Duncan: Leggett a ‘very passive’ Montgomery County executive


File: Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan after a political rally for Rep. John Delaney. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)
May 24, 2013

County Executive Isiah Leggett has yet to announce whether he will seek a third term in 2014, but that hasn’t stopped Doug Duncan from running hard against him to reclaim the office he left seven years ago.

“We’ve got a very passive county executive who’s much more reactive to things,” Duncan said in an interview that aired Thursday night on the Montgomery Municipal Cable show “Political Pulse.”

Duncan said the county’s political leadership suffered from a negativity and defeatism that has damaged its ability to attract business and address other pressing issues.

“Too many people, especially among our leaders, are giving up,” Duncan said. He said the county government is suffering from a malaise he described as, “Woe is me, we can’t do anything, let’s just sit on our hands, let’s study something.”

Duncan specifically cited the Silver Spring Transit Center as an example of weak leadership, along with the recent dispute between labor and county Democrats over the “effects bargaining” that led to the picketing of a party fundraiser earlier this month.

“What worries me right now is that we’re too divided,” he said.

Patrick Lacefield, Leggett’s spokesman, said in a statement Friday afternoon that the county executive had a significant record of accomplishment over the last seven years.

“Ike has put the county’s fiscal house in order, made the hard and sometimes unpopular choices that were necessary, and laid the foundations for the county to come out of the national recession stronger than ever. The former County Executive is attempting to distort that record for his own political purposes. That is sad.”

Duncan also took some heat from County Council members this week, who were unhappy with his comments in a Post story on the transit center Tuesday. He said: “Silver Spring was a national model for urban revitalization and now it’s a laughingstock.”

Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) said Duncan’s comments were reckless because they could damage the county’s position in litigation over the troubled $120 million project.

“He’s exposing the taxpayers who he claims he wants to protect,” Leventhal said. “He’s talking like a guy who wants his old job back, not a responsible person.”

Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) said Duncan might think twice about so freely criticizing a project that was the product of many decisions made on his watch.

“That’s like the pot calling the kettle black,” Ervin said. “I would have appreciated a more nuanced tone.”

While other potential candidates for county executive, including Ervin and Leventhal, are waiting to see what Leggett does, Duncan is moving forward. After receiving U.S. Rep. John Delaney’s (D-Md.) endorsement Sunday, he confirmed that he has hired a Delaney aide as his campaign manager. Kurt Staiger, 27, was deputy campaign manager for Delaney’s surprise Sixth Congressional District victory in 2012. Duncan has spoken glowingly of Delaney’s field operation, a massive telephone and door-knocking effort based on microtargeting of likely voters. He said he wants to use the Delaney playbook for his comeback.

“I learned a lot during the Delaney campaign about how modern campaigns work and how they’re run,” he said Thursday night.

Staiger, who also served as deputy district director in Delaney’s Hagerstown office, has worked on races in Northern Virginia and Colorado, where he ran a independent expenditure campaign for an environmental group supporting Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co).

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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