Montgomery’s ballot fight on term limits for council, county exec is a low-budget affair

Whatever the outcome for the term limits proposal on next month’s Montgomery County ballot, neither supporters nor opponents are likely to be accused of trying to buy the contest.

The two political committees organized around Question B — Voters for Montgomery County Term Limits and No on B — raised a total of $12,000, according to state campaign finance reports filed late Friday.

A little over $9,000 was collected by No on B, which opposes the charter amendment to limit the county executive and County Council members to three terms. About 70 percent of that amount is from incumbent council members, their family members or staff.

Council members Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Marc Elrich (D-At Large), Sidney Katz (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg), George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty) and Hans Riemer (D-At Large) put up a total of $6,000 from their campaign treasuries. Casa de Maryland, the immigrant advocacy group, donated $1,000. Smaller contributions came from Leventhal’s father, Carl Leventhal, and staff aides to Riemer, Elrich and Navarro.

The committee’s major expense ($5,000) was the fee for attorney Jonathan Shurberg, who led an unsuccessful court fight to get the question removed from the ballot. The group had about $4,000 cash on hand through Oct. 9.

“This was not going to be a $50,000 or $100,000 campaign,” said the committee’s chairman, Tom Moore. He said most of the push will come on Election Day from other groups opposed to Question B, including the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and the Montgomery County Education Association, which are expected to recommend a “no” vote on sample ballots.

“I think we’re in a pretty good position,” Moore said.

Donations to Voters for Montgomery County Term Limits were minimal but suggest that an unusual coalition of real estate interests, neighborhood groups and Republican activists — all with various grievances against council incumbents — may be forming around the issue.

The committee reported donations of $2,890, nearly all of which was still on hand as of Oct. 9. The largest donation ($1,000) is from Charles K. Nulsen III, president of Washington Property Company, a Bethesda firm that owns apartment and office buildings throughout the county. Despite unhappiness in the real estate community with the council’s decision to raise property and recordation taxes, Nulsen appears to be the sole developer presence in the report.

Smaller contributors included Paula Bienenfeld ($250), immediate past president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, an umbrella group of neighborhood associations that recently endorsed Question B; Dwight Patel ($100), second vice chair of the Montgomery County GOP; and Brad Botwin ($75), founder and director of Help Save Maryland, listed as a “nativist-extremist” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its positions on immigration. Help Save Maryland has been critical of policies that have made the county more hospitable for illegal immigrants.

Another report is due on Oct. 28.

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