The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Attack ad compares Montgomery executive hopeful David Blair to Trump

Montgomery County executive candidate David Blair (D) at an April forum in Washington. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

A candidate for Montgomery County executive is wielding the image of President Trump against one of his Democratic Party rivals, a wealthy Potomac businessman who is running a largely self-funded campaign.

In his first televised ad, County Council member Roger Berliner (D-District 1) compares David Blair, a political novice who has spent nearly $2 million of his fortune on his election bid, to the Republican president — who is deeply unpopular in largely Democratic Montgomery.

Berliner’s ad, which began running on Montgomery County cable Wednesday morning, begins with a picture of the president, later segueing to a black-and-white photo of an unsmiling Blair.

“Another rich guy with zero government experience spending his millions to buy this election,” the female narrator says. Blair’s dark hair suddenly becomes blond, and his face morphs into Trump’s, mouth turning down in seeming displeasure.

Berliner, who has served three terms on the council, said voters in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction “have a situation where a very wealthy businessman is spending millions of dollars, who has no experience in government, seeking to become our county executive. And I think we have seen how that story ends.”

Blair’s campaign called the ad “a desperate attempt to distract from the real issues” in the June 26 Democratic primary. Blair said in a statement that he was “proud of the clean and positive campaign I am running, and I am proud to run on my experience in the private sector.”

The Democrat, who started and sold a successful prescription-drug benefits company, is one of six candidates seeking the party’s nomination, which in Montgomery County is often tantamount to winning the general election.

Several of Blair’s rivals and an independent super PAC have openly criticized him in recent days, since a campaign finance filing showed the extent of his spending on the race.

“David Blair, take note — you cannot buy our vote!” protesters from the Progressive Maryland Liberation Alliance PAC chanted outside a candidate forum in Rockville last week. They handed out fliers proclaiming, “David Blair is not one of us!”

The super PAC — which can accept unlimited donations and make independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates — was formed earlier this year and initially focused on Baltimore City issues, Chairman Larry Stafford Jr. said.

He said the group turned its attention to Montgomery County after learning about Blair’s campaign finance filing.

“We became very concerned as we viewed him spending upwards of $2 million of his own money into the race and really trying to completely overshadow the rest of the field just with his own personal bank account, which we didn’t think was particularly fair,” said Stafford, who also is executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Progressive Maryland.

The flier, which Stafford said supporters of the super PAC had generated on a volunteer basis, mentions, among other things, a class-action lawsuit against a company Blair had once headed. The lawsuit, which does not name Blair specifically, was settled in 2016 for $15 million without any admissions of wrongdoing.

Kyle Lierman, chief strategist with the Blair campaign, called the flier “absurd and not based on facts.”