After four years of seldom agreeing on anything, the seven members of the all-Democratic Montgomery County Council have come to a unanimous agreement--they can't stand another four years of the bickering.
So they are going to give Democratic voters a choice in the Sept. 14 primary between rival slates, one headed by council president Neal Potter and the other by council member Esther P. Gelman. Council members David Scull and Michael Gudis are on the Gelman slate and Ruth Spector, Scott Fosler and Rose Crenca have lined up with Potter.
Both factions are scouting for candidates to fill the open slots on their tickets, while each side is touting itself as the slate that can best work together.
Intra-party warfare is not unusual among Montgomery Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 and hold all county offices.
"The council has simply never come together," Gelman said.
"We think a cooperative, collaborative approach . . . is the best," Potter said. "A lot of attacks and headline-hunting are just counter-productive."
"It's mainly personalities," said out-going State Sen. Victor L. Crawford, who is chairing a committee trying to form a unified Democratic slate. "There doesn't seem to be any right-wing, left-wing. There's no pro-landfill, anti-landfill. They just can't stand the thought of being with each other for another four years."
Attorney Gilbert B. Lessenco, chairman of Democratic County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist's reelection campaign, said: "I don't see how it can help but be messy. It's going to be messy because of the way it's starting off. It always gets sloppy when it's based on personality."
Gilchrist is expected to endorse the Potter slate, since it includes his most consistent allies on the council. Gelman, the executive's most vocal critic on the council, had been searching for a candidate to run for executive at the top of her slate. Her first choice is Scull, who once publicly rejected the idea, but is flirting with it again. Even political newcomer Wade Dunn, who is challenging Gilchrist, said he has talked with Gelman about the possibility, and that "everything is revolving around what David is going to do."
Gelman's slate is expected to include former Rockville Mayor William Hanna and former school board member Thomas S. Israel.
Potter's slate also includes Leonard Teitelbaum, a member of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and Joan Hatfield, a lobbyist for the real estate industry.
Voters throughout the county vote for all seven council members, but five are elected from districts. Hanna would most likely oppose Spector, while Israel would oppose Crenca.
From the sidelines, the county Republicans, although smarting from some disunity of their own, are gleefully observing the Democratic infighting. "It's a great opportunity for Republicans," said county GOP chairman Paul Clark.