Former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow will enter the 2018 Democratic primary for county executive this week, putting her in contention to become the first woman elected to the post since it was created five decades ago.
Krasnow, who told Bethesda Beat in late September that she was seriously considering running, plans to formally announce her candidacy Thursday. She will join a Democratic field that already includes at-large Council members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, District 1 Council member Roger Berliner, and state Del. Bill Frick, D-Bethesda.
Businessman David Blair is also expected to join the Democratic race in the coming days.
Krasnow, 66, holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and served as Rockville mayor from 1995 until 2001, after four years on the city council. In 2004, she went to work for the Montgomery County Planning Department, and has been its deputy director since 2013—a post from which she plans to resign as of Dec. 31.
“Because I frequently appear in front of the [County Council], and three of the council members are also candidates, I think it makes sense to step aside,” she said in telephone interview Sunday evening.
Krasnow has set up a public financing committee with the Maryland Board of Elections as a prelude to tapping into the county’s new public campaign financing system. A candidate for county executive who agrees to raise funds in donations of no more than $150 apiece can qualify for up to $750,000 in public subsidies.
Krasnow joins Elrich and Leventhal—as well as attorney Robin Ficker, the only Republican in the race—in opting for the public funding. Berliner and Frick are relying on private contributions. Blair has indicated his candidacy will be underwritten by a combination of self-funding and private donations.
“A lot of people said to me that I’m going to need more money than I can raise using public financing,” Krasnow said. “I hope that’s not true, because I really want this to be a campaign that appeals to people across the economic spectrum.”
She added: “I really do think that public financing gives people an opportunity to run who don’t necessarily know a lot of rich people. And I really feel I’m going to be the candidate who reaches out to not just the movers and shakers, but a lot of the communities in the county who aren’t always heard from.”
In addition to her status as the only woman in the contest, Krasnow, a Rockville resident for 37 years, is expected to highlight her standing as the only “upcounty” resident in the Democratic race. Both Elrich and Leventhal are from Takoma Park. Berliner resides in North Bethesda, Frick in Bethesda, and Blair in Potomac.
If she is nominated in the June 26 primary, Krasnow would become only the second woman to win the nomination of a major party for Montgomery County executive.
In 1974, then-County Council member Idamae Garrott of Silver Spring won the Democratic nomination, but lost to the incumbent executive, James Gleason, who was seeking a second term. Gleason, initially elected in 1970, was the first of six men—and the only Republican—elected to the post over the past half-century.
Krasnow indicated that the advent of the Trump administration earlier this year played a role in her deciding to run.
“While I’m not running because I’m a woman, I did participate in the Women’s March in January, and I really felt at that time that I could either crawl into a hole or I could do something to try and improve the world. To me, running for this position is one way I can try and improve the county,” said Krasnow, the president of Montgomery Women, an organization that encourages women to pursue elected office and other leadership roles.
Krasnow has picked up the endorsement of County Council member Nancy Floreen. Floreen is leaving the council after four terms as a result of last year’s term limits referendum.
Floreen, the first council member to take sides in the executive race outside of the three who are candidates, praised Krasnow in a phone interview as a “straight shooter” who “doesn’t pull any punches.”
She added: “She has a long history of community activism. She grew up in the cauldron of the civil rights movement in Memphis.” Noting Krasnow’s background on Wall Street as a bond trader before moving to the Washington area, Floreen added, “She has a tremendous managerial and financial background.”
Krasnow is touting her experience as a mayor to differentiate herself from the other candidates now in the field, whose background has been primarily legislative.
“I really feel the field needed someone with executive experience,” she said.
In a comment that appeared aimed at Berliner, Elrich and Leventhal, who opted to run for executive after being forced out of their current positions by term limits, Krasnow said: “To me, the term limits vote, which was a surprise in that it passed so decisively, said to me that the people of this county are looking for new leadership.”
She added: “I feel I really have the advantage of being both an insider and an outsider because I know this county from end to end. I worked within it extensively over the last 13 years I’ve been at the Planning Department. At the same time, I haven’t been in elected office since I was the mayor, and really feel that I bring a new voice.”
Based on her initial comments as a candidate, Krasnow seems likely to try to strike a balance between the county’s core of progressive activists, who tend to turn out in large numbers in Democratic primaries, and its business community.
“I don’t know how anybody lives on the current minimum wage in the county,” said Krasnow, adding that she supports proposals to eventually raise the hourly minimum to $15. “But, at the same time, my worry is that, if you pass a minimum wage bill … people end up losing their jobs [and] it discourages businesses from locating here.”
Krasnow said retiring County Executive Ike Leggett was correct earlier this year in vetoing a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. She indicated support for a subsequent suggestion by Leggett to phase in the new rate for those with 50 of more employees by 2022, with smaller employers having until 2024.
The council is scheduled to take up the $15 minimum wage issue again Tuesday. Krasnow’s stance puts her at odds with Elrich who, backed by a number of progressive groups, is pushing for implementation schedule faster than the one advocated by Leggett.
Discussing fiscal policy, Krasnow said that the County Council, in voting for a 9 percent average property tax increase in 2016, “didn’t really have a whole lot of choice … if we wanted to provide the same level of services we’re known for.”
But she called it “unsustainable” to enact increases of this scale in the future, adding, “We just can’t keep raising taxes. I consider myself a numbers person, and I really want to look closely at the budget to see if there are other ways that we can be more fiscally responsible.”
A major concern is that Montgomery County “is still viewed as very unfriendly to business,” Krasnow said. “I’m thrilled that we were able to keep Marriott, but the head of Nestle lives in Montgomery County and didn’t even consider it for their headquarters, which is located in northern Virginia.
“We’re very involved in the high-tech world and we really should be able to bring more companies here, but we’re just not viewed as a business friendly county, so I’m really eager to work with the business community to figure out what we can do to make the county more attractive.”