About 30 people squeezed into the living room of a Bethesda home on Oct. 23 for a chance to get to know Roger Berliner, a Democrat running for County Council who is hoping to defeat incumbent Howie Denis (R-1) for the seat representing Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase.
The crowd of mostly senior citizens was receptive to Berliner, an energy lawyer who has mounted a campaign against Denis.
As a legal representative for county governments, Berliner battled energy giant Enron, and he recently sued Governor Bob Ehrlich (R) for failing to enforce a long-standing state law designed to provide incentives for gas-efficient cars while taxing gas guzzlers. Berliner has also lobbied the Board of Education to encourage later school start times since some studies have suggested that sleep deficits may be negatively impacting secondary school students’ performance.
Berliner spent much of his speech attacking Denis, calling him a “career politician” and slamming him for low marks from the Sierra Club and for allegedly receiving more money from developers than any other Councilmember.
“Career politicians know how to get elected – they put a finger in the air and see which way the wind is blowing,” said Berliner. “We need to go beyond that. We need people willing to think big and be bold – people who are willing to make mistakes.”
Berliner assailed Denis for being a Republican and sought to align the Council race with national politics.
“He chose to run as a delegate for Bush in 2004 … while I went to Florida to work for John Kerry,” said Berliner. “But you won’t see that on his campaign literature. It’s like the secret life of Howard Denis.”
DOUG CANTER hosted the meet-and-greet.
“I’ve known Roger for years and he’s an extremely qualified person with a lot of experience,” he said. “I feel that the county and state and country are facing serious issues, and it’s time for a serious person to solve our problems in education, transportation and the environment.”
Canter said that in particular, he is dissatisfied with what he considers excessive standardized testing in public schools, particularly the Maryland State Assessments that are now a requirement for high school graduation. Canter said he wants a Councilmember who will ensure “adequate funding for interventions to make sure kids are able to pass.”
Like Berliner, Canter is an energy lawyer.
“He’s got a wealth of experience in energy policy, and he’s putting emphasis on environmental issues like renewable energy and green buildings,” said Canter.
Campaign coordinator Margo Reid said she was very pleased with the turnout at the meet-and-greet. She said that voters have been most receptive to Berliner’s proposals on “the three E’s”: energy, environment and education.
“Our strategy is simply: to get the word out,” she said. “It’s always an uphill battle with an incumbent, but Roger has a lot to offer in energy, environment and education issues that his opponent has not shown great leadership on.”
<b>Roger Berliner (D)</b>
EDUCATION: Dartmouth College, McGeorge School of Law
OCCUPATION: president of Berliner Law, PLLC, and specializes in energy law
EXPERIENCE: Montgomery County Democratic Area Coordinator; former host of the Montgomery Community Television show “Search for Common Ground in Montgomery County,” a program that brought adversaries on local issues together in order to forge compromises; former legislative director for U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum; former senior policy advisor to Congressman Henry Waxman; former director of Congressional liaison in the Carter administration
ENDORSEMENTS: Congressman Chris Van Hollen; Senator Brian Frosh; Delegate Brian Feldman; former County Executives Neal Potter and Sidney Kramer; former Congressman Michael Barnes; Congressman Henry Waxman; NOW; Green Democrats; Coalition of Asian Pacific Democrats
FAMILY: Wife Susan Dillon, daughter Jesse Marie and son, Owen David Berliner
LIVES IN: Potomac
CAMPAIGN FINANCES: has received $80,965 in contributions and spent $17,403 in this election cycle; had a reported cash balance of $63,562 as of Sept 1