SILVER SPRING — For the three contenders vying for County Executive in November, the question that was on their minds Saturday was how to appeal to neglected East County.
At a forum at the East County Community Recreation Center, the candidates each made their pitch to why, if elected, they won’t ignore the concerns of East County residents.
For Nancy Floreen, a member of the County Council who switched her party affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated to run for County Executive, said the County Council has ignored the East County, focusing most of its development elsewhere.
“I think the East part of the County has been systematically discriminated against,” Floreen said.
Floreen had said previously that the Council put a moratorium on development in the East County, limiting economic growth, which only now has been undone with recent investments such as Viva White Oak.
Unlike her opponents, Floreen has taken a more-positive view to development. Floreen, who has raised $342,000 – much of which is from developers and development law firms – responded to claims that she is being swayed by her campaign donations by saying she does not bash her opponents’ campaign donors.
“I don’t criticize contributors to Mr. Ficker’s campaign, and I don’t criticize contributors to Mr. Elrich’s campaign,” Floreen said.
Republican Robin Ficker has routinely criticized Floreen for her donations from developers, and Elrich, for his support from left-wing political action committees and unions who canvass on his behalf – saying he, Ficker, is the only truly independent candidate in the race.
Elrich said that he is taking part in the County’s public campaign finance system and that whatever support he has earned from unions or PACs is out of his control.
In response to a question about what she thought is the biggest issue facing the County, Floreen said the rising costs of social services the County provides are among many of her concerns.
During her campaign, Floreen has said that one of the reasons she is running for County Executive is that the County is running out of ways to pay for its services – a growing need among the County’s poor.
All three candidates, including Democrat Marc Elrich and Republican Robin Ficker, have pledged to not raise taxes if elected County Executive – a power that lies with the County Council.
As he has done in every forum so far, Ficker made taxes a big issue, arguing that the energy tax and property taxes increases that the Council unanimously passed in 2016 hurt residents and that he is a voice of change – unlike his two opponents.
“I symbolize change in this race,” Ficker said.
Elrich, a progressive with the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America Metro DC chapter and other left-wing groups, talked about needing to restructure the County government in order to make it more responsive to the needs to businesses and residents.
“If you want more efficiency, you’re not going to get it out of the same structure today,” Elrich today.
On marijuana legalization, a growing issue in the state of Maryland as many residents push for its passage, each of the candidates gave a different perspective on the issue.
Elrich called for outright legalization, saying the state needs to legalize and regulate marijuana, Floreen said she has mixed feelings on the subject and could be swayed either way, while Ficker said he supports decriminalization, but not legalization fearing more children could use the drug.