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  •   Duncan Launches Reelection Campaign

    By Michael E. Ruane
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, June 2, 1998; Page B06

    Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan kicked off his campaign for reelection yesterday, saying he wanted to be the county's "mayor" again and vowing to improve transportation, streamline business regulations and boost safety in the schools.

    Duncan, 42, with his wife, Barbara, at his side, along with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and a host of local politicians, stood outside the county executive office building in Rockville to make his announcement, the same spot where he began his first campaign four years ago.

    Then, as mayor of Rockville, Duncan was one of three Democrats in a tight race for the county's highest office. Yesterday, he did so as a widely known local figure, with scant opposition and an apparently bright political future.

    "To me, being county executive is like being the mayor of dozens of small towns across this county," Duncan said. "And that's the part of this job I really love.

    "Each town, each community, each neighborhood in Montgomery County is unique," he said. "And my priority has been to help each one grow and prosper in its own unique way."

    In his four years in office, Duncan has benefited from the State of Maryland's funding largess, which was driven, in turn, by the nation's booming economy. The county received, for example, a record $50 million in state funding for school construction this year.

    But Duncan has also developed a reputation as a can-do executive in a county often paralyzed by debate, discussion and the search for consensus -- a point he hammered on yesterday.

    "My approach as county executive has been straightforward," he said. "I have sought to provide common-sense leadership. . . . I have worked hard to get things done."

    "Talking, arguing about and studying our transportation problems to death isn't going to make anyone's commute easier," he said. "Talking about overcrowded classrooms or the lack of discipline and accountability in schools isn't going to help one child learn to read or write. . . . And talking about crime and public safety is not enough.

    "We need to keep on getting things done," he said.

    In an informal meeting with Washington Post reporters afterward, Duncan focused on road improvements as an example.

    "You replace a bridge, widen a road, add a turning lane, whatever, people [who live nearby] scream about it. They go nuts," he said. "You just sort of got to get through that and look at the bigger picture. You can't keep killing road improvement projects because one neighborhood has an objection.

    "The good news, I think, is that [congestion] is on everybody's mind," he said. "People get very frustrated with the traffic in this region. You see more examples of road rage. . . . So they're starting to demand that we do something about it."

    He added, though, that road improvements must be augmented by improved bus service to try to reduce congestion at the same time. "We've got to do this all together," he said.

    Duncan also said he would continue to improve the county's sluggish business climate by eliminating red tape and working to end the notion that the county is "hostile" to commerce.

    Duncan, a former AT&T account manager, lives in Rockville and has five children, ages 6 to 16. He served three terms on the Rockville City Council and three terms as the city's mayor.

    He is opposed in the Sept. 15 primary only by Norman Hoffman, a Democratic activist at the Leisure World retirement community. Candidates have until July 6 to enter the race. The general election is Nov. 3.

    Duncan was widely praised yesterday by other politicians present. Mikulski called him "a dynamic new leader with old-fashioned values."

    As supporters applauded, Barbara Duncan stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled approval. "It's been fun," she said. "He's out eight days a week. But when he's home, he's home with us."

    At home, she joked, he's less energetic. "I'm the one that says, 'Just do it,' at home."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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