Wednesday, March 24, 2021

David Blair announces candidacy for Montgomery County Executive

Businessman David Blair (D) announced this morning that he will again run for Montgomery County Executive in 2022, after losing the Democratic nomination for the office by only 77 votes in 2018. Blair will face a rematch with the current executive, who squeaked past him and went on to win handily that year, Marc Elrich (D). Elrich has also signaled his intention to run for reelection. Both men may face competition from term-limited County Council members in the Democratic primary, but none have demonstrated the popular support of Blair and Elrich seen in 2018.

Blair has maintained a high-profile since his narrow 2018 loss. While unsuccessful, he scored points with many for his gracious concession speech, and for declining to challenge the extremely close voting results. There is no sign he has lost the strong support from the business community he enjoyed in 2018. And his founding of the Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions (CAPS) since the election has furthered his effort to earn progressive credentials while running as a pro-business candidate.

The Blair campaign site launches with a 3-minute video with prominent scenes of downtown Bethesda, small businesses, and the pandemic. Montgomery County's economy has been stagnant for more than a decade, and has not improved since 2018, with the impact of the pandemic not helping matters. 

The County has failed to attract a single major corporate headquarters to relocate here in over 25 years, and ranked last in the region over the last decade by virtually every relevant economic development measure. This has tanked County revenues. But rather than trim spending, the Council has simply raised taxes each year, except for 2014. That has led to a flight of the rich to lower-tax jurisdictions in the area, further reducing revenue.

All that bad economic news gives Blair a strong foundation again to run on. But Elrich is the most popular politician in Montgomery County by the numbers. He not only aligns with the most-progressive faction of Democrats that increasingly is steering that party in Maryland, but also wins support from Republicans and independents concerned about development and quality-of-life issues. Elrich has demonstrated that he will continue to resist the influence of real estate development interests that now control all nine seats on the County Council.

Elrich will also be receiving a timely bailout from Uncle Sam, courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act just passed by Congress. The influx of $203.7 million in American taxpayer funds could go a long way to papering over the County's disastrous budget picture for one fiscal year. A fresh piece of tape over the "Check Engine" light on the County budget dashboard is a welcome development for any incumbent official in Montgomery County. A Council with several members who want to oust Elrich hasn't so far been inclined to follow his budget priorities, however.

The Blair-Elrich matchup was tremendously entertaining for anyone who enjoys politics in 2018. A 2022 rematch promises to be the title fight again. On the undercard, the addition of two new Council seats, at least two other open seats, and new district boundaries will make 2022 an exciting year in Montgomery County politics.

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