Businessman says priorities are economy, education, equity, development
By Briana Adhikusuma @BRIADHIKUSUMA March 24, 2021
David Blair, a local businessman and philanthropist, has officially launched his 2022 election campaign for Montgomery County executive.
Blair is trying again after losing to County Executive Marc Elrich in 2018 by 77 votes in a Democratic primary. Elrich has said he plans to run for a second term.
Montgomery County Council Members Hans Riemer and Craig Rice, who both can’t run for re-election because of term limits, have said they are considering whether to run for executive. Both are also Democrats.
Blair, founder of the Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions, was born and raised in Montgomery County. He also founded Catalyst Health Solutions, from which he retired in 2012 to focus on philanthropy.
The first issue that needs to be corrected in the county’s operations is financial management, he said.
“I think our current county executive lacks financial discipline and has squandered away millions of dollars,” he said. “It was so bad that he proposed raising taxes before the pandemic hit.”
Elrich proposed a roughly 5-cent tax hike for the current fiscal year before the health crisis arrived in the county.
Most of that tax increase would have gone to the public school system through a special 3.18-cent supplemental property tax. The County Council rejected the tax increase. Elrich did not propose a tax increase in his most recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.
Blair said the county is losing high-paying jobs and needs to create more jobs to reverse the trend. However, fewer private-sector jobs are coming to the county than 15 years ago, Blair said, and 35% of IT jobs have been lost over the last 10 years.
“Over the last 10 years, our tax migration out of the county is $4.8 billion. … We have so many people leaving the county that historically, we are paying [higher] property taxes, income taxes, and that has put a real strain on our ability to fund our priorities,” Blair said. Blair said residents are desperate for new leadership.
“I believe it’s pretty clear that our current county executive lacks the ability to get things done,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that he lacks financial discipline. … Being an executive is all about recruiting and retaining top talent. Our county executive has struggled to fill top positions.”
Blair brought up the “botched” chief of police search, which ended with Chief Marcus Jones taking the position after initially being passed over for a candidate who later backed out. Blair said his priorities will be rebuilding the economy, strengthening education, providing high-quality pre-K, empowering nonprofits, embracing and improving equity, and investing in development that will invest in infrastructure and schools.
The primary will be in June 2022, followed by the general election in November.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at email@example.com.