County Council Looks To Add $1 Million More to Public Election Fund

Additional money would bring fund total to $11 million for the 2018 election


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Signs posted outside a polling location at Bethesda Elementary School on the Nov. 8, 2016 election

Sarah Hogue

County Council members are looking to bolster the county’s new public election fund in anticipation of an influx of local candidates using the system for matching contributions in the 2018 election.

The council’s Government Operations committee on Friday voted 3-0 to add $1 million more to the $4 million budgeted by County Executive Ike Leggett in his proposed fiscal 2018 budget. The additional money, if approved by the full council, would bring the fund’s total to $11 million, including the $6 million previously allocated.

The recommendation to add $1 million over Leggett’s request was forwarded to the council by the Committee to Recommend Funding for the Public Election Fund—a citizens group chaired by former County Council member David Scull.

“We don’t want to be caught days before an election with a shortfall,” Scull told the council committee Friday.

Amanda Mihill, a council legislative attorney, said that so far 13 county executive and County Council candidates have filed documents with the State Board of Elections about their intention to use the public financing system for the 2018 election.

The Montgomery County funding system, which the council approved in 2014, will be tested for the first time in 2018  when a bevy of local candidates are expected to run, given that County Executive Ike Leggett and four council members—Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen—will be prohibited from running because of term limits.

The system enables county executive candidates to receive up to $750,000, at-large council members up to $250,000 and district council members up to $125,000 in matching county funds on qualifying contributions from $5 to $150. In order to qualify for public financing, county executive candidates must receive 500 qualifying contributions totaling at least $40,000, at-large council members need to obtain 250 contributions totaling at least $20,000 and district council members have to collect 125 contributions totaling at least $10,000. Candidates using the system cannot accept donations from a PAC, corporation, labor organization or a state or local central committee.

Already three county executive candidates—Republican Robin Ficker and Democrats Elrich and Leventhal—have filed forms indicating they plan to use the public financing system.

The council members on Friday supported a proposal to include the $1 million request for the fund on the council’s reconciliation list of additional budget items not included in Leggett’s budget proposal.

Mihill said that if the $11 million isn’t adequate, the council can allocate additional funds in a supplemental appropriation after the fiscal 2018 budget goes into effect July 1.

Council member Sidney Katz noted that money remaining in the fund after the election could be used in a future election, though he expected more funding would be needed in 2018.

“Candidly, I do think we’ll have to have a supplemental [appropriation],” Katz said.

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