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Four years ago, Marc Elrich and David Blair finished 77 votes apart in the race for Montgomery County executive.
A poll released on Friday shows that — with the all-important Democratic primary just days away — the pair could be headed for another photo finish.
According to Data for Progress, a San Francisco-based firm, Elrich and Blair are tied at 34%, with County Councilmember Hans Riemer at 20% and 11% undecided. Candidate Peter James, who ran for congress as a Republican in 2012, has one percent support. Early voting ended on Thursday and the primary is July 19.
If the poll is an accurate reflection of the electorate, it suggests late momentum for Blair, who is trying to thwart Elrich’s bid for a second term. A late May/early June survey by the same firm showed Elrich with a commanding lead, 41% to 20%, with Riemer at 18% and 20% undecided.
Since the first survey, the Washington Post endorsed Blair. In addition, voters have received numerous mailers and the airwaves have been saturated with ads. Blair has loaned his campaign $4.8 million, according to the most recent campaign finance report. Independent groups funded by business interests — including the provocatively named Progressives for Progress — have spent millions more on anti-Elrich ads.
Elrich, who has never been a prolific fundraiser, is participating in the county’s public financing system for candidates.
The new survey was funded by Jonathan Robinson, an affordable housing advocate told Maryland Matters last month that he “is personally not a fan of Marc Elrich but I am not supporting any candidate.” He has donated to Riemer.
In early June, Elrich had a favorable/unfavorable rating of 55/26. In the new poll, his numbers have dropped to 48/42. He retains strong support among women but is underwater (44% favorable, 51% unfavorable) among men.
In an email on Monday, Larry Harris, a principal at Mason-Dixon and an Elrich supporter, said Blair has “failed to make the case for change, as Marc receives strong marks for his handling of key issues of concern.”
“Blair’s millions and the millions contributed by billionaire real-estate magnates is tantamount to petty oligarchs buying this seat and I believe this is not sitting well with a critical mass of democratic voters,” he added.
Riemer’s campaign manager, Aziz Yakub, said the poll suggests that “voters are clearly calling for change.” He called the race “fluid.”
“[M]ost voters are still making up their minds. I would be shocked if progressive voters will actually vote for a former Republican who’s trying to buy himself this seat,” he added, a reference to Blair.
On July 7, a survey of 504 likely Democratic voters by Blair’s pollster, Garin-Hart-Yang, showed Elrich’s lead down to one point, 29% to 28%, with nearly a quarter of the electorate undecided. Blair’s campaign manager, Adrienne Christian, said that the poll showed that “Montgomery County voters expect better and know David is the only candidate who can deliver.”
Data for Progress queried 446 Montgomery Democrats between July 8 and July 12. The survey has a 5% margin of error. The firm has a “B” rating from fivethirtyeight.com. It boasts that it correctly predicted this year’s hotly-contested New York City mayoral primary.
Mizeur launches Jan. 6-focused ad
Heather Mizeur, a Democrat running for U.S. House in the 1st District, has released a new ad following news that incumbent Rep. Andy Harris (R) was part of a White House planning meeting ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The ad, titled “Come Clean,” states that Harris “plotted in secret to mount an insurrection, overturn a legal election, and keep Trump in power.”
Mizeur and Dave Harden, a former Foreign Service officer, are funning for the Democratic nomination in the district in Tuesday’s election. Both condemned Harris’ involvement in the meeting earlier this week.
“Andy Harris schemed in secret to thwart the will of the voters, undermine our democracy, and overthrow our freely elected government,” Mizeur said in a statement Friday. “He’s a traitor to our nation, and when I send him into retirement this November, First District residents will once again have the dignified leadership they deserve.”
Noting that Harris said he didn’t watch the hearing because he was working on “important issues,” Mizeur said in a statement: “Personally, I can’t imagine anything more important than upholding and defending our democratic system. But as his actions before, on, and after January 6 show, Andy Harris clearly has no regard for America’s ideals.”
Perez campaign workers unionize
Workers for a second Maryland gubernatorial campaign have unionized.
The campaign for Tom Perez and Shannon Sneed ratified a contract with the Campaign Workers Guild on Thursday, according to an announcement from the union.
Perez is among leading candidates for Maryland governor. Other frontrunners include Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot and former nonprofit CEO Wes Moore.
Franchot’s campaign workers announced that they unionized earlier this month.
The agreement reached by the Perez campaign workers includes pay raises and a guarantee on weekly time off, as well as unique provisions including post-employment support from campaign leadership and protections for workers regardless of the result of next week’s primary election.
If Perez wins the primary, the contract would remain in place through the November general election.
The guarantee that Perez and Sneed will support workers in identifying future employment opportunities is the first of its kind in any Campaign Workers Guild agreement, according to the group.
“I am very proud of our unit’s unique severance package. Tom and Shannon’s extensive networks in public service and the Democratic Party provide both security and immense opportunity for the unit members and our families. The unit’s ability to come to a creative bargaining agreement is a testament to the strength of this union,” Daniel Sagrera, a member of bargaining team, said in a statement.
The union members who ratified the contract include ten members of the campaign staff.
District 39 mailer draws ire
Democratic groups in Montgomery County this week condemned a mailer recently sent in support of a slate of General Assembly candidates in District 39.
The Association of Black Democrats of Montgomery County, Latino Democratic Club of Montgomery County, and Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats of Maryland spoke out against the mailer, which was sent to voters by the District 39 Team slate.
The mailer includes a photo of all four of the candidates, above a list of accomplishments in Annapolis by the “District 39 Team,” listed as “Senator Nancy King, Delegates Lesley Lopez, Kirill Reznik and Clint Sobratti.”
The first three candidates are incumbents. Sobratti, a union activist, is trying to unseat Del. Gabriel Acevero, who currently represents the district.
The mailer implies that Sobratti is an incumbent lawmaker.
“The misinformation from the slate has the effect of erasing the work of Delegate Acevero whom we have all endorsed. Democratic primaries should be about honest dialogue and the District 39 Team mailer fails to meet that mark,” the Democratic groups said in a statement. “It’s inaccurate and is sure to confuse voters. In our view, it is unacceptable.”
Current and former elected officials also joined on to the statement, including former County Executive Ike Leggett, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin and former Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez.
In a statement, Acevero said he was “unphased” by the mailer.
“In a district as diverse as 39, it is reprehensible that Democrats would knowingly attempt to fool and subvert the will of the voters,” he said in a statement.
Reached by phone, King said the implication that Sobratti was an incumbent “was not at all intentional.”
She said she respected the opinions of the political groups and elected officials who issued statements condemning the literature.
“Would I take it back? Of course I would. We don’t operate that way,” King said.
It is not the only controversial campaign literature to circulate in the district this cycle.
An earlier mailer from the Democratic Socialists of America Solidarity PAC unfairly attacked the records of Lopez, Reznik and King in Annapolis, Lopez said.
Acevero is part of a small group of young democratic socialists in Annapolis who occasionally find themselves at odds with legislative leaders.