He is, Andrews says.
“Wow, you have a tough row to hoe.”
“You’ll have a clear choice,” Andrews says.
For several hours almost every day since January, this has been Andrews’s routine — and the core of his grass-roots campaign for Montgomery County executive. By his count, he’s approached about 13,000 doorsteps to make his pitch, enduring bad weather, yapping dogs and residents who wonder if he’s handing out religious tracts. He hopes to reach 30,000 doors before the June Democratic primary.
He figures to be heavily outspent by the two big dogs in the race, Leggett, the two-term incumbent, and Doug Duncan, who held the job for the 12 preceding years. That fundraising gap will be widened by Andrews’s career-long policy of refusing campaign contributions from political action committees and real estate developers.
The next financial report isn’t due until early 2014, but the most recent filing, in January, showed Leggett with $418,815 cash on hand from past campaigns, and Duncan with $243,314. Andrews had $53,255, a balance that he said is now up to about $100,000.
Andrews said he’s hiring a campaign manager but that the rest of his organization is strictly volunteer. There will be no pollster, no media consultant and all direct mail will be designed by his wife, Staci, a graphic artist.
Andrews said he believes he can win with relentless personal outreach and the word-of-mouth it generates. It’s the same strategy that helped him oust incumbent William Hanna for the District 3 County Council seat he’s held since 1998. Andrews also likes to point out that Leggett was outspent by fellow council member Steve Silverman in the 2006 executive’s race.
“People talk to other people,” said Andrews, who is a youthful 54 with Boy Scout manners and has a more-than-passing resemblance to NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. “And what influences people about local elections is what they hear directly from the candidates or from people they trust.”
Andrews’s message is a socially liberal, fiscally conservative mix of reformism, with a legislative record that includes leading or collaborating in the effort for smoke-free restaurants, a “living wage” that pays employees of county contractors above the legal minimum, tighter regulation of the disability retirement system and opposition to labor contracts, negotiated by Duncan and Leggett, that provided salary increases he regarded as excessive and unsustainable.
That last stance in particular has antagonized a key Democratic constituency — the county’s public employee unions, which have tried without success to unseat him.
Andrews is betting that after 20 consecutive years of Duncan and Leggett, there is a significant constituency for change. In his fourth council term, he hardly qualifies as a fresh face. But he promises a new agenda, including a more aggressive posture with Annapolis on reclaiming the county’s share of tax dollars, coupled with tax relief to help make the county more affordable for residents and attractive to business.