Montgomery County executive candidate David Blair

District 15 Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Potomac) on Thursday became the third member of Montgomery County’s eight-person state Senate delegation to endorse businessman David Blair in next month’s Democratic primary for county executive.

Feldman – whose decision was announced in a press release from the Blair campaign – joins Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D-Montgomery Village) and Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville) in backing Blair. Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Lee (D-Bethesda) recently endorsed the incumbent, Marc Elrich, who is seeking a second term.

“I am proud to endorse David Blair for county executive,” Feldman said. “David has the experience and ambition to set big goals and follow through for results that are necessary to be an effective county executive. With David’s strong leadership skills, Montgomery County can address the pressing issues facing our residents.”

Feldman — first elected to the House of Delegates in 2002 before moving a decade later to the Senate, where he is vice chair of the Finance Committee – largely attributed his decision to economic development concerns, as he pointed to statistics indicating Montgomery County is lagging behind other jurisdictions in the region in job creation.

“We fancy ourselves as potentially being a national leader in life sciences, but right now, we’re not even leading the region,” Feldman said during a telephone interview, adding: “It’s a huge issue for our county and, in order to right the ship, there has to be collaboration between our county executive and the County Council. And that doesn’t appear to be there at the present time.”

Feldman also suggested the county has a “branding issue” that has manifested itself in failure to attract emerging members of the workforce. He noted his daughter, a Winston Churchill High School graduate who recently finished college, is living in Northern Virginia.

“All her friends are living in Northern Virginia or D.C.; none are living on the Maryland side,” he said. “That is also a problem.”

He called it “concerning” that Elrich has yet to attract any re-election endorsements from the nine-member County Council. In addition to Blair, at-large Council Member Hans Riemer of Takoma Park is taking on Elrich in the July 19 county executive primary, while District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker of Silver Spring pursued a months-long campaign for executive before deciding in April to instead run for an at-large council seat.

Elrich could not immediately be reached for comment via phone on Thursday. Riemer declined to comment. 

District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro of Colesville last week endorsed Blair, while the remaining six current council members have not taken sides in the executive race.

“Senator Feldman has been an effective and exceptional leader for Montgomery County residents,” Blair said. “I am grateful for his endorsement and look forward to working with him and utilizing his valuable experience to help our county reach its potential.”

To be sure, Blair’s backers in the state legislative delegation kept their political distance from Elrich – a sometimes controversial figure during three terms on the County Council – four years ago, even after he narrowly defeated Blair in the Democratic primary and went on to win a first term as executive.

During the 2018 general election campaign, Feldman and Kagan, as well as Del. Lily Qi (D-North Potomac) – who endorsed Blair last week – were among a handful of local Democratic elected officials to refrain from offering their endorsement after Elrich became the party’s nominee. 

King initially gave her endorsement to Elrich but adopted a position of neutrality after then-Council Member Nancy Floreen switched her registration from Democratic to independent to challenge Elrich in November 2018. Floreen is currently backing Blair.

In addition to Lee, Elrich this year has been endorsed by two other members of the county’s legislative delegation – Dels. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery Village) and Vaughn Stewart (D-Derwood). Aside from the latter two legislators and Qi, the balance of the county’s 24-member House of Delegates contingent so far has opted not to endorse in the executive race.

Elrich campaign officials indicated that their emphasis has been on lining up organizational endorsements: As was the case in 2018, about a dozen labor unions and coalitions are behind Elrich. This includes the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents nearly 14,000 teachers in the county’s public schools, and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, which represents a majority of the 9,000-member county government workforce.

Elrich’s latest union endorsement, National Nurses United, was announced Wednesday. CASA In Action, the political arm of the immigrant advocacy group, is also backing him.

Blair’s organizational endorsements include the Sierra Club Montgomery County Group and the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.

Riemer’s endorsements to date have come exclusively from individuals: former Gov. Parris Glendening, former County Council members Cherri Branson and Gail Ewing, and Mike Tidwell, founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Other Blair individual endorsements include Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, U.S. Reps. Michael Barnes and John Delaney, former County Council Member Valerie Ervin, and former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow, who finished third behind Elrich and Blair in the six-way 2018 Democratic executive primary.

Other Elrich endorsements include retiring Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh – who also backed Elrich four years ago – and Town of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin.

Besides Blair, Elrich and Riemer, the Democratic executive primary includes Gaithersburg-based technology entrepreneur Peter James. County Republican Chair Reardon Sullivan and Friendship Heights attorney Shelly Skolnick are competing for the Republican nomination in a county where winning the Democratic primary has been tantamount to election in recent years, given a nearly 4-1 Democratic registration edge.

Louis Peck, a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine, can be reached at: lou.peck@bethesdamagazine.com