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Hopkins hits Berliner with misleading mailer in Montgomery

Michael Laris

Montgomery county council candidate Ilaya Hopkins has sent a last-minute mailing that includes one misleading and one false statement about her opponent in the District 1 race, Democratic incumbent Roger Berliner.

Copies of the 8-by-11-inch red, white and blue flier have arrived at homes in the Potomac and Bethesda areas in the past several days as part of a series of critical mailings.

Under the heading "Leadership For Tough Times," Hopkins seeks to draw distinctions between the candidates.

In the section titled "Ambulance Fees," she described herself as "Opposed"; for Berliner, she writes: "Supported as part of this year's budget."

Berliner was one of several council members who voted against imposing the ambulance fee during budget deliberations earlier this year. They failed to block it, and Berliner and some others went on to vote for the full budget, which included the fee.

"It's ridiculous," said Eric Bernard, executive director of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, which has spearheaded opposition to the ambulance fee. "Roger has been a staunch opponent of the fee since day one."

"He did vote on the final budget. It's all-inclusive. I don't think for a minute that he supported the ambulance fee. While I'm thrilled she's finally come out in opposing the fee, I'm shocked that she would say that Roger Berliner is anything but a vehement opponent."

Asked about her campaign claim, Hopkins said: "He may still oppose the ambulance fees, but he ultimately voted on a budget that relies on that fee to balance the budget."

Berliner said: "Three of the four people who voted against the ambulance fee voted for the whole budget. If you lose on an issue, you lose on an issue. Then you have to decide."

In another side-by-side comparison, Hopkins accuses Berliner of being an "absentee" leader.

According to the mailer: "At a community forum, he 'pointed the finger at the schools ... then left,' says the Washington Post."

The quote came from an opinion piece that was submitted by a Post reader from Potomac and published in the Local Opinions section in May. The criticism was expressed by the resident, not The Post.

Asked about the use of the quote in the mailer, Hopkins responded: "It appeared in The Washington Post. I guess that was what we were trying to convey."

At issue was a dispute over a retaining wall at a Cabin John school. Berliner said he set up a meeting with school officials and those raising concerns, opened the session, and left to attend another meeting.

Berliner said the statements are part of "a classic, negative, hit smear piece."

"I'm looking at the incumbent's record over his four year term," Hopkins said, adding that she often is asked on the campaign trail "what is the firing offense" Berliner has committed. She is pointing out where he has been ineffective, she said.

HopkinsMailer.jpg

By Michael Laris  |  September 13, 2010; 8:50 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , Michael Laris , Montgomery County  | Tags: Ilaya Hopkins, Montgomery County, Montgomery Elections, Roger Berliner  
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