When Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) traveled to Rockville last week to announce that he's running for governor, there weren't many elected officials in the audience. Rockville Mayor Larry Giammo, a registered independent, was in the crowd, but most of the county's Democratic establishment was nowhere to be found.

That's good news for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who is expected to announce his own candidacy for governor in a few weeks.

If Duncan is to beat O'Malley, the conventional wisdom goes, he needs an impenetrable base of support in Montgomery.

In recent months, Duncan has been calling a host of county Democratic leaders -- council members, state legislators, party activists -- all but demanding that they stand next to him when he makes his announcement.

Four years ago, Duncan's dreams of challenging then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) for the Democratic nomination were dashed when he realized that many county Democratic leaders were already in Townsend's camp.

This time, most Montgomery Democrats are supporting Duncan, but there is a noticeable divide on the County Council.

Although no Democratic council member has publicly endorsed O'Malley, three are neutral, which says a lot about their relationship with the county executive.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, the split on the council has its roots in the 2002 election.

The five council members backing Duncan -- at-large members Steven A. Silverman, Nancy Floreen, George L. Leventhal and Michael L. Subin and district member Michael Knapp (Upcounty) -- were all members of his End Gridlock slate in 2002.

Duncan spent several hundred thousand dollars to help elect the slate, whose members all support the proposed intercounty connector highway.

The three Democratic council members who oppose the project -- Council President Tom Perez (Silver Spring) and district members Phil Andrews (Gaithersburg) and Marilyn Praisner (Eastern County) -- are neutral in the 2006 race.

Since the 2002 vote, those three have generally advocated a more restrained policy on growth and development than the positions taken by Duncan and the End Gridlock team.

It should be noted that Isiah Leggett, a former council member and Democratic candidate for county executive, is also remaining neutral in the Duncan-O'Malley race. Leggett, whose position on the ICC remains murky, could capitalize on whatever Duncan-fatigue exists with next year's electorate.

As for the Council's lone Republican, Howard A. Denis (Bethesda-Potomac), he plans to toe the party line and support Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). That could be a risky stance for Denis, who must stand for reelection in a heavily Democratic district.

Presley Aiming for Council?

The dogged work of those Clarksburg women who led the effort to expose widespread building violations in Clarksburg Town Center has some Rockville gossips wondering whether one of them plans to run for the County Council next year.

The scandal over the violations threatens to spill over into next year's election, which could pose a challenge to Knapp. Republicans believe they have a chance to unseat Knapp, who represents Clarksburg.

And it just so happens that Amy Presley, the leader and public face of the Clarksburg residents' campaign to unearth developer misconduct, is a registered Republican.

In an interview, Presley says "various people and various groups" are urging her to run for the council. But Presley said she doesn't plan to run for the seat.

Well, at least not yet.

"I've been approached by several people and I keep saying it is not something I am giving a lot of thought to," Presley said. "I am not saying no, but it's nothing I have a desire to do. Sometimes, I think you can better effect change from the outside."

But Presley offered up this advice for Knapp.

"If he really digs in there and makes sure the message is sent to developers this will not be tolerated in Montgomery County . . . I think it would be natural to reelect him. If he doesn't, I think people will be asking the question, 'What have you accomplished?' "

Courting the Women's Vote

The two Democratic candidates for county executive -- Silverman and Leggett -- continue to demonstrate the political force that women wield in Montgomery County.

Earlier this year, Leggett hosted a forum on women's issue that attracted several hundred female supporters.

On Friday, Silverman held a "women's fundraiser" at the Hilton Hotel in Silver Spring.

About 300 people attended the $100-a-ticket luncheon.

The event was hosted by about two dozen business and community leaders, including Barbara Krumsiek, the chief executive of the Calvert Group; Maribel Torres-Pinero, past president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Dorothy Fait, past chair of the county's Commission for Women.

The guest speaker was Rachel Simmons, author of "Odd Girl Out" and director of the Girl's Leadership Institute. Simmons is the daughter of Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D), who is also a Silverman supporter.

No Front-runner in District 18

The race to replace Del. John A. Hurson (D) in District 18 is entering its final weekend.

On Tuesday, the 23 voting members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee will decide who will replace Hurson until next year's election. Hurson stepped down last week to take a job as a lobbyist.

Nine candidates are in the running for the seat, but party leaders say there doesn't appear to be a front-runner.

Last weekend the candidacy of Samuel L. Statland, a member of the Board of Elections, got a boost after he won the backing of the District 18 Democratic Caucus.

But it took six ballots for a winner to emerge.

According to Bernice Mills, the chair of the Caucus, Statland and County Cable Administrator Jane Lawton were neck and neck until he barely gained a majority on the last ballot.

The caucus comprised 63 Democrats in District 18, which includes parts of Chevy Chase, Kensington and Silver Spring.

Besides those two, the other candidates in the race are: Alex Luecking, former president of the Montgomery Young Democrats; Vic Weissberg, a member of the central committee; Jeff Waldstreicher, a lawyer and precinct chair; Michael Griffiths, past president of African American Democratic Club; Al Carr, a member of the Kensington City Council; Dana Beyer, a leader in Teachthefacts.org, an organization dedicated to teaching a progressive curriculum in county schools, including discussions about homosexuality and teaching proper condom use; and Steven P. Hollman, a lawyer and Democratic activist.

A Blog in Need of Visitors

Montgomery County residents who want to discuss politics, gripe or debate the issues of the day have a new online forum.

"Some Guy from MoCo," who according to his online profile is a student living in Rockville, has created "Hello MoCo, the Montgomery County Blog" at hellomoco.blogspot.com.

In the past week, the unnamed blogger posted articles on "McMansions," Clarksburg and next year's race for governor.

The site has not been visited often. The blogger has posted a dozen subjects, but only two others have chimed in with opinions.