Berliner Wall: Councilman Is Tops in Montgomery Exec Fundraising
By Bruce DePuyt
County Councilman Roger Berliner (D) has amassed the largest war chest of any of the six Democrats hoping to succeed Isiah Leggett (D) as Montgomery County executive, but the source of his funding is already giving rivals ammunition to use against him.
Berliner on Wednesday reported raising $550,818 in the past year. After subtracting a relatively modest $68,715 in expenses, he had $483,138 on hand.
Health care entrepreneur David Blair reported $502,019 in contributions in 2017, but more than half of that funding came from Blair himself or relatives. He chipped in $301,640 in personal funds and appears to have received an additional $12,000 from family. After $150,837 in expenses, he had $351,182 in the bank.
Councilman Marc Elrich raised about $85,500 in the reporting period. Combined with his prior bankroll, and the funding he received through his participation in the county’s first-time public financing program, he reported $314,023 in cash. His expenses for the year were a lean $19,906.
Councilman George Leventhal reported $179,926 in his account, raising about $68,000 in contributions and taking in about $280,000 in public funds. Like Elrich and former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow, Leventhal’s total will rise in the days to come, as the formula for providing public funds kicks in following a review of contributions. The new public finance system has proven challenging for campaigns and analysts when it comes to estimating a candidate’s financial strength.
House Majority Leader C. William Frick reported contributions of $190,685. After $80,629 in expenses, his account had $155,273 in cash.
The report for Krasnow, Montgomery’s deputy planning director, was not available when this article was posted. The story will be updated.
In a statement, Berliner expressed gratitude to the “544 contributors from all walks of life who have supported this campaign.” He said he was “proud and honored to have earned the financial support from the leadership of virtually every stakeholder in the county.”
Berliner’s filing statement is awash in large contributions from people with ties to the real estate community and regional business interests.
Although Berliner enjoys a financial edge, Elrich said, “I’d rather be me, because I don’t have to explain money coming from the special interests, from the developer community. Nobody wants to ask these guys to kick in what they need to kick in to fund the infrastructure we need.”
“I feel pretty good” about our campaign report, he added. A three-term council member, Elrich said, “This is more money than I’ve ever had.”
Former Montgomery Councilwoman Gail Ewing (D) called Berliner’s haul “impressive,” adding, “Money isn’t everything, but money can help you look like a winner.”
Ewing cautioned against reading too much into this week’s reports. “The basis of winning campaigns is connecting with people,” she said. “And Marc is very much a people person.”
Former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) said, “They all have healthy amounts. They can all keep going.”
Neither Duncan nor Ewing is aligned with any campaign.
As of 11 a.m. on the day after the filing deadline, Krasnow’s numbers were still missing from the Board of Elections website. “That’s not good,” Duncan said. “That’s a very bad sign for someone who wants to run the county government that they couldn’t get their forms in on time.”
Attorney Robin Ficker, the lone Republican in the county executive race, reported $21,314 in his campaign account. He took in $33,972 over the year, and spent $12,658.