Leggett rolls out O’Malley, other big names to raise money for primary stretch run

The chant of “four more years” echoed Wednesday evening through what IT entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Islam called his “little home,” the nine-acre, 40,000-square foot Potomac estate that was the setting for Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s little fundraiser.

A host committee of big-time donors (including developers Aris Mardirossian and Fred Ezra, hotel and nursing home magnate Stewart Bainum and auto executive Tammy Darvish) raised about $250,000 for Leggett, as Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen hailed his bid for a third term in the June 24 Democratic primary.

But first folks had to get over the place, and its luxurious surroundings.

“There are not too many people who own homes like this who are great Democrats,” said Cardin. O’Malley reminded the audience of about 400 that if you want “to live like a Republican, you have to vote Democratic.”

Leggett showed a significant cash advantage over his challengers, Council member Phil Andrews and former county executive Doug Duncan in the last campaign committee reports released in January. The next round, due out later this month, are likely to show a similar edge.

But the Leggett camp is perhaps more concerned about increasing voter turnout in a three-way race with a new early primary date on the political calendar. As one senior adviser said, writing checks tends to concentrate folks’ attention.

The three top-liners praised Leggett as a man of reason, civility and inclusiveness who led the county through the challenges of the recession. Cardin, in the most over the top line of the evening, said there was not “a tougher job in the country than county executive of Montgomery County.”

“Every person living here has at least two or three opinions on every subject,” he said. “And they expect you to come to their home and explain your opinion.”

O’Malley, who grew up in Bethesda and Rockville, joked about downplaying his Montgomery roots while winning two terms as mayor of Baltimore. He said he’d yet to see a plaque adorning his birthplace.

“But I have great confidence in the third term of Ike Leggett,” he said.

Leggett looked like a happy man standing at the mike with his wife Catherine.

“I’m not running to take a victory lap,” he said, explaining the unfinished business he wanted to pursue in transportation and other areas to make the county a better place for the next generation.

“There is a bright future behind us of young people,” he said.

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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