Ficker Left Out of Candidates Debate

Republican Robin Ficker has not been invited to the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce debate. | File Photo

Republican county executive candidate Robin Ficker is objecting to a Nov. 15 forum hosted by The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce because the event includes only the three Democratic candidates for the position.

The event got an attack from a second front — that the chamber was seeking $50 from chamber members and $70 from nonmembers who wished to attend.

“Candidates forums or candidates debates should be free to the public,” said Paul Bessel. Bessel is a retired lawyer who lives in Leisure World. He holds some influence on county politics in part because he’s one of the few people who publish a comprehensive list of upcoming political events.

After seeing the cost posted online, Bessel wrote to the three Democratic candidates — Council President Roger Berliner, and councilmembers Marc Elrich and George Leventhal — urging them not to attend.

“I would hope that Roger, Marc and I would make a decision cooperatively on how to proceed in response to the concerns that you and others have raised,” Leventhal wrote to Bessel.

“I did not want to participate if there was a charge, and those feelings got conveyed,” Elrich said. “Near as I can tell, they adjusted their policy.”

Berliner said he accepted the invitation to the debate long before he knew the chamber was charging the audience. But he was concerned as soon as he found out about the charge a few days ago.

“My instinct was it’s going to be a problem,” he said.

By Tuesday morning, the chamber announced the debate would be free to the public. Bessel, however, remained concerned because the event could have one tier for audience members who pay and a second tier for those who don’t.

Ginanne Italiano, the chamber’s president and CEO, could not be reached.

The debate, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., will be moderated by Steve Hull, publisher of Bethesda Magazine and the website Bethesda Beat, and Andrew Metcalf, who covers county government for Bethesda Beat. In a Bethesda Beat article about the event, the website calls itself a host of the debate.

Even though the chamber changed its mind on the charge, it didn’t change its mind on Ficker.

“Our voters have a long history of listening to wide-ranging, robust debates on the issues for important offices like county executive. It is especially important now because the office of county executive, after being held by Ike Leggett for three terms, is an open seat and voters want to know the direction in which the county is going,” Ficker said in a statement.

The forum is five months before the June 26, 2018, primary and three months before the Feb. 27, 2018, filing deadline for candidates.

During the 2014 election — which also had three Democrats, Leggett, former councilmember Phil Andrews and former county executive Doug Duncan, as well as a single Republican, Jim Shalleck — similar issues arose. Some political events invited all four candidates, but some were limited to the three Democrats.


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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

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


4 Responses to “Ficker Left Out of Candidates Debate”

  1. Avatar
    On September 6, 2017 at 11:02 am responded with... #

    I realize democrats tend to be ‘shady’ when it comes to politics but this time try to pretend to be inclusive.

  2. Avatar
    On September 6, 2017 at 6:22 pm responded with... #

    What low class by not including Robin Ficker in this debate. Montgomery County politics is the epitome of the Democratic party. Totally useless to anyone but a democrat. Your not inclusive, not really liberal, so self opinionated that you serve no purpose other than yourselves. I can’t wait to move from this county.

    • Avatar
      On September 6, 2017 at 10:37 pm responded with... #

      Democrats are disrespectful and only want people around who benefit them. We the people don’t exist

  3. Avatar
    On September 7, 2017 at 8:41 pm responded with... #

    I know chickens when I see them. Truth is Robin Ficker, if present, would restore the natural pecking order by putting citizens first! This is not a “debate” because, by its very definition, a debate would allow different points of view to be articulated. They are afraid of Robin Ficker because he is candid, well versed, and they know they couldn’t handle the questions he would raise.

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