The campaign to represent District 4 on the County Council is ending in a war of words over whether the incumbent claimed an endorsement that he never earned.
Bill D. Burlison, a Democrat who easily won the primary, sent a letter last week to several thousand voters in the Odenton, Severn and Crownsville communities stating that his opponent in the primary, Terry Wilson, had endorsed him. Burlison is running against Republican Michael Malone, a local attorney, in Tuesday's election.
But Wilson - who said he learned of the development when the letter arrived at his Crownsville home - insists he never agreed to endorse Burlison. He quickly e-mailed about 75 supporters to, in his view, set the record straight.
"If you have not seen the ad, Bill Burlison is at it again. He states in his ad that I endorsed his campaign. Not true," the e-mail began.
Burlison insisted that Wilson assured him after the primary that he would do "whatever I requested of him" to assist the incumbent in his re-election bid.
But Wilson said any offer of support was lukewarm at best, and never included an endorsement.
Wilson said Burlison asked him on two occasions - once at a meeting with County Executive Janet S. Owens at her home - to endorse his candidacy. Both times, Wilson said, he declined. Wilson, the first African-American to run for the council in more than 20 years, won 26 percent of the vote in the primary. Burlison, an avid door-to-door campaigner, won 66 percent. Lee Hatfield, who had dropped out but whose name remained on the ballot, had 8 percent.
Wilson, a former county police officer, said he remains a loyal Democrat. But he said he could not work to elect Burlison because the incumbent's flaws were the very reason he entered the race.
Many in the district have criticized Burlison, a 72-year-old former Missouri congressman who recently was elected council chairman, for ignoring important issues in the district. Residents say Burlison rarely attends community meetings, is slow to respond to requests for service and often uses the council floor as a platform to discuss national issues such as the Electoral College and flag-burning.
"I challenged him because of what I'd heard throughout District 4. He had not been responsive to the needs of the communities," Wilson said. "He asked me if I would endorse him, and I said, `No, I can't do that, sir.'"
But Wilson did say he would support Burlison, and that he "wouldn't try to keep someone from making contact with him."
Burlison said he took the expression of support to mean an endorsement, and said he doesn't recall Wilson specifying that he wouldn't endorse the incumbent.
"I don't know the distinction between support and endorse," the six-term congressman said. "He said he was for me."
Wilson said he has done nothing to help Burlison and said he's telling supporters they should make their own decisions.
Malone, who learned of the letter and the counter e-mail last week, said he's furious about the mailing.
"I certainly think it helps [Burlison]," Malone said. "It's concerning when you put out false information."