Wilhelm Says He Wants to Reach Disengaged Young Voters

At-Large Council candidate Chris Wilhelm | SUBMITTED

A 30-year-old Democrat from Chevy Chase said he wants to engage more young people as he vies for an at-large position on the Montgomery County Council.

In the 2014 elections, Democratic candidate Chris Wilhelm said, only 4,000 Democrats under the age of 30 voted.

“There are tens of thousands of people who are disengaged from local politics and have been for a long time,” Wilhelm said. “I’m out talking to a lot of young Democrats, and the environment is at the top of their list of priorities.”

One of his issues would be to take a look at the incinerator in Dickerson, which burns county solid waste.

“That facility it spews toxins into air, and then we landfill the toxic ash after trash is burned,” Wilhelm said.

What he would rather do is look at how San Francisco has put in place a zero waste strategy. Companies use recycling materials to create new products at the waste site.

Wilhelm teaches English as a second language at Northwood High School in Silver Spring.

All nine positions of the County Council will be up for re-election in 2018. Four seats — including three at-large seats — will be open because the incumbents are term-limited from seeking re-election.

Wilhelm said many Montgomery County residents think that because the county has Democratic legislators, they are pushing a progressive agenda. Many of them are, but that’s not always the case, he said.

He cited an estate tax cut that the leadership General Assembly’s Democratic leadership pushed through in 2014. It applied only to multimillionaires, he said.

Because of that tax cut, the state treasury is collecting $100 million less, he said. Half of the county’s delegation to Annapolis voted for that tax cut, he said.

Another “large tax cut for multimillionaires” occurred in 2010, when an income tax passed during the recession was allowed to sunset in 2010.

Add those losses in revenue with Maryland’s decision to push the costs of teacher pensions onto the counties, “all three put county council in a very difficult position,” Wilhelm said.

“I think we’re seeing a lot more people paying attention to politics than usual because of the insanity at the federal level,” Wilhelm said, “and I’m interested in trying to direct some of that energy toward equity and sustainability at the local level.”

Wilhelm has filed to take part in the county’s public election fund, which requires candidates to accept no more than $150 from individual donors. The 2018 races will be the fund’s inaugural election.

If candidates meet donor and dollar minimums, they can augment their campaign coffers with an $11 million taxpayer-financed fund.

Wilhelm said he’s “crossed the halfway point to qualifying for public funds.” He has more than 125 contributors and collected more than $10,000. At-large candidates must collect $20,000 from 250 donors, according to the county’s public election financing law.

“When you do rely on small group of wealthy donors, you don’t have an incentive to reach out to a broader swath of the community and advocate for their issues,” he said. “I think when campaigns don’t have an incentive to talk to disengaged voters, it has perverse policy outcomes in the end.”

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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