Anne Arundel Co. executive Pittman to push for public election financing

Anne Arundel County, Maryland, executive Steuart Pittman is bringing a campaign finance reform proposal to the county council next week — a move he said would represent his crowning achievement.

Under Pittman’s proposal, a pool of public money would be set aside for candidates who meet certain criteria. They would have to limit the size of contributions and encourage community engagement by cultivating small donors instead of big ones.

Candidates would have to opt in, and would have to prove a certain amount of community support to get money from the public finance system.

Pittman said it was the best way to ensure that candidates and officeholders are beholden to their constituents instead of deep-pocketed donors, and “makes it possible for the regular, everyday person to engage residents and run for office.”

A number Maryland counties, including Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard, have resolutions in place, or are pursuing them.

Pittman said the idea is gaining popularity even among those who didn’t like it: “In Howard County right now we have a former county executive running using the public finance option who actually opposed it when it was proposed.”

There’s already a public finance option for Maryland’s top job; Gov. Larry Hogan used it in his own campaign.

Pittman said he was confident the issue draws bipartisan support: “There’s broad consensus among both political parties in this state that having a public finance option makes our democracy work better.”

The council votes on the resolution Monday. If five of the seven members agree with Pittman, the proposal will make the November ballot.

Hillary Howard

Hillary Howard is a longtime Washington, D.C. broadcaster and storyteller who also hosts "It's Academic," the world's longest running TV quiz show on NBC Washington.

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