“This is a big coalition, a winning coalition,” said County Councilmember Roger Berliner in formally announcing his candidacy for County Executive. “We are the ‘big tent’ campaign. We are the common ground. And together, with your help, we will lead this county forward.”
Berliner, who currently serves as Council President and represents District 1, made the announcement surrounded by family and friends at Owen’s Ordinary in the new Pike & Rose development in North Bethesda.
He is the third member of current County Council to throw his hat into the race. In March, at-large Councilmember Marc Elrich formally announced his plans to run for the County Executive seat, while at-large Councilmember George Leventhal has been open about his plans to run for the seat, it is expected Leventhal will make his formal announcement later this month.
Ike Leggett, the current County Executive, announced that he wasn’t going to seek a fourth term, before the November election in which County voters overwhelmingly approved a measure which would impose term limits on the County Executive job, as well as County Council seats.
Republican Robin Ficker, one of the driving forces behind the Term Limits referendum, has also filed to run for the County’s top job.
“Tonight, standing with my wife and partner, Karen, my daughter Jesse and my son Owen, and before friends and so many supporters, I declare my candidacy to be our next County Executive,” said Berliner.
Berliner acknowledged the work done by the man currently in the job he’s vying for, “As a result of Ike’s steady hand, we do not need to make Montgomery County Great Again. We are pretty darn good already. We are consistently ranked as one of the finest places in the country to live. And for good reason. That is not to say we should be satisfied. We shouldn’t be. We have a far, far higher ceiling as a community. We have potential that has yet to be tapped. Our county’s promise is far greater. And we will reach it together. By coming together.”
In his opening speech of the campaign, Berliner spoke of what are expected to be the main topics of the race at a countywide level, economic growth and development, education, and transportation.
When it comes to economic growth, he spoke of increasing economic opportunities for residents throughout the County. “In our great county, the zip code of your birth must not determine your destiny. The divide between east and west in our county must be bridged, with jobs, with opportunity, with social capital and financial capital.” He spoke of projects such as the Pike & Rose development in North Bethesda, as well as current projects in Silver Spring and Wheaton.
“If there is a common theme in where we should grow, it is proximity to transit,” he said. “That is what Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Bethesda have in common. And if we are to prosper, we must double down on our commitment to transit. It is not only key to our economic future; it is indispensable to economic justice.”
“That is why I have enthusiastically embraced the Purple Line and Bus Rapid Transit, which no other candidate can say, and why I am leading the regional effort to get Metro back on track,” said Berliner.
“We must make getting around our county easier for everyone,” he said. “That is why as County Executive I will continue to press the Governor to do right by those who suffer every day on 270 all the way to the American Legion Bridge. We simply can’t get this done on the cheap as the Governor has proposed. It will require a serious lift. And while that piece of the transportation puzzle may not be totally within our control, what is in our control is our own traffic signals. I have spearheaded the effort to get state-of-the-art traffic signals that can reduce travel times by 10-15 percent, and I will make it happen as County Executive.”
“The other leg of creating prosperity is education,” said Berliner. “It is half of our budget. It is a pillar of our community and the gateway to opportunity. I will work collaboratively with our excellent school system, Montgomery College, and the Universities at Shady Grove to make sure we are giving every student the chance to succeed.”
“We must continue to make progress on universal pre-K and quality child care. Every study confirms that the earlier we can get to our kids, the better they will be. And it is the most cost-effective approach to boot,” he said.
Berliner rallied his base with attacks on President Donald Trump, “As we chart our future, we need to do so with the depressing realization that President Trump is a serious threat to our future. Our county’s future…our country’s future…the future of our planet. His mean-spirited, small-minded, anti-democratic approach threatens the very soul of our democracy. We must resist. And we will resist if I have the honor of serving as our next County Executive. ”
He said the County must resist the idea that diversity was the problem, “Our diversity is not a problem – it is our nation’s promise and our county’s strength. In Montgomery County, there will be no ‘them,' just ‘us.’” He said with Berliner in the County Executive’s office the county will continue efforts to provide free health care to the uninsured, as well as, work toward a cleaner environment. He said he would continue to lead Montgomery County sustainable future.
“We must resist in the way our county is led. There is so much anger out there. Our leaders can’t feed into that anger but instead, must rise above it. We see what happens when we are led by a bully and a demagogue. Temperament matters. Civility matters. We need leaders who have demonstrated the capacity to bring us together. We need leaders who will build bridges, not walls.”
Berliner, a Potomac resident, has been representing District 1 on the Montgomery County Council since he defeated Republican Howard Denis for the seat in 2006
The Democratic primary is set for June 2018, with the general election to follow in November 2018.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.