Montgomery employees union making no endorsement in executive race

The union representing 8,000 Montgomery employees, unhappy with incumbent Isiah Leggett and not convinced that challenger Doug Duncan can win, is sitting out the county executive’s race, its president confirmed Tuesday.

Leggett and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 MCGEO (Municipal and County Government Employees Organization) conducted bruising contract and court fights during the recession. Leggett opted out of arbitrators’ decisions favorable to the union, froze wages and furloughed employees to close huge budget gaps. As times have improved, Leggett has loosened the purse strings, agreeing last year to a two-year pact with county unions, negotiated wage and longevity increases averaging 7 to 10 percent annually.

But MCGEO President Gino Renne said anger at Leggett remains wide and deep. The union executive board’s “no endorsement” decision is a pragmatic one, he said, given the shape of the race. It sees Leggett, with just over $1 million cash on hand — compared to $340,000 for Duncan — in a dominant position.

“When we looked at all the data we could collect, the executive board just didn’t feel our efforts would make a difference in the race,” Renne said. “That’s a business decision they made. If it was decided based strictly on emotion, we would have endorsed Duncan a long time ago.”

The third candidate in the June 24 Democratic primary, council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg), a persistent critic of what he considers excessive and unsustainable labor contracts, was never a serious option for the union.

MCGEO’s decision not to endorse was first reported by the Bethesda Beat politics blog of Bethesda magazine.

MCGEO will instead put its money and boots on the ground into four County Council races: Duchy Trachtenberg, challenging council member Roger Berliner in District 1 (Potomac-Bethesda); Gaithersburg City Council member Ryan Spiegel, running for the seat being vacated by Andrews; Del. Tom Hucker, a candidate in District 5 (Silver Spring-East County); at large incumbent Marc Elrich; and at-large challenger Beth Daly.

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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