Politics Roundup: Two Former Takoma Park Mayors Back Berliner in County Executive Race

Plus: County GOP committee treasurer resigns 24 hours after taking office; Republican attorney Harvey Jacobs plans District 15 delegate run


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Former Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams, left, and county executive candidate Roger Berliner, right

Berliner gets backing from two ex-Takoma Park mayors who served with Elrich

When the county executive campaign of County Council member Roger Berliner released a list of endorsements from current and former municipal elected officials this week, it was largely names from in and around Berliner’s District 1 political base.

But two names on the list stood out: former Takoma Park Mayors Kathy Porter and Bruce Williams, who are backing North Bethesda resident Berliner over two Takoma Park residents—at-large Council members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal—in the executive race.

Notably, both Porter and Williams were longtime colleagues of Elrich on the Takoma Park City Council, where Elrich served from 1987 until his election to the County Council in 2006.

Williams endorsed Berliner when the latter announced his candidacy late last spring. This week was the first time that Porter—who spent nearly seven years on the Takoma Park council with Elrich prior to becoming mayor—surfaced as a Berliner backer.

“I worked with Roger a good bit both in the [Metropolitan Washington] Council of Governments and on [electric] power issues and transportation stuff … and I just found him to be very helpful and very forthright,” Williams said in a phone interview, adding: “I know George, I know Marc. Yes, they’re from Takoma Park, but that’s not everything.”

Williams served with Elrich for 14 years on the Takoma Park council before becoming mayor in 2007. “I would say he was less of a lone wolf on the Takoma Park council than he is on the County Council,” said Williams, an allusion to Elrich often ending up on the losing end of 8-1 votes. “I always found him easy to work with.”

But Williams also suggested Elrich’s often blunt style could be a hindrance to him as county executive. “Sometimes, I have problems with him, like with his most recent ethnic cleansing comment. I can’t go there,” Williams said. “I think that’s where he gets himself in trouble with a lot of people.”

It was a reference to a controversial remark Elrich made at a forum last month. While calling for rent stabilization along the route of the Purple Line, he accused the Montgomery County Planning Board of “ethnic cleansing” in its 2013 sector plan for the Long Branch community east of Silver Spring adjacent to the future light rail line.

Neither Elrich nor Leventhal sought his endorsement, Williams said.

Porter, Takoma Park’s mayor from 1997 to 2007, did not respond to messages seeking comment on her Berliner endorsement.

She currently serves on the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Berliner has taken a lead role on transit issues as chairman of the council’s Transportation and Environment panel.

 

Quick Change: Treasurer of county GOP committee resigns 24 hours after taking office

Just 24 hours after he was elected the new treasurer of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, Dan Cuda resigned in an email to committee members late Wednesday.

When the GOP committee met Tuesday evening in Kensington to elect officers for the coming year, Mark Uncapher narrowly ousted the incumbent chair, Dick Jurgena. The candidates for first vice chair and second vice chair on an Uncapher-led slate also were chosen.

That left Cuda, a North Potomac resident, the only candidate on a Jurgena-affiliated rival slate to come out on top, by a 26-20 vote margin over Issa Khozeimeh of Bethesda.

But, in his email to the committee a day later, Cuda wrote, “I think it is best that Mark Uncapher … should have a unified slate to go forward with our very important electoral work of the coming year.”

Alluding to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s bid for a second term in 2018, Cuda added: “I argued [Tuesday] that our central committee needed to make a choice between two leadership teams to work for Governor Hogan's re-election. … I associated myself with the team that came in second.”

Cuda—who remains a member of the central committee—later wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat that there had been “no pressure from either the winning or losing slate” for him to resign, and called it “a completely independent decision” on his part.

Uncapher, the committee’s treasurer until his election as chair Tuesday night, wrote in an email that Cuda’s move was a “surprise,” adding that he planned to ask Cuda to reconsider.

The next meeting of the GOP central committee is not scheduled until February. However, if Cuda holds to his decision, a meeting could be called this month to fill his post.

Uncapher, a Bethesda resident who previously chaired the committee from 2008 to 2013, ousted Jurgena, of Darnestown, by a 24-22 vote Tuesday.

Jeff Brown of Silver Spring, running for second vice chair on Uncapher’s slate, defeated the incumbent, Ann Hingston of Bethesda, 25-21.

Dwight Patel of Bethesda, also on the Uncapher slate, retained his post as first vice chair when Greg Decker of Gaithersburg withdrew after an initial vote ended in a 23-23 tie between the two. The committee’s secretary, Joe Gillin of Silver Spring, was re-elected by acclamation.

 

Self-described ‘Connie Morella Republican’ poised to run for delegate in District 15

Harvey Jacobs, a real estate attorney who describes himself as “kind of a Connie Morella Republican,” is the latest GOP contender to jump into the 2018 contest for the District 15 state legislative delegation.

While he has yet to file as a candidate for delegate, Jacobs—who has not previously sought public office —said Thursday: “I am planning on running. I’ve got the support of the party.” A long-time Potomac resident who turns 59 this month, Jacobs said he has lined up a campaign chair and treasurer, while hiring an outside political consultant.

Morella, a moderate to liberal Republican, represented Montgomery County in Congress from 1986 to 2002. “Although I’m not a big fan of labels, I will readily accept that I have been a moderate Republican my whole life,” Jacobs said in a phone interview. “I tend to be issue by issue versus party line.”

While Republicans have yet to file candidates in six of the county’s eight state legislative districts for 2018, the GOP already has lined up a nearly full slate in District 15, which extends from Potomac north to the Frederick County line.

Former state Board of Education member Laurie Halverson has filed for one of the three delegate seats at stake. Retired Army officer David Wilson has filed to take on Democratic state Sen. Brian Feldman.

The last Republican elected to the General Assembly from Montgomery County was the late Del. Jean Cryor in 2002—from District 15.

“Among pretty much everybody I’ve met, it’s been unanimous that I’ve got an excellent chance in District 15 this year—despite being on the GOP ticket,” Jacobs said with a chuckle, while acknowledging, “I’ve been in the county since 1988, so I know what I’m up against.”

He is clearly banking on coattails: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will be seeking a second term next year.

“I think we have an extremely popular governor in Governor Hogan,” Jacobs said. While Hogan won 37 percent countywide vote in winning election in 2014, he garnered a significantly higher 48 percent among District 15 voters that year.

Jacobs also sees his chances enhanced by an open delegate slot in the district: Del. Aruna Miller is running for Congress instead of re-election.

The other incumbents, Dels. Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo, are seeking re-election. So far, three Democratic non-incumbents have filed or announced with an eye on Miller’s seat.

Harvey Jacobs photo via Jacobs & Associates

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