Douglas M. Duncan, the Montgomery County executive and gubernatorial hopeful, paid his first semi-official visit to Anne Arundel County last week, lunching at the Crab Cake Factory in Annapolis, building name recognition and taking shots at rivals. It was part of his Listening and Learning Tour, which will visit Maryland's 23 counties and the City of Baltimore by fall.

Duncan is likely to face Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in the 2006 Democratic primary, with the winner running against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) in the general election. And while Duncan is a household name in Rockville and much of suburban Washington, he remains something of an enigma in Anne Arundel.

"The goal of the tour is to introduce him to people outside of his home base," said Jody Couser, Duncan's campaign press secretary. "Doug wants to talk with Marylanders, hear their concerns and share his visions for the state."

Duncan, a former Rockville city councilman and mayor, lunched with Democratic club presidents and the party faithful, attended a house party in the Annapolis retirement community of Heritage Harbour and sat for an interview with Annapolis radio station WNAV-AM (1430).

The candidate issued challenges to both of his major rivals. In a meeting with the editorial board of the Annapolis Capital newspaper, he assailed O'Malley's record on gambling and the environment. In a speech, he accused Ehrlich of a leadership lapse in responding to a legislative probe into whether he fired state workers because of their political views, saying the governor's staff has "just gone into attack mode."

Duncan concluded the visit by attending a night meeting of the South County Democratic Club in West River.

Job Growth Doubles in '04

Anne Arundel County led Maryland in job growth in 2004, with 9,212 new jobs gained, according to a report released this week by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The county led Baltimore County, with 8,111 new jobs, and Harford County, with 4,693 new positions. A few Maryland counties, including Montgomery, had a net loss of jobs.

County Executive Janet S. Owens (D), who has touted Anne Arundel as a growing economic force, cited the arrival of the defense contractor Titan Corp. at the National Business Park, creating 600 new jobs, as part of a burgeoning military-industrial corridor, and small-business arrivals, including Leslie's Luminaries, a homemade-candle business with a staff of three.

The county's job growth was more than double that of 2003, when Anne Arundel added 3,999 jobs and ranked second in the state.

Gubernatorial hopeful Douglas M. Duncan stopped in Anne Arundel as part of his around-the-state tour.