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Public Financing For Campaigns Faces Challenges In Montgomery County

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The push for campaign finance reform in Montgomery County is hitting some roadblocks.

Earlier this year, Council member Phil Andrews introduced a bill that would provide a public financing option for any candidate running for a county office like executive or Council member. All of his colleagues co-sponsored the bill. The state of Maryland has a similar voluntary public option for those running for governor.

Under Andrews' proposal, individual donations to a candidate who takes the public option would be limited to $150 each, and for each donation there would be matching public funds. And that is where the problem comes in for the county, according to Council president Craig Rice.

Given that there are an increasing number of self-funded candidates using their own personal wealth to run, it could become very expensive for the county to help pay for those matching funds for a publicly funded candidate who needs to raise a large amount of money to compete in a race against against a self-funded one.

"We live by the sword. We die by the sword. Montgomery County is an affluent area. So are we setting ourselves up by having a war of the haves and have-nots when it comes to campaign finance," he says. And are we actually able to support a campaign that might run up against... a self-funded candidate?"

Andrews, who finished third in last week's Democratic primary for county executive, said in an email to supporters he will focus his remaining months on the Council on getting the public financing bill passed.

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