David Blair, a wealthy businessman mentioned as a possible candidate for county executive for much of the past year, made it all but official Thursday that he will seek the Democratic nomination, calling it “highly likely.”
“I expect to make a formal announcement within the next month,” Blair said in a telephone interview.
At a Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday afternoon at Park Potomac, Larry Rosenblum, who was County Executive Ike Leggett’s longtime campaign treasurer, worked the room with Blair and introduced him as “our next county executive.”
A Montgomery County native who grew up in Darnestown, Blair said Thursday that he expects to partially self-finance a campaign for county executive. “I imagine that my wife and I will contribute to my campaign, as well as trying to raise some money from the community, but we haven’t made a final decision on that yet,” he said. He said he also has not decided how much of his personal assets he is willing to spend on a campaign.
Blair, a 48-year old Potomac resident, would join a field of Democratic candidates in next June’s primary that already includes three term-limited County Council members—Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of Takoma Park, and Roger Berliner of Bethesda—as well as state Del. Bill Frick of Bethesda.
Blair donated $1,000 to Frick’s state delegate campaign committee in 2016, a year before Frick announced his bid for executive.
Robin Ficker is the only Republican who has filed to run.
While a frequent contributor to political campaigns in recent years, Blair’s most visible political involvement has been as a founder of Empower Montgomery, an advocacy group formed in 2015 to increase the influence of the business community in county elections. The other founders include former County Council member Steve Silverman of Burtonsville, who now heads his own lobbying and government affairs firm, and Charles Nulsen, president of Bethesda-based Washington Property Co.
Blair first floated the idea of running for office in 2012 in a Washington Business Journal interview, not long after Rockville-based Catalyst Health Solutions, a publicly held firm of which he was then chief executive, was sold for $4.4 billion. A published report at the time put Blair’s take from the sale of the firm, which manages prescription drug benefits for government and private industry, at about $12 million.
In the five years since the sale of Catalyst Health Solutions, Blair has been involved in several other health care ventures and is a partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington basketball and ice hockey franchises, the Wizards and the Capitals.
Blair may not be the last entrant in the Democratic field for county executive prior to the Feb. 27 filing deadline. Former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow told Bethesda Beat last week that she would decide sometime in October whether to run, and another Rockville-based female politician, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan has been considering a bid.
The county has yet to elect a woman as executive; six men have held the post since it was first created nearly 50 years ago.
In addition, former County Council member Mike Knapp, now head of a Germantown-based employment services firm, has yet to rule out a run.