Montgomery Council President Tom Hucker eyes campaign for county executive

Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker (D) announced Thursday that he had formed an “exploratory committee” in considering whether to challenge Democratic incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich (D) in 2022. (Maryland Matters/Bruce DePuyt)

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Frustrated by an incumbent whose leadership style he considers sluggish, Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker (D) has formed an “exploratory” committee ahead of an expected bid to unseat County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) in 2022.

Hucker is holding a campaign event at Kaldi’s Social House in Silver Spring tonight, a venue he chose because it is a Black- and immigrant-owned small business.

Hucker becomes the third Democrat to announce plans to challenge Elrich, who became the top official in the state’s largest county in 2018, following a narrow primary victory.

In considering whether to challenge Elrich, with whom he has a friendly relationship, Hucker has spoken extensively with associates from around Montgomery and others he befriended during his two terms in the House of Delegates.

Hucker’s council district includes the politically-active and liberal southeast corner of Montgomery County, an area that includes Takoma Park, where Elrich served as a city councilman before winning a county council seat.

Although the two men have overlapping bases of support and have worked together on countless issues, Hucker has been urged to forego a third term on the council because of frustrations with Elrich’s leadership style.

“He’s being urged by unions and business-leaders and everybody” to run, said a well-known, politically-active Democrat with whom Hucker has spoken.

Elrich won the 2018 primary by just 77 votes over businessman David Blair, taking 29.02% of the vote to Blair’s 28.96%.

He received 64% of the vote in a three-candidate general election campaign that included a long-serving Democrat, Council Member Nancy Floreen, who ran as an independent, and Republican Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate.

The activist — who spoke on condition of anonymity — said there is a broad belief among political insiders that Elrich could be vulnerable.

Elrich “hasn’t built out that 29% [and] Tom knows it,” he added. “There’s been a lack of purpose and immediacy by the county executive.”

Hucker, the founder of Progressive Maryland, is expected to focus on economic development, social justice and expanding the county’s transit network.

In an email to supporters on Thursday afternoon, he said he would be making a “special announcement.”

“Our county needs forward-thinking, progressive change,” Hucker wrote. “We can make it happen — but only with your support.” The announcement, an invitation to the rally, did not mention his plans to challenge Elrich.

Blair announced his plan to run for executive in March. The former CEO of a health care services company and a philanthropist, Blair spent more than $5 million on the 2018 race and is expected to dig deep again in next year’s battle.

Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer (D) launched his campaign for county executive last month. Unlike Hucker, who could seek re-election to the council if he chose, Riemer is in his third term and cannot run again for his at-large seat because of Montgomery’s term-limits law.

In Montgomery County, Republicans are a non-factor in local elections. Whether the presence of so many primary challengers works to Elrich’s advantage won’t be known until Democratic voters go to the polls next June.

It took Elrich several tries to win a county council seat, but he was the top vote-getter in the 2010 and 2014 elections. He has strong ties to the county’s politically-powerful unions.

Elrich has generated headlines for his battles with Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) over the state’s response to the pandemic, a controversial highway-widening project and other issues.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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