Blair Spending Big, But Berliner Has Most Cash on Hand in Montgomery County Executive Race

Potomac businessman has loaned his campaign $ 1.6 million in recent months—nearly double what any other candidate in the race has raised


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Democratic Montgomery County executive candidates from top left Roger Berliner, David Blair, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal, Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow

Potomac businessman David Blair is pouring his own money into his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Montgomery County executive and aggressively spending it.

Since March, the multimillionaire Democrat and former executive of a prescription drug contracting company has loaned his campaign $1.6 million, which he has used to bolster his account after spending $1.7 million on his campaign from mid-January through May 15. About $1 million of the spending was paid for media advertising and campaign marketing materials, according to his most recent financial disclosure report filed with the Maryland Board of Elections.

All seven of the candidates running for county executive complied with a May 15 deadline for filing updated financial disclosures with the board. The reports were posted on the board’s website as of midnight Wednesday. In addition to Blair, the other Democratic candidates are County Council members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal; former county planning department deputy director Rose Krasnow and state Del. Bll Frick (D-Bethesda). Attorney Robin Ficker is the sole Republican candidate.

Blair’s heavy spending left him trailing Berliner in cash on hand. Berliner reported having about $605,000 in his campaign war chest after raising about $253,000 in contributions from January to mid-May and spending only $131,000 during that time. He had a prior campaign account balance of about $483,000.

Blair reported raising only $49,000 in contributions from individuals from January to May, leaving him heavily reliant on his own money to pay for campaign messaging.

Blair, Berliner and Frick are using traditional campaign financing to pay for their campaigns. That method enables them to accept individual contributions of up to $6,000 each. Frick reported raising about $69,000 over the previous four months and reported having $166,000 in his campaign account after spending $54,700 from January through May. Frick has the least amount of cash on hand among the Democratic candidates.

Leventhal, Elrich and Krasnow are using the county’s public campaign financing system. They are limited to accepting contributions of $150 or less and can’t accept money from a corporation, political action committees or unions. Donations from county residents are matched with multiples of county funds. For example, a $50 contribution from a county resident nets $300 in public funds for a county executive candidate using the system.

Elrich reported having $316,000 in cash on hand; Leventhal, $280,000; and Krasnow, $223,000.

The amounts put the publicly financed campaigns on competitive financial footing with the campaigns of Berliner and Frick as the candidates head into the final month before the June 26 Democratic primary. However, it does not appear any of the candidates will be able to compete monetarily with Blair’s largely self-funded campaign. Blair also contributed $300,000 to his campaign last year.

Elrich has received the most in public matching funds so far. Since launching his campaign in February 2017 he has received a total of $503,900 in public funds while Leventhal reported receiving $446,710 since opening his campaign account in September 2016. Krasnow, meanwhile, has received $357,600 in public matching funds since she began fundraising in November. The publicly financed county executive candidates can receive a maximum of $750,000 in public funds. Elrich requested an additional $100,400 in public funds in his most recent request and appears poised to max out on receiving public funding before the primary. Leventhal requested about $18,000 more in his most recent filing, while Krasnow requested an additional $47,000. Those requests still need to be formally approved by the state board before the funds are disbursed.  

Krasnow and Elrich are matching each other’s pace lately in soliciting small-dollar contributions from county residents. From November to mid-May, Krasnow reported receiving about $78,000 in contributions eligible for matching funds, while Elrich reported raising about $55,800 in eligible contributions since mid-January. Over the past four months, Leventhal raised about $37,000 in eligible contributions, according to his report.

Elrich has spent the most of any of the publicly financed candidates and more than both Berliner and Frick since January. He reported spending about $243,300 up until May 15. Krasnow spent about $166,000 during that time while Leventhal spent about $99,000.

Only Blair has begun buying ads on local affiliates of TV networks such as NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC in the Washington, D.C., market to try to reach Montgomery County voters. He spent more than $300,000 with the New York-based Democratic political communications firm SKDKnickerbocker to pay for television advertising, according to his report. Both Frick and Elrich have recently begun buying ads on cable television, which are less expensive than the network ads.

Berliner continued to receive contributions from local developers. For example, members of the Abramson family, which owns the Rockville-based developer The Tower Cos., contributed $5,000 in April, Associated Builders and Contractors of Beltsville gave him $6,000 in May and Bob Eisinger of Rockville’s Promark Partners, donated $6,000. Berliner also received the maximum $6,000 donation from businesses including Combined Properties Inc. Columbia, Holistic Industries LLC of Potomac and CLM Airpark Associates of Potomac.

Blair also received $5,000 from the Abramson family. Other large contributions included a $3,750 donation from Robert Tannebaum of Lerner Enterprises and a $5,000 contribution from Iowa resident Daniel Houston of Principal Financial Group.

Among the candidates, only Elrich has sworn off contributions from developers and land use attorneys, as he has when he ran for County Council in the past.

Krasnow received a number of small-dollar contributions from developers and other real estate professionals. Her donors include Ronald Abramson of Tower Cos.; Laurence Cafritz, a custom home builder in Bethesda; Robert Eisinger of Promark; Bryant Foulger of Foulger-Pratt; Richard Perlmutter of Argo Development; Jon Peterson of the Peterson Cos.; and Jim Soltesz of the Soltesz engineering firm. However, the $150 contributions from local developers are among hundreds of contributions from other residents that her campaign received.

In the previous campaign finance reports filed in mid-January, Berliner led the field with about $480,000 in cash on hand; Blair had about $351,000; Elrich, $314,000; Leventhal, $180,000; and Frick, $155,000. Krasnow had $40,000 before later requesting her first round of matching funds.

Ficker, who is also using public campaign financing, said last week his campaign raised about $50,000 in contributions of $150 or less and he is waiting for approval from the state board to receive his first infusion of public matching funds. 

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