Politics Roundup: Floreen’s Critics Dig Up Facebook Post Reprimanding Third-Party Voters Who Gave Trump the Election
Plus: Ashman crosses party lines to endorse Hogan; Riemer declares his support for Elrich as Democratic county exec nominee
Floreen Facebook post from 2016 took aim at third-party voters
In debuting her county executive run this week, County Council member Nancy Floreen declared that she had renounced her longtime Democratic label and joined the ranks of the unaffiliated.
That way, she said, local voters would have a third, independent choice in the general election.
As some were quick to point out, she wasn’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about third choices in November 2016.
Amid the Democratic soul-searching that followed President Donald Trump’s election, Floreen took aim at the third-party voters who played key roles in the swing states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Reality check time,” she wrote on Facebook. “The role of third party voters, even assuming a split between parties, was enough to throw the election to Trump.”
In Florida, for example, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by about 120,000 votes. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green party’s Jill Stein together captured 270,000 votes. And the story was similar for the other three states: Johnson and Stein racked up vote totals far greater than Trump’s margin of victory.
“So you third party voters, I hope you’re satisfied,” Floreen concluded.
Critics of Floreen’s decision to launch an independent run against fellow council member Marc Elrich, the unofficial Democratic nominee, were quick to pounce on the two-year-old post.
A number of social media comments charged her with hypocrisy; Floreen defended herself against this charge, saying the presidential and county elections are not comparable.
“Local policy issues are entirely different, and, frankly, nonpartisan,” she wrote in a text message Friday.
Bill Cook, who lost his Democratic primary bid in the County Council District 1 race, was one of those who drew attention to Floreen’s rebuke of third-party voters.
He said the post highlights what many feel is the hypocrisy of establishment Democrats who railed against progressives for not falling in line behind Clinton in 2016. When the tables are turned and a progressive candidate makes the ballot, Cook wonders if the establishment wing will demonstrate the party loyalty they demanded of others.
“I would also say it strikes at another concern that many progressives have had during this election; they’re sort of asking themselves, can progressives make progress in the Democratic party? Can we reshape the Democratic party to be more progressives and less corporate?” he said. “Or do we need to go somewhere else?”
Gaithersburg mayor crosses party lines to endorse Hogan for re-election
Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman has become the first elected official in Montgomery County to cross party lines and endorse Republican Gov. Larry Hogan for re-election—while citing Hogan’s emphasis on business development and job growth.
Ashman’s move surfaced in a press release this week from the Hogan campaign, which, to date, has claimed the public backing of about three dozen current and former Democratic officials from around Maryland. In a telephone interview Thursday, Ashman said he offered his support when Hogan visited Gaithersburg’s Summerfest just days after last month’s primary.
“I approached one of his political people and said, ‘I think he’s done a good job. I’m a registered Democrat but I’m willing to support him’,” Ashman said. “I am a business-friendly Democrat. We all enjoy great services and facilities in Maryland, but we’ve got to pay for them. We need revenue generated from a strong economy, and that’s been a big priority for Gov. Hogan.”
Ashman did not endorse a gubernatorial candidate prior to the June 26 Democratic primary. Of his party’s gubernatorial nominee, Ashman said: “I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about Ben Jealous or his running mate [former Maryland Democratic Chair Susan Turnbull of Bethesda], whom I know. I respect her a lot.”
But Ashman also said: “The one area where I would compare them is to [ask] ‘Who is more business friendly?’ And … I think Hogan is stronger on that.”
Ashman noted “the reason I’m a Democrat is that Democrats are strong on what’s fundamentally most important to me—which I would classify as civil and individual rights, being pro-choice, marriage equality, and reasonable gun restrictions.” He added: “Hogan may be on the same page, I’m not even sure—but at the very least, he is doing nothing to stand in the way or infringe on those sort of rights.”
He also credited Hogan with pursuing a path distinct from the national GOP. “Gov. Hogan has distanced himself adequately from what I think is the abominable politics of our president and people like [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Ashman said. “I think his leadership style is sort of a rebuke to the politics that the national Republican Party is practicing, which make me sick.
“I think the country is better off with two strong parties, and I think if we want the Republicans not to go off the deep end, then someone has got to be electing some decent Republicans—and I think Larry Hogan is that.”
Closer to home, Ashman said that the Hogan administration’s decision to move ahead with the $100 million Watkins Mill interchange project off I-270 in Gaithersburg was not a factor in his decision to back the governor. Hogan initially sought to delay the project, but that move was reversed under lobbying pressure from the county’s legislative delegation and other officials.
“The project is fully funded and it’s already well under construction,” said Ashman, adding that his endorsement “doesn’t really stem from that.”
Ashman was unopposed in last year’s municipal election in Gaithersburg—currently the county’s largest city and the third largest in the state, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates. Asked whether he expects blowback from his endorsement in a city and county that are both heavily Democratic, Ashman said: “I anticipate there will be plenty of backlash for doing it. But I think it’s the right thing.”
He added: “I might the first elected Democrat [in Montgomery County] to make this endorsement, but I guarantee there are going to be other Democrats—even if they don’t want to say it publicly— voting for Gov. Hogan.”
Riemer decides to stand behind Elrich, despite their differences
Council President Hans Riemer this week put a swift and no-nonsense end to suspense over which candidate he would support in the Montgomery County executive race.
On Monday, the Democrat told Bethesda Beat he would consider straying over party lines if Floreen decided to launch an independent run. Riemer expressed concerns about whether Elrich would lead the county in the right direction when it came to economic growth and affordable housing expansion.
Well, two days after that interview, Floreen did declare the start of her independent campaign. The same day, Riemer announced in a Facebook post that he’d decided which candidate would get his backing in the general election.
“Marc Elrich and I have been allies on many issues though we also have profound differences in our approach to progressive politics and the future of the County,” Riemer wrote. “He won the Democratic primary for County Executive and therefore I support him.”
Period, end of post.
On Monday, council member George Leventhal, one of Elrich’s primary opponents, said he was also weighing whether to support Elrich in the general election. Leventhal said he’d always been loyal to Democratic nominees .
When reached by phone Friday, Leventhal really, really, really didn’t want to comment on an Elrich vs. Floreen matchup.
“I don’t have anything to say about that at this time,” he said.
Council member Craig Rice earlier this week said he wasn’t taking sides in a general election contest between two of his colleagues. The other council members have lined up behind Elrich.