The gloves are coming off in the Montgomery County executive race.
Roger Berliner, a Democratic candidate and district County Council member, unveiled Wednesday what appears to be the first negative TV campaign ad of the Democratic primary directed at a single opponent. Berliner takes a shot at Potomac businessman David Blair in the new ad, in which a narrator compares Blair to Donald Trump.
“With our values under attack we need a proven leader as county executive who will fight for us,” the narrator says. “That’s not David Blair—another rich guy with zero government experience spending his millions to buy this election.”
The ad then shows Blair’s face morphing into that of Donald Trump. The campaign plans to run the ad on television over the next three weeks, according to an email to Berliner supporters from campaign manager Mallory MacRostie.
Blair issued a statement Wednesday in response to the ad.
“I am proud of the clean and positive campaign I am running and I am proud to run on my experience in the private sector,” Blair said. “Montgomery County voters overwhelmingly spoke out against politics as usual when they supported term limits for members of the County Council. While some of my opponents are now running negative ads and contributing to the toxicity of our politics, our campaign is entirely focused on growing our economy, fixing our broken infrastructure, improving our schools and making Montgomery County a place for everybody to live, work, start a business and raise a family.”
Berliner and Blair are also running against council members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and Rose Krasnow, former deputy director of the county’s planning department, in the June 26 Democratic primary. Blair is the only candidate with no government experience—Krasnow is a former Rockville mayor; Elrich, Leventhal and Berliner have all served on the council for more than 11 years; and Frick has served in the General Assembly since 2007.
Blair, a wealthy former CEO of a pharmacy benefit management company, has aired a television ad that takes the opposite view of the ad produced by the Berliner campaign. It opens with Blair standing in front of the White House. In the ad he says he’s at the White House “to make a point.”
“I’m the opposite of Donald Trump,” he says. “As a young man, I discovered the big drug companies were paying secret rebates to push their expensive prescriptions. I started a company in a one-room office to empower customers to fight back.”
The criticism by Berliner appears to be the first significant candidate to candidate attack of the Democratic primary. The candidates have largely been amicable to each other at forums and mostly focused on their record and the policies they hope to implement if elected county executive.
However, criticism of Blair has ramped up since he received the endorsement of The Washington Post May 13. Earlier this month, Progressive Maryland, a liberal political group that has endorsed Elrich, launched a month-long campaign opposing Blair that began with the distribution of a flier criticizing the candidate. Elrich also recently compared Blair to Trump.
Berliner said Wednesday he thinks the similarities between Blair and Trump are obvious.
“These are wealthy business people with no experience in government,” Berliner said. “We’ve seen how that story ends. It’s not pretty.”
The ad also highlights some of Berliner’s record—such as his work to make sure Pepco increased power reliability in the county and his effort to make developers pay more for school buildings as part of an update to the county’s subdivision staging policy.