Last night, District 1 Candidates Duchy Trachtenberg and Roger Berliner debate in the Town Hall of the Town of Chevy Chase. I live tweeted the debate, so can follow the blow-by-blow there. Overall, it was “disappointingly cordial” in the eye of one observer looking for more heat and light and less combative than the debates in District 5 according to reports.
So who won?
Sorry to disappoint but it was more or less a draw. Here are some quick takeaways:
Best Moment: When asked about the event that changed their life the most, Duchy spoke about her son’s mental illness and how it led to her involvement in NAMI. It was honest, authentic, and the one moment when there was a moment of real connection.
Honest Moment: Duchy called the race a “battle royale” between the government employee and school system unions. It’s one of those truths that is increasingly obvious but that few want to say out loud. No doubt others will label it a gaffe for exactly this reason but the straightforward honesty was refreshing.
Missed Opportunity: Roger attacked Duchy’s support for the restoration of effects bargaining despite the decision by the voters repeatedly and effectively. Duchy could have countered effectively with Roger’s willingness to overturn the referendum on ambulance fees. Instead, she went with unconvincing speculation that the resulting decline in police morale has caused crime to rise.
Roger’s Strengths: He managed to disagree with Duchy while appearing calm and civil yet still setting himself apart crisply from her on certain key issues, such as effects bargaining. Roger was also good at simultaneously calling for working for common ground but also standing up for the public interest, as in Ten Mile Creek. His final words about fighting special interests trying to oust him were among his best in the debate.
Duchy’s Strengths: Conversely, Duchy managed to attack calmly without appearing too disagreeable–a very difficult line to walk, especially for a challenger who simply has to differentiate herself from the incumbent in order to convince voters to fire him. She came across well.
Roger’s Weaknesses: Was it smart to repeatedly attack Maintenance of Effort? Voters have no idea what you’re talking about but it sure tees off MCEA. That endorsement is still out there and one would think it’s Roger’s to lose, especially after Duchy characterized the budget as a tradeoff between schools and the rest of the budget in a way that should make MCEA worry.
Duchy’s Weaknesses: She just refused to take a real position and called for bringing people together on way too many issues (and more often than Roger). You can do that on some issues but not every issue. The tactic of handing out a list of her and Roger’s contributions from developers offended some and was unconvincing as the last reporting period was in January.
In Attendance: Nice to finally meet Brian Kildee and Liz Matory after the debate. Also in attendance: George Leventhal, Almina Khorikiwala, Pat Burda, Linna Barnes, Pat Baptiste, Cindy Gibson, Jon Gerson, Andy Harney, Jonathan Sachs and many others. And last, but not least, thanks to Charles Duffy for moderating. Great to see so many come out despite the torrential rains.
Note: I’m supporting Roger but have tried to call it as I see it.