County executive candidate Marc Elrich at his campaign kickoff last year Credit: Andrew Metcalf

SEIU Local 500 endorses Elrich in county executive race

One of Montgomery County’s major public employee unions has chosen to endorse Marc Elrich in the six-way Democratic primary for county executive.

SEIU Local 500, which claims more members in the county than any other local union, also has decided to back three candidates in the crowded June 26 primary for four at-large County Council seats: Gabriel Albornoz of Kensington, director of the county’s Department of Recreation; Ashwani Jain of Potomac, a political operative who held several posts in the administration of President Barack Obama; and Will Jawando of Silver Spring, an attorney who is also a former Obama administration official.

In addition, Local 500 is endorsing Ben Shnider of Rockville, a political operative and civic activist, for the District 3 council seat in Shnider’s challenge to incumbent Sidney Katz of Gaithersburg.

In the eight-way Democratic primary for the open seat in the council’s District 1—which includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac—the union is expected to announce its endorsement as early as next week, sources said.

SEIU Local 500, whose 13,500 members residing in the county include the support staff of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), is the first of the large local public employee unions to announce endorsements for county office in this year’s campaign.


The Montgomery County Education Association, which represents the MCPS teaching staff, and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, which includes the large majority of employees in county government, are expected to announce their endorsements for county executive and council in the coming weeks.

For Elrich, a Takoma Park resident who has served three terms as an at-large council member, the backing of Local 500 is the latest in a series of union endorsements. Other recent endorsements have come from the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, the Baltimore/Washington District Council of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), and 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers in the Washington area.

In the at-large council race, the SEIU Local 500 endorsement is the second major organizational endorsement in recent weeks for Jawando—who is running his third race for elected office in four years, after falling short in primary bids for the House of Delegates in 2014 and U.S. House of Representatives in 2016. Jawando also garnered the endorsement of the Maryland Sierra Club late last month.


Local 500’s backing is the first major organizational endorsement for the 28-year old Jain, who, if elected, would be the first Asian-American ever to serve on the Montgomery County Council.

Meanwhile, for Shnider, also 28, the Local 500 endorsement represents another boost in his challenge to 67-year old Katz, a former long-time mayor of Gaithersburg. Shnider previously picked up endorsements from the Baltimore/Washington District Council of LiUNA and 32BJ SEIU, along with the Sierra Club.

Louis Peck



Montgomery County Council supports craft brewery reform bill

The County Council is supporting a state effort led by Comptroller Peter Franchot that seeks to repeal restrictions on the amount of beer a craft brewery can make and sell in its on-site taproom.


The council Thursday sent a letter to the chair of the House of Delegates’ Economic Matters Committee, Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s County), indicating its support for the “Reform on Tap” Act.

“Local breweries have a big impact on Montgomery County’s economy,” council President Hans Riemer said in a statement. “Not only have they created good middle-income jobs, they have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville and create destination tourism in our farmland reserve communities such as Laytonsville and Brookeville.”

Current regulations limit craft breweries to serving up to 2,000 barrels on-site (about 500,000 pints), but allows them to serve an additional 1,000 barrels if they first sell the beer to a wholesaler and then buy it back.


The bill supported by Franchot under consideration in the General Assembly would remove the buy-back provision and allow breweries to produce unlimited amounts of beer and remove limits on taproom and take-home sales.

The National Brewers Association ranked Maryland 47th for the economic impact of its breweries and 36th in the number of breweries in its 2016 ranking of U.S. states.

Franchot has been advocating for the legislation as a way to improve the brewery business in the state.


Andrew Metcalf


Another District 18 legislative candidate digs deep into personal funds to underwrite bid


Of Montgomery County’s eight state legislative districts, District 18 is the most wide open this election year—with a Senate seat and two of three House of Delegate slots up for grabs. And the races also have turned into some of the county’s most free-spending campaigns of 2018.

Town of Chevy Chase Council member Joel Rubin—one of seven Democratic contenders taking aim at the two open delegate seats—disclosed this week that he has made a $100,000 loan to his campaign “because I’m all in. I’m fully committed to winning the primary this June.” Rubin’s disclosure came as he prepares to formally kick off his candidacy Sunday afternoon with an event at the town’s Lawton Community Recreation Center. The $100,000 is in addition to $3,000 he loaned his campaign late last year.

Another District 18 delegate contender, former University of Maryland project manager Mila Johns—a Town of Chevy Chase neighbor of Rubin’s—previously reported loaning her campaign $100,000 in personal funds over the past year, according to a recent filing with the state Board of Elections.


Candidates funneling their own assets to their campaigns often label such transfers as loans, which can later be repaid via fundraising if the candidate is elected to office. But, in many cases, such transactions ultimately end up converted from loans to gifts.

Political activist Dana Beyer, running against Del. Jeff Waldstreicher to succeed District 18 Sen. Richard Madaleno—a candidate for governor—recently reported a personal loan to her campaign of more than $103,000. Beyer, a Chevy Chase resident who is a former eye surgeon, also listed another $500,000 in loans still on the books dating back to 2007—arising from previous runs for state senator and delegate.

Rubin, a foreign policy consultant, resigned as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration to seek the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District in 2016. He finished far back in a primary field of nine candidates, while receiving some exposure before many of the same voters who will vote in District 18 this year.


But Rubin got a relatively late start in the 2018 delegate contest—he announced in November he planned to run—and has been passed over for some early organizational endorsements.

Over the past month, SEIU Local 500, which represents the support staff of the Montgomery County school system, has endorsed Johns and Montgomery Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Emily Shetty of Kensington for the two open delegate slots, while the Sierra Club endorsement went to Shetty and former congressional aide Jared Solomon of Chevy Chase. Also in the Democratic contest are non-incumbents Ron Franks of Wheaton, Helga Luest of Rockville and Leslie Milano of Chevy Chase; Del. Al Carr of Kensington is seeking re-election.

Rubin’s late entry also resulted in less than $3,000 in outside contributions at the time of his first fundraising report in January, heightening the pressures for a large cash infusion with the June 26 primary four months away.


“I’m a strong advocate for public finance, and believe we have to do everything we can to change the way we finance our elections,” Rubin said in a phone interview. “But in 2018, this is the structure that we have, and I want to make sure I don’t leave any stone unturned in ensuring a victory on Primary Day.”

Del. Marc Korman of Bethesda has introduced a bill that would allow the county to expand its public campaign finance system to include state legislative contests. But it so far has not been scheduled for a vote in the House of Delegates this year, and its future appears uncertain at best.

Joel Rubin photo via his campaign website.


Louis Peck


GOP to field a full slate of candidates in District 15, as retired Army officer files


It has been more than a decade since a Republican was part of Montgomery County’s 32-member delegation in Annapolis, following the defeat of the late District 15 Del. Jean Cryor in 2006. And, with five days until this year’s filing deadline, the county GOP has struggled to field candidates in most of the county’s eight legislative districts—with the exception of District 15.

Marc King of Germantown, a 71-year old retired Army officer, recently filed for delegate, giving  Republicans a full slate of three delegate candidates and a state Senate contender in the district, which extends from Potomac to the Frederick County line. His goal, King said, is “to see if we can eliminate the one-party rule here in the county.”

He added he is running to bolster Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his programs—particularly with regard to transportation and Hogan’s plan for a public/private partnership to widen I-270.

“Where am I on the political spectrum? I’m certainly right of center, but I’m willing to listen and look—and I’m even willing to use the terrible c-word: compromise,” declared King, who, after nearly a quarter of a century in the Army and another 25 years as a defense contractor, continues to consult for firms seeking to do business with the Defense Department. “I’m shocked by people who say ‘No, we’re simply not going to budge on that issue.’ That has been the process that America has used for 300 years in getting to solutions.”

King joins former state Board of Education member Laurie Halverson and attorney Harvey Jacobs, both Potomac residents, in running for delegate on the GOP line. Retired Army officer David Wilson of Poolesville is the party’s District 15 Senate candidate.

Democrats enjoy a registration advantage in the district of better than 2-1, but that’s somewhat narrower than elsewhere in the county—and District 15 also has more unaffiliated voters than any of the county’s seven other legislative districts. In District 14, another northern Montgomery jurisdiction with a partisan breakdown similar to District 15, the Republicans have so far filed just two candidates with the deadline looming. In three other districts, there is just one GOP legislative candidate filed, with the party so far bereft of candidates in three heavily Democratic jurisdictions—Districts 16, 18 and 20—in the county’s southern section.

In District 15, King, who is making his first bid for elected office, said: “I have for all intents and purposes imposed a term limit on myself. My effort is to get in, make a contribution and get out.” He said “right now” his intent is to serve no more than one term if elected.

As for his prospects of breaking a long political drought for county Republicans, King likened it to the challenges he faced in the military.

“As an armor officer in the United States Army, my training—when the odds were against me—was to come up with the battle plan that allowed me to defeat my opponent, although he may have outgunned me 3-1,” he noted. “In the military, we use a term called massing: I concentrate all my effort at his weakest point, and I try to break through that way.”

He added: “I understand what’s going on here in Montgomery County. If I didn’t think it was doable, I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place.”

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of the District 15 campaign, education consultant Jaye Espy withdrew from the contest this week, citing “personal family priorities.” Espy endorsed Kevin Mack, currently field director for U.S. Rep. John Delaney. Party insiders see Mack and Lily Qi, an aide to County Executive Ike Leggett, as the early frontrunners among seven remaining non-incumbent Democrats taking aim at the seat of Del. Aruna Miller, who is running to succeed Delaney.

Mark King photo provided.

Louis Peck