Duncan Heightens Attack on Glendening, Townsend
By Daniel LeDuc and Scott Wilson
Duncan (D) has scheduled a news conference for this morning at Beall Elementary School in Rockville to continue his assault. Duncan was an important ally in Glendening's reelection effort, but his criticisms of the administration have escalated steadily since November. That has prompted speculation that the popular county executive has begun his own campaign for governor in 2002, when one of his toughest opponents for the Democratic nomination could be Townsend.
In an interview yesterday, Duncan said his ambitions were not the motivation for his criticism. He said he worried about damage to his credibility because he had vigorously supported Glendening and appeared with him at Montgomery Blair High School in August when the governor promised to include nearly $11 million in the next budget to hire new teachers to reduce class sizes.
That budget, which Glendening presented last week, does not include any money for the teachers. The governor said statewide guidelines needed to be established during the current General Assembly session on how such funds should be spent. He said that next year, he would begin providing funds.
Montgomery already has such guidelines in place and was hoping the state would split the cost of Duncan's $4.8 million plan to hire 117 teachers this year.
"I feel strongly about this, partly because I stood right next to him when he made the promise, partly because it's [based on] a Montgomery County program and it works, and partly because of the work I did for him in the last election," Duncan said. "This is a promise he made to the children of Montgomery County and to the children throughout the State of Maryland."
Duncan denies that his criticism of the governor is, by extension, an attack on Townsend. But during a 45-minute interview, he repeatedly directed his criticism at the "Glendening-Townsend administration," noting, when asked, that they campaigned as a team and govern as a team.
"I'm not thinking about the next election, I'm thinking about the last one," Duncan said. "Clearly, they are trying to divert attention away from the issue, and the issue is the Glendening-Townsend administration keeping promises."
Duncan has made his name as a vigorous booster of the state's largest jurisdiction. But his latest complaints about the teachers have left some in Annapolis accusing him of being a "whiner," especially considering the more than $167 million the county is expected to receive in state aid for capital construction projects this year. The capital budget is one of the few areas where Duncan has indicated he is happy with the administration.
"The governor feels he still has a good working relationship with Doug Duncan," said Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann. "By the end of the governor's second four-year term, Montgomery County is going to do very well. In fact, by the time this legislative session is over . . . Montgomery County is going to do very, very well."
Glendening has declined to respond personally to Duncan's criticisms, refusing to be drawn into a fight. His advisers and administration sources said they believe Duncan is making an early attempt to contrast himself with Glendening and Townsend, who with her Kennedy family pedigree and fund-raising prowess is considered the current leader for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
"I suspect the motivation is he's trying to separate himself from the Glendening-Townsend administration early on and that that may help him," said one administration official. But the official added: "It's way too soon. It's not a smart way to do business to be seen as the naysayer. You don't want to be seen as a whiner."
Others in the Democratic Party are worried that Duncan's criticisms -- and Glendening's high-visibility support for Townsend's gubernatorial ambitions -- are jump-starting the next governor's race far too early, a tension that could cause unnecessary splits in the party and put an early strain on large contributors.
But Duncan's advisers say the county executive has genuine concerns about the administration's promises to hire teachers. They note that many successful Democratic politicians made the same promise to reduce class size last year, and they said dismissing the criticism as political posturing could be risky.
Despite two months of jabs, Duncan has not made up his mind about whether to run for governor, his advisers said. Indeed, some of them believe he should wait rather than challenge Townsend or another candidate with deep pockets in 2002. Montgomery does not have term limits, so Duncan can run for reelection and likely return to his Rockville offices.
"He hasn't made a decision," said Jerry Pasternak, one of Duncan's key aides. "He's sitting back and wondering. Four years is a lifetime away. Right now, he's working on doing the best for the county."
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