County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that while he won the July Democratic primary by just 32 votes, he’s optimistic if elected about his future working relationship with the County Council — especially if all of the Democratic candidates prevail in the Nov. 8 general election.
Speaking via Zoom to more than two dozen members of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Breakfast Club, Elrich talked about affordable housing, economic development, climate change and other issues before fielding questions from members.
He also analyzed the results of the primary election while looking ahead to November. Elrich noted that while his 32-vote victory was wafer-thin, it was enough to beat David Blair, a businessman from Potomac who had lost to Elrich by 77 votes in their first matchup in 2018.
“Someone asked what my magic number was, and I said one more vote than him,” Elrich said.
One participant asked Elrich how he would try to serve voters who did not vote for him in the Democratic primary and work with County Council members who didn’t endorse him.
Multiple County Council Members did not publicly say who they backed for county executive. Hans Riemer, who served alongside Elrich for eight years on the County Council, finished third in the county executive race. Nancy Navarro backed Blair.
Elrich said he’s optimistic about the relationships he could forge on the new council, given there will be at least six new members elected in November — and he’s hopeful they all will be Democrats.
He added he believed there are two kinds of voters who didn’t vote for him — those who completely opposed his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the closure and restrictions on businesses, and those that disagree with his stance on housing.
Concerning the coronavirus, Elrich said it was a simple choice. He could have kept businesses open, but he believed that means more people would have died because of the virus. And when given the choice between keeping a business open versus keeping someone alive, Elrich said he chose to focus on saving lives.
As for his stance on housing, he said his record frequently has been misrepresented and that he’s never blocked an affordable housing complex from being built in the county. Elrich also noted Blair outspent him during the primary campaign by millions of dollars and that he was unable to respond to the businessman’s ad blitz criticizing his record on housing, economic development on policing in the weeks before the July 19 primary.
Blair spent more than $6 million during the primary, much of that from his own pocket. Elrich spent roughly $1 million, using the county’s public financing system.
Elrich said the county’s public financing law needs to be amended to prevent situations in which privately financed candidates like Blair can significantly outspend publicly financed candidates such as himself. But he added that his administration could do a better job of broadcasting their accomplishments, given that he wins the general election.
“I’ve never done self-promotion. When I was a County Council member, I don’t know if I did five press releases in 12 years because it’s just not my style,” Elrich said.
Looking ahead to the general election, Elrich said he believes Democrats should sweep the statewide offices of governor, comptroller and attorney general, given the quality of the Democrats running and their Republican opponents. Democrats Wes Moore and Aruna Miller are running against Republicans Dan Cox and Gordana Schifanelli for governor and lieutenant governor respectively, while Democrat Brooke Lierman faces Republican Barry Glassman in the comptroller’s race. Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, who represents the 4th Congressional District, faces Michael Peroutka, a Republican, in the attorney general’s race.
Elrich said Cox and Peroutka are so far to the right politically that Marylanders would most likely not elect them into office. He added that even though Glassman is more moderate, Lierman still has a good chance of winning her election.
Elrich said he would be using some of his resources to help campaign for Chao Wu and Natalie Ziegler, two Democrats running for two seats against Republicans Trent Kittleman and Jianning Jenny Zeng for District 9A in the House of Delegates. The district includes much of Howard County and the northeastern part of Montgomery County — including Clarksburg and Damascus, seen by some political observers as the more conservative parts of the county.