Rose Krasnow, buoyed by the recent vote for term limits and a field of white male opponents, formally kicked off her campaign for Montgomery County executive in Rockville Sunday afternoon.
Krasnow has spent the last 13 years at the county’s planning department, where she has worked as deputy director. Before that, she served three terms as Rockville mayor.
The Democrat kicked off her campaign for the county’s top political post at the New Mark Commons clubhouse, a community gathering space in the neighborhood where she has lived for 37 years. She noted it was the same location where she first kicked off her campaign for Rockville mayor more than two decades ago.
“It was not an easy decision to run,” Krasnow told about 75 supporters during her speech.
She noted she left Rockville politics 16 years ago. “Then I participated in the Women’s March in January and I found it amazing,” she said. “There was a part of me that just wanted to crawl into a deep hole and resurface some time in the future. But part of me said we need to get good people back into politics. I looked at the field and said, ‘Yes, I’m going to get in.’”
Krasnow, 66, faces a field of five men in the race for the Democratic nomination. Three term-limited County Council members are running—Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal—as well as Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and Potomac businessman David Blair. The primary election is in June.
Republican Robin Ficker is also running for county executive.
“Yes, it’s true,” Krasnow said. “I’m running in part because I looked at that field of five white men and said, ‘Really?’”
She said a woman hasn’t run for county executive since 1974.
“We’ve never had a woman win county executive,” Krasnow said. “Yet 59 percent of the voting population in the county is female. I’m hoping that statistic alone will really help us bring the victory.”
During her 25-minute speech, Krasnow highlighted her experience working with developers in her role at the planning department to review new projects. As Rockville mayor from 1995 to 2001, she said, she led the development of Rockville Town Square and at the planning department, she played a key role in rewriting the county’s zoning code.
She said she would be pro-business, but promised to ensure new infrastructure kept pace with population growth in the county.
She explained how when she was mayor, she heard from county officials about how the Corridor Cities Transitway bus rapid transit project and the proposed highway now known as M-83 would ease traffic associated with new growth at King Farm and new developments in Clarksburg. But she later saw those major development projects get built without the transportation projects moving forward.
“I’m not someone who loves roads, but we let these people move up there with the understanding that they would be able to get to the places they needed to go,” Krasnow said. “One of the things I would want to do is make sure that either the Corridor Cities Transitway or M-83 or both actually get built so that people in this county are not in constant gridlock in the upcounty.”
She told her supporters that she believes voters sent a message with the term limits vote, which passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote last year.
“What that vote said is people really do want a new voice,” Krasnow said. “I felt I could be that voice. I’m the only candidate of the six who brings both executive experience and a tremendous knowledge of this county.”
Krasnow said she would comb through the county budget to identify savings that could be redirected to improve infrastructure and build schools. She said a new generation of young couples are turning over housing stock in the county as baby boomers age out of the homes they raised their children, which is one of the primary causes of the enrollment growth in the school system.
Previously, the county could negotiate with developers to give up land in the southern portion of the county, she said, but now land is scarce and expensive and the county needs to prepare to buy land to build new schools in the future to handle additional growth.
Krasnow admitted that she might never win the vote of residents who have protested allowing more growth in the Bethesda area in the Westbard and Downtown Bethesda sector plans, which she helped create at the planning department.
“People have trouble with change,” Krasnow said. “I think as planners and politicians who are leading, we have to be able to make the tough decisions, even if we know we are making some people unhappy. I think when these things actually take place, they’ll be thrilled. It will raise their property values. It will make more people want to live in their neighborhood.”
She also committed to reducing the county’s energy tax, which commercial real estate property owners have complained has driven up the cost of doing business in the county after the county increased it significantly during the recession. She plans to step down from her job at the planning department at the end of the month to focus full-time on her campaign.
Krasnow has chosen to use the new public campaign finance system, which allows her to take contributions from $5 to $150 only from county residents. The system then matches those contributions will multiple dollar amounts, enabling a candidate to receive up to $750,000 in county funds for a campaign during an election cycle.
Krasnow joined Leventhal and Elrich in using the system. Frick, Berliner and Blair are all using traditional fundraising, which enables them to receive individual contributions up to $6,000 each.
Krasnow said she’s using the new public system because she believes it will get more of her supporters involved in politics and help her build a grassroots campaign. On Sunday, she noted that Leventhal and Elrich have been fundraising in the system for most of the year, putting her behind, and she urged her supports to donate.
County Council member Nancy Floreen, who has served with Elrich, Leventhal and Berliner for more than a decade, gave Krasnow a ringing endorsement Sunday.
“I do think the term limit vote was a real vote and a request for change,” Floreen said. “She brings real management experience and a depth of knowledge of the whole county.”
Krasnow showed a sense of humor during her speech, as well. She calls her advisors her “brain trust” because she thinks “kitchen cabinet” is too feminine. She joked how her husband, Steve, is so supportive of her campaign, he keeps waking her up in the middle of night to pitch new campaign ideas.
She said she has to tell him, “I could use a good night’s rest, dear, so keep the ideas until the morning.”
Krasnow has a daughter and son, who are adults. She told the crowd how her daughter, Kim, last year married an undocumented immigrant from Serbia and the couple had just gotten back from their honeymoon. She said their experience helped her understand firsthand the plight of immigrants in this country.
“He got his conditional green card and he was able to go back to Serbia for the first time in 10 years,” Krasnow said. “I had to laugh … because when the piece first appeared in Bethesda Beat that I was considering running, someone in the comments section, if you ever read the comments section, which isn’t really a good idea. … Someone said, ‘I wonder how she feels about immigration.’
“I really wanted to answer that,” Krasnow said. “But I didn’t want to engage there.”