Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett enjoys a nearly 3-to-1 cash advantage over Democratic primary opponent Doug Duncan, according to reports filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections late Wednesday.
Leggett, who is seeking his third term, disclosed donations of $653,986 over the past year and $971,159 total cash on hand, including funds from prior campaigns. Duncan, the former three-term county executive (1994-2006), reported $409,834 in contributions and $330,120 in the bank. His filing shows that he spent heavily on staff and other support to gear up for a comeback campaign against the incumbent.
The third candidate, County Council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg), trails significantly, with contributions of $106,631 and a total of $117,978 cash in the bank.
Leggett’s strong showing represents a striking reversal from his last contested primary in 2006, when he was heavily outspent by then-Council member Steve Silverman. Silverman, now Leggett’s director of economic development, was the favored candidate of the county’s business establishment. Leggett ran unopposed in 2010.
Now, Leggett is a magnet for the big money. His report shows four-figure donations from the real estate sector, including Pulte Homes ($1,500) and the Peterson Cos. ($2,500), two firms pressing the county for approval to build in the environmentally sensitive Ten Mile Creek watershed near Clarksburg. Construction contractor F.O. Day committed $6,000. Heavy support also came from billionaire businessman and art collector Mitchell Rales, who secured a controversial sewer connection from the county for his Potomac gallery in 2012. Rales and family members kicked in $12,000, the report shows.
Leggett attracted smaller sums as well, from small-business owners and many county department heads, such as Transportation Director Arthur Holmes, General Services Director David Dise and Finance Director Joseph Beach.
Duncan drew money from some of the same traditional deep pockets as Leggett — the Landow family of Bethesda and its corporate arm ($6,000) — and a few that Leggett did not, such as the Montgomery-based Marriott family and Marriott International ($7,000).
Duncan also benefited from parties alienated by decision-making on Leggett’s watch. The International Association of Firefighters Local 1664, which endorsed Leggett in 2006, donated $6,000 to Duncan and followed up with a formal endorsement Thursday.
Although firefighters and other unionized county workers won significant raises in contracts negotiated by Leggett and approved by the council last year, bitterness remains over collective-bargaining conflicts during the recession. In 2011, Leggett refused to comply with an arbitrator’s award and sued to challenge a county law requiring binding arbitration in the event of an impasse in contract negotiations. “We had some tough decisions to make” because of budget restraints during the recession, Leggett said. The county ultimately lost the case.
“We felt that Doug represented the best qualities of leadership,” union President Jeffrey Buttle said.
Foulger-Pratt, the Rockville construction contractor that has come under heavy criticism from Leggett — and a consulting engineer hired by the county — for its work on the Silver Spring Transit Center, contributed $4,000 to Duncan and nothing to the incumbent.
“I don’t have any bad feelings for them. I think they’re an outstanding company,” Leggett said. “But on this job, we had some differences,” he said, referring to transit center.
While Duncan raised more than $400,000, he invested large sums on staff, fundraising and other support. Wednesday’s report listed more than $200,000 in salaries and other compensation. It included pay for his son, political director John Duncan (almost $60,000 since early 2013) and campaign manager Kurt Staiger ($46,000 over the same period). Duncan has also paid about $80,000 to a fundraising consultant, Rachael Rice of Annapolis. Total expenses came to $334,000.
Leggett, who got a relatively late start after announcing his decision to run again in early summer, reported just $67,709 in salary and other expenses.
Through Staiger, Duncan declined an interview request Thursday. Staiger said he was not discouraged about the cash gap between Leggett and his candidate.
“It’s not surprising that an incumbent has lots of contributions from a lot of places, including business,” Staiger said in an e-mail. “We feel very good about where we are. We’ve always known that this was going to be a very hard-fought campaign and we’re excited about the next several months.”
Staiger also minimized the significance of the campaign’s start-up expenses.
“It takes money to get a campaign up and running,” he said.
Andrews, who does not accept contributions from real estate developers or unions, said Thursday that he was not daunted by Leggett’s bank account. “It takes me longer to raise funds than it does for candidates who take money from special-interest groups,” Andrews said.
He added that after the 2006 campaign, Leggett ought to know better than anyone “that you can be outspent and still win.”