Duncan to boycott closed-door candidates forum; his opponents decline to join him

Montgomery county executive hopeful Doug Duncan says he has withdrawn from a Friday morning candidates forum sponsored by the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce because it is closed to the public and the press.

“We don’t have secret debates in Montgomery County,” Duncan (D) said Wednesday. “The public and the press should be there.”

Chamber President Jane Redicker said that the chamber’s candidates events have always been members-only and that the gathering at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park campus is no different. The only change, she said, is that in years past, the chamber’s government affairs committee would interview candidates one at a time. But with the large number of candidates and races this year, she said, the organization decided to screen them in groups.

“I can tell you what this is and what it is not. It is not a debate,” Redicker said. “It is an opportunity for members to meet the three candidates at once.”

Duncan called on his two opponents, incumbent Isiah Leggett (D) and council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) to join him in boycotting the forum. Both said they will appear.

Patrick Lacefield, Leggett’s spokesman, said that the county executive had no objection to letting the press attend, but that it was the chamber’s meeting and the chamber’s right to set the rules.

Andrews said Duncan’s call for openness rang hollow. It was fine “if he’s going to support opening up every endorsement interview and every fundraiser and every meeting he has with unions and for deals he might be looking to strike,” Andrews said.

Otherwise, he said, it was “cafeteria-style transparency on his part.”

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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