By Glynis Kazanjian
Rumors that Montgomery County Republicans were being urged to switch parties in order to support more moderate Democrats in the June 26 primary came out in the open Friday at a county executive candidates forum in Rockville.
“In Montgomery County we have closed primaries because there are so many registered Democrats and so few Republicans,” said Leslie Weber, chair-elect of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, host of the Montgomery County Executive economic forecast forum.
“If you are not a registered Democrat, we’re not going to call you out today, but your vote doesn’t count on June 26. So today we have voter registrars on site and you can take care of that.”
Weber told over 500 attendees that information on how to change a voter’s party affiliation by the June 5 voter registration deadline would be available in the lobby.
There have been no Republicans elected in Montgomery County since 2002.
Six Democrats are running for county executive race: three county councilmembers who are term limited: Marc Elrich, George Leventhal, Roger Berliner; House of Delegates Majority Leader Bill Frick; former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow; and businessman David Blair. Perennial GOP candidate Robin Ficker is unopposed for executive on the November ballot.
Some Republicans favor Blair
A Republican operative, who requested anonymity, said members of the real estate development community have had a conversation with David Blair about his platform.
The operative said Blair is seen by Republicans as pro-business and fiscally conservative.
“I am running for the Democratic nomination,” Blair told MarylandReporter.com. “I am focused on winning Democrats, but of course while campaigning I’ve met voters of all stripes and encouraged them to support not only me but Democrats up and down the ticket.”
UPDATE 4/30/2018: Ficker reacted strongly: “Blair opposed my Term Limits Charter Amendment which got 70% and 300,000 votes. He failed to oppose the 9% property tax increase, the 30% real estate transfer tax hike, the 156% energy tax hike, and the 30% Council pay hike. His involvement in civic affairs in MoCo is AWOL.”
Objecting to party switch
At a recent Legislative District 15 candidates’ forum for Republicans a call to change party affiliation to support a district candidate in the Democratic Primary was shot down by Republican Congressman Andy Harris, CD-1. who attended the event.
“Congressman Harris believes that people should not switch party affiliations just to vote in a primary,” Harris spokesperson Nicole Beus said.
District 15 Republican candidate for delegate Marc King, who participated in the forum, also said he opposes the concept of changing voter affiliation for a primary election.
“As Republicans in Montgomery County every vote we get from a Republican is tallied up,” King said. “It tells the state as a party we are viable to run in the general election. Support from it creates a momentum. If they write us of off as not being viable, you’re ability to influence your representative at all levels of government goes away. When support goes away you leave it to one party to dominate.”
Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Mark Uncapher said discussion of switching political party affiliation in order to vote in the primary is news to him. He encourages Republicans to stay Republicans and vote in the Republican primaries.
There are 378,778 registered Democrats in Montgomery County, 114,203 Republicans and 143,150 independents, according to the election board.
The economic forum was hosted by a consortium of business and real estate groups, including Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce organizations, the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, the Maryland Building Industry Association, the Maryland Tech Council, NAIOP and the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance.