November 7, 2023
Voters will choose new Gaithersburg, Rockville city councilmembers Tuesday
A state senator and a developer-friendly PAC have made endorsements in the Rockville and Gaithersburg City Council races and paid to send out mailers to constituents.
In the Rockville City Council election, Affordable Maryland PAC sent out mailers endorsing current councilmember Monique Ashton for mayor and Adam Van Grack, Kate Fulton and Marissa Valeri for council seats. In the Gaithersburg City Council election, the PAC endorsed current councilmember Neil Harris, and Yamil Hernandez for council seats.
“We’re trying to be sort of omnivores of information when it comes to in particular candidates and use on housing development, and housing affordability issues in the county, and in Rockville and Gaithersburg,” said Jonathan Robinson, chair of Affordable Maryland PAC.
Robinson said Affordable Maryland endorses candidates who align with the PAC’s values of increasing access to affordable housing. According to the Washington Post, the PAC was formed in 2022 and is primarily funded by Open Philanthropy, a grant-making nonprofit funded by Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and Asana. Last year, they launched an ad campaign attacking County Executive Marc Elrich’s views on land use.
“We’re YIMBYs,” Robinson said, referencing the “Yes In My Backyard” acronym. “We’re generally in favor of development, so we really look to endorse candidates who are committed to those same kinds of ideals.”
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Dist. 17) also got in the mailer action, endorsing current Rockville councilmember David Myles, Fulton, Barry Jackson, Paul Scott and Van Grack. In the Gaithersburg race, Kagan endorsed Harris and Hernandez.
Kagan told MoCo360 that she spent $12,000 in campaign funds to print and send out the mailers. She represents Rockville and Gaithersburg in the Maryland General Assembly.
“This is just not done… spending campaign money to reflect my views when I’m not on the ballot myself,” Kagan said. “But I feel strongly about my choices and I thought I would share my views. I think people know my values; my values reflect theirs.”
In the mailers, she also encouraged voters to vote on the Rockville ballot initiatives, which she said are “really important.”
Kagan recommended voters vote “yes” on allowing 16-year-olds and non-citizens to vote in city elections, and vote “no” on setting term limits for mayor and City Council; and creating representative districts.
Kagan said she has been “gratified” by the response to the mailers, saying that multiple constituents told her they used her endorsements to inform their vote.
“I endorsed people who are smart and hardworking and responsive, but also will collaborate and be respectful,” Kagan said.
Robinson said he thinks the mailers could draw voters’ attention to the municipal elections, where there is typically lower turnout than state and presidential elections.
“When outside groups are sending advertisements out in favor of candidates, I think it tells people that people really do care, and that’s an election that’s worth paying attention to,” Robinson said.