New Montgomery Republican chairman looks to attract candidates -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County’s new Republican Party chairman plans to focus on finding conservative candidates and promoting conservative principles as the county prepares for November’s elections.

Michael Higgs, an attorney at the Potomac firm of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, was elected Montgomery County Republican Central Committee chairman on Nov. 26, replacing Mark Uncapher.

Higgs said he plans to work on recruiting well-qualified conservative Republican candidates and educating residents on why conservative philosophies, such as free-market principles and individual liberties, work better for everyone.

The central committee will run several forums for candidates and bring in consultants to talk about topics such as how to run an effective campaign and how to talk about issues, he said.

The committee also will concentrate on basic political activities, such as fundraising, grassroots organizing and get-out-the-vote efforts.

James Shalleck, a Montgomery Village attorney who plans to seek the Republican nomination for county executive, said he knows Higgs a little and described him as enthusiastic and dedicated to working hard to get Republicans elected.

Uncapher, the committee’s chairman since 2008, didn’t challenge Higgs for the chairman’s spot and was instead elected as treasurer.

Uncapher said House of Delegates Districts 14 and 15 will be priorities for the committee in the upcoming election.

Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly three-to-one in Montgomery, with statistics from the State Board of Elections showing 345,449 registered Democrats to 125,185 Republicans as of the 2012 presidential election.

But in Districts 14 and 15, Democrats only hold an advantage of about two-to-one, by far the closest ratio in the county.

As of Dec. 11, four Democrats — including all three incumbents — had filed to run for delegate seats in District 15. No Republicans had filed.

The same was true in District 15. All three current delegates have filed to run, along with one challenger — all Democrats.

The Republican party also will look at mounting a challenge for the District 2 County Council seat held by Council President Craig Rice (D) of Germantown, which Uncapher said has traditionally been a more centrist seat.

Higgs confirmed Uncapher’s targets, but said the party intends to field strong candidates in all General Assembly and County Council races.

There are no Republicans representing Montgomery at the county, state or federal levels.

Higgs said the committee would stay away from endorsing candidates in primary battles, but could try to avoid stiff primary challenges if possible by guiding candidates to open seats.

The county’s proximity to Washington, D.C., offers a base of Republicans with deep political experience that the party can tap into, Uncapher said.

And Higgs said that even though they’re outnumbered, there are a lot of Republicans in the county.

“We’re not alone here,” he said.