ABOUT 50 candidates are on the June 26 Democratic primary ballot for the Montgomery County Council, well over half of them vying for four at-large seats, three of them open because of term limits, on the nine-member body. In an overwhelmingly Democratic county, the primary winners are likely shoo-ins in November; no Republican has won a countywide election in 16 years.
As the legislature for a jurisdiction of 1.1 million people, the council plays a central role in land use, transportation, housing and fiscal policy, among other matters; it also controls the purse strings for the school system, one of the nation’s largest, funded mainly by local taxes. With the county at a crossroads — prosperous but also straining to maintain schools and services on the backs of a tepid business climate and aging residents — the next council’s composition is critical.
Our endorsements in the primary contests are based on an assessment of which candidates are most likely to help broaden a tax base now lagging the demand for services — those who can stand up to entrenched interests and cultivate balanced growth.
For the at-large seats, we support Hans Riemer, the lone incumbent eligible for reelection, and three other richly experienced candidates: Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe and Evan Glass.
Mr. Riemer, running for a third term, is a steady lawmaker respected by his colleagues, who elected him as the council’s current president. He has been a leader on expanding programs to help children from low-income families, and on other measures aimed at fostering a modern economy, including establishing a coding program for students and expanding wireless and broadband networks.
Mr. Albornoz served for a decade as director of Montgomery’s Recreation Department, managing thousands of employees, dozens of facilities and a large budget of tens of millions of dollars. Few county officials are as capable or widely admired, including by his own rivals in the at-large race.
Ms. Balcombe, chief of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is an exemplary community activist, having played key roles in building a local library and park. She would lend a pragmatic, business-minded common sense to a council on which that quality is badly needed.
Mr. Glass, a nonprofit executive, has been an effective advocate for affordable housing, preserving green space and pedestrian safety. Independent-minded, tireless and deeply committed to local communities, he would be the council’s first openly gay member.
In the remaining council