BETHESDA — As the primary approaches, democrats running for County Executive continue to try and jockey for position attempting to appeal to local voters and to be gain attention, one candidate ran the first “attack ad” against an opponent.
Recently, County Council member and candidate for County Executive Roger Berliner (D-1) released an ad attacking one of his opponents, businessman David Blair, with the narrator in the ad saying Blair is a “another rich guy with zero experience, spending his millions to buy this election,” with a black-and-white photo of Blair morphing into a photo of Donald Trump.
But when a new resident to the County asked Berliner at a forum in Bethesda about who was most progressive and who was most conservative among the candidates, Berliner decided to answer the question by giving positive aspects of each candidate – including Blair.
“David Blair has been a successful businessman,” Berliner told the forum, running through the accomplishments of each one of his Democratic opponents.
This is one of the first ads in the County Executive race to directly attack another opponent.
Berliner’s ad comparing Blair to Trump is not a brand-new idea. While Blair was an unknown before the race, he has loaned his campaign $1.6 million, in part, to help dispel the idea that he is anything like Donald Trump.
In an attempt to show he is more than just a rich businessman running for office, Blair has had made much of his campaign about streamlining the regulatory regime in the County to make it more business-friendly. Blair has said repeatedly that the County needs to increase the tax base to pay for the myriad of social programs it funds – something most of the candidates have also said.
Blair, who was chairman of Fortune-500 Accountable Health Solutions before he ran for County Executive, released an ad of himself standing outside the White House to show the people of Montgomery County that he is the “opposite of Donald Trump.”
“You presented yourself as an effective and successful businessman; your problem is we just put into the White House a successful, effective businessman,” one resident told Blair at a Bethesda forum.
Of the six Democrats running for County Executive, three are outgoing members of the County Council – Berliner, Marc Elrich (D-at large) and George Leventhal (D-at large) – thanks to a term-limit referendum the voters passed in 2016.
The term-limit referendum has been used by some candidates – most notably, Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) and former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow – as a sign that the voters already decided they don’t want the status quo or any of the current members of the County Council.
A resident asked Leventhal what he thought the term-limit referendum meant to him, whether he thought it was a sign that the voters had already rejected him along with the other Council members running for County Executive.
“Why are you running if term limits passed with 70 percent Countywide?” A resident asked Leventhal.
“We’ll find out on June 26 who the voters want to lead us into the future,” Leventhal said.
Unlike many candidates who have positioned themselves as political outsiders who can “shake things up,” Leventhal has taken the opposite approach – calling himself a government insider who can be a better steward of the Executive Branch. Leventhal has repeatedly chastised other candidates for either bashing the County’s economic state too harshly or making unrealistic promises to voters.
While many progressive groups have backed Elrich, who is known as the “Takoma Park, Bernie Sanders voter,” Elrich has repeatedly said he is not an “ideologue.”
Elrich has been seen by many as the biggest skeptic in the race against development. While Elrich has said that he is not against increased development, he said his goal is to make sure developers pay for needed infrastructure that comes with increased development.
“Development should add value; it’s why, as County Executive, I’ll make developers invest in schools and infrastructure and I’ll never take their campaign money,” Elrich said in one of his campaign ads.
The Democratic Primary election will take place on June 26.