Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It was a slugfest at the Friendship Heights Village Center Monday night. Howard Denis vs. Roger Berliner for the District 1 council seat. In contrast to the mild-mannered draw at Westland weeks ago, both candidates were in fighting shape. Robin Ficker was exiting the Village Center as I entered, and he handed me a business card.

Mr. Berliner, in a contrast to his search for Common Ground on public access TV, emphasized his Democratic credentials. Mr. Denis spoke of his bipartisan cooperation and impressive voting record on the council. As I have previously noted here, Mr. Denis finished his latest term in strong fashion. It seemed that every significant action by the council was associated with his name, from mansionization to the successful resolution of the Seven Locks episode.

This year, Howard Denis has been the east coast version of Gov. Schwarzenegger, focusing on getting things done instead of partisan politics. This gave great weight to his arguments Monday night, along with a slew of endorsements by organizations that don't usually endorse Republicans. As he said, "Roger, all of the groups that endorsed you last time, have endorsed me!"

Mr. Berliner got some jabs in regarding developer contributions and those George Bush arguments popular with Democrats this year. But Mr. Denis was at the top of his game, in front of his home crowd, and was able to counter with his Neighbors PAC endorsement frequently. Able to list his accomplishments for Friendship Heights, including the reopening of the new Giant, Mr. Denis made a strong case for his record and reelection. He also had some jabs of his own, in return for what he referred to as Berliner's "sleazy" attacks. Mr. Denis recalled his previous collaboration with Ike Leggett on the council, and potential to work with him as County Executive, and then pointed out that Mr. Berliner had backed Leggett's opponent, Steve Silverman. And that Berliner had contributed $500 to Republican Roy Blunt. Mr. Berliner did a good job himself, but was unable to compete with a reinvigorated Howard Denis, passionate about his public service on the council and his accomplishments.

I congratulated Mr. Denis on his debate victory afterward, and he said "good luck to you" on my campaign. In the corridor, one man said to me, "I know who you are, I've read all about you." Hopefully it was positive! I was puzzled by newspaper editorials criticizing Mr. Denis for his focus on constituent service. Is that a bad thing? Anytime I've ever contacted his office about a problem, I've received a phone call in response within 24 hours. That's what officials should do, and I certainly would follow the Howard Denis example if I am elected.

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