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Montgomery County executive candidates kick off debate season with teachers union

If the Olympics and the start of spring training aren’t enough to take the edge off of February’s grit and gloom, take heart. The candidates for Montgomery County executive will make their first joint public appearance at a forum next week.

Democrats Doug Duncan, council member Phil Andrews and incumbent Isiah Leggett and Republican James Shalleck will start the 2014 primary season with a big one Wednesday evening: the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA). The 11,000-member teachers union is a powerhouse in county politics. Endorsement means a spot on the Apple Ballot, which is mailed to Democratic voters and distributed by union members at the polls.

Leggett and seven of the nine County Council members won places on the 2010 ballot. One of those exceptions is Andrews, who has traditionally taken a hard line on raises for teachers and other county employees. The other is council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large).

It’s probably no coincidence that the forum comes a day after the Board of Education is scheduled to adopt its 2015 operating budget, which will include a proposal for teacher raises, along with the board’s “ask” for county funding in excess of the state’s maintenance of effort threshold. It ought to make for an interesting evening.

The event, at 7 p.m. at Richard Montgomery High School, is open to the public. The union said space is limited so you must RSVP at the MCEA Web site.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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