Questions About Campaign Financing Fund Raised at GO Committee Meeting

There were several questions raised about Montgomery County’s new public election fund at the County Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee meeting Thursday morning.

Leading the discussion was Jared DeMarinis, who is the director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections. Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Sidney Katz and Hans Riemer serve on the GO Committee and Councilmember Marc Elrich also attended the meeting.

According to DeMarinis, 17 candidates have filed a declaration of intent to participate in the fund, and the first day to file a report for certification is July 4.

“We are doing outreach… and we are scheduling a webinar now for July 11,” said DeMarinis, who also suggested the county appoint a local point person to address questions.

Some of the questions posed by DeMarinis to Council members, included: “What is the definition of a county resident? Is there a time limit needed to reside in county in order to be considered a county resident? Are there any violations that would remove a candidate from the program or can a candidate remedy the violation and remain a certified candidate? Who determines what these violations are and when one is committed? Do qualifying contributions received and used in a primary election but not matched due to a candidate achieving the maximum threshold remain eligible for matching funds for the general election? Do contested elections include write-in candidates or only candidates listed on the ballot?”

Council staff is now drafting legislation for the Council to consider to address some of these questions raised by state BOE officials..

It was also noted during the meeting that additional resources may be needed for any post-election audit.

The $11 million campaign finance fund provides matching county funds based on eligible contributions to eligible candidates. To be eligible, a candidate must be a county resident who is certified to run for either the office of county executive or county council in a primary or general election.

A candidate needs to obtain a specific number of small contributions from county residents of between $5 and $150 to qualify for public funding. Each of these qualifying contributions must be received during the qualifying period. To qualify for public financing, a candidate for county executive must collect at least 500 qualifying contributions and an aggregate total of at least $40,000 to qualify. A candidate for at-large Council seat must collect at least 250 qualifying contributions and an aggregate total of at least $20,000. A candidate for a  district Council seat must collect at least 125 qualifying contributions and an aggregate total of at least $10,000.  You can find a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the fund, here.

DeMarinis told Councilmembers that Howard County is using the Montgomery County law as a model to implement its public financing program.

The Gubernatorial Primary Election is set for June 26, 2018. Early voting takes place from June 14-21, 2018.

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Sonya Burke

About Sonya Burke

Sonya Burke is the Multimedia Manager at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at sburke@mymcmedia.org or reach her on Twitter @SonyaNBurke.

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