Republican Robin Ficker may not qualify for public campaign financing in his bid for county executive.
The only Republican pursuing the post, Ficker said Tuesday morning he has been informed he has until midnight Tuesday to submit paperwork proving that he has raised at least $40,000 in contributions of $150 or less from 500 or more county residents.
That’s the threshold for a county executive candidate to qualify for multiples of matching contributions from the county under its public campaign financing system being used for the first time.
The law establishing the system states that a candidate who wants to qualify to use public financing must meet the threshold 45 days before the date of the primary, which is June 26 this year. The state Board of Elections set midnight Tuesday as the deadline to file paperwork to qualify.
County executive candidates that qualify for public financing can receive up to $750,000 in public matching funds in an election cycle, which can help them compete against traditionally financed candidates who are able to accept individual contributions up to $6,000 each.
County Council members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal as well as former planning department deputy director Rose Krasnow—the three Democratic county executive candidates using the system—have met the threshold to receive matching funds.
As of the end of April, Leventhal had received $426,000 in public funds; Elrich, $504,000; and Krasnow, $288,000, according to county election fund finance records.
Ficker, however, said he did not know he needed to qualify before the primary because he does not have a Republican primary opponent and therefore is not permitted to use public funds he would receive until after the primary.
Ficker said the county Board of Elections notified him Friday that he would have to meet the qualifying threshold by midnight Tuesday in order to receive public funds.
“Logically, it doesn’t make any sense that if you have no primary opposition that you would have to qualify for matching funds 45 days before a primary in which you have no opponent,” Ficker said.
He added that he’s collected well over the 500 individual contributions needed to meet the threshold, but doesn’t know if he’ll have collected the $40,000 needed to qualify by midnight. He declined to say how much he has raised. He said failing to qualify for public financing wouldn’t be a blow to his campaign.
Bob Drummer, a council attorney who wrote a guide to the county’s public financing law, said Tuesday that the law states a candidate must qualify during the qualifying period, which ends 45 days before the primary election.
“It doesn’t say if you don’t have an opponent you can qualify later,” Drummer said.
He added that if Ficker fails to qualify he could challenge the ruling to the state Board of Elections, which would issue an opinion on the matter. If Ficker doesn’t agree with the opinion, he could challenge it in court, according to Drummer.
Ficker filed paperwork to begin accepting contributions under the public financing system on Feb. 8, 2017, meaning he has had more than a year to try to meet the threshold.
Ficker, a Boyds attorney who has ran unsuccessfully in several local races in past election cycles, has largely been campaigning on his successful push for a referendum to determine whether county elected officials should be subjected to term limits. Nearly 70 percent of voters approved the idea in 2016, agreeing to limit council members and the county executive to three consecutive terms. The passage of term limits is forcing Leventhal, Elrich and council members Nancy Floreen and Roger Berliner from their seats and would have forced County Executive Ike Leggett to step down as well, although he had already planned to retire at the end of this year. Berliner, a Democrat, is running for county executive as well.
Ficker also led the successful referendum effort a decade ago to require a unanimous vote from all nine council members to raise property taxes above the charter limit, which is the rate of the increase in the value of property assessments.
Several Democratic at-large and district council candidates are at risk of failing to qualify for public financing if they don’t file paperwork indicating they’ve met the thresholds for council seats by midnight.
The at-large candidates include Rosemary Arkoian, Craig Carozza-Caviness, Lorna Phillips Forde, Richard Gottfriend, Neil Greenberger, Melissa McKenna and Darwin Romero. District 1 candidates Jim McGee and Bill Cook as well as District 5 candidates Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd and Kevin Harris apparently have not yet met the thresholds required to receive public financing matching funds, according to county records for the end of April. Republican District 1 candidate Richard Bananch has also not yet qualified to receive public funds.
At-large candidates must receive at least 250 qualifying contributions that total at least $20,000 and district council candidates must receive at least 125 qualifying contributions totaling at least $10,000.