Potomac businessman David Blair, who narrowly lost a primary bid for county executive, is starting a think tank studying a range of state and local issues in an effort to bridge the gap between “the haves and have-nots” across Maryland.
Blair and his wife, Mikel, on Thursday announced the nonprofit, the Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions, to “bridge community and politics” by providing information on the impact of existing and proposed legislation.
Among the objectives are studying what can be done to attract more “teachers of color” to public school classrooms, establishing a business incubator for college students and doing public policy and outreach research.
Blair, who lost the executive race by 77 votes in last year’s primary to now-executive Marc Elrich, said in an interview Friday he hasn’t ruled out running for elected office again, but, for now, he’s “keenly focused” on launching CAPS and ensuring everyone in the community “has a voice.”
“The reality is there’s no pathway for when you come in second; there’s no prize for second place,” Blair said. “I spent a lot of time over the past year trying to understand how I can still have the greatest positive impact on the community, given that I’m not in local government, and … feel this is an opportunity to get better information out, identify best practices and launch some meaningful pilot programs.”
Elrich had said he was open to Blair joining his transition team, but Blair ultimately did not join.
Blair, 49, said CAPS will employ “about a half-dozen” full- and part-time employees, and will have a board of advisers. The organization’s budget is being finalized and will largely depend on “what issues we tackle.”
Blair said in CAPS’ first year, he intends to focus on addressing inequalities in schools, government and policy making.
As conversations about racial equity and social justice continue throughout Montgomery County, one of Blair’s main efforts will be a study to determine best practices for recruiting and retaining teachers of color in Maryland public schools.
Nearly 75% of all Montgomery County teachers are white, compared to a minority-majority student population, according to school system data.
Data from the study, which will look into the effectiveness of monetary incentives and programs geared toward supporting minority educators, will be released later this year, Blair said.
“We’ll look at best practices from around the country, and my hope is to partner with local government and local officials to roll all of our ideas out,” said Blair, the founder of health-care-related ventures.
CAPS will also launch a “seed-stage incubator program” for college students to gain hands-on experience working alongside business leaders. The program will be in Rockville and “will partner with the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, enabling student start-ups to get involved in and make connections with the local business community,” according to a CAPS statement.
“We encourage their businesses in the incubator to get involved with the chamber so that we can make introductions to the local business community if they need references to industries or businesses that have a certain expertise, we’d be glad to make those introductions,” said Ginanne Italiano, the chamber’s president and CEO.
Elrich, who was attending a conference on affordable housing Friday, said he hadn’t heard that Blair was starting a think tank. He said he wanted to wait until he learned more information about the organization before commenting.
“Without knowing who’s in it and what they’re thinking about, it’s hard to say. I’d have to see who they’ve put there and what they’re setting out for a mission to ponder,” Elrich said.
Former council member George Leventhal, who also ran against Blair in the six-way Democratic primary, was also attending the conference and said he “wishes David well in all things,” but declined to comment further.
Bethesda Beat staff writers Dan Schere and Charlie Wright contributed to this report
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported CAPS would work with a Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce incubator program. The chamber does not have an incubator.