Jul 27, 2022 - Politics

Town Talker: Marc Elrich and David Blair tied in Montgomery County ... again

Marc Elrich and David Blair, side-by-side headshots
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (left) and businessman David Blair. Photos: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images and Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The race for Montgomery County executive is a nail-biter reminiscent of four years ago.

Why it matters: The election to lead the county of 1.05 million people was dominated by how to rejuvenate its economy, which has lost pace with the rest of the region.

In a rematch of 2018, County Executive Marc Elrich and businessman David Blair sparred this time over the incumbent’s leadership on housing and economic development, especially in dense areas such as Silver Spring and growing corridors in Rockville and Gaithersburg.

  • More than a week out from Election Day, the two are separated by the narrowest of margins, just four years after Elrich beat Blair by 77 votes. Both campaigns are waiting for an untold number of votes still to be counted, adding to the confusion.

What I’m hearing: Elrich is waiting out the painstakingly slow vote tabulation by directing some of his ire toward election officials.

  • "The state has underfunded the boards of elections to start with. For whatever reason, these folks here did not plan it out well," Elrich tells me.

The vote counting has baffled Marylanders. It’s due to Gov. Larry Hogan vetoing an elections reform bill that would have allowed the tens of thousands of mail-in votes to be counted early.

State of play: On Tuesday, Blair pulled into a 134-vote lead, putting him at 39.33% to Elrich’s 39.20%.

Unlike Elrich, he’s not waiting it out in Montgomery County. Blair and his family decamped on a vacation, as first reported by veteran journalist Tom Sherwood, adding that the campaign declined to confirm talk that he is in Montana.

  • “David and his family went on a vacation,” campaign spokesperson Aaron Kraut told me, adding that he’ll be back today.
  • When did Blair leave? “I believe it was last Wednesday,” Kraut says when pressed.

The gossip around Montgomery County is that Blair jetted off on a chartered flight to Montana right after Election Day. It wouldn't be the greatest look for a businessman — the founder of a successful Fortune 500 health care company — who already takes heat for being a self-funded candidate pouring millions to win public office.

  • Not to mention, what pol leaves town while votes are being counted?

Flight records online show a Bombardier Challenger 350 plane belonging to private jet company NetJets taking off from Washington Dulles at 1:42pm and landing at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

  • Kraut has not responded to Axios' questions about whether Blair was on the jet.
  • Blair has been silent about his exact whereabouts, and other Montgomery County reporters have been left in the dark.

Not much is known about Blair’s getaway, but Bethesda Beat reported in 2018 that he owns a $4.5 million condo in Madison County, Montana, at the “luxe Yellowstone Club [that] gives Blair and his family access to a private ski resort, an 18-hole golf course, and fly fishing streams.”

Blair will be returning today to Montgomery County either with a bigger lead or more uncertainty.

💬 Bonus tidbit: Climate activists plan to "shut down" the Congressional Baseball Game tomorrow to protest inaction.

Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. Drop me a line about what your friends are chatting about: [email protected]

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