing end of many political races here.
Floreen, 66, grew up in Massachusetts and attended Smith College, where she received a B.A. in American Studies. She continued her education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she earned her law degree. She was the first in her family to attend college.
Floreen and her husband are avid bike riders and love to cycle for 20 to 30 miles at a time around Beach Drive, Potomac and Poolesville. She recently took up knitting, is “a big reader,” and belongs to a book club. She described herself as an eclectic reader and had just finished, “The Biker Who Came in From the Cold.”
She became involved in politics when she fought against a building in Silver Spring that was taller than legally permitted. Her efforts resulted in the builder removing the top floor of the building.
Floreen, a breast cancer survivor, was then appointed to the County planning board, where she served from 1986 to 1994.
She moved to Garrett Park in 1990, purchasing a house with husband David Stewart, an author, that was built in 1903. She loves that area and frequents the Black Market Bistro.
Floreen served as Garrett Park mayor from 2000 to 2012. During that time, she also was a County Council member, gaining an at-large seat in 2006, the first time she ran. She successfully ran twice more, winning in 2010 and 2014.
Due to term limits, she could not run for another term this election.
Although she has held political office for many years, Floreen explained, “I don’t have a love for politics, but I have a love for public service.” She is proud of her work “with folks of every background in this County.”
Through those years, she was a member of the Democratic party.
“It’s going to be real hard for people to say” she turned her back on the Democratic party during this election, she claimed.
“I have been deep in the weeds of the Democratic party,” Floreen said. “The Democratic Party did a tribute to me in the Spring of this year.”
However, she is not actively supporting the Democratic candidate for governor. When asked, she chose not to endorse Republican Gov. Larry Hogan or Democrat Ben Jealous, stating instead that she would work with whoever is elected. She supported Prince George’s Executive Rushern Baker in the primary.
“I’m staying out of that,” said Floreen, who has been a member of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist
Church for about 30 years.
Most of the County’s Democrats are working for Elrich. She claims to have the support of some of the “standard bearers” for the Democratic party but would not name any, preferring not to make them uncomfortable, she said.
Floreen entered the race because she believes Elrich would not make a good County Executive.
“Mr. Elrich has a long history of opposing things,” she said, pointing to votes involving downtown Silver Spring, initiatives in Bethesda and other examples of “smart growth.”
He is often the lone “no” vote on Council, and during his 12 years on the Council, his fellow council members have never chosen him as its president and rarely picked his as a committee chair, she said. Floreen has twice served as council president.
As for the Republican candidate, Floreen said, “I am aware of Mr. Ficker’s mantra – no new taxes.” But, she asked, what else does he stand for?
Ficker has negative things to say about her as well. “She hasn’t been bucking the Party the whole time she’s been on council,” he said, adding, “She’s voted the tax increase specialist line the whole time she’s been there.”
Floreen acknowledged she has supported tax increases but said people don’t realize how often she and other council members stave off proposed tax increases.
Rather than raise taxes, Floreen would rather bring more business to the area.
“I am going to be a major champion of our County, regionally, nationally and internationally,” she said. Her goal is for the County to invest around the federal agencies located here and expand incubator systems and high-tech initiatives, she said.
She supports bringing Amazon’s second headquarters here and favors the $5 billion-plus financial package Maryland put together to lure the company here.
“This is the world we are in. Unfortunately, you have to compete with the rest of the world,” she said.
Floreen also supports Governor Larry Hogan’s attempts at tackling traffic congestion here, although she would not agree to add lanes to Routes 495 and 270 and disrupt communities, she said.
She called taking people’s homes to add lanes “totally hypothetical. I don’t think there is the room or the desire. We are not going to take whole communities.”
Routes 495 and 270 “are national roads that serve national drivers,” yet the County bears the responsibility of regional traffic, she noted.
Floreen would like to expand Bus Rapid Transit to Frederick in the Route 270 area and to Columbia along Route 29.
Another of her key issues is phasing the County out of the liquor business.
“I think it’s time to for us to declare prohibition over,” she said, adding that it probably would have to be a gradual shutdown to deal with both the loss of income to the County and the fate of employees.
“I am going to be more forward thinking, practical. We need to play for our future,” she said.
She expects to win. Voters “really want a practical choice. I am prepared to lead.”
Early in her career, she worked for former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski as a constituent services representative in the County.
“Her job was to be my eyes and ears in the community,” Mikulski said, adding she was impressed with Floreen’s commitment.
When asked if she would support Floreen’s independent run for Executive, Mikulski replied, “I am not in a position to speak about that.”
Rose Krasnow, the former Rockville City mayor who unsuccessfully ran for Executive in the recent primary, had
Floreen’s support in that race. Now, Krasnow said she is definitely backing Floreen.
“I have worked with Nancy for many, many years. She is a leader. She can get things done.”