Lack of exposure a hurdle for Montgomery County Council challengers -- Gazette.Net



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If you’re hurrying into a Metro station to catch a morning train or driving by one of the county’s busier intersections in the months leading up to the June 24 primary election, you may see Shelly Skolnick.

As a Republican running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council, Skolnick, of Silver Spring, isn’t expecting a lot of opposition for his party’s nomination in a county where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of about 3-1.

But as he tries to attract independent voters in the general election who may be registered as Democrats so they can vote in the primary, Skolnick said he plans to be as visible as possible.

One of the biggest challenges for candidates seeking to knock off an incumbent can be getting their name and positions out to voters without having the bully pulpit of a council seat to propose legislation or highlight particular issues.

Democratic at-large candidate Vivian Malloy makes sure to go to as many county events as possible, where she can hand out literature, meet voters and tell them about her positions.

But in a county with about 1 million people, a candidate needs to have a strategic plan, said Malloy, of Olney.

“You need to be very selective about how you spend your time,” she said.

Malloy said she’s found that many voters aren’t aware of the June 24 primary or that early voting will be available June 12-19 at nine locations around the county.

Much like Skolnick, Green Party at-large candidate Tim Willard of Kensington isn’t too concerned about a primary in his party. He’s more concerned with getting his message out to voters ahead of the general election.

Smaller parties don’t get the attention that the Democrats and Republicans do, so that even getting invited to debates, forums and other events can be difficult, he said.

With Montgomery County so heavily Democratic, there’s a sense that whoever wins the Democratic primary will automatically win the election, Willard said. Many people will pay attention to debates and other events leading up to the primary, but tune out afterward, he said.

Candidates have until 9 p.m. Tuesday to file their candidacy with the state Board of Elections.

Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist.3) of Gaithersburg is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive, while District 5 Councilwoman Cherri Branson (D) agreed not to seek re-election as part of her appointment to replace former Councilwoman Valerie Ervin in January.

Two Democratic at-large incumbents, council Vice President George Leventhal of Takoma Park and Councilwoman Nancy Floreen of Garrett Park, have filed for re-election, while Councilman Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, also an at-large member, said he would be filing this week. .

Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda, council President Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown and Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring have all filed.

At-large challenger Beth Daly of Dickerson, a Democrat, has filed in addition to Malloy, Skolnick and Willard.

In District 2, Gaithersburg Democrat Neda Bolourian has filed to challenge Rice, while in District 3, Rockville Councilman Tom Moore (D) has filed to succeed Andrews. Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz wrote in an email that he planned to file this week , while Gaithersburg Councilman Ryan Spiegel (D) has said he also plans to run for the seat.

The race to succeed Branson in District 5 is likely to be the most hotly contested race in the county.

Democrats Evan Glass and Jeffrey Thames, both of Silver Spring, have filed, while community activist Terrill North of Takoma Park kicked off his campaign Feb. 6 but had not filed as of Tuesday. But several other Democrats, including Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring and school board member Christopher S. Barclay, have been mentioned as possible candidates.

rmarshall@gazette.net