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ROCKVILLE — If there is any more evidence needed to show that Montgomery County will have a contested general election for County Executive for the first time in decades, — Monday night’s debate is definitive proof.
The three candidates vying to succeed Ike Leggett as County Executive squared off in a contentious debate Monday night at the Montgomery County Council Office Building, offering different visions for the County’s future and trading personal jabs. Sentinel Executive Editor Brian Karem and columnist Paul K. Schwartz moderated the debate among the three candidates.
The event began with just the two at-large members of the County Council, Marc Elrich and Nancy Floreen.
With Republican candidate Robin Ficker absent at the start of the debate, Floreen and Elrich began outlying their vision for the County’s economic future.
Elrich, who won a tightly-contested Democratic primary with businessman David Blair, led the Council’s decision to pass an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. Elrich said he is skeptical of the County’s decision toward development, arguing the developers need to pay more for schools and infrastructure.
Elrich, who has objected to calls that he is anti-business, which in part prompted a run from the Democrat-turned-independent Floreen, said he supports business, just not unnecessary government incentives to commercial developers.
“Look, I view business as, they are the employers that make the County tick,” Elrich said. “The fact that I don’t believe in giveaways to certain developers is different than how I feel about that.”
Floreen began her opening statements addressing the difficult political environment, saying the County needs a stable leader who can guide it through political turmoil in Washington D.C. as well as work with whoever is in the Governor’s Mansion next year.
Floreen said the County is done with tax increase after the County Council unanimously approved an 8.7 percent property tax increase. Floreen has tried to position herself as a business-friendly moderate who will streamline the County’s procurement process and provide more outreach to local business who feel like their concerns are ignored by local leaders.
“This is a diverse, it’s a complex community. I’m committed to addressing all of our needs without having to raise taxes,” Floreen said.
The full story will be in this week’s edition of the Sentinel.