WASHINGTON — There are a lot of people interested in becoming an at-large council member in Montgomery County, Maryland.
In the race for the four at-large seats, 38 candidates filed to run: 33 Democrats, four Republicans and one Green Party member. Voters will pick four candidates. The Green Party member will appear on the general election ballot.
Nancy Bliss, president of Montgomery County’s League of Women Voters, has been active in the organization since the 1980s, and she said she’s never seen a such a crowded field of candidates.
“It’s an exciting time now, to be sure,” she said.
There are a number of factors that have led to this sprawling field of candidates, Bliss said, which include term limits restricting current members of the council from running for re-election and the availability of public financing for the first time.
“I think the public financing has been a big boon for many of these candidates who ordinarily could not afford to run for county council,” Bliss said.
“I think it’s a good thing to have choice,” said Phil Andrews, a former Montgomery County council member who later ran for county executive. Andrews pushed for years to get public funding for campaigns in Montgomery County.
“It’s increasing the number of small donors for campaigns,” he said, adding that that was a good thing. “There’s no question it’s reducing the influence of big money and special interest money in the election process.”
And “it makes candidates more accountable,” he said.
The field of candidates is so big that when the League of Women Voters drew up their voter’s guide, they decided to trim some of the candidate’s responses in the print version of the guide. Otherwise, Bliss said, they would have ended up with an 80-page voter’s guide versus the 48-page print version.
Bliss is quick to point out that the online version has all the responses from each candidate, available at Vote411.org.
To get a print version of the voter’s guide, Bliss said, “You can go to your library and get one!”
Andrews encourages voters not to toss those campaign mailers right off the bat. Instead, he said, use them as a window on the candidate’s priorities and approach.
“Look at the webpages, look at questionnaire responses, if they’re available. That can be revealing,” Andrews said.
“There are a lot of good candidates running,” he added. “Voters do have a lot of good choices.”
Voters have until June 5 to update their registration. Early voting starts June 14 and runs through June 21, including Saturday and Sunday. The primary is June 26.
See the entire sample ballot for your address here.