Council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) apparently has a crystal ball.

Silverman's campaign has been leaving copies of a letter and bumper stickers on the windshields of cars still displaying John Kerry presidential campaign bumper stickers.

The letter mentions Silverman's efforts on behalf of Kerry in last year's election. It then asks Democrats to support him in his race for county executive.

"Electing Democrats to office in Maryland is a team effort and I hope you will support these efforts by placing the enclosed 'Silverman' sticker alongside your Democratic sticker," the letter states.

Silverman is facing former council member Isiah Leggett in next year's Democratic primary. Most analysts expect it to be a highly competitive race.

Silverman's letter does not mention Leggett. But it makes broad generalizations about the Republican candidate for county executive.

"The likely Republican opponent in the general election is a right wing conservative who has the full backing of Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as well as the state and local Republican parties," Silverman writes.

But there is a problem, said Tom Reinheimer, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee. The only announced Republican candidate is anti-tax activist Robin Ficker, who Reinheimer said isn't being supported by GOP leaders.

And while several Republicans are considering entering the race, none is "right wing," Reinheimer said. So, he concludes, Silverman is trying to smear a Republican candidate who doesn't even exist.

"He is totally making it up," Reinheimer said. "When there are other possible candidates on the Republican side, that will be the time for the demagoguery and name-calling from the left. Until then, they should keep their powder dry."

In an interview, Silverman appeared surprised by the letter's contents, even though his signature is on it.

"That's an error. That should be changed," Silverman said. "One of the interns messed up."

Gang Violence as Election Issue

The recent spate of gang violence in Montgomery County could become a major factor in next year's race for state's attorney.

Dan Fox, a Bethesda lawyer, announced last month he plans to seek the job. With incumbent State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler considering a bid for Maryland attorney general, there could be a free-for-all for the job Gansler would vacate.

But Fox said he's prepared to take on Gansler -- who has more than $800,000 in his campaign account -- if he decides to seek reelection.

"I think there needs to be some dynamic change in the state's attorney's office, because it has not kept pace with the change in Montgomery County with regards to population and urbanization over the past 10 or 15 years," Fox said.

Fox thinks county prosecutors have been too slow to address the burgeoning gang problem.

Fox spent eight years as a prosecutor in Riverside, Calif., including three years in a specialized gang-prosecution unit.

"I don't think the current state's attorney has made this a priority," said Fox, adding that gangs "are the number one threat to the county's quality of life."

Gansler notes that he hired a full-time gang prosecutor in 1999, which he said has helped keep gang violence in Montgomery County in check compared with jurisdictions in Northern Virginia.

"Our gang problem is very much in its infancy and very much under control, and the reason for that is we have been on top of the problem," Gansler said.

As for Gansler's decision to hold a Maryland trial for Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, the District-area snipers who were convicted of murder in Virginia, Fox said he doesn't think it's worth the expense. Gansler responded that he didn't have a choice once Virginia decided to send the pair to Maryland.

As One Holds Back, the Other Shows His Hand

The two announced Democratic candidates running to replace County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) next year -- Leggett and Silverman -- offer different answers when asked whom they will support in next year's race for governor.

Both Duncan and his likely opponent for the nomination, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, are gearing up their campaigns in Montgomery County.

But even though Duncan is the hometown candidate, Leggett is mum on whom he plans to support.

"I am staying neutral at this time," said Leggett, a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. "I am going to make some statement later on. I may endorse someone later on."

Leggett went on to call Duncan "a close friend." But some of Leggett's most loyal supporters are O'Malley backers because of Duncan's record on growth and development issues and his support of the proposed intercounty connector.

Silverman, however, is a fervent Duncan backer.

"I am at a loss to understand why Montgomery County officials and elected officials are not supporting Duncan," Silverman said in an interview.

Silverman even took a jab at O'Malley by equating him with former Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who some local officials say favored Baltimore over Montgomery in the distribution of state funds.

"We already had one governor from Baltimore City and it didn't work out for Montgomery County," Silverman said, referring to Schaefer, who is now the state comptroller. "We shouldn't make that same mistake twice. . . . We need a governor who understands our region's needs."

Lining Up to Challenge Knapp . . .

A Democratic challenger plans to take on council member Michael Knapp in next year's primary. The race could hinge on whether northern Montgomery County Democrats think Knapp (D-Upcounty) is ineffective and too conservative on some issues.

Sharon Dooley, a longtime Democratic activist from Olney, said she is preparing to challenge Knapp. Dooley is president of the District 14 Democratic Club and state Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum's campaign treasurer. She also runs her own health care consulting business and teaches at Montgomery College.

Dooley claims Knapp, who got his start in politics by working for former Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, has a poor record on issues of importance to progressive Democrats.

"I think I am much more of a Democrat than he is," Dooley said. "I've worked for Democratic issues all my life."

She expects health care to be a key theme. Last year, Knapp voted against a proposal to let county workers to import prescription drugs from Canada. The council approved the legislation, but it has yet to be implemented.

Dooley, noting recent gang activity, said she may also try to exploit Knapp's record as a member of the Public Safety Committee.

She also plans to mention recent planning failures in Clarksburg, where hundreds of homes were built in violation of height and setback requirements. Residents in Clarksburg have also been complaining about a lack of infrastructure in the county's rapidly growing north.

"Where is the oversight of the County Council? It didn't happen overnight," Dooley said. "I am not anti-business. I am not anti-growth. I am for both, but I think they need to be in a formula with everything else."

Knapp said he's confident that voters of his district will embrace his "very clear track record" on constituent service and public safety, budget and economic opportunity issues.

"I've got a very strong Democratic record," Knapp said.

. . . And Andrews, Too, for Council

Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) can also expect a primary challenger next year.

Hugh Bailey, a program manager in the county Department of Economic Development, said he plans to run against Andrews in the 3rd District.

"There are a lot of issues out there that need attention," said Bailey, who plans to run on housing and development issues.

During his two terms on the council, Andrews's position on labor contracts and his opposition to the intercounty connector have earned him an array of political enemies, including labor and business leaders.

"I think it is definitely fair to say people in the community have encouraged me to consider this race," said Bailey, who lives in Gaithersburg.

But Andrews has been a tough opponent in past races, despite being targeted by various of interest groups.

In 2002, Andrews fended off a well-financed challenge from Rockville City Council member Robert E. Dorsey, who had the support of Duncan.

For Duncan's Son, Military Service

Duncan's second oldest son is joining the Marines.

Andrew Duncan, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado, is being commissioned tomorrow. Because he was in ROTC, Andrew Duncan will enter the service as a second lieutenant.

After his commissioning, which his father plans to attend, Andrew Duncan will receive six months of officer training at Quantico Marine Base. He will then receive an assignment, which could include deployment to Iraq.