Former Official From State Comptroller’s Office Leads Field in Democratic Primary for Council District 1

Friedson said he started the race ‘as the underdog’


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Andrew Friedson

Via Andrew Friedson

Tuesday’s preliminary vote totals put a former adviser to the state comptroller in position to claim victory in the Democratic primary race for the seat held by outgoing County Council member Roger Berliner.   

With the standings as of midnight Tuesday, Friedson will go on to face Republican Richard Banach in the Nov. 6 general election contest to succeed Berliner, who is term-limited. The winner will assume the $128,519-per-year post in December.

With all but one of the election day precincts reporting, Friedson, 32, of Bethesda, had claimed about 28 percent of the vote. While provisional and absentee ballots also have yet to be tallied, he enjoyed a comfortable, 2,010-vote lead over second-place candidate Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez.

“It was a really competitive field with some outstanding candidates with impressive credentials. I think we started this race as the underdog and proved ourselves to be really tough,” Friedson said by phone Tuesday night after watching the returns come in at his Bethesda campaign offices.

Candidates in the field of eight were on a broad spectrum in terms of government experience. Sol Gutierrez, a 72-year-old Chevy Chase resident, has served in the Maryland General Assembly since 2003, and Pete Fosselman has served as Maryland’s deputy secretary of state and the mayor of Kensington. Meredith Wellington, 68, of Chevy Chase, sat on the Montgomery County Planning Board from 1999 to 2007, and Friedson is a former adviser to state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Tax attorney Reggie Oldak, 67, of Bethesda, lost a 2006 bid for delegate in District 16, and social worker Dalbin Osorio, 33, of Chevy Chase, said he’d been active in presidential campaigns for Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, Bill Cook, a community organizer, cast himself as a political outsider who is not beholden to special interests. Health benefits professional Jim McGee, 69, of Bethesda, drew attention to his involvement in environmental and union activism.

During the campaign, candidates delved into topics ranging from the county’s liquor monopoly to dealing with development in this rapidly evolving district that runs from Poolesville to Chevy Chase and includes Bethesda and Potomac.

Cook, a 40-year-old from Bethesda, had taken a hardline stance against what he calls “reckless development,” saying he’d try to increase impact taxes on developers. Fosselman found fault with aspects of the county master plans for Bethesda and the Westbard neighborhood and said he wouldn’t have voted for either of them.

All the candidates agreed that county officials must prevent housing growth from overwhelming local schools and roadways.

The Democrats didn’t all line up when it came to privatizing the county’s Department of Liquor Control, which handles the wholesale distribution of alcohol and retail sale of liquor in the county.

Cook, Sol Gutierrez and McGee said they’d like to keep the system but improve it. Fosselman, 50, of Kensington, has called for a hybrid system in which the county only handles sales of hard liquor. Friedson, Oldak, Osorio and Wellington were supportive of outright privatization.

The candidates also differed in their fundraising strategies. Oldak, Gutierrez, Cook, Osorio and McGee all attempted to use the county’s public financing system, which would allow them to receive public funds to match smaller, individual contributions. Only Oldak, McGee and Gutierrez were able to qualify for the public funds by raising more than $10,000 from at least 125 county residents.

Friedson, Wellington and Fosselman chose the traditional campaign financing approach, with Friedson posting the largest contribution numbers.    

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

Editor's note: This article was updated to indicate Jim McGee had qualified for public financing.

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