Incumbent Marc Elrich elected Montgomery County Executive once again- but it wasn’t an easy race.


Portrait of Marc Elrich (Montgomery County)

Gillian Stingley, Meeting Managing and Features Editor

In 2021, The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2021 that over one million people live within the 497 square miles that comprise Montgomery County. Within these borders also lives one person, the County Executive, charged with the executive branch of the most populous county in Maryland and, according to Forbes, one of the top 20 most affluent in the United States. The Office of the County Executive oversees departments and offices that are part of the Montgomery County government. It works with policies, plans, programs, budgets, and legislation, as well as creating executive orders and regulations. The current County eExecutive is Marc Elrich, who is also the Democratic nominee for the 2022 election.


The story starts with the Democratic primaries. In this 60% Democratic county, they often determine the results of the election overall. Losing to Elrich in the primary were Hans Riemer and David Blair. Though Elrich, Blair, and Riemer all ran in the same party, their platforms could not be more different.


Riemer, who is currently serving as an At-Large Councilmember, gained around 20% of Democratic votes. He was first elected to the County Council in 2010, and is approaching the end of his last term.  Before his 12-year tenure as Councilmember, He served as the Youth Vote Director in the 2008 Obama campaign. In his time working for Montgomery County, he has advocated for affordable housing, renewable energy, and universal Pre-K. He is also serving as the Chair of the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee and a member of the Transportation and Environment Committee. In a similar move to the one that Elrich made in the 2018 election, he decided to run for County Executive while serving his last term as County Councilmember. Unlike Elrich in 2018, however, he lost the Democratic primaries by a 19.3% margin.


David Blair is a businessman based in Potomac who has twice unsuccessfully run for County Executive. Unlike Elrich and Riemer, he has never served on the Montgomery County Council. He is currently the Chairman of Accountable Health Solutions Inc. and previously worked as the chairman of Catalyst Health Solutions Inc., which was sold for $4.8 billion in 2012. Additionally, Blair served on the Montgomery County Economic Advisory Committee. His entrepreneurialism played a big part in his campaign, which focused on investing in local businesses, empowering community leaders, and promoting discipline and clarity in county finances. Most of all, he hoped to bring leadership through a “fresh perspective” in Montgomery County politics and thoughtful use of county resources, according to a statement made to Montgomery Community Media.


The most notable points of his campaign, however, were not his focus on economics or his business background, rather  the large amount of money he spent, and the small margin he lost to Elrich by, mirroring his loss in the 2018 primaries. Before the 2022 primaries, Blair lost by only 77 votes. According to the Bethesda Beat, he also lost a significant amount of money, with $5.7 million being spent on his campaign, 5.4 million of which came out of his own pocket. 


Hopeful for a winning campaign after the difficult 2018 election, he ran again but faced a similar- if not more dismal- fate. Blair managed to surpass his already-high record in the 2022 primaries, spending a total of $6.55 million on this campaign, 6.18 million of his own. Conversely, Elrich spent around $1 million on his campaign. Both Elrich and Riemer used the Montgomery County public campaign financing system, which sets a maximum donation of $250 for individuals and does not allow donations from corporations or political action committees. Spending less than ⅙ of the money spent by Blair, Elrich managed to win by .02% of Democratic votes.


After Blair filed for a recount, Elrich was again found as the winner and turned his focus to his Republican opponent, Reardon “Sully” Sullivan. In a largely Democratic county, with only 12.5% of Montgomery County voters registered as Republican, Sullivan faced an uphill battle against Elrich. However, Sullivan remained hopeful for a win in a county that has not elected a Republican County Executive since 1970. Sullivan ran against attorney Shelly Skolnick in the Republican primaries in what was described as a “friendly” campaign by Skolnick according to the Bethesda Beat. Sullivan won with 63.03% of Republican votes and the support of Skolnick in his race against Elrich. Knowing the largely-Democratic county Sullivan ran in, his campaign became a careful mix of bipartisan policies and anybody-but-Elrich points. His campaign website even says, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” In an interview with O’Conner and Company in August, Sullivan said, “60% of the Democratic primary vote was not in favor of Marc Elrich, and I think that’s a great opportunity.” 

With this idea in mind, he highlighted common points from both his campaign and the campaigns of Riemer and Blair. For example, he wants 5G infrastructure in the county and to improve the American Legion Bridge, which candidate Riemer also supports. His economic ideas were similar to Blair’s, with concerns about Elrich’s financial transparency being a key issue in his campaign, as evidenced by a video on his YouTube page. Their similarities don’t stop there, with both Blair and Sullivan leaning closer to the center than their opponents. He even lives in Darnestown, where David Blair grew up. His advantages in the race don’t stop there, as Elrich is facing backlash as many politicians did while serving in the “changing political geography,” as described by the Pew Research Center, of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his August interview, he also stated his support for “common sense” in Montgomery County and a focus on STEAM in schools instead of social justice. That being said, Sullivan still had a long way to go to beat his incumbent opponent, Marc Elrich. Not only that, but they had vastly different platforms. 

Elrich has long been a member of the Montgomery County community. According to his profile on the Montgomery County website, he attended Albert Einstein High School. Marc Elrich also taught at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park for 17 years before even running for County Council, which  put him in favor of educators and parents alike. He has long been known as a union-backed politician in the county, and his actions in the County Council further demonstrated his commitment to the working class. Also mentioned in his profile, he worked to increase the minimum wage to $11.50 and later $15. He has also been passionate about tenants’ rights and proposed the Bus Rapid Transit system in Montgomery County, which began service along Route 29 under the name “Flash” in October of 2020. In his 2022 campaign, he was supported by a number of unions: Montgomery County Education Association, National Nurses United, and Montgomery County Career and Volunteer Firefighters are just a few listed on his website. The most notable union missing, however, was Montgomery County’s Police union, the FOP Lodge 35. This ties into a bigger issue regarding Marc Elrich, Reardon Sullivan, and Montgomery County Police. While the police union endorsed Elrich in the 2018 election, they endorsed Sullivan in the Republican primaries. However, Elrich’s support for and by the union has put him at odds with some county democrats after backlash from a controversial decision made in 2021 in which Elrich agreed to let the local police union review files before being released to the public. Losing the support of the union caused Elrich to face both backlash due to his previous support by the union and a lack of support from those within and supporting the union.

Despite the challenges he faced in the primaries and against Sullivan, Elrich has (unofficially) won again, gaining 73.6% of votes cast. However, with 60% of Democrats not favoring Elrich in the primary, Montgomery County residents are now left wondering: are our county elections truly functioning with the voter in mind?