Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan has a pretty busy schedule these days, given he's running the state's largest county and a campaign for governor at the same time.
But that has not kept him from cruising the Web site of fellow Democrat and likely primary opponent Martin O'Malley. Last week, he spotted an item on the Baltimore mayor's campaign site that invited visitors to "tell us what environmental issues impact you and your family."
Duncan eagerly complied, sending a four-paragraph response that encourages the mayor -- "if he is truly committed to cleaning up our environment -- to move beyond the vague rhetoric" and get behind a piece of environmental legislation in Maryland known as the Four Pollutant Bill, a measure designed to crack down on toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants.
"As a native of Montgomery County, I am sure that the Mayor has noticed the Dickerson plant's smoke stack in the distance just beyond Sugar Loaf Mountain. What the Mayor may not know, however, is that this power plant -- owned by Mirant -- emits more pollution than all the registered cars in Montgomery County combined," Duncan wrote.
"I am confident that if he knew that fact earlier this year, he wouldn't have helped the Ehrlich Administration kill legislation to clean up this plant and the others in Maryland that are damaging our environmental health."
O'Malley's Web site generated an automated response to Duncan, which said, in its entirety, "Thanks for sharing your personal story on this critical issue."
But O'Malley's campaign manager wished to follow up Friday. Jonathan Epstein said that, contrary to Duncan's letter, the mayor has not taken a formal position on the legislation in question.
"We are delighted that following Mayor O'Malley's speech on the environment, hundreds of Marylanders such as Doug Duncan answered the mayor's call to action by visiting www.martinomalley.com to give advice on environmental issues," Epstein said.
Epstein also acknowledged that Duncan had received an automated response but said "a healthy number" of people offering suggestions have received follow-up phone calls to discuss their views. Duncan is not among them.
Group Denies Snubbing Glendening
Maryland Families for Stem Cell Research, a group pushing for state funding of the science, counts among its board members three of the state's four living former governors: William Donald Schaefer, Harry Hughes and Marvin Mandel, all Democrats.
So what about the fourth, Parris N. Glendening (D)?
"I don't know why I have not been asked," Glendening said Friday. "I'm a strong supporter" of stem cell research.
Speculation around Annapolis is that a bitter personality conflict between Schaefer and Glendening might be too much to manage. But Susan O'Brien, the group's executive director, said there was no effort to exclude Glendening from the group's board, which includes scientists, health care professionals, biotechnology experts and people coping with debilitating diseases.
"I used to work for Glendening," said O'Brien, who served as an assistant press secretary in his administration. "I have tremendous respect for the man."
Hughes and Mandel, O'Brien said, were "logical choices" for the group because they have had family members with conditions for which stem cell research holds promise. Hughes's wife has Parkinson's disease, and he has a grandson with juvenile diabetes. Mandel's wife battled Lou Gehrig's disease for several years before her death in 2001.
Schaefer, meanwhile, was seen as a strong ally because of his good relationship with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), O'Brien said. Schaefer, now Maryland's comptroller, is also a current elected official, O'Brien added.
Glendening certainly has interest. "I just think it's an important issue. It's one we should all be supporting," he said. "Given the suffering out there with so many diseases and the potential for relief and breakthroughs, as far as I'm concerned, this should be a given."
But for now, he'll have to voice those thoughts on his own.