At-large council race in Montgomery a nail-biter; Berliner leads opponent

Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. defeated Brian Murphy, a Republican primary challenger backed by Sarah Palin, clearing the way for a rematch in November against the Democrat who defeated him four years ago.
By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In a race that remained potentially volatile, six at-large county council candidates in Montgomery County were clustered within a few percentage points of one another early Wednesday, raising the prospect that council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large) or another incumbent could be nudged from office.

"We're not conceding," said Trachtenberg campaign manager Woody Brosnan. "We're going to wait to see all the results, including the absentee ballots." Those ballots are to be counted in a week.

Trachtenberg has made political enemies among Montgomery's powerful public employee unions, who were thrilled at the prospect of her losing one of the Democratic slots.

"I'm hoping that it holds true that Duchy finishes out of the top four," said John Sparks, head of the county firefighters union. The firefighters had endorsed Trachtenberg four years ago, but relations soured after she became a vocal opponent of costly compensation packages she believes are unsustainable.

"She sought all the endorsements of the unions and she said she would support working families, and support issues of interest to the unions, and when she got elected she did just the opposite," Sparks said.

Challenger Hans Riemer, a former youth organizer for Rock the Vote who worked on President Obama's campaign, was in the top four with most of the votes counted.

"It's not over," Riemer said, as supporters, including council member Valerie Ervin, screamed in excitement at a Silver Spring restaurant. "I'm feeling fantastic," Riemer added. "We're looking good to hold on in the top four."

Leading the pack of six candidates was longtime Takoma Park City Council member and former fifth-grade teacher Marc Elrich. County Council President Nancy Floreen and George L. Leventhal, the energetic former legislative director for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), were also in the top four as votes were still being counted.

Leventhal wasn't declaring victory exactly, but, "It certainly feels like I'm going back to the county council for another four years," he said at Gordon Biersch restaurant in Rockville late Tuesday.

Trachtenberg and Becky Wagner, who runs the nonprofit group Interfaith Works, were neck and neck.

Energy lawyer Roger Berliner was far outpacing Ilaya Hopkins in a Montgomery council primary that offered an early test case in the electoral effectiveness of playing the Pepco card.

After long outages following summer storms, Pepco's unreliability has angered and unified many Montgomery residents. Just how that ire might be harnessed, and who might benefit, has been a live political question in Maryland.

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