Montgomery County executive candidate Roger Berliner has altered his campaign ad that previously showed the face of David Blair, one of his opponents, morphing into that of President Donald Trump.
In the revised version, the morphing has been removed and Trump’s face only appears at the beginning of the ad. Berliner had unveiled the original TV ad last week as a way to compare Blair, a wealthy businessman from Potomac who has no government experience, with the president. Blair has pumped about $2 million of his own money into his campaign; the funds have been used to pay staff as well as buy TV and social media ads, according to campaign finance records.
“The comparison to Trump when it comes to zero experience and trying to buy the election is completely valid,” Berliner said in a statement Thursday. “We made this change because the reaction to the Trump image was so intense that it began to distract from our main charge that David Blair is unqualified to be county executive. This new version will keep the focus on Blair and make our message even more powerful.”
The new version of Berliner’s ad.
The ad still includes information about Berliner’s record such as his environmental work and efforts to hold Pepco accountable.
Berliner, a County Council member, and Blair are in a six-way battle for the Democratic nomination for county executive in the June 26 primary. The other candidates are council members George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and Rose Krasnow, former deputy director of the county’s planning department. Attorney Robin Ficker of Boyds is the sole Republican candidate.
Blair has been the focus of critical attacks on his business record over the past two weeks. The businessman is the former CEO of Catalyst Health Solutions, a publicly traded company that was sold in 2012 to SXC Health Solutions Inc. for $4.4 billion.
The liberal political group Progressive Maryland, which has endorsed candidate Elrich in the county executive race, is waging a month-long campaign against Blair. It has pointed to a $15 million class action lawsuit charging the improper marketing and selling of catastrophic disability insurance that Catalyst and associated insurance companies formally settled in 2017 as evidence that he skirted the law to make the company more profitable. Blair had left the company by the time the lawsuit was settled.
On Wednesday morning, members of the political group staged a rally outside Blair’s Rockville Pike campaign office during which several activists accused Blair of trying to buy the election.
“We are going head-to-head in a battle against plutocracy and Democracy,” Larry Stafford, the group’s executive director, said at the rally. “David Blair wants to buy an election here in Montgomery County … . He’s spending millions of dollars to persuade voters with a message that does not portray a complete picture of who he is.”
Blair, who has been endorsed by The Washington Post, has described the attacks as “smears, misrepresentation and spin.” He previously described the lawsuit to Bethesda Beat as a “nuisance” and that he believes the companies settled because they were racking up millions in legal fees. The companies did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
He also previously responded to the original Berliner ad by saying he is “proud to run a clean and positive campaign and I am proud to run on my experience in the private sector.”